Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"My Fruit not Ready to be Picked" - El Dorado Harvest Report from C.G. Di Arie, Mount Aukum

Chaim Gur-Arieh,  Ph.D., winemaker and proprietor of C.G. Di Arie Vineyard and Winery in the Mount Aukum part of El Dorado County, Sierra Foothills region of California, sends these interesting notes:

As of October 10, 2011, our harvesting for 2011 is delayed.  I see my neighbors in the valley picking their vineyards and feel envious.   Are their fruits riper than mine?  All I know my fruit is not ready to be picked.  The skins are leathery and astringent, the flesh gelatinous, the seeds not completely brown and the flavors not intense enough for my taste. 

Therefore I decided not to rush into harvesting before it rained last Wednesday.   By not harvesting, at least the Zinfandel and Primitivo, I was taking a calculated risk that I might lose the crop to bunch rot.  Bunch rot is caused by a fungus called Botrytis Cinerea.  Zinfandel and Primitivo that have large tight clusters and thin skins are most susceptible to get bunch rot after a rain.  During the rain, water penetrates into the clusters and stays there without getting a chance to evaporate.  The cooler temperature causes the thin skins to blister and the water around them provides the ideal conditions for this fungus to grow, flourish and destroy the grapes.  

To protect my crop, before the rains came I sent my crew to remove the leaves and branches that were shading the “afternoon sun” side of my Zinfandel and Primitivo vineyard blocks.  This opened up the canopy so that when the wind and sunshine returned to the vineyard the clusters had a chance to dry out.  After the rain I sent my two tractors towing two large sprayers that were blowing air directly onto the clusters of the Zinfandel and Primitivo to ensure that they were completely dry.

On the morning of October 10, I went back to inspect my vineyards and was very happy to see that we were able to avoid this disaster.  Unfortunately, I cannot be so joyous since the rain is back again in full force.  Tomorrow when the sun shines again we will repeat blowing off the moisture with the help of the sprayers and hopefully this will be the last time it rains before harvest.

This report will not be complete without telling you my evaluation of each variety that I did last week before the rains started:

Barbera:  Brix – 24.5; pH – 3.1.   The flavors are developing magnificently and it seems like this vineyard which is on its 5th leaf will deliver a star wine.  I am expecting to get 4 tons from this block this year.  Last year we only had 1 ton.  I am waiting for the pH to raise to 3.3-3.4 and hope that this will happen the week of October 17.

Cabernet Franc:  Brix: 22.6, pH: 3.39; fairly large crop, flavors developing  very well – bell pepper flavor is almost not evident.  Considering that Cabernet Franc was one of the last to change color, it made very rapid progress.  I predict harvest to be around October 20.

Cabernet Sauvignon:  The star of this year’s harvest; Brix – 23.5; pH – 3.2; relatively large crop with at least one cluster per shoot – which is excellent for a vineyard that is on its 5th leaf.  The fruit is ripening very graciously with no evidence of bell pepper flavors.   This vintage will deserve using these grapes for a standalone Cabernet Sauvignon varietal wine.  Harvest week of October 17.

Petite Sirah:  This block has a bumper crop.  I did not take any samples to run through the lab since the grapes are lagging behind in ripeness.  I will revisit this block the end of this week.  Harvest may be in November.

Primitivo:  Brix – 20.4, pH – 3.33; more shot berries than the Zin; thin crop and irregular ripening.  Harvest estimated week of October 24.

Syrah:  Brix – 22.0, pH – 3.25; very good crop, flavors are coming up, berries are softening and seeds are getting completely brown – an indication of ripeness.  Might be the first variety to be harvested the week of October 17

Zinfandel:   Brix: 19.5, pH 3.20; good crop with some shot berries damaged from the frost, irregular ripeness – some with intense flavors and others lacking flavor.  Needs two weeks of warm weather with harvest the week of October 24.

Tempranillo:  Brix – 21.5; pH – 3.65.  These grapes have the highest pH while being the most astringent.  I expect a lower yield than last year and hope that the astringency will mellow before harvest which I expect it to be the week of October 24.

Touriga:  Brix – 19.8; pH – 3.34.  The flavors are developing well, we just need some warm weather to raise the sugar levels up.  The vines are carrying a nice crop and if the weather will cooperate I hope we can harvest this block the week of October 24.

As I am writing this newsletter, the last chapter of “Harvest 2011” has not been told yet.  As the saying goes “being a winemaker is not for the faint hearted and making good wine is not by accident”.  Cheers! "

More about C. G. Di Arie Vineyard & Winery, from their blog

Founded:            2001

Owners:             Chaim Gur-Arieh, Winemaker
                          Elisheva Gur-Arieh, Brand Manager

The Vineyard and Terrior
A 209 acre estate of rolling hills, well drained, moderately deep soil. Surface soil
consist of  decomposed granite and coarse sandy loam.  47 acres are planted to
vines, at altitude of 1,700 ft. on hillside, using sustainable farming practices.
Varieties planted include:  Grenache, Touriga Nacional, Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon,  Syrah (3 clones), Barbera, Primitivo, Zinfandel.

The Winery:12,000sq.ft. cutting edge facility, on a hillside with spectacular views of the nearby vineyards and the Sierra Foothills. Using the natural terrain, the winery was constructed on 2 plateaus, with “gravity -feed” design as part of the winemaking process. The facility features 2 art galleries and built to enable the winery to maximize production up to 13,000 /cs. a year.

Winemaking Philosophy:Chaim believes in a winemaking process that maximizes the potential of the grapes: harvesting when the fruit is completely ripe, hand sorting and handling the grapes gently at winery to avoid maceration of the skins and breaking of the seeds and using the oak barrels for flavor enhancement and not as a focus.

The Technology:Chaim invented (patent pending) the “Dual Compartment Submerged Cap Fermentation Tank”  that keeps the cap  submerged during the entire fermentation process, thus creating fully extracted and concentrated wines with robust fruit, soft tannins, elegance, balance and complexity.

From their website:  VINEYARD & VITICULTURE

 Welcome  to C.G. Di Arie Vineyard and Winery in El Dorado County CaliforniaWith 40 acres already planted and plans to cultivate 20 more over the next five years, the Gur-Ariehs have crafted a promising vineyard that is already producing great fruit.

Planted at an elevation of 1,700 feet with Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Primitivo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc; one of the main goals of the vineyard is to develop consistency of fruit from vine to vine. With subtle variations from red, granitic rocky loam, to sandy loam, the soil at C. G. Di Arie is ideal, offering good root penetration to the vines.

Rootstocks have been selected for their ability to withstand disease, and paired with Zinfandel clones from Howell Mountain, as well as Syrah clones from France and Australia. C.G. Di Arie’s vineyard crew is under clear instruction to limit yields by dropping a large amount of fruit to concentrate flavors in the remaining grapes. Green and out-of-sequence clusters are dropped in an attempt to remove the harsh flavor of green tannins derived from the seeds and skins of immature grapes. When necessary, the vineyard is harvested multiple times to ensure consistent quality and maturity.

At the beginning of each growing season, Chaim and Elisheva sit down with their growers to discuss which viticultural practices will work best. Chaim and Elisheva have set a two-acre vineyard block aside from “The Original Grandpère Vineyard” in the Shenandoah Valley. Established over 140 years ago, this vineyard is the oldest living Zinfandel vineyard in America and has produced numerous award-winning wines. “The Original Grandpère Vineyard” is used primarily for C.G. Di Arie’s Southern Exposure Zinfandel.

 Founded on a commitment to the finest viticultural practices, C.G. Di Arie is prepared to take the next step in its evolution. Having created an original and engaging palette of flavors from its estate and partner vineyards, C.G. Di Arie is poised to make world-class Zinfandel and Syrah in the Sierra Foothills.

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