reserving judgement

By Kevin

What a difference a year make! In the 2011 growing season we had just about every curve ball possible thrown at us. The rains didn’t seem to want to end. We had a late bud break, heavy winds in the Spring, frost (even snow) near the end of April. Fruit set was light. In the case of our Grenache, it was a mini-disaster.

Fast forward to 2012. The rains started out early, and it seemed like we were going to have a repeat of 2011. But then we went through a dry spell in Dec/ Jan and had a whole series of storms that barely spritzed the vineyard. April became the savior, yet the season of rain still ended a bit shy of 18 inches.

When the rains stopped, Spring came on like a light switch, and it seemed like the growing season was going to be textbook perfect. In many ways it was. Growth was vigorous, and the flowering came and went without a hitch. Fruit set was huge! So we dropped a bunch of fruit in June. Much of the summer was very temperate with only a short three day heat spike in early July. For the most part, the vines didn’t notice. Our Mourvedre, however (perhaps because of the more upright canopy structure), got zapped and maybe 20% of our small clusters were literally fried. So for the next few months I bit my fingernails wondering if the yields would be there, and the plants could sustain the fruit that was left through the growing season.

Around the end of July, and really through much of August, the temperatures soared. As a dry farmer I’m always concerned about prolonged heat and the toll it takes on the plants since I can’t give them water. Eventually the plants start to pull needed water from the grapes.

Surprisingly, the concerns over dehydration were unfounded. The vines performed beautifully. Perhaps a validation of just how well the soil and rocks retain moisture and the root system drills down to whatever depths are necessary.

Around the second week of August I began to realize just how much fruit was out there. After having dropped clusters in June, it appeared that another aggressive round was necessary. It’s hard to know really what percentage of fruit is removed, but I’m sure it was easily north of 50%.

A lot of people visiting us over the growing season would ask me about my thoughts and expectations on how the different growing environment from 2011 to 2012 would affect our vineyard and wine this season. I would typically respond by saying that I thought the crop would be lighter than average, and perhaps the resulting wines would have more complexity and intensity because of the added stress the plants would endure from a sub-par rainy season. This is our fourth harvest now from our estate, the lightest rainfall season of the four, and the one prediction I was pretty sure about was dead wrong. With the exception of Cab, every varietal gave us 20% more yield than expected. Go figure! What is it that makes a plant produce a huge crop when rains are light and we have 5-6 weeks of 95-100 degree temperatures? Oh yeah, and the Mourvedre? We took in six tons of fruit. That compares to 3.5 tons last year, even with the fried clusters in July.

So how do I think the 2012 vintage will rank compared to to the prior three? Well the fruit came in really clean. For the most part the ripeness wasn’t an issue like in 2011. We were able to pull our entire crop in a relatively orderly fashion; so no over-ripeness. Acidity is an issue, yet that is something easily addressed. Aromatics and flavors seem solid. Color is lacking in the Grenache and Counoise. I’m told that the anthocyanins (that which gives you color in the skins) are probably retarded in long periods of heat, especially post veraison.

My guess is that the vintage will be solid for us. Perhaps better than 2011. I’ll reserve judgement, though, until the blends are completed next summer. That said, maybe after this harvest season is put to bed (six weeks earlier than last year, I might add), I should go and re-taste the 2011 barrels. Who knows, maybe 2011 is even better than I thought!

all things not wine: kitchen, olive oil, and more

By Paula

Sales in the kukkula kitchen have been picking up, with steady volume through the Summer, and even a couple of weekends where we have run out of food this Fall. Anticipating what our needs will be each weekend is a particularly difficult challenge, and one that we aren’t very good at meeting. As a result, most weekends we have leftovers. Our latest solution for this is to bring the leftovers to a local tasting room for the employees on Mondays. Overall, our house-made sandwiches and salads have been very well received, and if you haven’t had a chance to try some, plan your next tasting around lunch time!

Our olive oil sales have also been steady and we are almost out of large (750ml) bottles until next harvest. We anticipate harvesting in December, but don’t have a date yet for the mobile press. We will try to get a Friday or Saturday date so you can see the process too. We’ll be sure to send out an email to let you know exactly when it will happen. We are also currently trying to wade through the paperwork necessary to get our oil into some of the Southern California Whole Foods locations. Hopefully by the time we bottle the new harvest, we will have worked it out.

Keep us in mind for your holiday gift giving. A bottle of your choice of kukkula wine, a 250ml olive oil and a wine jelly fit nicely into a 2-bottle shipper, (better yet, two bottles of wine, olive oil and jelly in a 3-bottle shipper), and we can ship out your gifts to most states. Contact us for specifics (805)227-0181