Sunday, October 30, 2011

Amador County Harvest Report from Vino Noceto

This HARVEST UPDATE Q&A with the Winemaker, Cellarmaster, and Vineyard Manager at Vino Noceto, on  Shenandoah Road in Plymouth (Amador County) is courtesy of Anna King, PR & Marketing Director at Vino Noceto:

Last week Anna interviewed Winemaker Rusty Folena,  Cellarmaster Kevin O'Neil, and Vineyard Manager Dave Brown about this harvest.  “Despite all the negative press the weather has gotten this growing season, it looks like they have a pretty good feeling about the 2011 vintage for Vino Noceto,” said Anna.

Q  Anna: So everyone is talking about the weather throughout California this growing season. How did Vino Noceto do? How are our grapes?   

Rusty: This growing season started off wet and cool with snow falling on the vineyard as late as the end of June. The vineyard saw 35"-40" of rain in some spots this growing season. Last year we had 22". We spent a lot of extra money farming this year because of the rain.
Q Anna: That's a lot more rain? How does that affect the grapes?  

 Rusty: Everyone has rot this year. Sangiovese holds up to rain okay, but even it is starting to get some botrytis. I would say we had about 1% rot this harvest. We have to pick it out at the grape bins or at the sorting table or even in the hopper. Our leafers in the field do a good job of pulling it out. Some always gets through but it gives it character. 
 Q Anna: I still see some grapes on the vines. How is picking going?  

 Dave: Right now we probably have 80% of the vineyard picked. It basically happened in two days. We went from 10% harvested to 80% in three days. Dos Oakies will be the last block to be picked this year.   

Q  Anna: How do you decide when to pick? How did we manage to steer clear of the yield issues everyone has been worried about? 

Rusty: My job is to decide when to pick, what to do with it, and how we are going to do it. There is no canned recipe. It's about knowing the vineyard and analyzing it. We can be prepared a little but sometimes there's a curveball.   

Dave: Yield for us is normal this year. A few blocks were a little off but nothing bad.

Rusty: The yield will all average out. However, our yield is good probably because of the sole fact that we allowed the vines to be a mess. The proper canes were not producing fruit, and we allowed a lot of other shoots to grow and produce the grapes for that spur. Pruning this coming year will be a nightmare.

Dave: If we had pulled off all the suckers this year during pruning we would have had 2/3 less crop. 

Q Anna: So what do you three do during this time of year? We are always hearing loud noises from down at the winery...

Kevin: Harvest starts three to four weeks before picking with sampling, measuring the brix, sugar content, acid, and PH levels. We spend a lot of time recording. If everything goes right the sugar and PH go up and acid drops; at that point it's time to pick. If you have sugar flat-lining, acid dropping and pH going up, that's a sign of vineyard rot. In theory we are trying to pick before that happens. 

Dave: I hire the crews, supervise the picking and make sure all the equipment is working. I am another set of eyes. If I see a problem in the vineyard I let Rusty know. My job is basically providing a quality fruit for the winery. If I don't do my job the place rots.  

 Q Anna: Frivolo is released soon! What's the story with that?   

Kevin: Right now most of our daily work routine is dealing with the Muscat.

Rusty: The sweet white wine is the hardest. It takes a long time to get samples out of the pressurized tanks, and we have to run samples constantly. We establish a pattern of how the brix and alcohol are changing by measuring every day. We also have to be physically there to stop fermentation when it needs it, even if it is in the middle of the night. There are no do-overs.

Kevin: It ferments slow and cold to preserve the fruit. It's just more labor intensive. We have one more tank of that to go then we are done with this year's Frivolo.

Q  Anna: People love that Frivolo though! It's worth the work. What are some of the big decisions you make during harvest?  

 Rusty: The biggest decision is when to start harvest and picking because you can't put them back. There are different signs of ripening. Levels and measurements but there is also the colors of the seeds and way the grapes taste. If they don't taste good they are probably not going to make very good wine.

More about Vino Noceto from their website

California Sangiovese Specialist !
Vino Noceto is a family-run vineyard and winery founded in 1987 by Suzy and Jim Gullett in Shenandoah Valley, Plymouth, California. They are Sangiovese specialists, currently producing over 9,000 cases annually of Sangiovese from estate and nearby small vineyards. They additionally produce a wonderful floral Moscato called "Frivolo", as well as Barbera, and Zinfandel, and have twenty-four acres of producing Sangiovese and one acre of Syrah.
A pioneer in the renaissance of this noble Tuscan varietal, they now produce eight different Sangiovese wines (Chianti, Brunello, and Super Tuscan styles).

Beginning with their first, 1990 vintage, Noceto wines have been 100% Sangiovese, targeted at a Chianti Classico style. This style emphasizes the delicate and complex fruitiness of the Sangiovese grape. More recently, the Riserva Sangiovese has sometimes been blended with a small amount of Barbera or Syrah.
The Sierra Foothill soil and climate has enabled Vino Noceto to display these unique attributes while achieving a medium or slightly fuller wine. Neutral and large format oak aging allows a slow, gentle maturing of the young wine and adds a little spice to an already intriguing wine.
The last key step is bottle aging – at Vino Noceto, we endeavor to bottle the wine at least six months before release. At this point its various flavor components are coming together, leading to a distinctive red wine which complements a wide range of foods and represents good value for the consumer.

Vino Noceto has grown steadily from its first vintage of 110 cases to over 9,000 cases production, including 3,500 cases of Normale Sangiovese, 1,700 cases of Riserva Sangiovese and block-designated wines, 1,000 cases of Sangiovese table wine, 1,600 cases of a frizzante Moscato Bianco (Frivolo), 400 cases of Rosato, and three grappas made for us by St. George Spirits (Sangiovese, OGP Zinfandel and Moscato). With the 2002 vintage, they added a Linsteadt Barbera and Zinfandel from the Original Grandpere Vineyard. Renwood/Santino made the first five vintages, Amador Foothill Winery the next two, Folie à Deux Winery the next two, and the winemaking operation moved in-house with the 1999 harvest. Vino Noceto's winemaker is Rusty Folena, formerly of Renwood/Santino Winery, assisted by Stacey Gregersen, consulting winemaker.

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