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Vintage Report

Sent by John Kelly, Westwood Winery,

Editor’s Note: The following report was posted late last night on the entry from Monday, Be Careful What You Wish For. It has been copied and entered here because it is an “honest” appraisal by a very open and honest winemaker.

Quick report on the view from inside the bubble: this vintage has presented conditions and challenges unprecedented in my 24 years. Guys at it longer than I have been are saying the same. Never have I experienced a year where sheer dumb luck has played more of a role in separating success from failure. I was lucky that our crop did not set to heavy, and that I had not thinned or pulled leaves when the sunburn hit. We were as careful as always about when we sulfured, but so were many of my friends and it's just dumb luck that we had no mildew and now have no rot in the fruit we still have out there. And it's just dumb luck that we have had indian summer in November (for crying out loud) and that it looks like we will get another ridge of high pressure for above normal temps and dry conditions next week.

As I've said before elsewhere, luck or no luck this year will separate the talented and prepared form the less so. There are some really GREAT wines being made, and some that are not so. Some of the latter are by choice. I spoke with a friend today who has a grower offering him some Grenache at a stoopid-low price. Well, it would be stoopid-low in a normal year but this stuff is not just et up with Botrytis but has a lot of Aspergillis and Pennicilium - harder to pick around ans sort out. So here's the plan: pick, ferment whole-cluster so you don't turn everything into mush right away, inoculate with a fast-starting yeast (where normally this guy would wait for a natural ferment), do minimal punchdowns, drain at the first negative Brix reading - do not press. Treat the wine wiht 30g/hL decolorizing carbon to pull out the bitterness and ochratoxin form the molds, then rack onto some sweet, dark Petite Sirah skins to claw back some color and character. I'm betting this turns out a tasty wine - and cheap too. Anyhoo - that's the kind of winemaking we are faced wiht at this point. Oh... wait... I'm not faced with that. Picking Mourvedre tomorrow and it is awesome - not going to make a "European-style" wine at all, any more than the Pinot, Syrah and Tannat I have picked so far will. Acids are lower and pH higher than anywone would have expected given the cool year. Go figure.

by John
Posted on:11/8/2010 7:36:16 AM

Thanks for including my little missive in your discussion, Charlie. The Mourvedre did turn out well. I think my firend passed on his moldy Grenache opportunity - one can only take so much pain and the self-inflicted variety might be best avoided this vintage.

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