2010 Harvest: Sobering news from Sonoma

    "Unfortunately, 2010 will not be fulfilling our best wishes."

    Ross Halleck of Halleck Vineyard is a pretty upbeat guy, so when he says “it’s been a challenging year in the vineyard” I take note. Of course he’s not the only one dealing with the unpredictable — and mostly uncooperative — weather patterns of 2010. A few weeks back I was speaking with Matt Ashby atop Mount Veedeer. The sentiments are similar, “This is the most challenging harvest in the 13 years I’ve been doing it. I’ll be happy when it’s done.”

    Transparency and frank opinion are admirable qualities among the winemakers in Napa and Sonoma. Although the news isn’t always pleasant, and the financial stakes high, it’s refreshing to get straight forward, no-nonsense reports from the vineyards. Like everyone else I wish it was better news, and I wonder how the vintage will ultimately unfold. Crush-ing comes to mind.

    “Unfortunately, 2010 will not be fulfilling our best wishes.”

    Ross Halleck of Halleck Vineyard

    Ross was a guest on our old school Wine Tales podcast many moons ago when this site had the name that sounded like a casino or a winery (and will not be repeated here for the sake of my sanity) and he’s the kind of infectious, energetic guy that represents so much of the soul of wine country.

    I actually first met his son, who was most well-spoken and a true young gentleman, in a gondola on the slopes of Tahoe. Soon enough he was delivering a sales pitch “award-winning wines!” that I’m sure would make his father proud. Ross Halleck likes to travel, and frequently invites wine enthusiasts to join him on trips where travel and wine are willingly combined. Next up is Hawaii, but first that troubling news on the 2010 Harvest.

    As I have mentioned, it’s been a challenging year in the vineyard. We had early bud break, then a long cool summer with incessant moisture. I felt grateful that we avoided mold and rot. We lost our 2005 crop to this culprit.

    Then, at the end of August, we had a heat spike, sending temperatures into the low 100s for several days. Many vineyards suffered sunburn from leaf thinning during the cool wet months to promote air movement. Halleck Vineyard avoided much of this, but there was some negative consequence in the eastern-most row at the top of the vineyard. Yet we had a relatively abundant crop, albeit experiencing wide variance in ripening. While this is typical at Halleck Vineyard, I had concerns. My vineyard manager, Jim Pratt, assuaged them, reminding me that we always go through this at the end of the season.

    Sobering news indeed. When I read his conclusion at the end of the email, my heart sank. Moments like these I am reminded chasing dreams is occasionally fraught with agonizing hurt.

    Losing a crop is akin to heartbreak. You know that you will be happy again; you know that there will be another season of love. But in the instance, there is great loss and disorientation. I walk the vineyard twice a day. I bear the feeling of deep disappointment.

    And I’d also suggest that Mr. Halleck has a nice way with words. It’s an emotional time as harvest continues. What will the 2010 vintage look like when it hits the market?

    2010 Crop at Halleck Vineyard: The Sobering News

    Last week was difficult at Halleck Vineyard. We are always gearing up this time of year for harvest and our commensurate celebration, the Harvest Party.

    As I have mentioned, it’s been a challenging year in the vineyard. We had early bud break, then a long cool summer with incessant moisture. I felt grateful that we avoided mold and rot. We lost our 2005 crop to this culprit.

    Then, at the end of August, we had a heat spike, sending temperatures into the low 100s for several days. Many vineyards suffered sunburn from leaf thinning during the cool wet months to promote air movement. Halleck Vineyard avoided much of this, but there was some negative consequence in the eastern-most row at the top of the vineyard. Yet we had a relatively abundant crop, albeit experiencing wide variance in ripening. While this is typical at Halleck Vineyard, I had concerns. My vineyard manager, Jim Pratt, assuaged them, reminding me that we always go through this at the end of the season.

    Last Tuesday my concerns were unfortunately confirmed. The clusters were not ripening evenly; in fact, they were not ripening at all. The blackest dimpled berries were sharing clusters with berries not even through verasion (darkening from their original green color). Further, they were very small for this time. I broke open some of the darkest, most apparently ripe berries to check the seeds. They should have been brown, or at least browning. Instead, the seeds were green and bitter tasting. The berries were not ripe.

    This was the case throughout. With the previous week’s heat, there should have been some enlarging of the berries and further ripening. Instead, the ripest berries went to raisins. Rick Davis, our winemaker, and I made the call. The crop was not viable. There will be no 2010 Halleck Vineyard Estate Grown Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, the flagship of our fleet.

    Fortunately, The Farm Vineyard was not impacted, hovering at less than 100 feet in elevation, compared to almost 1000 feet for our Estate vineyard.

    Losing a crop is akin to heartbreak. You know that you will be happy again; you know that there will be another season of love. But in the instance, there is great loss and disorientation. I walk the vineyard twice a day. I bear the feeling of deep disappointment.

    www.halleckvineyard.com

    Photos: Halleck Vineyards, email newsletter.

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