A few chilly nights in spring caused some sleepless nights and while there were no visits by Jack Frost to our blocks the cooler weather did influence flowering and only a moderate crop was set. All the talk over summer was about drought and with the lowest rainfall in over 80 years recorded over summer the valley was looking extremely dry and a good source of water for irrigation was critical. While it was dry it was not overly hot so the grape vines enjoyed the sunshine and looked in good condition leading into harvest. We began harvest on 26th February – a day later than last year and our second earliest start. The initial harvest period was quite controlled and we were able to chip away at the sparkling, Pinot Noir and early Pinot Gris blocks in an orderly fashion. With the moderate cropping levels we always suspected the Sauvignon Blanc would come on in a rush and this was certainly the case – we started the Sauvignon Blanc harvest on the 24th March and went hard for 14 days finishing on the 6th April. This was the shortest picking window for Sauvignon Blanc we have experienced and resulted in our second earliest finish behind 2006. While the night shift was busy picking Sauvignon we were also continuing to hand pick Chardonnay and Pinot Gris during the day so it was certainly busy for all.
We still made time to do some experimentation and trial work over harvest and this year we saw some young, new clone Chardonnay that looks very exciting, we fermented a small amount of Gruner Veltliner on skins for a few days before pressing and we did some pump over verses plunging trials in our Pinot cellar with interesting tannin extraction effects. We are continuing our trials with fermenting Sauvignon Blanc with non-saccharomyces yeast species to good effect as well.
Overall we would have to say we are very pleased with the quality of the 2015 vintage – it is just that there is not much of it! There is no rush to blend this year so the wines will be able to sit on yeast lees for a couple of months to improve structure before we blend in June or July.