Harvest 2011: Friend or Foe?

The whirlwind effect that took over Harvest 2011 will be difficult to forget. It was just shy of 2 months and shredded everyone’s nerves to the raw. Relationships were strained as some vines shut down and stopped ripening and Botrytis slowly engulfed the vineyards.

In addition to the usual stresses that embody the frenzy of harvest,  a fire erupted the day after we finished harvesting on November 1, 2011 , Soda Canyon fire. The ranch is safe and sound and will continue to produce beautiful hillside Bordeauxs.

Aftermath of Soda Canyon Fire, Hossfeld Vineyards in the backdrop


The threat of Botrytis started early among the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir harvest leaving late ripening Bordeauxs and other varietals vulnerable. Thin skinned varietals such as the Burgundies and Rhones more specifically Petit Syrah literally rotted off of the vine in a three-day period.Our Merlot was gorgeous into October and then three dense foggy morning caused Botrytis to”bloom” as they say .

Merlot with Botrytis Bloom

Luckily, we assembled our crew and pulled it all off in a matter of 2 days before complete meltdown. Regarding the Cabernet Sauvignon , Cab Franc, and Petit Verdot, virtually unscathed from Botrytis bloom.

Pea-soup foggy morning during Merlot Pick

After the pea soupy foggy mornings the weather pattern shifted to a breezy, sunny, warm spell for roughly 10 days which dried out the Botrytis . The tainted berries fell off and the beautiful fruit carried on. It was a very resource intense vintage, commanding a long hang time, late Botrytis fungicide spray applications and selective or “clean”  picking throughout the harvest. Those growers that managed to deliver a decent tonnage fared well compared to others that had to make split second decisions before the crop rotted and quality was being compromised.

All in all, we only battled Botrytis , Aspergillus wasn’t an issue this year as in the previous 2009 and 2010 vintages. The late spray application of  fungicide to combat and prevent Botrytis  really did prolong the hang time for the other varietals . Although an extra expense to an already maxed out budget it was money well spent.

Getting the forklift involved for the Cabernet Franc Pick

Overall we survived magnificently, all grape varietals ripened to 25 -28 degrees bricks. The harvest was quick, in total we harvested over a 10 day period. It takes a lot of pre-planing and strategy to harvest this extreme hillside vineyard. As well as a lot of Gatorade, Coca-Cola, and Bud Light. Heineken is a popular beer for celebrating the end of that day’s pick. All grapes were handpicked and personally delivered looking as clean as clean could be in this type of year.

Hossfeld Lady harvesting those steep terraces


Weathering two storms, and a gorgeous two weeks of late sun for ripening. All the components that create high quality grapes came through at the end, leading to a better vintage than the previous two vintages, namely, 2009/2010. We are excited to see how the wines progress from this vintage. The color and flavor definitely arrived through the late hang,   as well as great PH and TA. Superb quality compared to other players this year.

A Grower’s Bliss

Rumor has it that some wineries are still taking in fruit as we speak, in hopes of recouping costs through selling it on the bulk market. Always a popular strategy and fruitful as well. In addition, to bulk wine futures other wineries are picking second crop in hopes of sweetening up the wine made from the primary crop. This is an interesting winemaking decision  and is most likely  probable due to the mild Autumn weather and the lack of rain .

Winterization has commenced at the ranch. Erosion control, addressing sick/dead vines, and cover crop projects are the last loose ends to wrap up before the winter.

Gator Full of Desiccated Vines

Cheers to everyone involved in the 2011 harvest , looks like we will actually have a 2011 vintage after all.


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