September 15, 2015 | by Rob Davis
We’re three weeks into the 2015 Vintage Harvest at Jordan, and the overall theme is quality over quantity. The size of our Russian River Valley Chardonnay crop is off by 20 percent, but luckily we were able to coax some additional fruit from one long-term grower to make up the difference. Due to a heat wave around Labor Day, it took only about seven days to harvest all the grapes, though the picking was spread out over two weeks due to a cool front the last week in August. We crushed our last Chardonnay grapes on Labor Day. The 2015 vintage Chardonnay, now in French oak barrels, is fermenting nicely.
In the Alexander Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are at a record low for cluster weight, and growers are reporting 30 percent below normal crop yields. We have harvested about 75 percent of our grapes so far, and the reds we have crushed to date are amazing. Small but delicious berries. The unfortunate heat wave lingered throughout the first two weeks in September, accelerating sugar levels in the grapes and thus harvest dates. It’s been a scramble the last five days to get all the ripened fruit into the winery, and much-welcomed cool weather has moved in. (Our “Wonder Wine Team” brought in almost half of our total red grapes over the weekend.) Now, we are almost out of tank space. We plan to continue picking grapes through the weekend, and should be finished with the 2015 vintage harvest by Sunday–just four weeks after its start.
The reds are looking quite spectacular so far: lots of blackberry and cherry aromas with deep, dark, delicious tannins. Assistant Winemaker Maggie Kruse has configured a very aggressive press schedule this week, so we can make room to finish the remaining grower’s grapes by this weekend. Despite the long hours, everyone is in high spirits. As our cellar foreman says, “You don’t need to go to a gym after work. You get all the exercise you need at the Jordan Athletic Club.” [Watch our “Dirty Work” Harvest video]
This rush to pick is the result of accelerated ripening conditions due to the warm weather–not due to the Valley Fire that has devastated neighboring Lake County since last Saturday afternoon. Jordan and our growers have fortunately not been affected by the fire whatsoever, though our hearts go out to the other vintners, and our donation efforts have already begun. Winds have continued to push the smoke to the east away from northern Sonoma County. Also, smoke taint is not a concern for vineyards an hour away from the fire like ours, especially since the grapes are already nearly ripe and their skins thick. (When fires break out near wine country during the vulnerable fruit set phase of the grapevines–rapid cell division and expansion of the berry is occurring–the grapes can absorb smoky characters. This is what happened in 2008, when many Pinot Noirs from Mendocino County, and other wines, took on smoke nuances.)