Friday, September 23, 2011

Montoliva (Chicago Park/Nevada County) - Harvest Report and commentary

Mark Henry, owner and winemaker at MontOliva Vineyard & Winery, located in the Chicago Park area of Nevada County,  sends along a very interesting report in Q&A format:
That  June rain that never seemed to end, how did it affect the growing season?
More than I originally thought it did. Although it was wet and cool, we did not get a late frost this year.  Although we got some snow in mid-May, the air temp never dropped below 34'F in my vineyard. Because I did not get the same frost burn in 2011 that we got in 2010 (frost event in late May), canopy development was pretty normal, and although things did progress slower, my thinking throughout the summer was that we are maybe a couple of weeks behind.
Last year I did sample testing on 20 September. So, I sample tested yesterday.  The numbers throughout the vineyard are most exactly what they were last year.  This is a little disheartening.  I had thought that with dodging the late frost this year, we would be at least a couple of weeks ahead of last year, the cold, wet Spring notwithstanding.
How does this year compare to a normal growing season?
Normal?  I planted my vineyard in 2000.  Except for maybe 2006 and 2007...maybe 2009, I don't think I've had a "normal" year yet.  This year is looking suspiciously like last year.  Maybe this is the "New, Improved" normal!
What does the '11 crop size look like?
This is the area where I am probably still trying to figure things out.  We didn't get a late frost this year, and lots of rain early, so the crop load was heavier than usual.  I almost always do some crop thinning, Sangiovese almost demands it, however, I think after the light crop load of last year (because of the frost), I got a little greedy this year.  Perhaps the fact that I  am almost exactly in the same place as last year, without a frost event, is because I left a bit more on the vine this year than I usually do. 
Did you have to do any crop thinning this year?
I probably haven't thinned enough.  I dropped fruit once in early summer, and again about two weeks ago.  I may go through the vineyard again later this week.  by the time I'm done, I may end of dropping about 50%.
This year seems to have progressed much like last year. Are you expecting similar results?
I actually think it may be something better...assuming the weather holds up.  The saving grace last year is that although we had a couple of rain events in early, then late October, it cleared up/warmed up immediately afterward, so no problem.  We harvested MV&W on October 31st last year.  The brix were at around 22, ripeness was pretty good, not great.  This year bloom and fruit set occurred earlier (because we didn't get the late frost), so assuming the weather holds up, we may harvest on Halloween again, the brix may be around 22 again, however, the physiological ripeness factors should be improved, meaning better colors, more flavor development.
When do you expect to harvest?

I probably need the weather to hold up until the last week of October.  It did it last year. Keeping my fingers crossed
What happens if it starts raining next week?
Well, rain isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It rains a fair amount during the growing season in both France and Italy (or at least it used to). Here in the north Sierra Foothills we don't have the same issues that Napa or Sonoma have.  There, it can rain, then stay cold and foggy for days. That inevitably means rot...especially with Chardonnay.  Here, it may rain for a day or two, but then it clears up, and warms back up.  This is what happened last year, so while Napa was scrambling to pick before too much rot set in, here in the north Sierra Foothills, we were able to sit tight for another couple of weeks.  Now, if it starts raining, and doesn't stop...that's a different matter altogether.  Or if we get a frost event.  If it freezes any time between now, and near the end of October, I'm toast.

About Montoliva Vineyards & Winery
Mark Henry was one of the first to plant the prized clones of Sangiovese introduced to the U.S. by Vivai Cooperativi Rauscedo in 2001, and the first to plant the southern Italian mainstay Aglianico in the North Sierra Foothills. Chicago Park, California is on the western slope of the Sierra Foothills at 2200ft elevation, about equidistance from Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. Warm summers, cool evenings and soils of decomposed granite create a very happy home for our 1820 Sangiovese and 80 Aglianico vines. This, combined with the old world tradition of close planting (4ft x 3ft), means that Montoliva Vineyard & Winery is blessed with an annual bounty of high-quality fruit.
Some of the original settlers of Chicago Park were first-generation Italian-Americans from Chicago, Illinois. The orchards and vineyards of Chicago Park bear witness to their quest to start a community in the untamed West that mirrored their homeland. Their spirit lives on at Montoliva Vineyard & Winery. Founded in 2000, Montoliva Vineyard & Winery creates Tuscan-inspired wines of uncommon depth and character

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