Monday, October 10, 2011

Yuba County Harvest Report - Clos Saron: Good quantities and Quality

Gideon Bienstock, winemaker at Clos Saron (Oregon House, Yuba County, Sierra Foothills region) sends his harvest report update:

At Clos Saron, we finished picking our Pinot Noir and Syrah October 3, just before the storm. Quantities were good, as our 1999 planting keep maturing and producing more, now reaching one ton per acre (!!).

Quality was good with two issues: larger grapes (from heavy rains all through the spring and early summer) in the Syrah, showing as less concentrated than usual (some may view this as a plus); in the Pinot, there was considerable shrivelling - not as bad as last year, but bad enough. Perhaps 10% of the crop had to be cleaned out of the raisins while picking. Average sugars were low (which is the way we like it), around 22.5-23 brix. Acidity was excellent in the Pinot and good in the syrah.

We are no longer farming the sites we used to lease, so for the next few years, until our own new plantings come to age, we will be sourcing fruit outside of our area. All of our whites were purchased this year, as well as some Cinsault.

(Gideon clarified that he sources his "outside fruit" from Yuba County, mostly the North Yuba AVA)

More about Clos Saron (from their website)

"A cool microclimate in the Oregon House Valley: forty five hundred vines planted on a gentle, well-drained, north-east facing slope. Red loam and clay topsoil on decomposed granite and volcanic ash subsoil, sprinkled with fragments of granite rocks, basalt, and quartz. The virgin soil is pure, uncontaminated, alive with microorganisms and earthworms.

The Sierra Nevada Foothills are not the first to spring to mind when thinking about Pinot Noir in California, and yet this site provides an ideal microclimate and soil combination for its demanding nature. The soil – poor in organic matter and rich in minerals – has a unique combination of volcanic, clay, and alluvial elements, providing a rare equilibrium of water retention and good drainage. Our growing season is neither too dry nor too wet, neither too hot nor too cold. Bud break in late-March to mid-April, bloom in late-May to mid-June, harvest in early-September to mid-October.

Our Vineyard is like a Nature Reserve
Age-old Burgundy traditions are implemented in our young, virgin soil:
  • Densely planted vines (3‘x6’).
  • Vine-vigor and crop level kept to a minimum by dry farming and precision pruning.
  • Vinifera vines are grown on their own roots (this area is free of phylloxera).
  • The long-term well-being of the soil and the vines is ensured by a sustainable approach to viticulture combining organic and Bio-dynamic principles.
  • A well-balanced, symbiotic micro-cosmos is established in our farm, including humans, animals, trees, vines, and all other living organisms.
  • Our vineyard is like a natural reserve: free of herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. To control mildew, we spray elemental sulfur two to three times per season (compared to 8-15 times of powerful “high-tech” fungicides in conventional viticulture).
We tend to every vine numerous times during the season, making sure every shoot bears only what it can ripen fully. The small size of the vineyard allows us to harvest only perfectly ripe grapes, in consecutive passes through the vines.

The Essence in the Bottle

Our goal is to produce enjoyable, well–balanced wines, expressive of their distinctive terroir.

Our primary interest in Pinot Noir is due to its unique ability to capture the essence of its place of origin. “Traditionalists” in Burgundy will tell you that a good Pinot expresses its varietal, whereas a great one expresses its terroir... You will certainly find our Pinots distinctly different from their Russian River, Central Coast, and Oregon relatives, while being as true to their varietal as any.

Our other blends and varietal wines are made from grapes grown in nearby vineyards. Saron and I are closely involved with all the viticultural aspects of producing these grapes, to make sure they match our demanding standards: organic farming practices, very low yields (1-1.4 tons/acre for reds, 1.5-2 tons/acre for whites), hand harvesting. In the winery, they get the same red-carpet treatment we give to our estate-grown fruit."

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