Almost Ripe

Almost Ripe

Here are the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in our vineyard on Diamond Mountain just waiting to be picked.  We both sampled them today; Bill’s sample was 24.7 brix and Dawnine’s was 24.6 brix so we dodged having to talk about each other’s sampling technique and went on to check the other varieties. Cab Franc was a little higher and Petit Verdot a little lower, but everything is between 24 and 25 brix and looking to be on target to pick them all together and co-ferment in the same tank There was a time when they would likely have all been picked already, but that was before we had a deeper understanding of ripeness. And there was a time in Napa Valley when often there was a grower making the call as when to pick (based on hitting a minimum sugar in a contract) rather than a winemaker making the call. Today we know that sugar and flavor do not increase on the same curve, and we are evaluating other signs of ripeness, including softening of the berries, softening of the skin tannins, and browning of the seeds.  This morning a local was commiserating with me about the cool weather we are experiencing—a high of 78 degrees today and 74 predicted for tomorrow. He was looking at things the old way—knowing that sugars increase more on warmer days. But we love cool weather in the last stages of ripening, since sugars tend to stay even, while flavors increase in intensity, and tannins soften. Photosynthesis is still happening, in fact even more so than on a really hot day when the vines go into defensive mode vs. the heat and close their leaf stomates. More thoughts on grape maturity to follow. Harvesting is likely to happen next week.