Two weeks earlier than usual, we've wrapped up our annual backyard Syrah grape harvest with a record-breaking tiny haul of around 12 gallons of vintage 2015.
We're not the only ones to micro-harvest this year. Most of the growers in Sonoma and Napa counties, be they large scale, boutique small or garagiste hobbyists like Timo and I, have reported incredibly low yields.
I'm guessing there are more than a few crop insurance claims coming down the pipeline in wine country for those who depend on bumper crops coming in.
Good for us that we don't make a living from our wine. This allows us the intrigue of watching Mother Nature at work and learning each harvest season from her wide variety of annual lessons. This year's was "how to make a hopefully awesome, concentrated vintage from a tiny and intense crop".
So small was our yield of 2015 cool climate Syrah, we substituted our regular 50 gallon wine press for our friends' Bill and Suzanne's 20 gallon version.
Friends, family and all who've read my musings in "Fog Valley Crush" know what a big event the backyard grape haul typically is in my house each October.
This year's harvest came in two weeks earlier than usual, in large part due to the extensive warm weather of late. It's scope was a chance for me to get my hands around the whole process, start to finish, without the usual hoopla.
Timo and I picked on a Sunday, hand sorted and opted for whole fruit fermentation. This was a first in 13 years of winemaking. It was a gentler harvest without the electric crushing machine in play.
Eight days later, fermentation complete, the latest in a line of great home wines shows exceptional quality.
I've read that lots of wineries in the region have experienced stuck fermentation due to this super funky harvest. I'm happy to report that our Que Syra Syrah sailed through the process and pressing was a breeze compared with bumper harvests of the previous three years.
While it's disappointing as backyard growers not to yield a good size crop after tending the vines all year, all things considered, with very little watering, we're thankful for the little bit of magic that did emerge from the hillside this year.
Growers are hoping that a wet winter curtesy of El Niño's imminent arrival will saturate the soils and set the stage for a bigger crop next year.