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Over the last few weeks we have been working away here at Presqu’ile, sampling clusters of Pinot and Chardonnay, harvesting, sorting, cleaning equipment and more cleaning followed by a little more cleaning. It has been an interesting growing season and start of harvest, to say the least. Most of the country has been under attack by a heat tsunami not seen in 75 years but here in the Santa Maria Valley we have had one of the coolest summers on record. While Presqu’ile was spared from the April frost that decimated many vineyards in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, we had a windy spring and very cool foggy summer. This has put our yields between 25 – 50% below normal in all of our vineyards. The yield reduction is primarily a function of smaller berry size and, to a lesser degree, what we call “hen and chick” or shatter. Shatter happens when we have the aforementioned conditions during the clusters flowering stage, which for us is around mid May. This leads to uneven ripening and slows the sorting down considerably since we do not want any under ripe grapes making their way into the tanks.
We began harvesting August 29 (my birthday!) with 1.3 tons of Pinot for a special, not so top-secret project. We have had a trickle of Pinot beginning September 8 and we are expecting full throttle harvest mode in about a week and a half. Even with the smaller cluster sizes, harvest is about three weeks late.
Long growing seasons like 2011 promote balance between acidity and alcohol, smaller berry size will lend concentration and our minimalist approach in the winery a strong sense of place…lots to look forward to with the 2011’s from Presqu’ile!