Kukkula Wines

Tuesday November 30, 2021

what a difference a year makes!

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.



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