Another harvest season has ended, and finally we have some time to put the year-round of hard work into perspective. Since plants behave according to weather patterns, we have to look back to the beginning of the current season and check the weather data in order to have a broader view of this harvest.
Two of the areas that we source grapes from, Hays County where Scott Roberts has Salt Lick Vineyards and McCulloch County where Alphonse Dotson has Certenberg Vineyard both have nearby weather stations. One of them is at Dripping Springs, some 6 miles northeast of Salt Lick Vineyards and the other at Brady, 14 miles northwest of Alphonse’s vineyard.
If we take a look at the following charts we can say that until June we experienced very unstable weather demonstrated by the “noisy” lines describing maximum, minimum and average temperatures. It became more stable from July on where we see above average temps for almost the entire period. This more steady and warm weather make plants work fast, so we were picking grapes the first weeks of August. Even though it seems early, this was one or two weeks after last year’s dates. This somewhat smoother and easier weather in the last stage of the growing season might be the explanation in part for the high quality that we are tasting in the wines that we have just made.
It is also clear that both locations, suffered, likewise just as in many other locations in Texas, from very low temperatures in March, especially late March where thermometers in Dripping Springs dropped to 25ºF, freezing early shoots and obligating vines to start growing new buds. We know new buds bring less fruit and more vegetative growth.
Another aspect that can be obtained from the graphs is that even though the trends are very similar, Brady is somehow cooler than Dripping Springs and it also shows more difference between maximum and minimum temperatures. This can be one of the reasons, combined with the soil, why we get such a wonderful combination of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from there.
Now, from the rainfall point of view, we had a similar story from these two places. Even though the charts are different, they are only in reference to the historical data, but the net amount is quite similar on both locations. Just note the scale of the charts in order to see this. Despite the 92 miles separating the two sites, rains this year appear to have covered the entire area in an evenly way. Anyhow, the rain helped in watering plants to some extent while we had to add the rest through irrigation, which is always a good thing because it means that we can control plant water intake and hence its growth and behavior.
Chardonnay. This year we harvested only a very small amount of this variety due to the freezes. Regardless of the small sample, we had the chance to try a whole cluster pressing to direct the juice straight to the barrels to ferment. It took about three weeks to finish and after the first racking it tastes just wonderful. It is such a shame we have so little, because we would love for everyone to taste this wonderful wine. We plan to sell it only through the tasting room. Therefore, if you want a taste of it, you will have to come and get it at Fall Creek Vineyards in Tow!
Merlot. We harvested this on August 8th with a nice ripeness in terms of sugar and taste. There were no green characters after tasting the fruit, which evidenced a good healthy condition. The wine, even though it’s a bit too early to tell, is phenomenal, actually. This was a very good surprise for me as it is difficult to see this quality from where I come. Good color and fruity aromas, soft and round tannins only presage a tremendous wine.
Cabernet. It was harvested on August 15th, just at the right time. Like the Merlot, it already is showing a promising future. As a matter of fact, both are resting in barrels where we are expecting malolactic fermentation to happen. They might be good candidate for Meritus quality, which is our top wine.
Mouvedre and Syrah. We put them together because we wanted them to ferment in the same tank, so we have a co-fermentation of the two. There are very interesting fruit characters and a soft and easy mouth feeling. The idea is to blend them with Grenache to make a wonderful “GSM”.
Sangiovese. This grape was severely hit by the freeze, so a very small amount of grapes were produced. Hence, the plants were not in the best balance to concentrate the fruit, so this is not a good year to evaluate the potential of the grape. Anyhow, with such a small amount of Sangiovese, there is a great chance we will only have it available in the tasting room.
Grenache. It came in on August 29th, even though it behaved like if it did not want to get ripe, strangely enough. It may be one of the grape varieties least hit by the frost, as evidenced from the more generous yield, compared to the short crops of the other varieties. It took its time to ripen, maybe because of the heavier load it had. Still, this crop is short, just more than the other varieties this year. There is a nice fruity nose and smooth mouth feeling. As usual, color is not its main attribute, but it isn’t all about the color, is it?
Black Spanish. This variety is so well adapted to the local conditions that it was not even harmed by the freeze. The grapes experienced good yield and healthy condition even though the vineyard received some rain in August and early September. The vineyard management went beyond organic practices, limiting them only to irrigation and mechanical weed control so not even a drop of any agrochemical touched the whole vineyard area.
The grapes were harvested on September 9th and 10th. As usual, it adds honor to its name when observing its deep red color.
We tried a combination of winemaking methods with the Black Spanish, and some look very promising. Stay tuned.
Mother Nature may have been elusive this year in terms of yields, but nevertheless the grapes were carefully handpicked as usual and we are certain of an amazing quality vintage is being nursed at the winery.
Fall Creek Vineyards Director of Winemaking