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South Bay harvest on track to yield higher-quality, lower-quantity wine grapes

This is the time of year when wine grapes turn from hard and green to softer and the shades of pleasantly purplish. From the time this begins, it is generally about six weeks until harvest, subject to the vagaries of weather.

Testarossa in Los Gatos has already begun its 30th harvest with chardonnay from the organically farmed Brosseau Vineyard, where winemaker Bill Brosseau grew up. His family’s estate vineyard lies in the shadow of the Pinnacles. Pinot noir and chardonnay from Brosseau Vineyard have long been a part of the Testarossa program, and they are some of the most interesting wines, given the lack of overt fruit.

The chardonnay’s arrival marks the beginning of several months of long days and nights, bringing in fruit from vineyards located as far south as the Santa Rita hills and up north in the Russian River Valley.

Overall, Brosseau thinks the vintage is looking a bit like 2015, with reduced cluster counts and high concentration, meaning less of a very good thing.

Up on Summit Road, Wrights Station winemaker/owner Dan Lokteff says, “Verasion kind of came out of nowhere this year. I was walking in a spot near the tasting patio and I looked, and was like, ‘What the heck is wrong with the grapes?’ That was July 12, I think, but might have been earlier.”

At any rate, he thinks his first pick will be pinot noir the first week of September.

Greg Perrucci of Perrucci Family Vineyard says, “We started veraison in syrah and Sangiovese right on schedule. Cabernet sauvignon, malbec, petite sirah, grenache and Mourvèdre started shortly after and are already about a third through. Cabernet franc was just showing the first signs when I looked a week ago.

“If I had to put money on it,” Perrucci adds. “I would say we are bringing all of the Syrah in from Almaden around the third week of September, and then we will start our micro harvests on everything else.”

He brings in chardonnay, pinot noir and merlot from Regan Vineyard in Corralitos. His crop loads look like they are slightly above average, or more in some cases.

“Overall, the timing looks to be right for another long, drawn-out season,” Perrucci says. “Look for us to be harvesting into November again.”

At Lago Lomita Vineyard in the Summit Road area, Robin and Mark Porter are seeing lots of color change. “Bud break was much earlier this year by two or three weeks,” Mark Porter says. “But we had several weeks of cold weather in late spring/early summer. In the end, veraison for us came at the same time as last year.”

Their Nebbiolo is the poster child for veraison, showing all the colors possible in a single grape cluster. Most of it goes to Peter Bargetto at Soquel Vineyards, but this year, Robert Bergstrom of Sandar & Hem and Nicole Walsh of Ser are also getting in on the action. Porter says he expects to bring that fruit in mid-October.

“The problem is that we have to wait a long time for the pH to come up, so that’s in direct conflict with picking at lower Brix, a very common issue for Nebbiolo,” he adds.

Finding that sweet spot is the difference between a wine meant only for early consumption and one meant for graceful and rewarding aging.

First in at Lago Lomita will be the estate pinot gris later this month. “We’ll probably pick all the pinot noir around September 12,” Porter says. “One block is slightly ahead of the other, but I have one winemaker who wants a lower Brix, so it should all work out.”

Each of the established blocks seems slightly lighter in fruit than last year, but they have four new acres that will yield some fruit this year. Last year, they harvested 35 tons, this year, Porter expects 40 tons, and thinks it will be a really great vintage.


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