I am just beginning to see the first signs of veraison in our Pinot Noir, our earliest ripening variety. Veraison is when the grape skins begin to soften and change color as the berries start to accumulate sugar instead of acid and the process of ripening begins. This is about 10 days earlier than “normal,” therefore we are on track for an early harvest. As vines enter veraison, the Brix level (percent of sugar in the berry) is quite low and varies with variety and season. We don’t begin checking the Brix level until about 3 weeks into veraison. For Chardonnay we often start harvesting around 22.5 brix and harvest slightly higher for Pinot and other reds.
At the same time, shoot tips have stopped growing and the vines are slowly turning their energy away from vegetative growth and into fruit and sugar development. I expect the period of veraison to be longer than usual, and believe we could start harvest in the third week of August, which will make it one of the earliest in my 14 vintages here at Cuvaison. With this early harvest and the cool weather during bloom and berry set, I anticipate a light crop for 2015.
Anticipating an early harvest, I moved all our traditional bottling dates up by a few weeks. We finished bottling the 2014 Estate Chardonnay in late June and just bottled the 2014 Estate Pinot Noir, 2013 Brandlin Estate Cabernet and 2013 Henry’s Keep in July. Then we can put the winery back together in time for Harvest!
Steve Rogstad, Winemaker