To insure the best quality we buy almost all of our grapes by the acre rather than by the ton. In each vineyard we have a designated spot and get the same rows year after year. When paid by the ton the grower works hard to produce the greatest quantity, which can harm quality because it dilutes the flavor in the grapes. Paying by the acre eliminates any conflicts because the grower is guaranteed a profit and the winemaker has more control over yields. As usual, in 2013 we had our growers carefully thin the crop to insure getting evenly ripened fruit of the highest quality. After a generous 2012 and a winter of stingy rainfall we anticipated a small crop but were hoping it wouldn’t be like 2011, while extraordinary in quality gave us painfully expensive grapes. As the harvest approached we saw normal numbers of clusters of normal weights and were encouraged, but despite further thinning for quality the crop was larger than expected in every vineyard we work with. We were just buried in grapes at the winery and it turned me into a maniac, working seven days a week as I tried my hardest to control the situation and take care of each lot of grapes properly.
Luckily the weather was fine through the harvest—so the fruit ripened slowly which allowed us to bring in the grapes at their peak flavor and in an orderly fashion. What’s more amazing is that this generous crop produced wines of wonderful quality—the sugar, acidity and the maturity of the fruit were excellent and what we now have in the barrel tastes great. So what did the harvest teach me? First, I think you have to fight against preconceived notions and always take a fresh look at a situation in order to see it without bias, and second, (and I know this is heresy) while yields matter, it’s a lot more complicated in our mild southern California climate and there are situations where higher yields can produce very good wines.
– Adam Tolmach