It is a culmination of the year’s efforts.
It is letting out a sigh of relief that the fruit has weathered the climatic challenges.
It is digging in deep, finding the stamina needed in the coming days, weeks.
It is harvest.
While many fields have been picked, others are still swarming with laborers. Each day, new photos of clusters, plump and heavy, come across my feed. Photos of sunrise and sunset, storms and spills, sorting and pressing. It is an exciting time in the wine world, an exciting time in Texas wine.
Despite weather conditions that were all over the place, which included snow, a cooler spring, and the third hottest summer, the grapes persevered. The reports are coming in and it looks like 2018 is generally lower yield, but higher quality grapes due to greater concentration of color and flavor.
On this #TexasTuesday, I wanted to share some harvest reports from the clients of Pen and Tell Us and Texas Fine Wines, in their words. As more reports come in, I will continue to share the expectations for the 2018 vintage.
If you would like your harvest report to be included in the next addition, please let me know.
Sergio Cuadra, Fall Creek Vineyards
We have amazing quality, albeit smaller yields, with the exception of Mourvèdre which is clearly a heat-loving variety well suited for this part of Texas. Impressed, Phil Price, Winemaker, noted that the chemistry of the grapes this season reminds him of what he looked for in top vintages in Napa Valley. His assessment is, “great sugar to acid ratio…high brix, best acids in years”. The quality of the grapes this vintage makes it easy on the winemaker because everything we want is naturally present in the grapes. The 2018 vintage is all about the viticulture and less about the winemaking.
This year we will get to see a wider range of vineyard and varietal expression, as we have expanded our wines to include some new vineyard sources and new wine styles. We have been overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response to our Grenache Rosé the past two years and have dedicated a significant portion of our Sangiovese from Salt Lick Vineyards to be made into a dry Rosé that will be super fresh and savory. We are also making our first Rosé from our Fall Creek Estate Lenoir grapes which have a brilliant color and punchy aromatics. We also harvested the first Cabernet Sauvignon lot from Salt Lick Vineyards, which was planted in 2014, and Cabernet Sauvignon from our first estate harvest from the Oxbow Vineyard at Fall Creek in Driftwood. It will be exciting to see the range of terroir expression in Cabernet Sauvignon from three different vineyards in the Texas Hill Country as we compare the quality to our longstanding Cabernet source, Certenberg Vineyard. We also found a new source of Sauvignon Blanc in the Cerro Santo Vineyard near Lubbock in the High Plains AVA, a region we have not sourced from in many years. Highly aromatic and showing great freshness, this Sauvignon Blanc will be a perfect complement to our 30-year old Sauvignon Blanc source in Escondido Valley, Texas.
Penny Adams, Wedding Oak Winery
We have completed the harvest of our Hill Country white grape varieties. Our Albariño from our Wildseed Farms Vineyard, harvested very early this year on July 23, was very high quality and is looking beautiful in the cellar. We finished the white grape harvest by hand picking the Roussanne at our Estate High Valley Vineyard earlier this week. Despite the heat we were able to hold the crop with the protected canopy until ripe. It is a beautiful crop with intense aromatics.
The red grape varieties from our Estate Syrah and Grenache came into the cellar with exceptional quality; high brix and good varietal character. Our first crop of Tempranillo at Wildseed Farms Vineyard was harvested this week with high yields and good chemistry. It is looking nice in the cellar. Another standout for us this year is Negro Amaro from Hye Top Vineyard, that reached its true ripeness, holding its acid until harvest, producing a rich, rustic and highly tannic wine. We’re awaiting harvest of Aglianico and Carignane in the next several weeks.
The 2018 vintage in the Texas Hill Country is light in yield, meaning less wine in the 2018 vintage. The good news is the wines will have highly concentrated flavors. Most importantly, grape varietal response to the heat and drought will help our region better define varieties best suited to our unique growing conditions in the Texas Hill Country. It has been a great growing season.
Julie Kuhlken, Pedernales Cellars, Stonewall
As of the final week of July, we have nearly completed our Hill Country harvest. We began harvesting our estate, Kuhlken Vineyards, on the 24th and are already starting to press off the reds – meaning they have already completed fermentation. These lots will be the first of the 2018 vintage to barrel. Both the Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional from Kuhlken Vineyards are exhibiting especially nice fruit aromas and structural elements. Yields are low due to the dry conditions, both this summer and throughout the year, but the quality is high. One of the other effects of the heat this summer has been very ripe fruit so we anticipate some jammy wines this vintage.
In early August, we started seeing fruit from the High Plains coming in, starting with Viognier from the Reddy, Lahey, and Bingham Vineyards. Following that, we will likely be bringing in the Tempranillo from the High Plains, and then a long series of smaller lots. Berry size and hence yields are also low in the High Plains due to the dry conditions as well as freeze damage in some vineyards. On the winemaking side, this means great extraction and the potential for full-bodied wines.
Todd Webster, Brennan Vineyards, Comanche
We are just now starting to bring in our estate fruit at Brennan Vineyards — yields are coming in low this season due to extreme heat. This reminds me a lot of the 2011 harvest. Wine production was low that year, but the wine quality was through the roof. I would expect the same for the 2018 season and can’t wait to start making wine! Keep an eye out down the road once the 2018s start hitting the shelves.
Bob Young, Bending Branch Winery, Comfort
In our Comfort-area vineyards, we have harvested Malbec, Souzao, and Tannat and all are looking really good. Interestingly, we will pick our favorite white…Picpoul Blanc…. this Friday. Its high acidity allows it to hang a little longer. From our other Hill Country vineyards, we have harvested Malbec, Petit Verdot, Nero d’Avola, Tempranillo and Tannat. All in all, we’ve experienced higher yields from the Hill Country than we expected.
We have already received some white grapes from the High Plains, including Muscat Blanc and Viognier. We are getting our first reds from the High Plains today – Sagrantino, which will go through our thermoflash technology, which will produce a big, bold red.
We are encouraged by this year’s harvest, which stands to be as good as 2017.
Dave Reilly, Duchman Family Winery, Driftwood
Due to the high temperatures and next to no rainfall, for the 2018 harvest we are seeing lower yields but high-quality fruit with concentrated color and flavor. From our Hill Country vineyards, we have harvested Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese and Tempranillo. The Tempranillo grapes have intense tannins, which makes me really excited about this year’s vintage, and we just pressed a rosé of Sangiovese that looks amazing.
We will be receiving our first fruit from the High Plains this week, starting with Viognier. Following shortly will be Dolcetto, Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Vermentino and Roussanne. Harvest in the High Plains is also a bit ahead of schedule for the same reasons, and we will likely finish receiving the last two varieties, Montepulciano and Aglianico, by the first of October.
Ron Yates, Spicewood Vineyards, Spicewood
The quality of the fruit is good…smaller, concentrated berries. The heat has been really hard on both the Hill Country and High Plains crop so yields are down. We have harvested Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Muscat, and Syrah at our estate vineyard. We still have Tempranillo, Graciano, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to harvest – we expect to bring this fruit in over the next week.
In the High Plains, we have harvested Tempranillo for rosé and Viognier. We expect to harvest more Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache in 10 days to two weeks. The High Plains fruit looks good — better yields and concentrated fruit.