As I write this we are preparing to put the last of our young, 2009, red wine to barrel.
When we finished harvesting SB, the calendars were turning to early September and we were turning our attention to the development of the red grapes on the vine. The weather was consistent in early September with the entire growing season – warm and dry. Red grape maturity was in balance - sugar, acid and tannin in grape clusters were slowly plodding along. At this stage of September we were quite excited with the prospect of an elegant vintage with low alcohol levels. A long, cool and dry growing season would also give us the luxury of setting our schedule quite effortlessly so we would be able to focus and manage a handful of fermentations at once while maintaining the parcel by parcel individuality that has been designated in our vineyard.
However, as they say, the best laid plans… are wretchedly destroyed by Mother Nature’s wand. That is not exactly how the story goes, but on September 17th the story of Harvest 2009 commenced. Temperature rose to 99 degrees Fahrenheit and the heat orchestra played on. The following days topped 102, 90, 97, 100, 102, 100, 91, 100, 104 and 104 again.
In 2008 we had a similar heat wave, but that took place about a month prior in the middle of August, thus propelling an early start to red grape harvesting and an early finish. Delayed for a couple of weeks with the early, balanced ripening it didn’t take long for the sugars in 2009 to stand up and say, look at me. As we waited as long as we could during the early stages of the heat wave, vineyard parcel by parcel came ready to pick and we began harvesting Cabernet on September 22nd. That was the start of twenty days of which we harvested 110 tons of red wine grapes from 21 distinct parcels from our vineyard (there were a couple of days where we picked multiple parcels). The prior year, 2008, we actually harvested 10% less red wine grapes over a period of 40 days. So, low and behold, harvest 2009 can aptly be deemed a ‘crush’ at Larkmead.
The good news is that we survived unscathed and we truly believe that the vintage has given us some superb wines. The young Larkmead wines have the elegance and finesse of the 2005 vintage and the tannin structure of the 2006, which in my opinion makes for a masterful combination. Below please find some interesting facts and figures, I hope you enjoy.
• August 24, 2009 – First harvest of Sauvignon Blanc
• September 22, 2009 – First harvest of red wine grapes
• October 11, 2009 – Last harvest of red wine grapes
• Larkmead’s 2009 red grape harvesting happened within a span of 20 days
• All Larkmead’s red wine grapes were in fermenters at the same time
• In 2008 all Larkmead’s red grape harvesting happened in a span of 40 days
• In 2009 we will have pressed off all our red grapes in the span of 35 days
• The longest red grape fermentation/maceration: 30 days
• The shortest fermentation/maceration: 17 days
• Lowest Brix: 17.9 (a portion of the Tocai)
• Highest Brix: 27.7 (Cabernet Franc)
• Red Brix average: 26