Harvest 2014: We Interviewed Growers About This Year’s Vintage
As summer comes to a close, many Dry Creek Valley wineries are in the midst of harvest season, this time even earlier than last year. We wanted a sense of what it’s like out in the vineyards for this year’s #SCHarvest14, so we contacted several wineries to get a progress report. Several of our WDCV wineries took a few moments out of their hectic harvest schedules to share their unique perspectives with us. Among the many tidbits shared, they let us know where they’re at in the harvest, what challenges they’ve been facing, and their expectations for the wines to come. We’re grateful to Lana Mounts of Mounts Winery, Bill Frick at Frick Winery, Katarina Bonde at West Wines, Andrew Fegelman from Quivira Vineyards and Winery , David Coffaro of David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery, Nick Briggs at Dutcher Crossing Winery and Bill Smart at Dry Creek Vineyard, for answering our questions.
We wanted to know when each winery got started harvesting their fruit, and which grapes were ready first. Mounts Winery began their harvest in the last week of August with viognier and grenache for their sparkling wines. West Wines started around August 14th with chardonnay for their Sparkling Blanc de Blancs. They left their sauvignon blanc and viognier on the vine for a little longer than the chardonnay. Quivira Vineyards and Winery had their earliest harvest to date, beginning on August 14th atop the Goat Trek Vineyard, at 1,200 feet elevation. Frick Winery started with viognier from the hillsides a week ahead of schedule, the third week of August. David Coffaro said he picked two weeks earlier than last year. Dutcher Crossing Winery picked their first sauvignon blanc grapes on August 15th. Dry Creek Vineyard began their harvest on August 12th with sauvignon blanc, and chenin blanc followed shortly thereafter.
Next, we asked each winery about yield expectations this season. Fegelman of Quivira Vineyards and Winery said, “Yields appear to be about average, certainly smaller than 2012 and 2013 harvests that saw such big crops all over California. Coffaro harvested his pinot noir and his sauvignon blanc in mid-August and confirmed that his harvest was smaller this year than the last two years, but mentioned the fruit looks darker than last year. Bill Smart talked about the varietal he’s anticipating most at Dry Creek Vineyard this year; “achieving ripe flavors earlier than normal in Sauvignon Blanc has been exciting. This will not be the record early harvest talked about in the press, but it definitely is early—and I see that as a good thing.” Mounts said that the growth of the shoots in the older zin vines are reduced this year because of a lack of moisture this past winter. Clusters are smaller but bunch counts are good. Bonde reported that West Wine’s cabernet sauvignon still has a ways to go, but this clears the way to closely monitor other, earlier-ripening varietals. Frick made note that his grenache blanc is expected to deliver a high yield for the third year in a row.
Then we asked the really important question, the one we know is on everyone’s mind out there, even though it is still early in the process—with the grapes from this year’s harvest, how do they anticipate the eventual wine produced will taste? Fegelman said of Quivira Vineyard and Winery, “This looks to be a good year in terms of quality: Winemaker Hugh Chappelle said the fruit that has arrived so far is gorgeous.” Building on this comment, Nick Briggs said of Dutcher Crossing Winery, “I think this is going to be a year of fleshy, beautiful wines.” Mounts said, “We expect the quality to be outstanding due to small clusters, small berries in general, and if there’s no rain through October we’ll have a nice long hangtime to mature flavors.” Bonde said that all is looking really good so far and the grapes are in fine condition so expectations are high for this year’s crop at West Wines. Coffaro and Frick are both humble—or perhaps superstitious—about making early predictions of their esteemed wines. Coffaro said, “Don’t know until the wine is in the barrel,” and Frick said, “I never count my grapes before they are harvested and tasted.”
Judging by the quality of the grapes coming in and the optimism of the winegrowers we talked to, it’s safe to say we can expect good things. Perhaps Briggs summed it up best, when he concluded his interview by asking us: With what looks to be a third incredible year with in a row, who is going to drink all this fabulous wine? Naturally, we offered to help!