Kukkula Wines

Wednesday September 23, 2015

be careful what you wish for...

I’ve talked on a num­ber of occa­sions over the last four years about the drought. Each year I think things will get bet­ter (At some point they will, but I am start­ing to won­der!). I’m blown away that we’re four years in, and yet things keep get­ting worse. Not so much for us, but for the mass­es. Our lakes are dry­ing up, lit­er­al­ly. The ground water is drop­ping to unbe­liev­able depths. Peo­ple are los­ing their homes and busi­ness­es because they have no water. Local gov­ern­ments are form­ing water boards, and neigh­bors are up in arms over oth­er neigh­bors’ water practices.

I’ve also talked about feel­ing for­tu­nate and pre­scient about our deci­sion to dry farm our vines when we start­ed this project 11 years ago. I’m a guy who does­n’t sleep much, but the one thing that does­n’t keep me up at night is wor­ry­ing about my wells run­ning dry.

The news over the last sev­er­al months has us all con­vinced that the El Niño is real­ly going to hap­pen this win­ter, and we can breathe a sigh of relief. Now, I do remem­ber this same con­ver­sa­tion last year, but, … real­ly folks, this time they’re” sure!

Last win­ter, we had a lit­tle over six­teen inch­es of rain until bud break. That falls right in the mid­dle of the range of the last four years, with a high of eigh­teen inch­es, and a low of ten inch­es. What seemed to make this last rainy sea­son some­what palat­able was that it was a lot bet­ter than the real­ly pal­try ten inch­es in 2014, and the rain was dis­trib­uted more even­ly across the whole rainy sea­son. The spring was cool, and, for the most part, this sum­mer was­n’t too hot.

The pièce de résis­tance”, though, was that we had a real­ly unprece­dent­ed rain event at the end of July of 2.6 inch­es. This was the cream on the cake! It pret­ty well assured us that we’d cruise through the grow­ing sea­son and the vines would not be try­ing to shut down before our fruit ripened.

I assumed this would result in bet­ter acids, low­er pHs than the pre­vi­ous three year, and it seems that’s what we’re get­ting. For the most part, our grapes are com­ing in text­book per­fect. One slight prob­lem, though: Depend­ing on the vari­etal, we’re get­ting any­where from 20% to 50% less fruit, as com­pared to last year. And last year was about 20% lighter than the vin­tage pri­or. Big time bummer!

This year saw anoth­er 20 acres of vines giv­ing us fruit for the first time. But the faucet was only trick­ling. I’ve just picked a dol­lop of my first estate Petite Sir­ah (750 pounds) from a two acre block. We’ve also picked our first estate white vari­etals. We’re grow­ing Viog­nier, Grenache Blanc, and Rous­sanne, yet we har­vest­ed just enough Grenache Blanc and Rous­sanne (four acres) to get us maybe 25 cas­es for you to enjoy in the sum­mer of 2016. Hope­ful­ly, next sea­son, we’ll be able to craft our first estate ver­sion of vaalea with all three varietals.

Ten of the twen­ty acres are Syrah, Grenache, and Mourve­dre from our friends, Ron and Cami’s vine­yard this year. It’s not much, but it’s all help­ful in eas­ing the pain of minus­cule yields at our vine­yard. Pri­or to real­iz­ing we were going to be get­ting sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduced yields, we were toy­ing with what type of blend we were going to fash­ion to show off the new Petite Sir­ah. We were also think­ing about what type of GSM blend we could cre­ate to best rep­re­sent the fruit from Ron and Cami’s vine­yard, and, per­haps, be able to bet­ter eval­u­ate the dif­fer­ences from his site rel­a­tive to ours.

Con­cur­rent with all this, Paula and I have been hav­ing some heavy dis­cus­sions over the last year about whether we might have too many blends. Per­haps we should con­sid­er cut­ting a few? Maybe focus on a core of wines that best define kukku­la? That’s a con­ver­sa­tion for anoth­er time, but it is in the works.

Any­way, to make a long sto­ry short, we are going to reduce the line up. We aren’t going to intro­duce a Petite Sir­ah blend. And we aren’t going to do a Ron and Cami cuvéé. … At least not this vin­tage. Life’s get­ting a bit too complicated!

Reflect­ing on the last four years, I’ve come to real­ize that the 2012, 2013, and 2014 vin­tages have all been quite nice. Many are say­ing that 2013 is excep­tion­al. Per­haps. I think 2014 might be bet­ter, and I’m even tempt­ed at this point to say that 2015 will be every bit as good. Maybe the best of the last four years. I don’t usu­al­ly go out on the limb like this. Typ­i­cal­ly, when asked, I say it’s too ear­ly to tell. Yields aside, though, the col­or, the fla­vors, the high­er acid­i­ty, the extreme­ly small crop, seem to be point­ing to some­thing very spe­cial. One thing is quite clear; the hav­oc caused by the last sev­er­al years of drought for the mass­es has pro­duced some excep­tion­al vin­tages for the wine­mak­ing world.

The irony in all this, per­haps, is that wet years tend to pro­duce some­what less inspir­ing vin­tages. That said, I think I’d like to expe­ri­ence a sea­son of plen­ti­ful rain, a big beau­ti­ful crop, and plants that have plen­ty of water to drink through the hot sum­mer. While we’re at it, rains that stop around the first of April, a cool spring, a warm (not hot) sum­mer, no weeds, mildew, birds, bees, gophers, squir­rels, deer, or wild boar, an order­ly har­vest, and lots of ador­ing fans of our wines! A guy can dream, can’t he?

Some­thing tells me, though, that we’re about to have an epic rainy sea­son, and we’re going to be try­ing to fig­ure out how to turn off the rain switch. So… be care­ful what you wish for. You might just get it!


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