Donkey & Goat

Berkeley's first natural winery, crafting wines
from sustainably farmed vineyards since 2004.

Anderson Valley Update

This morning Jared and I did the Anderson Valley loop. This was only our second trip together (this was my 5th loop since August) and such a treat. My parents babysat Isabel and we left the house at 5:20am planning to hit Vidmar, the Boonville Bakery or General Store, Broken Leg and finally McDowell. I do it this way for good reason – the scones in Boonville are simply fantastic and I’ve not (yet) found a comparable in Hopland. Well if you’ve not had the pleasure of visiting Boonville you should but be warned – they are on their own time. Saturday morning we roll into town at 8am to find BOTH the bakery and general store closed and not opening until 9am! With our stomaches grumbling and my caffine buzz wearing thin we headed on to Philo and the Broken Leg vineyard…

But I really can’t complain because the grapes look perfect. In fact, 2005 may prove to be THE year for us. Across the board we have had an elongated growing season allowing the fruit to develop slowly over a longer period of time but without the sugars spiking and acids dropping. Thus far we have seen more time on the vine with better balance in the berry. And the Anderson and McDowell Valley’s are following the same trend. Today we hit Vidmar first. As usual the 877 appears to be slightly behind the Estrella River clone (both Syrah) but only enough to provide complexity – not enough to require separate picks. I love the flavors these vines produce and can simply say, “WOW!” My guess is another 1.5- 2 weeks. Broken Leg has been the source of much anxiety this year. Only 2.5 weeks ago it was difficult to find a berry over 18 brix and none without tough skins and bracing & sour acidity. But with the warm weather these last 2 weeks has made a dramatic difference. Today we saw softening skins, browning seeds and oh man – the flavors in this northern Anderson Valley Syrah Vineyard are promising perfection. I’m still betting early November but I can now say that with confidence rather than with visions of picking after Thanksgiving! McDowell (where we buy our Vieilles Vignes Syrah) is just about ready. There is a marked variance between the front and back of the block so we are going for the back (more balance between sugars and acid) and are going to pick on Thursday. And we’ve even convinced Bill Crawford to humor us and pick his old vines into our FLYB’s. In fact, we picked the Grenache into the 35 lb lugs and it worked quite well. Not only were the berries in pristine condition but the process allowed for a field sort. Anyone who hasn’t seen Syrah “au natural” should come check out the critters that arrive at the winery. Spiders, ants, earwigs and an occasional grasshopper. I’m not a huge fan of the bugs and could do without the spiders especially, but it gives me great confidence to see them so alive and well! And the flavors in these old vines are rich and complex while packing a punch of zippy acidity and structured taninis. I guess in their 85+ years the vines have learned how to dole out components to produce sublime Syrah berries.

That about sums it up. We are just about half way there. For those counting, we have harvested and crushed 6.5 tons between:

  • 2.5 tons of Brosseau Chardonnay
  • 1 ton of Brosseau Syrah – NEW vineyard
  • 1 ton of Fenaughty Syrah – NEW vineyard
  • 2 tons of Grenache Gris Rose

We have 5-8 tons to go (depending on yields and whether we pick up one additional Syrah this year).

Anyone want to come sort??


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