September 15, 2020 10:59
As the saying goes-when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Years from now we’ll be telling our grandchildren or our friends at the old timers’ home about the wild times we lived through during the pandemic. It isn’t over yet, but it seems I’ve lived a lifetime in just 6 months. And how will vintage 2020 be remembered?
When the Shelter in Place orders were set in mid-March I was under the impression that these guidelines for COVID19 would end in a couple of months. Ha. 6 months later and we are still wearing our masks and waiting. Then came the heat wave followed by a fire, a brief evacuation at the winery and things became even more challenging.
As you know, nature and the vineyards don’t wait for something like a worldwide virus. The road toward harvest, having begun in March along with the pandemic, ends here-the final moment of glory for a vine. The fruit is ready and the grape-filled gondolas are delivered to the crushpad to finish the journey. We have had a few wrinkles along the way what with the heat over Labor Day weekend which echoed the vintages in 2017 and 2010. Just a year ago we were picking the first fruit off our Sauvignon Blanc vineyard following a cooler growing season. Shortly before the first grapes were picked a fire broke out a few miles west of us causing a brief evacuation and the ensuing smoke (which remained high over the valley). The proof of vintage 2020 will come when we finish fermentations and check our wines for any trace of a problem. It is a wait and see kind of year.
Each of these, even as a single event, would be noteworthy. How do I make lemonade out of this? Preferentially I’d make limoncello, but I’ll stick with the former for now. We continue to live our lives all the while trying to make sure our children are educated, we carry on with work either on the job as essential or remotely, making the best of the circumstances.
Some parts of our Tasting Room are on hold and we wait for new guidelines allowing indoor winetasting as summer turns to fall along with cooler weather. Meanwhile, we are looking at ways of bringing the tasting room to you. And while we are unable to sell wine to most restaurants there have been inroads made selling wine online. Duly noted: Those of us who work from home apparently like to order wine more frequently than ever before (see Wark's Fermentation column: COVID-Driven Online Wine Sales).
Change has been the common denominator of 2020. Flexibility, looking forward, patience. These are the positive things we can hold onto. Wear the mask and smile with your eyes. Keep your distance but keep your humanity. Adapt and create something new. Amid all the emails about the fire, the virus and county updates come your messages checking in, updating me, sharing your story or sending notes about an older vintage you tried and just had to share because it was so good. All proving we are in this together.
When we tell our vintage story of 2020, and how we made lemonade out of the lemons we were handed, I believe we will see how resilient we are and were. The stories will be both tart and sweet and, just like lemonade, will blend the two. As to the question of how the vintage will be remembered: for the challenges met and answered.
August 31, 2020 16:08
This is our 93rd harvest at Pedroncelli Winery. The last five months are marked with head-shaking challenges including COVID, sheltering in place, and now fires. We have seen a lot in these last nine decades. No one, including my 88-year-old father Jim, has seen anything like this. The kicker? The vines are doing their thing just like any other vintage and surviving the slings and arrows of Mother Nature. We are farmers after all, and harvest isn’t going to wait.
The vineyards marched toward the day of harvest from the very start of this pandemic. Some of those slings and arrows in the past included rain or heat, too much fruit ready to be picked and not enough space, an early harvest or one that seemed to stretch on forever. We came out of July ready to harvest after Labor Day weekend-marking this as a cooler growing season. The change came when the weather warmed up and sped ripening. Regarding vineyards and warm weather, I learned some great information from our vineyard manager Lance Blakeley a couple of years ago. “Vines are like people” he said, “and they actually shield the fruit by slightly moving the leaves into a protective position, providing much needed shade from the sweltering heat.” Kind of like using an umbrella to shade us on the beach-we’ll survive with some shade and relief from the sun.
So the results are in--we are picking on Monday August 24! Things are moving ahead quickly as the development in the vineyard leaves no doubt the grapes are ready to pick. Samples have been taken, analysis performed and the first grapes to pick are, drumroll please, our Sauvignon Blanc. Looking at past harvest dates this is right on par with the two previous years, not too early and not too late. We had large production in the 2018/2019 vintages, so this year is looking a little lighter in comparison but overall, about average. Of course, there are other extenuating circumstances: the virus, labor shortage, the COVID rules of keeping everyone safe and healthy which will also take away some of the time spent picking grapes so progress will be a bit slower. Harvest will go on however even under these adjustments.
Then there are the fires. Thunder and lightning came to our area (which reminded people of the weather you usually see in other parts of the U.S). Started by lightning strikes earlier this week the fires are active all over northern California as far south as Monterey County to northern Sonoma County. The Wallbridge/Skaggs Fire is about 4 miles away from the winery behind the ridge line above the valley floor. Dry Creek Valley covers a huge area with just a part of it planted to 9000 acres of vineyards. The bulk of the land to the west is forested and largely uninhabited. Through the powerful images seen on television, in newspapers and social media many of you have seen the results of the fires here in the state and valley. Like the other fire years of 2017 and 2019 we are not in the midst of them but are associated with them and so far are safe. We are keeping all of our neighbors, friends, family and staff in mind hoping all remain out of harm's way as well.
We are farmers and join the legions of other farmers across this land as we watch and wait for the weather, the challenges, the preparation and finally the harvest. Like the generations before, we must have patience, fortitude and hope. I have no doubt whatsoever that the harvest of 2020 will go down in history as one of the most challenging and exceptional vintage stories ever.
- cooking with wine
- Four Grapes Port
- Courage Zinfandel
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Wine & Food
- Three Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
- Block 007 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Walbridge Fire
- Dry Creek Valley
- Lake Sonoma
- Bushnell Vineyard
- Vintage 2020
- Follow the Vineyard
- Sonoma County
- Tasting Room
- Wine Flights
- Wisdom Cabernet Sauvignon
- Heat wave
- Crop set
- Mother Clone
- note from home
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Holding steady