Cluster Irregularity

Mourvedre on the hillside, July 03, 2008This is how the Mourvedre looks today. You can see that there is a fairly wide dispartiy between the cluster on the right with pea-sized berries and the one on the left where the berries have hardly started to size.

This disparity is greater than I saw in the Pinot Noir a little over two weeks ago. I didn't get a pic of the Pinot clusters today, but the differences between the earlier and later clusters there have largely disappeared.

My expectation is that the same will happen in the other varietals. I noted today that there are pea-sized berries in the Grenache as well but there are also clusters that have just started to bloom. At least the Mourvedre seems done with bloom.

I was out in the vineyard today to meet with another winemaker who buys Grenache, Counoise and Mourvedre from us. She is concerned that there will be differences between these early and late clusters (She also noted that she is seeing a similar phenomenon in vineyards she is looking at all over Sonoma County) that will persist through harvest.

That may be the $1,000-per-ton question. In my experience there are analytical and sensory differences between first and second crop, and between pre- and post-frost first sets. However, that is not what we are dealing with in our vineyard this year – the early and late clusters at the Estate are all post-frost first crop.

I have seen this early/late bloom phenomenon several times before in my career, and can say I have never tasted a significant difference at harvest. The clusters end up looking the same post-veraison, and if there are differences in taste by harvest they are too small for this poor old palate to detect. Smaller than angels dancing on the head of a pin, but real enough in the imaginary realm of the gedanken experiment to be an open question in my mind.

There really are times I wish I was still doing research at a large winery, where I would have the time and resources to pursue this kind of question.

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