At Gundlach Bundschu we have guided 153 previous consecutive harvests. We and those who have come before us have dealt with all that Mother Nature has presented, and with this experience has come a poetic sense of irony. For is it not true that part of the enjoyment of a good bottle of wine, upon reflection, is knowing that every year is not perfect and that every glass can not be legendary?
Our understanding of the wildness of wine, its unwillingness to become a cookie-cutter product, contributes to why we enjoy it so. We aim to produce the highest quality achievable for any vintage, and to appreciate it's individual uniqueness.
It takes effort in a year such as this. We have set our vineyard crew through the vines four extra times, anticipating back in July that harvest would be delayed due to the increasing threat of rain. From our long experience we know that we will sleep more soundly if we are proactive rather than just keeping our fingers crossed.
We pulled lower leaves of the northern side of the vines for more sunlight penetration and more air circulation shortly after bloom. This is a normal practice. But then in September we repeated the task, removing still more lower leaves. We then thinned out (translate— clip and throw on the ground) individual bunches which grew to touch other bunches. Just as leaves can block air circulation and enhance the threat of bunch rot, so too can one bunch of grapes block airflow and sunlight for another bunch, and the two growing together can act as a reservoir for raindrops, becoming Petri dishes for mold to grow.
The weather remained cool in early September so we again returned to the vines, this time to thin the crop again so each vine would be required to mature fewer bunches, again decreasing our yield per acre. Then in early October, when long range forecasters were predicting rain, we again turned out to yet again pull leaves, this time from the south side of each vine, something we rarely do because of the risk of sunburn to the berries. The risk of rain, however, far outweighed the risk of a heat wave this late in the growing season.
We are carefully sorting the fruit as it comes into the cellar under our winemaker's exacting eyes, and the Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are safely taking the next step in their journey towards your table.
We have yet to complete our 2011 harvest: we have yet to bring in Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Tempranillo. All are thicker-skinned varietals and less susceptible to bunch rot. To date, our extra efforts have assured us that when you finally receive your shipments of this challenging vintage, our wines will make all of us proud.