Thursday, November 1, 2012

2012 Harvest Wrap Up

First, congratulations to the winners of the latest Goodreads contest. Your copies of "Tinker's War" are on the way. For those of you who didn't win, watch this blog because there's more to come very soon.

Now, the matter at hand: Some of you may remember that last year I said the wine harvest was terrible. 2010 and 2011 were both miserable wine years in California. We had an excess of rain and cool weather for both summers. Spring rains lasted longer than usual and winter started early. Winemakers faced a myriad of complications, not the least of which was that rot had set in before most of the grapes were ripe, forcing vineyards to pick a crop that wasn't ready.

The rains were like that again this year, with the exception that we had zero precipitation during the summer, and we had plenty of warm weather to ripen those grapes. The result?


It's a fact. Vineyards all over NorCal have experienced bumper crops. The harvest numbers didn't just improve, they broke records. There were more clusters of grapes on the vine and the clusters were bigger, and they ripened earlier. Last year, many people (including me) were picking Cabernet Sauvignon in November. This year, the harvest was mostly finished by mid-October. In other words, it was a better than average year.

And the best news of all: A very generous wine family in the Russian River area gave me the opportunity to pick as much Pinot Noir as I could carry! They had finished their harvest, filled their winery's 12 ton capacity, and still had about five tons of grapes hanging on the vine. Sadly, I only have the capacity for a half-ton of grapes, but still that is huge. In layman's terms, one half-ton of grapes equals one barrel of wine. I have, at this very moment, a half-ton of Russian River Pinot Noir fermenting in my garage!

This is very exciting for me because -although I've been making wine for about five years- I've never made a batch of wine this big before. This is also my very first attempt at Pinot Noir. So far I have only made minor adjustments (the sugar was a bit on the low side due to some early rain) and the wine yeast is quite happily doing its job. I won't know how it turns it for a few weeks, and I won't really know for at least a year, but for the moment I couldn't be happier. 

My small home vineyard is coming along as well. A few of the plants haven't done very well and I think two may have died. Several others have taken off, and I'll be pruning them to take advantage of their vigor this coming spring. A few of them were so vigorous that I went against convention and allowed them to produce fruit in the second year. I harvested those grapes a couple weeks ago and I have about one pint of cabernet finishing nicely right now. 

Last but not least  -and completely unrelated to the wine harvest- I have just finished my first major revision of "Blood & Steam." I struggled with the first draft of this book because it's a bit unusual, and frankly it was something of a challenge. Now that the book is done and I'm on to the refining process, I'm quite happy with the direction it has taken. As always the final say is up to the readers, but for the moment I'm quite excited. My plan has always been to release this book in December and so far that appears to be on track. With about nine weeks to go in the year, I just might make that deadline. WOOT! 

Now to start planning those giveaways and contests.... :-)