By Mark Clarin of McGrail Vineyards
Winemaker, Mark Clarin, shares an insiders view of the 2022 Grape Harvest in the Livermore Valley!
The 2022 vintage has been a classically different vintage from the other 43 I have lived through. I had hopes in January and the preceding December of having a decent rainfall year, but February came along and dried out and this trend continued through spring and into summer. We managed a few classic April showers but that didn’t really make up for the deficit. Then, we had frost after bud break on the Lucky 8 Vineyard which affected primarily the Grenache Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
The growing season was warm but not really hot for the most part. And then, Labor Day weekend showed up with a heat spell that broke records. We hit 114 degrees in Livermore and had about 5 days of extreme heat. In a matter of a few days, vines that normally ripen over several weeks, were ripe and ready to go. And, the vines that were behind, began stalling out.
Heat wave ends, rain follows
As the heat wave ended, things seemed to be going back to normal, and then we had a rain and hail storm September 18-20th. Fortunately, our two vineyard properties managed to miss the hailstorm and the weather finally mellowed out. With the weather normalizing, it gave us a little break between the early and late ripeners and allowed us to wrap up the last ¼ of our vines calmly for one of the craziest vintages I have seen! Even though September proved to be challenging in the vineyard, the fruit is tasting delicious.
CBS came by for a visit and had a quick interview with our team picking. Check out the interview HERE
9-19-22 The weather cooled down and we actually have rain for the past two days. We harvested most of the Estate Cabernet before the rain and will finish on the 21st. The rain and cool weather have helped us keep the fruit from drying up. At this point, it seems as though we will finish harvest by the end of the following week.
9-21-22 We had a crazy scare last night as we were heading out to pick the last of the estate vineyard. I was at home cooking dinner and a torrential rain cell came through my neighborhood. I panicked and called my viticulture partner and we raced out to the vineyard to halt the picking. By miracle, the vineyard was dry and in great condition for harvesting. We processed the fruit from there and the clone 30 from lucky 8. I think Jim was watching out for us.
9-26-22 I checked the remaining vineyards as we were scheduled for Wednesday harvest on a couple blocks. I called it off. The cool weather and the rain from the prior week seems to have put those blocks back to “normal”. We will continue to pump over our fermenters and possibly press some before the next harvest day.
10-5-22. We started pressing off our Cabernet fermenters this week. The wines are spectacular with intense color and flavors. The vineyard continues to progress at an excruciatingly slow pace. So, we are taking advantage of the situation to get a head start on barreling down wines.
10-19-22 The tale of the 2022 vintage is the continued struggle to get pickers, so we organized our own group of pickers utilizing tasting room staff and family members. This turned out to be the hottest day of October hitting 95F. I thought I was going to die and am in awe of the professionals that do this everyday. It took us until 1:30pm to pick a whopping 1.3 tons. I think there were 6 of us to start and 4 for the duration. Not ideal but we managed.
10-20-22 Heather rallied about 15 people for pick day 2 and we picked 2 tons before noon. Things are looking up. We just might finish harvest yet. Only about 25 tons to go. Oh my! We really are so fortunate for our great community. We had wine club members, tasting room team members, friends, neighbors all show up to pitch in and help.
10-21-22 We filled barrels with our Cabernet that we pressed last week. In the meantime, we are continuing our sampling of the vineyard and coordinating the next harvest dates.
10-23-22 I’m starting to feel like we will never be done with this crush. We pressed off the Touriga and Souzao grapes and put that to barrel on the 24th. On Wednesday we had about 15 people in the vineyard to pick the Petit Verdot form Lucky 8 and I also found pickers to pick the Merlot, Malbec and Cab Franc from Lucky 8 on Thursday the 27th.
10-28-22 PICAZO Merlot came in on Friday leaving 2 blocks to go and now I feel like we are going to make it. As my friend and colleague Randall Grahm told me when I went to work for him; “with winemaking we are in a constant state of flux”.
10-31-22 It’s Halloween and I reminisce about being finished with harvest in years gone by. We harvested 4.4 tons from the C. Tarantino Vineyard today. All in all a beautiful day and we were finished long before donning our masks and costumes for the evening’s festivities.
11-1-22 LAST DAY of harvest 2022. We harvested 17.25 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 15 from the Lucky 8 property. The vintage has presented many challenges so far, with hot weeks, cold weeks, rainy weeks and cool months. Of course the last day has to start out warm, switch to cold and windy and then dump a bunch of water on our heads. Except we were able to pivot and move the sorting equipment into the building, out of the rain and reasonably dry. We started harvesting at 4:30 am and wrapped up the processing by 5pm. I was waiting for brix and color. We got 25.4 brix coming in. I’ll let you know how it colors up but I’m confident.
A Tale of Two Vintages – 2022
We managed to still have great phenolics, good acid, and we are optimistic about 2022’s harvest. The yields on a few varietals are light, but the quality is present. 2022 Grape Harvest in the Livermore Valley is like none other.
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