By Jeremy Weintraub, Winemaker
The 2016 vintage at Adelaida was exceptionally good, with very high-quality fruit and slightly above-average yields. The winter rainfall was higher than in the previous four years, budbreak was early, and conditions during fruit set were unremarkable—which is ideal. The summer had a few periods of very warm weather—in June we hit 100 degrees nine times—but that heat created lots of color. July, too, was warm, but it was followed by a beautiful, cool to moderate August, which gave the pigmented varietals time to recover and develop flavors.
The 2016 Adelaida Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah wines combine some of the best attributes of previous vintages: the structure of 2013, the fruit and plushness of 2014, and the savory character of 2015.
We began picking Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on September 21st from the old section of our Viking Vineyard. As usual, the grapes were fully ripe, and we fermented them in a combination of wooden vat, wooden barrel, along with concrete and stainless steel tanks. The wine aged for 20 months in 75% new French oak barrels.
The Syrah harvest from Anna’s Vineyard began on September 9th. The grapes fermented in concrete and stainless steel tanks. Fermentation took its time—up to 3 weeks—and temperatures peaked at 86 degrees. The wine matured for 18 months in 70% new French oak barrels, hog heads, and puncheons.
As we wrapped up the month of October the days descend into full autumnal splendor. The pumpkin patches are overflowing, the leaves are turning color, and the 2016 Adelaida Harvest is at an end. We are absolutely thrilled with this year’s harvest. 2016 saw several unique challenges from yet another drought year, summer storms, and wildfires at our front door. And still, yellow bins of magnificent handpicked fruit rolled into the winery, day after day.
From six Estate vineyards, 157 acres, and two months of backbreaking labor, a promising 275 tons of fruit was harvested. The first pick of Muscat Blanc came in on August 16th, and the Adelaida crew raised bubbling glasses of 1984 sparkling Adelaida Pinot Noir to christen the harvest season. [insert pic from our toast].
This harvest lasted longer than past years, just over two months, which gave us a longer ripening season. The last grapes, Grenache and Petit Verdot, came in on October 19th, ending the picking stage of harvest. While every varietal showed up to play, each team has its all-stars. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Zinfandel all have stood out. Each varietal shows tremendous vibrancy and depth of character. Cabernet Sauvignon is arguably the 2016 Harvest MVP-Most Valuable Player. The Cabernet shows great potential with skin color, cluster size, and fresh ripeness.
Every year’s harvest faces challenges, farming is an arduous endeavor. For the 2016 Harvest, Winemaker Jeremy Weintraub was most surprised with “the health of the vines despite six years of drought.” Moving on from the harvest season, the fermentation and aging stages will commence. The cellar crew are busy transferring wine from oak, concrete, and steel tanks to barrels for the ageing process. In regards to the entirety of the harvest, in Jeremy’s words, 2016 was “exhausting, but very rewarding! We’ve got the most professional and committed crew at Adelaida.” With such an astounding harvest, we are excited to see how the wines age and develop over the coming years.
As harvest nears, I got the chance to sit down with winemaker Jeremy Weintraub to find out more about what is currently happening in the vineyard and learn about the uniques ways that he measures water levels in the soil.
Q. What is Veraison and why is it important?
A. Veraison signals the onset of ripening and is when the pigment in the grape changes from green to red or black. The grapes will soften, accumulate sugar, and lose some of their acid.
Q. Has Veraison began in the Adelaida Estate?
A. Historically, we’re still about two weeks away from Veraison; however, we’re beginning to see quite a bit of coloring come up in a few varieties (most notably Pinot Noir).
Q. What are you doing in the vineyard right now?
A. The vineyard crew has been busy tidying up the grapevines and ensuring that the fruit clusters get just the right amount of sunlight to ripen to their full potential, but not too much light or heat that they get sunburned or lose color potential. It is a balancing act.
Q. What Tools are you using to ensure that the vineyard has enough water?
A. Water is vital to all life. For a grapevine, water demands change throughout the season. We monitor plant water use and needs through a combination of our own eyes as well as sensors placed throughout the ranches that record evapotranspiration and soil moisture.
Our third tool is the dog paw—more specifically, the digging action of Oliver our vineyard dog. If we see moist soil six inches below the surface, we know that the vine has plenty of water to draw from. We combine this observation with the soil measurements of our probes. Our vineyard probes measure water up to 48 inches below the surface in four inch increments.
Q. Why is it important to check water levels in the soil?
A. We need to check levels to ensure that each variety is getting what it needs. We want our red grape varieties to experience a moderately high amount of stress leading up to Veraison, which ensures the proper functioning of physiological processes without killing the plant. With white grape varietals, we don’t really want to stress them at all.
Q. How often do you water the vineyard?
A. We irrigate only when necessary for plant life and quality. Also 33% of our vineyards are not irrigated and rely solely on what Mother Nature provides us during the rainy season so those vineyards are never watered.
Ranch Manager Emeritus
Mike remembers the day in 2001 when he and Adelaida owner Don Van Steenwyk were driving on the HMR ranch and Don asked, “What would you plant on this hill?” Mike answered “a dry farmed vineyard”. It was then that Adelaida Cellars chose to plant dry farmed Zinfandel on what is now Michael’s Vineyard.
It is with deep gratitude and respect we raise our glasses to you, Mike Whitener (zinfandel, of course!). Cheers!
The Summer Newsletter was created throughout the late spring and early summer months of 2013. With notes from the Winemaker Jeremy Weintraub, insights from Resident Wine Educator Tony Hermann, and from National Sales Manager, Paul Sowerby, a lively review of our cellar wines, it is a work that incorporates the many voices of Adelaida. Also included is a recipe pairing for Grilled Swordfish, a list of our most recent wines, notes on our new 2011 Pinot Vineyard Series, and a list of upcoming events.
The cover photo is of one of our newest additions, Liam the llama. He came to Adelaida in March with his big black coat, thick and matted, from the cold winter months. His face, warm and friendly, boasts dark eyes and lengthy lashes, giving him the appearance of a big flirt as he greets our guests. At the winery, Liam's job is to protect the sheep and he acts the part by being on constant watch. In times of trouble or simply to play, he is always quite the show with his long loose strides and lengthy neck gaining momentum as he removes the sheep from danger.
Click below to see our 2013 Summer Newsletter. Cheers, Sunni
As of June 28, a high pressure system has settled on the entire West Coast, and weather experts are forecasting several days of high heat and possibly record-breaking temperatures. With that projection in mind, and with seeds beginning to harden and veraison on the near horizon, we decided to give the plants some water.
While we employ a technique known as deficit irrigation to control shoot growth and increase grape quality, we want to keep the plants alive. Over the next several days we’ll continue to feed the plants enough water to counterbalance evaporative losses.
These early-season high temps are preferable to those that occur late in the season, as the intense heat induces the green grapes to make sunscreen in the skins, which will provide protection throughout the summer.
When the heat recedes we’ll finish our cluster thinning pass, which we began several weeks ago. This involves culling excessive clusters and those on weak shoots with an aim to balance the fruit load to the age of the vine, its size, the size of the canopy, and the size of the shoots.
In a continuing effort to enhance the diversity of our existing vineyards, Adelaida has added a new 23 acre parcel this spring. This new planting lies just to the north of our hilltop Anna’s Vineyard on what was fallow land. This new site can be described as 3 distinct fingers radiating in a south facing orientation from a 1900 ft ridge top to a small canyon bottom, at a precarious 25-30 degree angle. In keeping with our sustainable and conservationist approach to farming the new vines are to be dry farmed and head trained.
This planting is divided equally between Grenache, Carignane and a unique intermingling of Zinfandel and Alicante Bouchet. This vine selection is based on our desire to complex our Rhone blend with low yield Carignane, make Grenache a more important player in the winery blends as well as on its own and make a “field blend” of Zinfandel and Alicante Bouchet (a red fleshed grape) a la the pre-prohibition vineyard example. As always, our primary goal as a family winery is to source grapes from our own vineyards, where we can meticulously control all the elements of quality (great grapes equal great wine). We intend to stay small, carefully growing our capacity from the current 15,000 cases to 20,000 cases.
What is involved in planting a new vineyard?
First is site selection. We want south facing, hillside slopes with difficult low yielding soils, all present here. Call your favorite nursery and order 6970 vines, allow 9 months lead time. Next is the hard part, preparing the site. No problem.
Start by building a perimeter deer fence 8 ft. high. Next clear brush from hillside, put in gear our reliable Caterpillar crawler tractors, then grind up organic matter and spread on existing vineyards. Tractors again, pulling 3 ft. shanks “rip” the soil and remove giant limestone boulders, later to be broken with sledge hammers and used for the “Great Wall of Adelaida”.
Dig channels and place irrigation pipelines for each vineyard section (helps with initial watering when vines are just starting and gives us a fallback if soils are too extreme and cannot sustain dry farming approach).
Run temporary lines to each plant location with drip emitters at each vine. With assistance from a surveyor lay out orientation for a dry land vineyard, setting up a 12x12 ft. diagonal grid pattern on an uneven, unlevel piece of ground, 303 vines/acre.
Place stakes every 60 ft. and lay string between to display grid pattern, careful to mark individual vine placements. Dig post holes for each vine, a hand operation, 12-14 inches deep, 6970 times. When vines arrive on the 2nd week in March, place in cold storage. Planting begins in last week of March.
We start by mixing existing soil with compost derived from natural chicken manure, a 75 to 25 ratio, placing vines in pre-prepared holes and gently filling in with soil mixture. Place pressure bombs at various locations within vineyard to monitor soil moisture.
Every day in April recite the “no frost farmer’s” prayer. Again, pray for green shoots to appear in mid April. Maintain adequate moisture throughout summer and remove emitters in fall. Good luck, vines are now on their own, Mother Nature is in charge.