Every September, I get the inevitable question about how the harvest looks. This year, I couldn’t stop thinking about the end of August of 2020. The vintage had all the makings of a perfect vintage, yet within a week at the beginning of harvest, everything changed. We were hit with what seemed like endless heat waves that ultimately resulted in a significant loss of crop. I was mindful of that this year and found myself afraid to utter any prognostications of what the 2021 vintage would be like.
The vintage started out slow, and we didn’t harvest anything until September 5th. That is the latest we’ve ever started harvesting. Of course, we pulled in fruit every day for the next ten, so it felt like we were being hit by a tidal wave, much like what happened in 2017.
After the first two weeks of intense work, the harvest took a bit of a hiatus. We had an opportunity to press some fruit and barrel down the young wines. Starting around the 5th of October, we entered the second wave of intensity and by Wednesday, the 13th of October, all the fruit was in. Other than one lot of juice, everything was in barrels by the middle of November. A relatively short, but intense harvest.
Interestingly, the fruit was looking amazing! Acids, at least initially, were high, with ripe fruit. Extractions were spectacular! This was looking like we had the makings of an really good harvest. Naturally, especially after the last vintage, I didn’t want to make any pronouncements of things like a seminal vintage, yet it has been lingering in my brain!
Many of you know that we’re deep into the removal and replacement of our vineyard due to Red Blotch. kukkula, fortunately, is enjoying a level of growth that is forcing us to increase production to satisfy the demand. So, it should be no surprise that tearing out our vineyard as production demands increase is not necessarily a good thing! This year, I had to capitulate and purchase a fair amount of fruit to satisfy this demand. We pride ourselves in being estate grown organic dry farmers, so this wasn’t an easy decision, but clearly necessary.
You can see from the photo above that we are well into the removal and replanting of our vines. At this point, we have removed about 28 acres of Red Blotched vines and planted 8 acres of new vines. This coming year, we’re planning to remove another 13 – 15 acres of vines and replant perhaps close to that same amount. The vines that have already been replanted could give us 8 tons of fruit this coming vintage, but overall, we will need to purchase even more than we did this vintage. This year, purchased fruit represented close to 40% of our production. That amount could probably get to about half of total production for the next few years until we’re fully replanted. I anticipate that we will be fully estate again in the next 5 years.
As much as I’d like to talk about growing all our own fruit and producing wines from our vineyard, I find myself excited about the diversity of fruit we have committed to this year and imagining how all these different vineyards will help create more interesting and complex wines for this vintage. There is a lot of beautiful fruit being grown on the Westside, and we’re getting to work with a handful of our neighbors who are serious about growing exceptional fruit. Some are old friends like the Tillmans at Alta Colina, and the Thachers at Thacher Winery. Others are new to us, like Denner, Willow Creek Collective, Hawk Hill, and 6860 Vineyard Drive (the Ulrichs).
Like all vintages, there have been a few problems to tackle, but color extraction, ripeness, balance of chemistry, for the most part, have been solid. The last couple of weeks of October brought on some cold weather and a few days of frost in the morning, so the winery has cooled down a lot This has promoted some sluggish fermentations struggling to go dry and reminded us not to get complacent. I’m finding this is a fun challenge. It’s keeping us on our toes.
As I said earlier, I’m generally reluctant to make early predictions of a vintage, but I’m feeling compelled to say ‘this has all the makings of a perfect vintage’. What a difference a year makes!
Just having spent a few days with friends and family over the Thanksgiving holiday, we are reminded that we are especially thankful for the continued support of our fans, and we wish you all a wonderful, restful holiday season.