Seems it’s time to hear from Roy Piper - 22 vintage report

Lots of things going on lately in wine country, including an early harvest, but I need a fix of Roy’s usual wine country wisdom - and updates on his vineyards and projects.

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You should try tagging him (or anyone you want to know you are calling out, like this)

@Roy_Piper

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Todd, is that the style/form to use when tagging anyone on the site?

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It’s all I’m the how-to threads but yeah, click @ and start typing the name

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Well I’m certainly not @Roy_Piper but I’ll give a few observations - Definitely early harvest. Many vineyards are a week or 2 ahead of last year (which was early). Had lunch with Winemaker at Dana Estate yesterday who had just sampled their vineyard on crystal springs (lower Howell mtn) and he was at 23 brix, was told by someone who sampled dr crane Tuesday and it was at 24. My vineyard in Saint Helena was at 21 exactly a week ago.

Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay is already coming in steadily. Everywhere it’s pretty light tonnage (from the Russian river area is very very light). For example Ritchie Vineyard - have two buddies that harvested last sat and Tuesday. One contracted for 10 tons and got 4 and one contracted for 5 tons and got 1…

Quality seems very high across the board. Looking forward to Roy’s thoughts.

Dustin

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Ola!

It’s still a little early to gauge quality. We could still have fires, which are always an issue and it looks like we will have at least two days over 105F over Labor Day.

But we can see trends.

  1. Yields are a little bit higher than last year overall, but it varies. For me, Moulds and Greer look down 10% but Bonny’s looks over 4 tons per acre. I am hearing from fellow winemakers that some are heavier and some lighter, but last year some vineyards really were down and many of those are better this year than 2021. Someone tells me Howell Mtn has a great crop this year. Shoots are longer than last year due to a couple of surprise summer rains that tricked the vines into thinking we have more water than we really do.

  2. Things are early. Brix is 1-3 higher than this time last year. Some vineyards are 23+ brix already and it is still August. A lot of Pinot from the RRV is in already. No Cab I know of has been picked and I don’t know of anyone picking anytime soon. I think some begin picking in 2 weeks and I predicts it will be going strong by Sept 25th. I think my Greer and Moulds will be Sept 26-Oct 3rd. Bonny’s is really late and probably won’t come off until October 15-24th. I will be biting my nails on that one as risk of rains and fire rise.

  3. Brix will be higher than the last few years. Last year I picked at my lowest Brix since 2011. This year feels more like 2014 and 2015. I think this could pose a problem if some winemakers freak out and pick on the numbers and not the flavor. Brix is running ahead of flavor and tannin quality right now. That can still change but this is another drought year, so we will see.

  4. It’s been hot lately but not in the usual way. In the last several years when we have 98F-100F days, it can be at 90F by 11am and not get below 70F even at 3am. This year it feels more like when I first came to Napa in 2005-2010. It is 59F-65F at night and even at 10am it is only 69F. Then 75F at 11am, 85F by noon, 93 by 2pm and does not get above 95F until 3:30 or 4pm. By 6:30pm the temp is dropping. This is VERY different. Vines shut down over 95F, but instead of them being shut down for 8 hours per day, it is for 3-4. Vines freak out less in the latter scenario. So although we have heat, the quality of it is not as bad as some recent years.

  5. Barrels. Will we have enough? I am short some new Taransaud barrels and hope to get 4 more before harvest. A lot of barrels are not scheduled to arrive until next month, however if supply chains struggle or ports go on strike, we could be in a barrel squeeze. We might hear stories of wines going to barrel in used oak and then switching to new when they are racked after malo in January.

  6. Everyone in Napa uses an app called “Watch Duty.” It alerts us to all fires in CA and is very detailed. We all live with some sort of PTSD and when the app “alerts” us, it causes pulses to race. So far this year we had two fires, each a few months ago, that lasted 8-16 hours. One, on Soda Canyon Rd, was a little scary for an evening, but they got it under control. I believe we will have fires. We always do. It’s just a matter of where, when and how long. One reason people are picking earlier is constant fear of fire.

That’s about all at this stage. We should know a lot more in 3 weeks. I would say so far quality looks at least “good” and maybe a lot more than that. But unless sugar starts to slow and flavors catch up, we might be looking at vintages like 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015 in terms of style. But like I said it is still early.

Hope that helps!

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Thanks @Roy_Piper. Good luck to all on the harvest and getting all the juice safely in the tanks.

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Looks like September is going to be rough, both from a heat and fire danger perspective…Good Luck!

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Awesome post, Roy!

Why not do used barrel? Some here might find that of interest, too!

:wink:

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Interesting and thorough post @Roy_Piper Appreciate your continuing to take time to be engaged here. Always learn something.

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I thought @Adam_Frisch said that he could get you some American barrels.
:roll_eyes: :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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So cold! I’m out! :wink:

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This weekend calls for 100+° temps Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Getting to mid 100s. Pinot people are freaking out. I have a friend with old vine Zinfandel in the Olivet Rd area who has a crew leafing this week and now the fruit will be exposed to direct sunlight with blazing heat. You have to take the crews when they are available though.

we started 2 weeks ago with our RRV Pinot and some Dry Creek Sangiovese for a Rose… both those lots came in wacky with 27 / 25 brix. Sonoma is/was further along than Napa for sure. Napa took awhile to get through veraison… though this heat we have coming up is going to be interesting. Our young vines we have in Calistoga will be coming in this week. Already 25b. Dry Creek Zin isn’t quite ready yet - not even close enough to bring it in before the heat. You don’t want to pick in the middle or right after a heatwave. Just ride it out. I’m more worried about our dry farmed zin. If it’s 24 with a 3.3-3.4 I’d say bring it in. It would just get fried otherwise. The new chard vineyard I found this past spring has a nice canopy going so it can hang through - the other chard vineyard is more exposed so we are bringing that in.

Yields are down considerably - much more than 10%. More like 30%. What was supposed to be 6 tons of SB from Yountville ended up being 3 tons. 9 tons of RRV Pinot turned into 7. 5 tons of Sangio turned into 3.5. I think Napa is going to be a mix bag yield wise. The floor looks pretty good, but the hills look rather light. The spring frost did a good job up in the hills.

I’m expecting Cab to be picked at around the same time as last year - which was a good 2 weeks earlier than normal for Calistoga at least. 3rd - 4th week of September. Luckily I’m on an old 40 year old vineyard planted to St George. Haven’t had to water yet this year - though I was talking with the vineyard manager today about maybe giving it a good drink before the heatwave…

Barrels… still waiting on about 80 new barrels to arrive. All backed up at the port. I’ve been told they’re months behind. Good times…

We are in the third year in a row of a dry ice shortage… but this year is the absolute worst. Took me 2 weeks to get a tote.

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Next week will be an inferno in California.

Yup…some forecasters are predicting record heat for next week…

Yeah the heat starts Thursday. Looking at this now…

Thurs: 100
Friday: 97
Saturday: 102
Sunday: 106
Monday: 110
Tuesday: 106
Wednesday: 103
Thursday: 98

Ouch. This is actually about the same as Labor Day week in 2017 and 2020. We are laying the water on the vines between now and Friday.

Brix can rise if the vines struggle, but flavors do not improve. Above 95F the vines shut down. Any brix gain is just dehydration, not flavor.

Usually after this wave it cools back down some.

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A little peek into the Lodi and Santa Barbara areas: Lodi is basically 2 weeks ahead of last year, which was also hot. I’ve already brought in 70% of all my Lodi fruit, including most of the Zin (bar one). Pick another 2 picks on Thursday morning. Never had an Aug this busy and with these many picks.

Santa Barbara however, is at least 6 weeks to go.

Great notes, as always, @Roy_Piper !!

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Roy’s latest blog video does a great job of describing the 22 vintage. More or less 4 different vintages in his words.

Here is link to the video.

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