I went to check on the grapes in a couple of West Side Paso Robles vineyards today, Halter Ranch and Starr Ranch to be specific.
This is where the Secret Stash Reserve Syrah comes from, arguably the best wine I've ever made.
The photo on the right is the signpost to Block 5, the particular portion of Halter Ranch from which my grapes are harvested. The photo is a bit deceptive since it was taken several months ago when the vines were just getting going. I've been getting grapes here since 2008 and it's always been a special block that throws spectacular grapes. In 2010 we won a Double Gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, very nice!
This year the lack of water has affected the entire Central Coast and the berries are smaller, less dense and less prolific. The upside is that each berry that does exist is super concentrated! I'm looking forward to an exceptional vintage in 2014.
The next photo is what they looked like today, you can see that not all of the grapes have ripened, in fact many are stil green. This is called verasion, the time while the green berries turn to purple. The first step in the ripening process. I'm thinking we will be harvesting these in late September or early October.
Second Stop: Starr Ranch
Next up was another West Side vineyard, only about 5 miles away, Starr Ranch where we are getting the Cabernet Sauvignon this year. I was met by Judy Starr herself and she took me out to look at the rows that we have been allocated. Rows 20 - 33 in Block 1. The primo block!
The grapes here are really feeling the drought. Small berries in small clusters that vary in verasion level from the top of the slope to the bottom. So much so that we may pick the upper part first, then return later to pick the lower part as they ripen.
More work but a better overall result.
Here you can see some of the clusters are purple and starting to ripen while others remain green. This is at the top of a row.
The netting is in place to keep the birds from getting to the fruit.
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