2019 Pre-Harvest Reflections (Unfiltered Edition)
By Christian Ahlmann
Can I level with you for a minute?
Grape farming sometimes scares me to death.
In our tasting room, you see tasting notes like: “The 2018 vintage was one of the most beautiful on record, with warm summer breezes, subtle…” and by God’s grace, it usually does end that way.
But before each harvest? It’s a fist fight.
Last week we started picking the roughly 2,200,000 delicate, beautiful clusters hanging on the vines. If all goes well, we will have them in the tanks by the end of October. But each year, I lose sleep over things that might NOT go well. Things like spider mites and powdery mildew, our most common pest pressures which Oscar and his vineyard team battle weekly with organic oil and shoot thinning. Heat waves, irrigation failures and even fire have all threatened our crops. One year we had hail. Another year we had smoke. (Again, by God’s grace, no smoke flavors made it into the grapes). And we haven’t had an earthquake yet, or a volcanic eruption, but they do have earthquakes nearby, and a volcano is within viewing distance and is on the Top 100 list of volcanoes in America most likely to erupt.
This farming thing is not for wimps. I sometimes wonder if it would be easier to do work that’s less likely to be destroyed by a single incident. And it would. But it would also be less fun. Because when you open a bottle from Six Sigma Ranch, it’s all in there. Each subtle change in the weather and soil shows in the wine. Our current 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, my favorite yet, shows a warm summer with aromas of pears and tropical fruits. The 2019 vintage we picked last week has seen fewer hot days, and may come out leaner and more crisp. But who knows? Grapes are a natural product, and fermentation is a natural process, so it just might surprise us in the tank!
Meanwhile the Tempranillo for Rosé came in beautiful but a bit low on acidity, so we will blend a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon into the 2019 Rosé for that crisp, beautiful edge. (Also stay tuned for a NEW 2019 Sparkling Rosé of Tempranillo!) Tempranillo for the Reserve will likely be ready for harvest next week.
You can follow along as grapes ripen on Facebook, and we often share unfinished juice or clusters in the tasting room during harvest weekends. See you at the ranch!