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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Vintage 2011 - rot, redemption, rookdom

Did you like that last post? You thought I was all like boo-hoo and wah but then I was like all right on, it is all cool 'bro, want a slurpee? Well, some of it was lie. The rain has left an indelible mark. The pictures below are of Barbera presorting for rot control. I go through the vines before the pickers come and cut out the bad stuff, leaving a trail of tears in my wake. Barbera is a late-season thin-skinned grapes with large berries, which pretty much a triple strike out. Any cluster that touched another or touched the vine itself, canes or trellising had rot. The positive is that at least what we crushed after the sort looked pretty good, but the loss can seem pretty heavy from the ground though.

It is particularly painful because pre-rain Lake County had the highest potential for a Grand Vintage I had ever seen (in my few years here) with more moderate heat and high humidity, no frost damage, early start and typical low pest pressure other than mildew and some early unusual botrytis. If you were up on your mildew control it was looking like a beautifully structured old-world inflected possibility. Many of us never even touched water until Mid-August. Unfortunately limited labor is affecting this vintage just as much as the weather.

In keeping with the general theme of 2011 the alcohol will be below 14% for the Barbera, which is nice for everyone in theory and the acid is good, though not as great as the wack-job press would lead you to believe. In fact, for these late-season cultivars acid is nowhere near screaming high from the numbers I have seen. For the early season stuff like Russian River Pinot and Chardonnay, sure, but everything from the Central Valley is  about where it normally is due to the longer growing season (ah ha, the press misses that part). Napa Valley Cab at 3.4pH just is not going to happen (except for Corison of course). American Tartaric as far as I know is reporting no huge loss in sales - in fact tartaric acid is also at an all-time record high price this year, over $200 per 25kg. sack! Painful.

Aglianico canopy going strong
In better news the Aglianico bit was all true though, looking great. An interesting side note is that Aglianico has one of the lowest forming/hanging bunches in the Vitis Vinifera world, meaning that the clusters are extremely exposed and swinging in the breeze. Often the first bunch forms below the very first leaf which is quite unusual, leaving it very exposed - a freaky proposition for sunburn but an absolute blessing for drying out after rain.

The last thing worth mentioning is this piece right here about hiring unskilled non-immigrant picking crews and the current labor shortage. All you pasty suburban kids staring at Facebook, stop taking pictures of yourself, go outside and do some worky work. You are not special. You are not unique or beautiful snowflakes...
Aglianico clusters freeballing

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