2023 Harvest; A Late and Cool Vintage
It’s been a busy October, and I’m very relieved that all the grapes are now finally processed. We started harvesting on September 27th and finished on October 26th. Like last year it was a very compressed harvest but for very different reasons. Last year we had a heat wave that pushed everything to ripen very quickly. We were done with harvest on September 23rd, almost five days prior to us even starting this year! It has been compressed this year because of late ripening and we were up against the fall rains that have started to come. This has been a throwback year to cooler temperatures, later harvest windows and early fall rains. For me personally it’s been one of my favorite growing seasons to date. I love making “cool climate” Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs and this year has been the definition of a “cool” growing season.
Bins of Pinot Noir waiting to be processed!
It’s been an extremely mild spring and summer, with a lot of afternoons in the mid to low seventies as opposed to the more typical eighties. These conditions created a very slow ripening curve, one that was harder to predict than in a normal year. We look at brix or sugar content as an important indicator for grape ripeness. As we are getting closer to harvest, we will measure brix at least once per week. In a typical year brix will accumulate at a rate of 1.5- 2 points per week. This year we had a period of about three weeks where brix just didn’t move. As we got into October the sugar levels finally started to move and harvest kicked into full gear. It was a race to get everything in prior to the weather turning cold and rainy. I’m relieved to say we made it!
All the Chardonnays are still fermenting away. One of my favorite things to do during harvest is smell the Chardonnay fermentations, the first tanks are now getting close to being “dry” or having no sugar left in the juice. All but four tanks of our Pinot Noir vineyards are completely dry and pressed off the skins. The fresh wine is settling in tank and awaiting the journey to barrel which will propel the 2023 vintage to the finish line in the summer of next year when it will be bottled.
I have high expectations for the wines we are producing this year. The cool growing season has created a potential classic vintage with longer aging potential. High acid and firm tannins will provide a strong foundation to carry the wonderful flavors and aromas that define Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Tasting the juice and the young wines every day, I can’t help but to be excited about the prospects of how good the finished wines will be!
The Vineyards leaves changing color, marking the end of the season!
This year’s biggest take away for me was to have patience. With the season being so late and knowing that there was potential for complications from early rains, it was of paramount importance to trust the process and wait for nature to take its course. Fortunately, the course it took this year was to create the prefect cool climate conditions that have put the Russian River Valley on the map. I’m proud of the grape growing community’s performance this past month. Together we navigated the changing dynamics of this exceptional harvest quite well and we will produce outstanding wines because of it!
On behalf of the entire team here at River Road Family Vineyards and Winery, we wish you all continued good health!