Berry Sampling

August 21, 2012

We took another trip out to the Russian River Valley this week to see how the Belli Chardonnay was progressing. As you may be aware, the current weather, with daytime temperatures in the 90’s and nighttime temperatures in the 50’s, is highly conducive to ripening. The Rued clone block at the Belli ranch is cropped very lightly, and it’s placed on a steep hillside with very well-drained soil, and so what we’re finding is that this block is developing very rapidly indeed.

As you can see, some of the vines in the Rued block at the Belli ranch have very little fruit on them, sometimes only 3 or 4 small clusters. This results in grapes that are extremely intensely flavored.

To figure out exactly how far along a block of grapes is, we use ‘berry sampling’. This technique is pretty much exactly what it sounds like; we walk through the vineyard and pick individual berries to form a composite sample that represents the block as a whole. Doing this well can actually be a little bit tricky. Berries need to be picked from random spots throughout the canopy, or you run the risk of skewing your results.

For instance, grapes that are tucked away inside the canopy (like on the right-hand side of this picture) receive less sunlight and are likely to be less ripe. More exposed clusters (like in the center of this picture) are likely to be more ripe. You have to make sure you pick a mixture of both exposed and hidden berries to get an accurate cross-section of the whole vineyard, or else risk picking at the wrong time.

After todays’ sample (assuming the weather holds), it looks like we’re about two weeks out from picking the first few tons of Belli Chardonnay. Predicting exact pick dates is a little dodgy, but these grapes are gaining sugar so quickly that it would be very surprising if the pick came very long after labor day. Be sure to check back to see what we’re up to next!

Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

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