This morning I had the pleasure of joining the Radio-Coteau estate vineyard and Advanced Viticulture crews for the first pick of Alberigi Vineyard. The crews started picking the 2.5 acre vineyard shortly before 5AM. Alberigi is on Vine Hill Road, right in the heart of the Russian River Valley in Sebastopol, along the Laguna Ridge. The vineyard is planted to Pinot Noir, three clones (777, 115 and 114), and Radio-Coteau buys all the fruit from the vineyard. We started with the back block (clone 777), and by sunrise had moved to the front block.
Harvest is my favorite time of the year; there is such excitement in the air. Once you start to smell wine fermenting in the wineries, it gets really exciting. Although picking started in Sonoma County for sparkling wine production in the last few days of July, things have been heating up in the last week or so. Temperatures in the mid to upper 90's mean that a LOT of grapes are coming into wineries this weekend and early next week. For instance, Radio-Coteau was also bringing in grapes today from nearby Hallberg Ranch and Laguna Vineyard. Three picks in one night is a lot to manage!
At Alberigi Vineyard this morning (and for all the vineyard picks for Radio-Coteau), there are many hands on deck sorting through the fruit to pull out leaves and twigs.
Radio-Coteau sources from organically (and biodynamically) farmed vineyards, and Alberigi Vineyard is no exception. The vineyard is owned by the Donaldson family, who live on the vineyard. Since they live on their vineyard, you can imagine that they do not want pesticides on their land.
The soil type at Alberigi Vineyard (and for many of the vineyards in Sebastopol) is Goldridge Loam, well loved by many vineyard managers and winemakers for its well-draining nature. After four hours shooting photos in the vineyard, I was covered with Goldridge dust from head to toe.
After an abundant crop in 2012, 2013 and 2014, it looks like 2015 will be a fairly small crop. Issues at fruit set resulted in smaller, uneven clusters with many shot berries; yields this year will be down. Mother nature can be fickle with grapes.
Shortly after sunrise and after several hours of harvesting the grapes, the crews had to suspend for the morning. Radio-Coteau picks at night, when the temperature is cooler and they can get the grapes to the winery at the proper temperature. The crews will be back tonight to finish harvesting the vineyard.