2016 gets off to a warm start, but a cool finish?

Here we are on May 22nd, 2016 and it’s a typical cool, rainy day we get in May here in the Puget Sound AVA, but if you dialed the clock back a few weeks you would’ve thought it was July!

May2016GDD

Above is the Growing Degree chart for a nearby WSU weather station. Click on it to expand it but from the thumbnail you can see from January to around mid May 2015 had more degree days than any of the previous years this station had recorded. For those that forgot, 2015 was full of sunny, warm days starting in January and continuing most of the summer. We had some rain right at the end of harvest that made us lose some grapes but for the most part it was a hot and dry summer.

2016, on the other hand, started out quite normally with rain and cool weather. The heat didn’t kick on until March and it seemed like summer came very early. In the chart above you can see where 2016 crosses 2015 in late April and seems to just take off and it shows in the vineyard right now. Growth is weeks ahead of what I consider normal, flowering is just right around the corner and many vines hitting the top wire already. But the seemingly endless heat came to an end a few days ago and we’ve had a lot of rain and clouds which is actually pretty normal this time of years.

I am always trying to see into the future when it comes to the vineyard and so are climate scientist. They are saying that El Nino is wrapping up and we are headed into an La Nina year, which is cooler and wetter for us here in the PNW. I have seen it rain from the middle of August all winter long and a complete loss of crop or sometimes it just gets really cool, but stays dry. That happened back in 2001 and we actually harvested on November 2nd that year.

Looking at the Climate Prediction Center website, it appears they think we will get back into some hotter and drier weather this summer and for my grapes I sure hope so.

2016Prediction

Above is the June-July-August outlook which shows hotter and drier weather.

I have struggled to keep up with the heat this year. The grass and super early budbreak has put me off kilter trying to stay on top of it. The dry weather has also allowed me to work in the evenings when I haven’t normally been able to do that. But I think I have caught up. Keep checking in to follow along and see what’s happening!

2014 Chardonnay Release, Saturday, May 21st 2016

2014 Chardonnay Release  Saturday May 21st, 1 to 5pm

4x3_label_342 (1)I know it’s been a long time since we have had the tasting room open but we are slowly transitioning to 100% estate grown Puget Sound AVA wines and it will take a while to build up some reserves of wine we can sell. Last year was a block buster year for the Pinot Noir and look for a release of the 2015 next Winter. We have 2 full barrels of tasty full bodied Pinot from that vintage and I think you will all enjoy it. Unfortunately, mother nature plays cruel tricks and rain besieged us in June 2015 during the time when the Chardonnay bloomed and left us will almost no Chardonnay to pick. I am hoping to avoid that this year.

We didn’t make a lot of Chardonnay in 2014 because of similar issues to 2015 with the rain but we did manage to make about a 1/2 barrel. It was stainless steel aged, but aged sur lie for almost a year. Aging it on the sediment gives it a richer, fuller bodied flavor that is a traditional Burgundian technique and I think you’ll enjoy it.

New Look

We are sporting a new label as we move forward. We wanted to refresh the label a bit after almost 10 years and this is more the look that Becky and I wanted but didn’t even know it. We designed it ourselves but after years of looking at wine labels I think we know what we wanted!

Vintage 2016

Speaking of 2016, the weather has been extraordinarily hot this year. The only upside is we had a wetter than normal winter so the aquifer is all charged up, but the downside is that everything is moving out at least a month early, even earlier than last year, which I thought I would never see again in my lifetime. Conditions at the end of the growing season in 2015 fell apart pretty quickly in late September and early October. We lost several hundred pounds of grapes due to rotting on the vine from all the rain. I hope to avoid that this year.

As part of our new push with estate only grapes, we intend to make four products from our grapes. Pinot Noir, Charonnday, Sparkling wine (from both Pinot and Chard) and a Rose’ of Pinot. If mother nature cooperates this year, we should have 3 of these available early next year.

Wines we are tasting and selling:

2014 Estate Grown Chardonnay – $24/bottle

The only wine actually grown in Woodinville! 2014 was the first of the string of really warm years we’ve had recently. 2014 started early and ended early, but unfortunately as can happen around here in June, we had rain when the grapes were flowering. This can mean a reduced crop or no crap depending on how long the rain lasts. We finished out the year warm and dry and were able to harvest under optimal conditions. The wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks on the lies (leftover yeast) which enhances the mouthfeel and roundness in the wine. This is a traditionally Burgundian method and this wine will remind you of a premier Chablis wine with great aging potential. Unfortunately because of the weather we had a fraction of the crop and only have a few cases.

2009 Red Mountain Syrah – Wine Advocate 90 pts

The well-known Red Mountain interplay of fruit and acidity is fully evident in this Syrah. The nose is fully Red Mountain – lush, fruity with just the right amount of structure. The palate of candied fruit emerges slowly. The acidity is soft – yet pronounced – making this wine perfect to drink now or age further.

2010 Dist 83 Rhone Blend – Gold Medal 2010 Seattle Wine Awards

Our 4th vintage of what has become somewhat of a signature wine for HHV. This is a classic Rhone blend – named for the historic Hollywood Schoolhouse in Woodinville. In the 2010 vintage the blend is dominated by Syrah with a deep ruby color and a hint of blue from the Mourvedre. Fresh berries and cotton candy dominate the nose, while the palate is loaded with licorice and black fruits. A talc element brings character to the wine which evolves into a long pleasant finish. 35% Mourvedre, 35% Grenache, 30% Syrah

2010 Yakima Valley Cabernet

We finally made a Cabernet Sauvignon wine in 2010. It was a long time coming and we decided to experiment with a ton of Cabernet that year and try our hand at this wonderful varietal. The results are rich, brambly and full of black cherry fruit. This wine comes from some of the oldest Cabernet vines in the Yakima Valley. Aged in neutral French oak for 18 months and bottled 18 months ago.

2010 Red Mountain Malbec

This was our second time making a Malbec. The first one was a huge success garnering 91 Points from Wine Advocate, Double Gold at the Seattle Wine Awards and a Double Platinum from Winepress Northwest. This wine has lots of aromatic fruit, mostly red cherries with a hint of spicy white pepper. These grapes come from a new vineyard on Red Mountain called Heart of the Hill. If you love Malbec, this is for you!

Garanoir for the Puget Sound AVA

Garanoir
Garanoir

In my continuing series on new and interesting grapes for the Puget Sound AVA, here is a relatively newcomer from Switzerland called Garanoir. Garanoir is a recently bred grape (well not all that recently, in 1970, but things in the grape world move really slowly) The two parents of Garanoir are Gamay Noir and Reichensteiner.  Gamay Noir is decendent of Pinot Noir so and those flavors are passed on to Garanoir. Reichensteiner is a little used white grape but it is mainly descended from Riesling.  This grape has a striking similarity in flavors to  Pinot but has some other benefits going for it that might make it a good choice for a grower in the Puget Sound AVA.

I love Pinot Noir, don’t get me wrong, but it really is one of the hardest grapes to grow. It likes to grow sideways, instead of upright. If you don’t get your spraying schedule down pat, you can run into serious powdery mildew and bunch rot problems. The vines have a tendency to shut down in cool, wet weather and they tend to hold on to their acid way longer than other grapes.

One of the other problems I have with Pinot in the Puget Sound AVA is a marketing problem. People don’t know Puget Sound AVA wines very well and the people that do think we can only grow whites over on this side of the mountains. People scratch their heads when they have a Puget Sound red wine. It’s a constant battle with the public in general and wine buyers at restaurants and retail. I had one sommelier tell me he didn’t want to put my Pinot on his menu because it would confuse people and it’s too hard to explain what is going on. Whatever… so maybe it’s time to change up the game and not grow widely know grapes and just make the best wines we can in our climate no matter what the grapes are!

Back to the grape, the researchers who bred this grape were trying to find an early ripening red grape that had the attributes of Gamay Noir and/or Pinot Noir, but ripened earlier. They were also going after a higher level of mildew and rot resistance and ripened earlier or as early as Pinot. The good news is that they pretty much nailed it with Garanoir. In my experience, Garanoir has always ripened about the same level of brix as Pinot Noir, BUT the acids are much less. The color is deeper. Also, a really important fact is that it produces a much larger crop than Pinot. Pinot can be pretty miserly when it comes to crop level so having a grape that gave you more grapes per acre is a good thing considering how few acres of grapes are planted around here.

There are about 203 hectares of Garanoir (about 500 acres) grown in Switzerland and quickly expanding. There are smaller amounts being growing in Germany, England, Canada. As far as I know there are probably only a couple of acres grown in the USA probably mostly in the Puget Sound region. For some reason, in British Columbia they have glommed onto it’s sibling, Gamaret, which is supposed to ripen later and gives a bigger wine.

Just a little history on where we got this grape here in the Puget Sound AVA. It was brought into the US (although I’m not sure if he was the first one) by Gary Moulton at the WSU Mt. Vernon Research station where he has planted trials of both grapes. Sometime around the year 2000, he made available excess vines to other growers in the Puget Sound region and that is where I picked up a few Garanoir vines from him and planted them at Maury Island Vineyards. In 2003, when we were shutting down that vineyard, I took cuttings and now have about 25 vines on their own roots that I have been doing research on for almost 10 years. I was lucky enough to make 5 gallons of Garanoir in 2004 from grapes grown at Mt. Vernon. Those wines were very well received and very close in flavor to Pinot.  Currently, you can buy vines at the Cloud Mountain Farms nursery in Lynden, WA.

In the Puget Sound AVA we need a unique strategy to grow grapes. Ones that ripen before the October rains move in or can stand up to a fair amount of rain. Regent is a good example of the later and I think Garanoir falls into that bucket too.

I would love to make a single varietal Garanoir in the future if possible, but for now, it will probably end up in a blend with pinot noir and other red grapes I am growing to lower acidity and boost color. I think if I had it to do over again. I would’ve planted enough of this grape to make a barrel of wine. I think Garanoir has shown great promise in the Puget Sound AVA in the 10 or so years I have been researching it in my vineyard and it might be time to start planting more of it!