The grapes have fully turned now and are getting ripe. This vineyard seems to always have loose clusters with very small berries. I'll have to watch tannin extraction in fermentation to make sure the wine doesn't get too tannic.
This is exactly the effect we are after and all the work we've done early in the year is to achieve this. The clusters are hanging down in dappled sunlight, with a balanced amount of grapes on each vine. Yields will be small, about 2-3 tons per acre but complexity and depth of the fruit is what we are after. The clusters look really great this year.
A close up of the sun hitting the clusters. It's not full on direct sun, the leafs create 'dapple' on different parts of the cluster through the day as the sun moves. We're checking on three things now in the vineyard. First we pull of berries to do a sugar test. This gives us a BRIX reading. We want to make sure there is enough sugar to convert to alcohol and provide body. 22.5 BRIX creates about 12.5% alcohol. We usually try and harvest between 23 and 25 BRIX.
We are also checking on 'secondary' signs of ripeness. The seeds should be brown and the skins of the grapes should break apart easily in your mouth. The skins especially gives a clue for the ripeness of the tannins. That will make the wine smooth and enjoyable.
Finally we check on flavor. Cabernet Sauvignon goes through a phase I call 'the meany greenies'. It taste green like bell pepper and green beans. Only sunshine will cure this, dappled sunshine, so as not to bake the flavors out or even worse burn them in. Next will come red fruit flavors, then berries and finally jammy flavors. We try and pick between the red fruit and berry stage to get a little of each. Right now the green flavors are gone, but the berry has not started to show up. We're still 2-3 weeks away from picking at least.
The other task: bird rescue. It may seem like we hate the little birds from all the things we do to keep them out of the vineyard and away from the grapes, but Stef and I both really love birds. We have feeders around the house and call the birds that nest around us our pets. We just love the grapes too and need to bring them in at harvest.
This little guy had gotten his head stuck. I had to cut him out of the netting. He was pretty upset, squawking at me the entire time, but he was safely removed.
In all we got four birds out of the nets this morning. Stef is holding a little finch with a red neck that she's just rescued. The homeowners at Crimson Clover are walking the vineyard every night and clearing the nets of any of these little guys who have gotten stuck. The vineyard looked great. We'll check on it again next Monday and we expect it will be ready to pick around the 25th or 26th.