About East to West: With this series of stories, I’ll share the 2013 harvest with two very hands-on owner/winemaker teams as they pick, ferment and begin to age several grapes picked for the 2013 vintage. With “East to West,” I want to convey how the vast Santa Ynez Valley appellation encompasses two smaller appellations: Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara to the east, and the Sta. Rita Hills to the west. The players: Dragonette Cellars, based in Buellton, and Lindley Wines of Lompoc. Today: West, with Lindley Wines
"We need more fermenters!"
The sheer weight of the current harvest has taken many by surprise, and Jake Lindley is no exception. The pinot noir clusters are plentiful. More fruit needs more equipment.
Friday morning, Lindley, owner with his wife, Francesca "Frankie" Lindley of the vineyard and wine label that bears their name, arrived at the site just as half-ton picking pins were being filled with the first pinot noir grapes off the vines.
The couple had estimated that their first pinot noir harvest from the vineyard planted in May 2011 would yield about eight tons.
Instead, the weight from the two pinot noir blocks picked Friday morning was slightly more than four tons, almost double the Lindley's predictions. Hence, the need for more fermenting bins.
"Everyone's coming in heavy, but this is kind of ridiculous," Jake Lindley told me later that morning, unloading picking bins into a crusher/destemmer at his Lompoc facility.
About 7:30 a.m., a crew from Coastal Vineyard Care Associates and seven of the Lindley's friends were nearly finished picking the first four rows of those two blocks, or almost one ton of grapes. They'd started about 6:30 a.m. under a thick fog and light drizzle.
Lindley Vineyard, the westernmost in the Sta. Rita Hills American Viticultural Area, is 6.5 acres of vines on a 10-acre parcel, Frankie Lindley said. Most of that is planted to pinot noir, with clones 115, 667 and Pommard 91. The site's remaining half acre contains chardonnay, Wente clone 2.
The Lindleys estimate they'll harvest 1.23 tons of chardonnay from the half acre, Frankie Lindley said.
For their prior three vintages, the couple has sourced chardonnay from Sierra Madre Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley and some pinot noir from the one-acre La Lomita, located near Ampelos Vineyard at the east end of the Sta. Rita Hills.
Then came Friday: The inaugural pick at Lindley Vineyard, and the always-vivacious Frankie Lindley, a native of Worcestershire, England, was nearly beside herself with excitement. She busied herself showing friends visiting from L.A. how to clip clusters and helped sort the fruit being dumped into picking bins loaded on a trailer.
"I'm completely filthy but I've never been happier!"
She'd arrived well before sunrise and walked the rows, admiring the grapes, planning the details of picking Block B and C, which are planted to clones 115 and Pommard. The time was ripe, so to speak, with the pinot noir "just what we want — low alcohol, and high acid." The brix was 24.5 and the pH 3.28 — "perfect."
Lindley knelt to pick clusters hanging below the vines' fruiting wire, which, on Newton's recommendation, was trained just 18 inches above the ground. Being closer to the ground affords the vines both protection from the brisk winds that rake the hillside vineyard and a dose of heat that naturally radiates from the ground.
Lindley relayed that Coastal Vineyard Care's Jeff Newton told her that the the vineyard's pinot noir "was some of the best he's ever seen — and he sees a lot of pinot noir!!"
When the first two tons of pinot noir were in bins on trucks ready for the winery, Jake Lindley popped a bottle of Champagne to celebrate the vineyard, the grapes and friends.
Two days and lots of crushing later, the couple shared some of the factors they consider before deciding when to pick.
"Our goal is the finished wine — we want it to have low alcohol and high acidity, but be ripe enough to exhibit good phenolics (a grape's natural compounds). It's a delicate balance … picking too early might sacrifice complexity," Frankie Lindley told me.
"Then, it also comes down to 'how does it taste? How does it look'? The process is all very hands on .. we stay on top of the fruit and tasted it two times a week."
Next in the series: Dragonette Cellars harvests the rest of its grenache and mourvedre from Vogelzang Vineyard in Happy Canyon.
Copyright Laurie Jervis and www.centralcoastwinepress.com