Camille and I don’t know what’s gone faster, this summer or this whole year, with the harvest following that same pattern! A compacted harvest started early, continued furiously for 6 weeks, and now is dropping off before Halloween. Usually, a return to the real-world and days off doesn’t happen until Thanksgiving! No matter, there is plenty to reflect on from this year as we turn our attention to the future of Belharra Wines.
Our first release of wines, just over 100 cases, was very successful both in distribution to retailers and directly to consumers. The highlight of our retail sales has been to the James Beard Award Nominee for Best New Restaurant, The Progress, in San Francisco. We are honored to share the Belharra Rosé with their guests, also enjoying the amazing culinary skills and local focus of their chefs.
Grape cluster “shatter” affected nearly every vineyard in Napa and Sonoma this year, with an early budbreak, long blooming period, and windy cold snap stunting growth. Coupled with a 4th year of California drought, predictions for yields were low. Weights in the end were lower than previous years (especially in comparison to high yield 2012 and 2013), but not catastrophically short. Quality of the fruit was still high, with the uniting theme of growers and winemakers “I wish there was more fruit.”
With a helpful group of friends and family, we picked the 2015 Rosé of Syrah off Las Madres Vineyard at sunrise on August 30th, nearly a year to the day of the previous vintage. Immediately put to press, the color and aromas continue to amaze Camille and I. The Las Madres Syrah came in on September 17th, and we were lucky to use a new piece of technology in the winery to help us over the hump of the “shatter” in the clusters. An optical sorter, used often in other food-producing industries takes pictures of destemmed grapes as they fall and uses jets of air to shoot out “MOG” material-other-than-grapes, or off-color or undersized grapes. What comes out the other end is just berries, known to us as caviar or blueberries. Fermentation of the Syrah went off without a hitch, and the wine is now in barrel starting through malo-lactic fermentation.
Opportunity for growth in a short year came in the form of some Chardonnay grapes from Knight’s Valley AVA in north-east Sonoma. With no expectations, we fermented in barrel and at this early stage are pleasantly surprised with what we have! As the latest picked white in the winery, flavors and aromas are still fresh and fruity. Stay tuned for this offering!
As always, a big thank you to the folks who have helped us at all levels. It has been a crazy year of growth, learning and feedback, and we are pushed by the positive response and support of our community. Up next is some rejuvenation from harvest, along with shipping, bottling, and preparing for our next year. We fear that the next two years will go as quickly as the last, but are excited for the progression and opportunity for Belharra.