Updated 2009-10-10 17:04:25 ID=523:0

© 2009 The Romantic Table
©2009 The Romantic Table 2009-02-17 09:52:55:123
©2009 The Romantic Table

Larry McGourty writes about wine and food

The 2009 Grape Harvest is Wrapping up.

The 2009 Harvest is wrapping up just in time to beat the first rains. The total yield is down again this year, but quality looks really good, much better than last year.

The 2009 harvest is wrapping up for us. We see the mechanical pickers still running full time on the East side. No doubt they are trying to beat the first rain of the season we are expecting this coming week. Hopefully everyone will be done before the rain comes. Not only will the rain bring much needed moisture, it will help to start the walnut harvest, which is coming up next, by splitting the walnut husks so they can be processed easier.

What a difference a week makes. Two weeks ago we were struggling in 105F heat to bring in the last of our Sangiovese. The next week we were picking Zinfandel in the 50s That's the California Central Coast, it can be really variable from week to week. Luckily it usually averages out to optimal growing conditions. But, there are days where even us mostly dry farmers need to switch on the irrigation system to keep the crop as wine grapes instead of turning into raisins. Luckily those were few this year.

Despite the drought and somewhat lower yields accordingly, the fruit looks really good this year. We had no problem reaching our brix and pH targets, everything ripened really nicely. We were mostly waiting on the winemakers who were swamped with fruit coming in --all at the same time. Most growers are reporting the same, good quality, lower yields. Given the state of the economy, that probably is a good thing for both the growers and the wineries. The system could not handle a grape glut this year.

Growing grapes is a bit unsual because it is not solely left up to the growers to decide when to harvest, It really is a partnership with your winemaker customers. It is not a cliche that vintages start in the vineyard --timing is everything. Every winery has a sugar and acidity target in mind and looks to source grapes at the optimal conditions. For example, we have winery customers who make sophisticated food friendly style wines who want grapes with higher acidity and lower sugar. Others are making the big Parkeresque California fruit bombs and want higher sugars and lower acidity. Not that this is not sophisticated, just very different wines for different times (dang that sounds like a PR tag line!).

In the Paso Robles Adelaida region where we farm, every vineyard has multiple micro-climates. By matching grapes form different vineyard blocks and harvest times, our customers turn out some amazing and diverse wines from the "same" vineyard. It is fun to taste the raw product as you harvest the grapes and try to imagine what the final wine will be like. Usually you are not too far off, the art of winemaking if you are starting with great fruit like we grow in Paso Robles is to try to preserve what is in the fruit by doing as little as possible. Compared to our European and Eastern winemaker brothers, we really have it easy here on the Central Coast.

Anyway our work is winding down for the year, and the winemakers are just beginning. Next comes the walnut harvest, a bit of a holiday rest, then the cycle begins all over again with pruning for the 2010 season.

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A tip from Sue!

Sauteing whole garlic

If your recipe calls for whole garlic, it doesn't burn as easily when in larger pieces. But you do need to score your garlic cloves all over in order to release the garlic juices and fragrance .Always be careful to avoid burning the cloves. It'll make the garlic cloves bitter and ruin what you're cooking.