A few hours before dawn on Thursday morning, September 20th, La Cuadrilla removed the bird nets that draped over Rubens block.
With excitement in the air, the crew gathered around Ruben to go over the game plan. The guys had tended the block by hand since first pre-pruning the long brown cains in late January. Through the early summer, they climbed the narrow rows, tying vigorous shoots to the diagonal posts, and later, hedging back the foliage to allow the sun to penetrate the dense foliage. One week, the block would look like a solid, giant bush sprawling up the hillside. The next week after hedging, it would be back to a tidy, symetrical rose garden of triangular canopies with green clusters uniformly hanging in rows along the bottoms.
With only one more all-important pass to make this year, Ruben issued very precise instructions: We were going to start picking at the very top corner of the hilltop, and end about halfway down, just before the steep hill starts to level into the dry banks of Ballard Creek. Ruben’s Block is already our most prized Syrah, and we decided to take the block a step further by separating the very best section from the lower portion of the hillside.
The tiny clusters filled the stacking yellow bins and the first one ton tractor load pulled away towards the waiting flatbed.
The entire morning’s harvest totalled only 2.5 tons which should deliver somewhere around 120 to 140 cases of wine.
Once into the winery, the fruit was immediately forklifted into the refrigerated cold room.
Sashi was thrilled with the clusters. Nicely lignified (browned) stems and seeds holding together small, titghly packed grapes; each cluster fitting nicely into the palm of the hand. Our new associate winemaker, John Faulkner was floored. Shaking his head in disbelief he repeated “its the most perfect fruit I’ve ever seen” after years of experience working with Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir.
Out of habit, we sorted through the clusters, but the excercise proved futile. Cuadrilla had dropped any imperfection months prior and the tightly spaced vines did their jobs as designed, focusing all their energy on just a couple perfect clusters each.
So in went the Rubens Block, the first Stolpman Syrah to go into our Concrete Fermentors, 100% wholecluster. All the juice, stems, seeds, and pulps, macerating together; fermentation should naturally begin just a week later!
Blessed with the weather of 2012, Ruben and La Cuadrilla cultivated and picked “the most perfect fruit ever”. Now its Sashi and John’s turn to guide the grapes to wine greatness! No pressure.