Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fruit Quality Good with Balanced Wines, Lower Sugar Levels - FairPlay/El Dorado SKINNER VINEYARDS reports on HARVEST

Ryan Skinner, General Manager of Skinner Vineyards, Fair Play, Eldorado County, gathered this information from winemaker Chris Pittenger:

Winemaker Chris Pittenger, left,
Ryan Skinner, GM, right
"The Never Ending Harvest continues...

The stories of doom and gloom for Harvest 2011 have been as rampant as bunch rot, and I’m sure that most of us are tired of hearing about it by now.

While we are not immune to the forces of Mother Nature, the story at Skinner Vineyards is different from most that we've been hearing, thus perhaps worth sharing.

We have fared well as it relates to rot, but our two estate vineyards took the brunt of harsh late winter conditions in April, May, and June. For example, on May 16th alone, we had snow, rain, hail, lightning, heavy winds, frost and sunshine at our 2700’ hillside vineyard in Fair Play – all within a 12-hour period. Our steep slopes usually protect us from frost conditions, but continuously cold and wet weather throughout spring resulted in a very poor fruit set in many of our blocks. This, coupled with the one of the coolest growing seasons on record, resulted in very low yields and an extremely late harvest. 

However, not all is doom and gloom at Skinner.  Aside from the reduced yields, the fruit quality that we are seeing in the winery has been surprisingly good. Our growers and vineyard crews have worked diligently to drop unevenly ripened fruit and the occasional rot. While it is too early to tell how things will end up, we are seeing balanced wines at lower sugar levels, much like 2010.

Our first picks occurred on October 1st, which was the same day as 2010 (another late harvest). A surprise rain event greeted us shortly afterwards and put harvest on hold until October 15th. Since then, fruit has been coming in at a steady pace over the last two weeks with a mix of Syrah, Grenache, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc. We still have a little Syrah and Mourvedre hanging out which we anticipate picking within the first week or two of November – weather permitting of course." ~ author, Chris Pittenger.

More about Skinner Vineyards (from their website and press materials)

In 1852, an ambitious young Scottish immigrant named James Skinner came west to Foster's Bar Northwest of Coloma in search of gold and opportunity for his family.  A successful miner he also discovered the unvarnished beauty of the Sierra Foothills - along with an ideal climate in which to grow Rhóne varietals. He purchased land West of Placerville in Rescue along the old Pony Express Trail in the mid 1850s.  He planted vines, and by 1861 Skinner established one of the first commercial wineries in California, a family business that thrived until the early 1900s. 
One hundred and fifty years and seven generations later, Mike and Carey Skinner have set out to bring Skinner wines back to the Sierra Foothills.  With their inaugural wine release in 2007, the Skinner family have now restored a legacy that is a much a part of the family history as it is of the history of gold-rush California.      
Skinner Vineyards and Winery is committed to producing exceptional wines that reflect the unique spirit of the Sierra Foothills, using the same Rhône varietals that were grown by our family more than 150 years ago. Our red Rhône varietals include Syrah, Grenache, Mourvédre, Petite Syrah, Carignane and Counoise and Petite Bouchette while the white Rhône varietals are comprised of Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc. At less than 2,500 cases currently produced per year, our wines are handcrafted and artfully vinted by veteran and well respected winemaker, Chris Pittenger.
The Skinner family's two estate vineyards are located within a short drive from the original 1861 Skinner Winery. The largest vineyard is in the Fair Play appellation, which boasts the highest average elevation of any AVA in California.  At 2,300 to 2,740 feet, Stoney Creek Vineyard includes 20 acres planted and is the site of our ridge top winery and tasting room.  With its view of the majestic foothill and Sierra landscape, crowned by the often snow-capped  Pyramid Peak, the site offers a stunning venue to enjoy Skinner wines.. In the El Dorado appellation, White Oaks Flat Vineyard sits at 1,400 feet and includes 13 acres planted. At both sites, the warm days and cool nights, along with high altitudes, combine to create natural acidity and highly-concentrated, complex wines.
Skinner Vineyards and Winery encourages you to visit the most breath-taking tasting room in all of the Sierra Foothills. 

Sitting atop our vineyards at 2,500 feet, you can take in 360 degree vistas of the Foothills and unimpeded views across the Sierra all the way to Pyramid Peak in Tahoe. Our 3,000 square feet of patio space provides ample seating allowing you to enjoy the cooling effect of waterfalls in the summer or warmth of fireplaces in the winter.  With furnishings and design that evoke our heritage tracing back to 1861, including a recreation of the stone cellar from the original winery, our tasting room is truly a special place to enjoy our wines.

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