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2011 Harvest Begins!

2011 Harvest Begins!

It’s kind of been like waiting for train. We figured the train was a few minutes late so we sat down and waited. Then after a few minutes, there was still no sign of the train, and so we started pacing nervously, looking at our watches. Then we heard a whistle off in the distance, but we still couldn’t see the train. Then, finally on Sunday, September 18th the train arrived.

And we’re off, like a herd of turtles! (Or a slow, puttering steam engine, as to not mix metaphors)

With less than 10% of the county’s grapes picked to date, 2011 will be one of the latest in the last 30 years, according to John Hawley; “We could really use another blast of heat to ripen things up and get the tannins under control with our Bordeaux varietals, but otherwise I’m really excited about this years crop. There is a lot of concern about grapes actually ripening in some areas; we dropped a lot of fruit to ensure that they would ripen.”

2011 is also shaping up to be one of the lightest crops in decades. So far, everything we have picked has come in 50% of what we would expect for an average crop. This would be disappointing except for the fact that the grapes that we did get are so concentrated and flavorful, that we can't complain.

If you ask any winemakers, in the last month, there have been a lot of, “Yeah, we should start harvest here in the next week or two.” And then a week passed, but the answer stayed the same, “probably another week or two.” The county is on average, three weeks behind normal. Here at Hawley, the first of the grapes from our estate are usually in by early to mid-September. “I’m kind of leery to talk timetables, because we just don’t know,” says John, “We’re just kind of sitting around, trying to find things to do; all the barrels are soaked and tanks washed – now we’re just waiting for grapes.”

There’s been a lot of discussion regarding the 2011 vintages, especially after the dreadful ending to the 2010 harvest. Rest easy wine drinkers, the 2011 vintage should be fantastic – especially here at Hawley.

The cool weather and late rains interfered with pollination, which has lightened the crop in most vineyards, but overall, a long cool growing season allows for a slow maturation and the flavor in the grapes develop earlier. So even though this year’s crop will be moderate, the quality should shine through. Aside from flavorful fruit, we should see higher acidity and lower alcohol wines – which are both good things.

We should be passed all our heat spells for the season, so we don’t have to worry about any repeat performances like the 2010 September, were 100 degree temperatures scorched many vineyards. Now all we have to worry about are the grapes ripening before the rain arrives. All the foggy and cool mornings means more moisture, which has already leads to mold and mildew and botrytis in some vineyards. So as summer gives way to fall next week, all we can hope for is consistent weather with warm days and no rain until November.

Hawley fans have a lot to look forward to following the 2011 harvest. Overall, we will be making 13 wines this year. Returning will be our highly sought-after Late Harvest Zin, as well as our Old Vine Zin, our first ever estate Zin, and a brand new Pinot from Love Vineyard, located off West Side Road.

So it would seem that all good things are worth waiting for. Now that harvest is slowly underway, drink up! It won’t be long till we’ll have some great new wines available in the tasting room, including the 2010 vintage of our ever-popular Ponzo Vineyard Zin as well as our 2009 Oehlman Vineyard Pinot Noir. And don’t forget to RSVP to our harvest party on October 22nd!

Cheers!