by Becky Zelinski
There’s much ado about a late harvest around Paso these days. It has been a relatively cool summer, which has most growers and winemakers watching, waiting and wondering how this year will turn out. Many people are even pontificating how we’ll still be picking grapes while passing the turkey.
While there may be a hint of truth to that turkey tale, we here at First Crush have a more pragmatic view of what lies in store. First Crush viticulturist, Lowell Zelinski, Ph.D. took the proverbial vine by the cluster. He’s been scouting the vineyards, collecting veraison information and comparing it to last year.
“Overall, I don’t think we’re too far behind where we were last year,” Zelinski said. “My information shows that many vineyards are at 80-90% of where they were last year and I even have some that are slightly ahead.”
However, Zelinski added that some are behind, which leads him to believe that there’s more than just something in the weather influencing grape ripening.
In the third week of August, Zelinski’s data shows that Syrah – in the Templeton Hills Vineyard (aka Victor Hugo Winery) in the Templeton Gap region – is at 90% veraison compared to 80% last year. In the same vineyard, the Petite Syrah is also ahead by 10%, the Cabernet Sauvignon is the same, but the Zinfandel is slightly behind.
A little further to the north just off of Highway 46 East at the Mitchella Vineyard, Syrah is at 60% where it was at 75% veraison last year but the Cabernet Sauvignon is at 70% where it was only at 60% last year. Ironically (or confusingly), this is generally a much warmer spot in Paso Robles, and yes, we have the temperature sensors and the weather data to prove it.
To further complicate matters, in the Oak Shadow Vineyard (a little further to the east of Mitchella), the Cabernet Sauvignon is way ahead of last year at 90% (2010) to 70% (2009). However, the Cabernet Franc at Oak Shadow is only at 10% veraison where it was at 50% last year and the Merlot is the same as last year at 50%.
Are you beginning to see a (weather) pattern here? Well, we do not. It appears that the varietal has more to do with the ripening stage than the weather or location.
And for those of you who are still reading and really interested…according to Dr. Zelinski, it appears that it’s the number of days from bud break, not the number of degree days* that affects the ripening rate.
So will the 2010 vintage be delayed? Only time and the fruit will really tell. However, for now it looks as though some varieties may be harvested a little later than last year but the turkey tale is really much ado about nothing.
(*Degree days are a measure of how much heat has accumulated for the growth of the plant. Zelinski said there’s a difference in vegetative versus fruit growth, and it appears that the vegetative growth is more influenced by degree days than the fruit. In other words…if it’s cold, you may have shorter shoots but the fruit ripens at the same rate.)
Savor specially paired first-class wine and cuisine among the Paso Robles vines. Pick up tidbits of wine knowledge from our featured winemakers. Enjoy exceptional views of the vineyards during your evening of culinary adventure and learning.
September 24, Winemaker Dinner at Croad VineyardsChef, James Hauser & Sous-Chef, Steve IsaacCroad Vineyards is nestled in the Templeton Gap district of Paso Robles. Their Mission style tasting room and vineyard estate offers spectacular views of the westside Paso Robles vineyards. The estate vineyards are planted in the famous calcareous soil of the Westside Paso Robles and catch the plentiful sun by day and are cooled by the ocean breezes in the evening. This incredible microclimate combined with the optimal terra produces exceptional fruit, which enables winemaker Martin Croad, a New Zealand native, to produce perfectly balanced Zinfandel and Rhone blends characteristic of this beautiful area.
Eating anything sweet will disguise the bitterness momentarily but then the harshness will kick back in with a vengeance after the sweet flavor disappears. Eating acidic food will make the wine worse, since acidity and bitterness reinforce each other. The only substance that can improve strongly tannic wine is diary. Milk’s fat and protein can effectively camouflage the bitterness and make the tannins taste softer. So, pairing strongly tannic wine with cheese will taste better.
Source: The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil
From the 1940s through the 1970s, virtually every basic biology text book – and certainly every wine book – perpetuated the myth that taste buds were grouped in the mouth according to specialty. Correspondingly, the tongue was diagramed into separate areas where certain tastes were registered: sweetness at the tip, sourness on the sides, and bitterness at the back of the mouth.
In the 1980s and 1990s, however, research at Yale University, Monell Chemical Senses Center, in Philadelphia, and the University of Connecticut, as well as elsewhere, demonstrated that the tongue map explanation of how we taste was, in fact, false. As it turns out, the map was a misinterpretation and mistranslation of research conducted in Germany.
Today, leading taste researchers, such as Dr. Linda Bartoshuk of the Tale University School of Medicine, believe that taste buds are not specialized and are not grouped according to specialty. According to Bartoshuk’s research, sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, and sourness can be tasted everywhere in the mouth.
The other day I had a delicious carnitas soft taco with a couple of spoonfuls of onions, cilantro, and spicy salsa. It hit the spot but, man, did those onions linger. Then I decided to go wine tasting. What was I thinking? All I was going to taste were those darn onions. I was explaining my dilemma to Becky and she introduced me to my new wine tasting friend, SanTasti. SanTasti is not First Crush’s new foreign exchange student, it’s a palate cleansing drink. And it works great!
SanTasti was developed by two Central Coast locals -- Nicole Chamberlain and Andrew Macaluso. They studied viticulture and enology under Keith Patterson and Bruce Zoecklein at Cal Poly SLO. And they were frustrated with tasting wine without an effective and consistent method for cleansing their palates. So in 2008, the concept of a palate cleansing beverage was born and they created SanTasti.
So how does it work? SanTásti was formulated based on the Palate Balance Equation -- (sweetness, in balance with acidity and astringency). Nicole and Andrew’s goal was to create a palate cleansing beverage that was both simple and effective at accomplishing the following: mitigate astringency, taste as neutral as possible, not shock the palate, taste crisp and clean, be a beverage, not an industrial palate rinse.
At First Crush, we think it works so well that we use it in all our Blending Workshops. With SanTasti, your palate never gets saturated and you can taste every wine like it’s your first taste. Come and try it for yourself this Saturday from 2-4pm at our Blending Workshop with Chuck Treatch from Treatch Cellars. Register for August 21 Blending Workshop
To ferment; i.e., to charge a solution containing sugar with yeast. The yeast then converts the sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide gas.
Carmody is an aged cow milk cheese from Petaluma, California.It has a naturally golden in color with a smooth texture and wonderful flavor. Carmody is a consistent blue ribbon winner at the Los Angeles County Fair. Aged for at least 6 weeks this Jersey Cow milk cheese is smooth with just the right level of acidity to complement a big wine or food pairing. It pairs well with a Barrel-aged Chardonnay.
For more wine and cheese pairings, go to Vivant’s online pairing page.
Answer: Semillon is the leading grape in Sauternes, Bordeaux’s famous sweet wine. And when aged, it has a tendency to develop a delicious rich honeyed flavor.
I once heard a saying: Wine will get you through times of no money, better than money will get you through times of no wine. This may not be exactly true – (if I were rich, I would let you know) – and this isn’t actually the original saying, but the sentiment is the same.
Times are tough. Of that, there’s no doubt. But everyone needs a break. So instead of starving yourself, why not come to Paso Robles and experience some great wines, great people and a truly unique, educational wine experience? It’s a heck of a lot closer than Bordeaux and certainly more affordable. If this isn’t enough to get you to pack your bags, here are my TOP 10 REASONS you should come to Paso Robles:
10. Fantastic weather – it has been unseasonably cool and if not, we still usually have great weather
After spending eight wonderful years in what might be the ultimate cheese Mecca of the world, Paris, I was worried that I would have to say au revoir to my delicious Beaufort, Camembert, and Epoisses once I moved to Templeton. But then I learned about Vivant Fine Cheese in Paso Robles. With their copious selection of local cheeses and cheeses from around the world, mobile tasting room, and online guide to wine and cheese pairings, my taste buds breathed a sigh of relief.
Does all of this sound great? Well, it gets even better! Vivant Fine Cheese is a Crush Club partner and offers members a 10% discount. The First Crush Crush Club is our membership program that rewards our customers with discounts on our Harvest Grape Escapes, winemaking workshops, custom wine and merchandise. It also gives members discounts from our partnering hotels, bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, bars and restaurants, wineries and wine services. It’s easy and affordable to join. The annual dues are $35 for individuals and $50 for couples. The 10% discount at Vivant is only one of great ways you can save by becoming a Crush Club member. Watch our weekly newsletter for discount locations and partner profiles. Sign up for Crush Club.
The Vivant retail store is open at 840 11th St in Paso Robles and in addition to cheese, has pizzas, sandwiches, pastries, coffee and more. The mobile tasting room is available by appointment to wholesale cheese buyers in the region. Call (805) 226-5530 for more information.
So what are you waiting for? Go beyond the tasting room, join the Crush Club and enjoy some great wine and cheese at Vivant Fine Cheese!
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Winery/Office: 2975 Limestone WayPaso Robles, CA 93446
(805) 434-2772 Fax (805) 434-3337