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Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Viticulture,Wine

The state of the Petite Sirah grape – Harvest 2014 and where it’s at right now

As I personally think about Petite Sirah for the 2014 vintage, in terms of this year’s grape season, it’s going down as the season of “bewitching fog” in my neighborhood. However, I’m in Russian River Valley and I’m seeing it from a very narrow band, I just found out.

I decided to reach out to the members of PS I Love You, to get them to reply to me, in order to back up my thinking for this story. What I found, though, is how narrow my view really is.

What a reminder… This changed the original title of this story, of 2014 goes down as the season of the bewitching fog in the vineyards to The state of the Petite Sirah grape – Harvest 2014 and where it’s at right now.

It was also a  huge reminder of how – when we’re thinking about ANY vintage – it has to be put into a tiny little context box of that area’s season… Over any mountain range, down into any little valley, on whatever tectonic plate the vineyard grows, terroir changes rapidly. Even within that valley, attitude and altitude will change with latitude, longitude will change with a simple breeze. With climate being a very important element of terroir, we have to be really careful of broad, sweeping statements.

Lesson learned as I was reminded of how tiny my world is… my view is only as good as my backyard’s grapes; otherwise, ask the grower of that vineyard and beware of the sweeping statements. They’re too narrow… I don’t care who the authority is, his or her sweeping opinion is just too narrow.

QUESTION

How is all of this continuing early morning fog affecting the Petite Sirah grapes in your vineyards?

Here is what I got back, proving my point, in the order that answers were submitted to me… And keep this in mind, no matter who short the answer is, it tells you something about the region and its concerns, or lack thereof.

LIVERMORE, CA

  • Concannon Vineyard ~ Senior director of super premium wines, James  W. Foster  
    • We have not really experienced any fog in the Livermore Valley as we have been blessed with amazing sunshine and nice warm weather.  Grapes are ripping very well with nice sugar and acid balance.  We are starting Harvest on Monday, August 18 [but, not Petite].
  • Occasio Winery ~ Winemaker & proprietor John Kinney
    • Our vineyards in Livermore Valley have not been plagued with fog this year, but the humidity has been running 20-30 percent higher. This is slowing sugar ripening (reducing evaporation-transpiration), but letting the acids and skin phenols develop normally. I think this will be a perfectly ripe year but with lower sugar levels- not a bad thing. Too early to know about Petite Sirah, but we are starting harvest of our white wines next week.

SANTA CLARA VALLEY

  • Guglielmo Winery ~ Director of marketing Greg Richtarek
    • Down here in the Santa Clara Valley, we love the fog! We get it more often than up north as there is the Hecker Pass gap between Watsonville and the Valley. We like things to slow down the vines, so we are not harvesting everything at once!

DRY CREEK VALLEY: CA

  • Gustafson Family Vineyards ~ Proprietor Dan Gustafson
    • Fortunately , we are above the fog, but at our elevation we have been bothered by the smoke in the air from the forest fires. It seems to linger at the higher altitude. Look at our website for a photo.
    • [Thanks, Dan, I’ve borrowed your image and included it in this story.]

RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY: CA

  • Rock Wall Wine Company, Lone Oak Vineyard ~ Winemaker & Proprietor Kent Rosenblum
    • The morning fog is pretty normal this time of year in the Russian River Valley, and it basically slows down and smooths out the ripening process, which is a good thing this year, as almost everyone is anticipating an early harvest.

CALAVERAS COUNTY: CA

MENDOCINO: CA

  • Artezin Wines ~ Winemaker Randall Johnson
    • All our Petite Sirah comes from Mendocino right now. Nobody is talking about PS in Mendocino. Hardly even talking about Zin yet.  My best guess for Petite Sirah harvest, NOW, in Mendo will be mid October, +or- 7- 10 days. NOW means that the weather crystal ball stays “normal,” without any rain setbacks or heat waves that advance things. Mid October +/- is the best I can say right now for PS.

LODI: CA

  • Harney Lane ~ Family member in marketing, Jorja Lerner
    • Sorry…. No fog in Lodi

WASHINGTON & OREGON, Columbia and Walla Walla valleys

  • Cadaretta Wines ~ Winemaker Kendall Mix
    • In the Columbia and Walla Walla Valleys, we haven’t really had any fog this year. However, we have recently had a few days of rain, which is pretty much unheard of in August. I don’t think it will have much effect on the crop, as vineyards will adjust their irrigation accordingly. There may be a slightly higher risk of mildew in some vineyards depending on the particular situation, but only very slight.

 PASO ROBLES, CA

  • Clayhouse Wines ~ Winemaker Blake Kuhn 
    • I think we have had less fog than normal this year. Fog is usually not an issue for us as it is relatively infrequent and burns off by 9:00 a.m.. It’s usually heaviest in June.

NAPA, CA

  • Tres Sabores ~ Winemaker, grape grower, & proprietor Julie Johnson
    • I for one am happy for it.   It’s lengthening out the season just a bit after one of the warmest springs I can remember.  Today the fog lifted here by 9am so it’s not lingering long. Even with the warm days from early spring on we still enjoyed that marvelous diurnal temperature variation—on many days the swing was as much as 45 degrees from afternoon to early am.
  • Robert Biale Vineyards ~ Grape grower & proprietor Bob Biale
    • Most of the growing season this year has been nearly ideal; starting with much needed and very timely rain in early spring, followed by warm to moderate weather spurring the vines to an early and strong start. The cool to foggy mornings in August has been a good balance to this fast moving season, allowing the grapes to retain vibrant, healthy acidity and balanced flavors. Growers who did careful, early leafing and managed their canopies have been rewarded with no mildew and healthy fruit. Early indications and samples are pointing to another powerful, yet balanced, vintage.

MODESTO, CA

  • Silkwood Wines ~ Winemaker & proprietor, John Monnich
    • We do not have fog in the central valley where 72% of all wine grapes are produced, why not a story about the chemical damage to grape vines in the Lodi area which is far more serious threat to grapes than fog. Growers may not be able to sell grapes in this area due to the overspray damage.  It’s rumored that major buyers are already shunning Lodi grapes. Another far more important topic than fog in my view is the lack of water for grapes after harvest which will create a problem for adequate luck in spring. With the politicians talking about spending money to raise height of drones and building reservoirs without assurance of a consistent supply of water is ludicrous. Sorry Jo, fog just isn’t a vital concern to me.

OREGON, McMinnville

  • Spangler Vineyards ~ Winemaker, grape grower,  &  owner Pat Spangler
    • What fog?? Hottest and driest July on record up here, thought it was the same down your way…

CLARKSBURG, CA

  • Lake Winchester Vineyard ~ Grape grower & proprietor Tim Waits
    • Not much impact in Clarksburg. Higher humidity is greater concern to our mildew reduction programs.
  • Wilson Vineyards ~ Grape grower & proprietor Ken Wilson
    • No fog in Clarksburg.

 

 

3 Responses to “The state of the Petite Sirah grape – Harvest 2014 and where it’s at right now”

  1. Rowland says:

    Hi Jo,

    Living at the other end of the wine supply chain (OK, we store it and drink it!), it’s always fascinating to have a look at the very front end of things – pre-harvest! I’m going to keep these images in my head the next time I enjoy a glass of Petite Sirah, and see if I can “get inside the grape” more and think about the origins and how they influence what I’m tasting now. I know that’s basic stuff for many, but it’s just not what typically goes through my head when I’m flipping between analyzing and enjoying a glass of wine!

    Best,
    Rowland

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks, Rowland.

    It’s also fascinating for me to get a read on things from winemakers and growers perspectives. I just help them to market wines and be their voice. I, too, keep these images when I’m enjoying wine now, versus my pre-wine business days. It’s still not basic stuff for me, because the more layers I peel back the more I realize how little I know. There’s a lot I’ve learned, true… But, there’s still a lot I’ll never fathom. The world of wine is huge.

    My best to you, too.
    Jo

  3. […] The state of the Petite Sirah grape – Harvest 2014 and where it’s at right now […]

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