In our 5th year of the California drought, it looks like Harvest may be earlier even than last year, and 2014 was the earliest of the decade. Last year our Verdelho was the first to come in on July 28th, this year we're expecting it about a week earlier - the week of July 20th. An excess of sunny days and dry conditions are causing grapes to ripen faster and flavors to concentrate. This is the silver lining to the drought: the grapes are getting better and better. That isn't to say we don't hope for a normal year of rain.
Here at Bokisch Ranches water conservation starts with the boss. Overheard in Markus' office recently: "Grape vines, along with olive trees, are one of the most water efficient perrenial crops grown in California. They consume a quarter to a third of the volume of water that nut crops such as walnuts and almonds consume. Additionally, we practice deficit irrigation and other water saving techniques which, aside from saving water, enhance early maturation and full fruit ripeness."
Elyse, our assistant winemaker, has been busy preparing the winery for an early harvest. We bottled over 2000 cases in May and the winery has been buzzing with barreling, making room in our tanks.
Markus will be putting together a seasoned team of sugar samplers to monitor the Brix level (sugar content) of the grapes among a host of other factors to select the best day to harvest each lot. Markus' first job in the wine business was off-roading his VW Bus throughout the vineyard blocks of the Napa Valley, stopping only to "run" a vineyard and collect an accurate sugar sample of that particular block. He would collect up to twenty samples from Calistoga to Carneros, then drive them back to the lab for testing. These days he has over 2500 acres to manage so this is a complicated and critical time of year. The decision of when to harvest is probably the single most critical decision he will make all year and the quality of the vintage depends on it. No pressure Markus!
The Bokisch family is gearing up for their annual trip to Spain in July. This year their trip will include a detour to the beautiful Czech Republic where Markus' father was born in 1935. The family will visit Brno, Captal of Moravia, as well as other places where the Bokisches used to call home. It is possible Markus will have to cut the trip short to get back for harvest. We're hoping that won't be the case so we're asking that everyone come out with their umbrellas to provide an hour of shade each day for the grapes to slow down the ripening. :-) That's a joke. But, who knows maybe "flashmobs for shade" will be a trend in the coming years. If so, you heard it here first!
Now, hold up your glasses and shout a big “Salut!” to bring on our best vintage ever!
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18921 Atkins Road, Lodi, CA
Friday-Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.