Today my work took me to a vineyard in Dry Creek Valley. It’s not uncommon for me to be in a vineyard because I really like standing among the vines, but I don’t usually get the opportunity to taste the grapes. Let me tell you, they are tasting really, really good right now.
The vineyard was mostly made up of Zinfandel, with scattered acres of Petit Sirah and a small amount of Granache. Some of the Zin was very old, some was definitely hitting its prime and I didn’t see any ‘new’ plantings. The views of the valley were stunning.
A number of things caught my attention in this particular vineyard, but the most interesting thing that stood out as we walked the rows of fruit and tasted berries was the significant difference in the sugar levels of the grapes. All were sweet at this point, but some were very sweet while others were just a little sweet. Same vineyard, same grape, different row, different sugar level. I could totally understand if they were different grapes.
Which brings me back to a previous point I’ve made: Zinfandel is a difficult grape to grow. It’s doesn’t always ripen evenly, so you have to look at the rows individually and take your best guess at when to pick. One end of your vineyard could be ready while the other end could need another week. Crazy. It makes it very tough to make great wine.
Another thing that caught my attention was the amount of grape clusters that were on the vines. The crop load was huge and they had already thinned the vineyard, leaving many grapes on the ground. The thinning was very important this year as we’ve had a cool summer and too much crop slows the ripening process. The reason I bring the crop load up is because just about every other vineyard I’ve been in this year has had a lighter crop load. This was mostly because of the wind and rain we had during the flowering process. But this vineyard seemed to be immune.
I absolutely love getting out to the places where these grapes come from. Every time I’m there I discover something new. I see things from a different perspective. It’s awesome.