Learn, discuss, and share lessons in Viticulture and Enology experienced from the people behind Larner Vineyard & Winery, located in Ballard Canyon AVA - Santa Barbara's Wine Country's Syrah territory.
n. In geology, an erratic refers to material moved by some sort of geologic force or process from one location to another. One of the more common methods of this type of movement of even large rock masses is by a glacier, which erodes and transports a fragment as it travels, then deposits when recedes. Ultimately leaving a rock deposited in an environment that is not native or expected.
While glaciers never made it far enough south to cover the Ballard Canyon AVA, that sense of something out of place has defined this year’s growing season and translated directly into harvest. With our fingers crossed we began a later than usual emergence of the grape vines, with bud-break around 2 weeks behind the previous years. Spring was cool and with the onset of summer came “erratic” weather patterns – with random heat spikes for short durations, leaving their mark on both canopy and fruit. The vines continued in stride until mid-August where both the heat spikes returned coupled with the vines being parched from their marathon of growing that season, resulting in specific soil types and rootstocks altering their ripening habits.
It is no secret that over the years an echelon of fruit ripeness occurs on our organically farmed estate, with the Viognier and Malvasia Bianca being harvested first, followed by Syrah and Grenache, then finishing the season with Mourvèdre. However, as the 2018 vintage has shown, there are times that whether a geologist or winemaker, you find yourself looking at something that is unpredictable. This harvest began with picking Grenache first, next Syrah, followed by Mourvèdre and lastly the Malvasia Bianca then Viognier.
While it may appear on the surface that the geologic process responsible for the erratic behavior of the fruit ripening was weather, the sequence of the heat spikes coupled with the soil where the roots have laid their foundation, moved blocks and cultivars in an irregular pattern. Either way, what proved paramount was to identify those variables to ensure that while something may not be following a normal trajectory, it is harvested at its optimal moment rather than where it may have previously been formed. Only then will the geologist see the erratic as out of place, yet still somehow beautifully integrated into the environment to which it was delivered.
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