As another gorgeous Michigan fall draws to a close, we are breathing a collective sigh of relief as another harvest is in the books. As winemakers, there is a certain comfort in knowing all the fruit is “under the roof.” So, the big question…how is the vintage?
As with most questions in grape growing and wine making, the answer is complex. Let’s start with the numbers. Relative to a “normal” year this was a small harvest. The harsh winters of 2014 and 2015 have certainly taken their tolls on the grapes, particularly the delicate Vitis vinifera varieties. Yields ranged from about 30% of normal for the heartier varieties such as Riesling to complete loss on the very delicate plants such as Sauvignon Blanc. Though this may sound devastating on the surface, there are a lot of positives to highlight.
First, the plants themselves seem to be in pretty good shape. The winters have destroyed the fruit buds, but in general not the plant. This means we can get back to full harvest with nothing more than a heck of a lot of work and some reprieve from Mother Nature.
Second, we have a diverse planting of wine grapes, so the European varieties only tell part of the story. Like a well developed investment portfolio, we plant grapes with varying levels of risk. Specifically we have a lot of hybrids planted. Hybrids are plants developed by crossing different species of grapes for the purposes of disease resistance, yield and cold hardiness. In the world of wine making, basically this means crossing an old world European grape with one native to North America. The hybrids have generally fared pretty well over the last few years and continue to produce fairly normal yields.
Lastly, the quality of the fruit this year was exceptional! The combination of a smaller crop and fantastic fall weather rocketed the fruit to ripeness. Early indications are excellent potential pretty much across the board.
Of course, there remains a lot of hard work left to do before all this good fruit is safely in a bottle. The white wines are pretty much done fermenting and are starting to be clarified and filtered. The reds are either in active skin contact fermentation or have been recently pressed. The cellar is bustling with activity as we move these wines through various processes en route to their eventual bottling. Generally speaking you can expect the white grapes harvested in 2015 to be available for sale as wine in the spring/summer of 2016, with the reds hitting shelves around that same time of year in 2017. If you want to see firsthand how wine is made, we encourage you to sign up for one of our popular cellar tours.
If you want to get a sneak peak at the 2015 vintage, please visit us at Nouveau Fest in December. Otherwise stay tuned for more updates as this tremendous fruit continues to work through the cellar.