Continuing our series of interviews with local winemakers about the status of the 2007 harvest, here is winemaker Chris Phelps and the production team at Oakville’s Swanson Vineyards…
CB: How would you characterize the 2007 harvest thus far? We’re not looking for predictions on how things might turn out, but rather what you’re truly seeing at this point in time.
Swanson: The 2007 harvest for our whites – 90% Pinot Grigio, 10% Chardonnay – was well-timed, with almost everything coming in just prior to most of the heat wave we received in late August. We started on Aug. 15th, and went heavy for about 10 days. Yields are normal to slightly-elevated. Acids held nicely, since we didn’t have to face the heat for long. Average Brix was perfect – about 22.45 on average for Pinot Grigio. The first lots to finish fermentation are very fresh and crisp.
We’re about 2/3 of the way through Merlot. Lower-than-expected yields. Some dehydration, due to the 2-week heat snap. We’ve had to be poised for quick picks, once tannins and flavors were ripe; sugar was not a problem, so we could focus on these important criteria. So far, very nice color and a surprising amount of early extract from the skins.
CB: Where are you in terms of your ’07 crop at this point in time?
Swanson: A bit of Merlot left, then – owing to the cool weather trend, now – we’re looking at all of our Cabernet being ready in 2 weeks+. It’s important, in general, for Cab to ripen a little more slowly than Pinot Grigio and Merlot, which are both earlier varieties. Crop looks down for Cab, and some folks are comparing it to 2004, in terms of appearance and crop size. That would be welcome news, since our current 2004 releases are, in my opinion, the best reds ever produced at Swanson.
CB: What has been the biggest surprise to you regarding the ’07 crop and why?
Swanson: The biggest, and most welcome, surprise this season has been the ripening curve. We had too much physical maturity (sugar and acid) too fast. Brix is no longer a problem. Fog and clouds have saved the Cab vintage! We don’t really need to sample fruit anymore – we can base harvest decisions on flavor and texture (phenolics) only. If this weather holds, Brix will continue to stabilize, and acid should hold nicely.
CB: Cheers, thanks all!
Be sure to check out The Cork Board’s full Harvest 2007 coverage.