Veraison represents the transition from berry growth to berry ripening, and many changes in berry development occur at veraison. The vine begins to focus its energy from creation (photosynthesis) to energy consumption. In turn, the grape berries become darker, firmer and sweeter. Visually we are treated to the sight to gem-like grapes changing color from bright green to red to deep plum (for red grapes). The darkening of the grape skin actually protects them from sun damage and other stresses as they move into the final, and most critical, stage of development.
Here we see veraison occurring at Wildcat Mountain Vineyard. The 58 acres that make up Wildcat Mountain Vineyard sit high on a mountain range the borders the Western edge of Sonoma Valley. The highest vineyard in the appellation, it sits on well-drained soils of volcanic origin, exposed to the full brunt of fog and cold airflow that streams off the upper reaches of San Pablo Bay.
This is an ideal place to grow top-tier Pinot noir grapes so we were thrilled to be approached by Steve MacRostie in 2003 with the offer to make a vineyard designated Talisman Wildcat Mountain Pinot Noir. Every year since our first vintage in 2003 we have used these gorgeous grapes to produce Wines that possess an amazingly graceful texture, restrained fruit and lovely minerality.
Bottling is every winemakers least favorite, but of course absolutely necessary, task… First all the bottling supplies; glass, labels, corks all need to get lined up, including scheduling the mobile bottling line, fingers crossed there are no delays or mis ships. There simply isn’t room in the winery to hold all those cases of empty glass until just before the bottling date. Secondly, blending is a critical part of the wine quality and character of that vintage. At Talisman, we are crafting about 15 different wines from each vintage. Each wine ranges from 2 barrels (50 cases) to 17 barrels (425 cases). For each wine, our winemaker must taste through all the barrel lots. Each barrel holds wine from different barrel types, different barrel makers, different ages of barrels and different blocks in the vineyard. Tasting and creating the final blend is fun, but exhausting.
Third, The final version of each wine is now in one tank; the entire vintage is in one place, and if something happens to that tank, we lose it all; very nerve wracking! Fourth, once the bottling begins, we depend on mechanical equipment for things to run smoothly… Luckily we work with a stellar mobile bottling company and things go smoothly almost all the time.
The best part of bottling is when it’s done! Whew.
Maintenance! Maintenance! Maintenance! Today we spent a few hours tying up the arms of the Pommard to protect them from the winds we’ve had up here recently. It’s a long process but we knocked out all but eight rows which we will finish tomorrow. There is miscellaneous tucking of some errant canes back into the wires to be done and that will pretty much complete the maintenance for right now. Everything is on track and looking good!
After that, Tom fired up the tractor and finished mowing the vineyard including the 115 and 777 clones. Now it’s time to pour a glass of Red Dog and sit in the garden with good friends!
Vintage 2020 looks to be a good growing season so far! For the most part, the weather has been mild and cooperative, and although we've had much less rain than normal, the timing of the rain has been really good. Flowering happened without incident which is always a huge relief. The pandemic, albeit inconvenient, hasn't hindered work in the vineyards; it's relatively simple to space workers out among the rows.
Currently, there is a lot of vineyard work going on! Here’s a look at the GUNSALUS vineyard in Russian River Valley; this from Glen and Pamela Gunsalus:
We're coming to the end of rapid growth (several inches per day) and have been busy with multiple vineyard activities over the last few weeks. The shoots are now in the catch wires and positioned vertically to allow for good air flow and eliminate future cluster crowding (once they fill out). Both are important for fruit development and to minimize mildew pressure.
Most recent activity (last two days) was hedging to keep vigor in check and to keep vines in balance. Our goal is to provide premium fruit, not to grow woody vines! Too much leaf area allows carbohydrate production, and thus, sugar accumulation, to get ahead of components of flavor development (ask the winemaker why that matters).
We've just started cluster thinning to adjust for variation in individual shoot size and fruit load per vine, another task to keep vine balance. Never a dull moment in the vineyard!