From Tony Coutrri
Gravenstein apple juice fermenting in American Oak.
Harvest 2013 was like every other harvest but with a couple quirks. The old 'hurry up and wait' was here. The newspapers and reports predicted an early harvest, with above-average yields; neither of which happened. There was some early picking, but a spat of cool weather, followed by rains, ended that. There was a lot in inconsistency of ripeness. Higher sugars, with lots of green acidity. That usually means wait a while longer. But today's winemakers are trying to make a style, rather than followwhat the vineyards are giving them.
Low alcohol and high acidity without long hang time doesn't make good wine. Sonoma and Northern California offers the ability and chance to hang the fruit out and still achieve balance. There will higher alcohols, 14 to 15.5%, but that's normal and makes for good wine. The change of weather conditions was there, two rains and cooler temps. I couldn't make that beautiful rich, sweet but dry Zinfandel. The rains cured that. But the estate zin is still hanging and we have at least another 10 days of dry weather. There's still a chance!! The word weather is all through this and weather is still king.
One thing that ran through my mind this harvest was the mindlessness of monoculture. Grapes in trucks, day and night, running here and there. Where's the rest of the crops? When we started in 1979 there were 13 wineries in Sonoma Valley. Now there are over 30 tasting rooms on the square in Sonoma and well over 180 wineries in the Valley. I see all these grapes being hauled, all the wineries taking in fruit and making yet another bottle of wine following the Davis way of chemicals and stainless steel tanks or new french oak barrels, pitching yeasts after adding SO2 to kill the "wild" yeasts and bacterias. If any food processor (i.e. restaurants) did to its raw ingredients what modern wineries do, they would be shut down.
How much wine do we need? Should we encourage people to drink more? Where's the organics and Biodynamics in all this? Where's the thoughtfulness in all this? Should there not be trucks of apples, walnuts, pears, peaches, tomatoes, grains, corn and vegetables flying along the roads? The apples are still rotting in Sebastopol because no one wants them. The walnuts, pears and peaches are gone. I'm guilty as all. I've spent the last 34 years pursuing wine blindly and to what end?
I was, and am, lucky enough to have in my cellar 12 barrels of Gravenstein apple cider/wine. Organic apples, natural yeast fermentation, barrel fermented and stored. The first batch was brought in at the end of August and is being bottled next week. Ready to hit the market. Light color, slightly cloudy, a little spritz, wonderful apple nose and flavor reminiscence of a Riesling. 7% alcohol because that's what God gave us, nice acidity - chill it down and enjoy. No rules, no "this is supposed to be like this", just the way it came out.