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Martin Ranch

Harvest 2013: GrapeTime in the Santa Cruz Mountains

by Laura Ness - HerVineNess on September 8, 2013

blakewpinotBefore August was even a memory, Burrell School in the Summit Road area of the Santa Cruz Mountains, had begun picking Estate pinot noir, far earlier than vintage 2012, and certainly weeks ahead of dismally small, difficult and nailbitingly late vintages ‘11 and ‘10.

burrellpinothangs11Owner Anne Moulton says, “We are beyond excited about the quantity and quality of Harvest 2013! Superb flavor development and great balance.”


Last year was a giant harvest at the old schoolhouse, with nearly 75 tons crushed. This year, they will bring in less fruit from other vineyards, eliminating some wines from their broad portfolio, focusing instead on estate wines.

VerticalViewVinesLoma Prieta Winery, the only winery on the Central Coast to grow pinotage at 2600 feet, grafted all their estate pinot noir over to this staple of South African winemaking last year. They picked their estate fruit at the end of August, getting only one ton. They also purchase from three vineyards in Lodi and Amador, and have already pressed off the Lodi fruit from the Amarosa vineyard.

DrewChecksPinotWinemaker Andrew Brenkwitz at Byington Winery, high in the hills above Los Gatos, has already done several picks of pinot noir from the 7-acre estate vineyard that sits at about 1800 feet.

The vineyard looks amazing this year, and instead of thinning fruit, as many do, he opted to do some early picks, taking advantage of the vines generosity, and thereby promoting more rapid ripening in the remaining clusters. ByPinotLoad

BYBINSFirst off was pinot at around 18 brix, to be made into brandy by local brandy house, Osocalis. Next off was pinot at 19-21 brix to form the basis of an upcoming sparkling wine that Hopland-based Rack & Riddle will eventually turn into some stellar Blanc de Blanc under the Byington label. Right after that picking came the crop for the winery’s signature rosé of pinot noir, picked at about 22 brix.

Grapes4RoseByingtonIn another week or so, the bulk of the pinot will be turned into what looks to be a particularly succulent rendering of their estate pinot.

Viticulture consultant, Prudy Foxx, has already done some night picks of pinot noir at Lester Family Vineyards in Corralitos, a lovely sun-drenched area of the Santa Cruz Mountains that used to be primarily apple orchard country. LesterNightPick913

Farther to the south, near San Martin, Dan Martin of MaDanMartinrtin Ranch, offered this assessment of when he starts checking for sugars. “As soon as the birds show up, I know we’re getting to be around 18 Brix, ‘cause they’re not interested prior to that. I figure I’ve got 5 to 6 weeks before I pick my Cab, unless we get slammed with a huge heat wave.” He says it’s a really big crop, substantially larger than last year’s.

Get ready for the onslaught!