Fall Creek Journal

If you are curious what is happening behind the scenes at Fall Creek, check in for our winemakers' and sommelier's notes on harvest, wine production and new releases.


2016 Harvest Report

20th Jul 2017 @ 09:53 by ame@fcv.com


October 2016

Since the 2013 vintage, this is my 4th harvest as Director of Winemaking at FALL CREEK Vineyards, and now that we have the 2016 vintage in the winery, it is the proper time to look back over the past several months. While some fermentations are still lingering, our memories of the various stages of the season are very fresh. My harvest report will review the season in the context of the last three years in order to get a more in-depth perspective.


Weather/precipitation


During most of last spring and early summer, we constantly were consulting with the weather man to be aware and prepared for the changes in the weather. Watching vineyards get soaked by rain and lightning dance through the skies was all too familiar. Similar to the 2015 harvest, this year’s first part of the season was very wet.

On the figure to the right, the rain events are shown in inches every day from Jan 1st to Aug 31st., during 2014 to 2015 seasons, as recorded in the Dripping Springs weather station which covers the Driftwood area, where we harvest grapes. It is clear that 2014 marked the ending of the long drought central Texas has experienced for the past seven years. Interestingly and fortunately, the last two wet seasons lasted only until June, and the period that followed was pretty dry, which coincides with the grape’s ripening phase. It is good to have a steady warm dry period for quality, as it will be explained below.

The second part of August 2016, however, looks totally unusual, and it might have forecast not the best scenario for the grapes which were still hanging. Fortunately for us, the period that preceded that week long storm was dry, and the weather condition was good enough to allow us to wrap up harvesting all the grapes in the area. In fact, the rain started on the 14th of August, and we picked the last load of grapes on the 13th.

In terms of total rainfall these last two years, we have had more rain than normal for the first eight months of the year as can be seen in the figure below where the cumulative monthly inches of rainfall up to August is reported. As I mentioned, in this last month of August alone, we had 12 inches of rain in the area, which left a big question mark for those grapes which had not yet been picked.
It is good to point out, though, that there is no such thing as a normal year, since normal refers to an average of long term data. If there was such a thing as normal daily weather, the case would be such that it would rain a little bit every single day of the year, and we all know that’s impossible. Nevertheless, it is still a good indicator of the bulk volume of rainfall for a given region.

So, what is the effect of these rains on grapevines? Well, there are stages during the season when plants need to grow and develop and times when they just need to concentrate their efforts on the clusters. Below is a scheme of the phonological stages of vines

(Adapted from Eichhorn and Lorenz (1977) and Lorenz (1994)).


From stage 1 to 33 they need to expand their shoots and develop. After that which is marked by veraison (the change of color of the grapes), vines simply need to stop growing and divert photosynthesis production from new tissue to grapes. This simple change in behavior is one of the most important elements which predicts the quality that follows.

The onset of such a phenomenon, also considered the onset of ripening, is very well aligned with temperature and the availability of water and nutrients. If the vines experience too much water and nutrients, then, the more difficult it is to accomplish a good ripening period. This is why it was very important to have that dry period starting just before veraison this and previous years. The plants had more than enough water to grow when it was needed the most and scarcity of water when it was not needed. In fact, it became so dry we had to irrigate the vineyards, in order for them to survive and do well, which is a standard summer practice.

On the other hand, although we were not affected by them, the late August rains could have meant a delayed ripening and the threat of fungus diseases. So we can consider ourselves very lucky.

Weather/temperature

As shown in previous posts, the table below shows the Growing Degree Days (GDD) accumulation zones as described by the two authors. The numbers indicate the summation of daily average temperatures minus 50ºF for a period of 7 months. I showed this scale the last two years, but I think it is good to refresh the context. This year, counting from April to August, there were 4,240.5 GDD accumulated in Dripping Springs, which is enough to fall into Zone V in the table.

The fact that the scale includes a longer period (April to October) addresses the authors’ opinion about how correct GDD are in predicting plant growth. Because, at the end of the day, we see varieties being harvested at an equivalent heat accumulation index in the Texas Hill Country as compared to other cooler regions where this system was established. So, more important than the growing season length is the actual number of Growing Degree Days accumulated.


All in all, this season was a mere 2.2% cooler and 1.9% warmer than last year and the long term average, respectively, (again, this is up to August). This is why most of the varieties kept their usual harvest dates within a reasonable range.

Over the last three years we can see that give or take the seasons, we have been pretty much stable in terms of GDD, as it can be concluded from the two charts below, where at the end of August all seasons reach a very similar number.

One down side of the season was a frost period we had before it all started. March 20th and 21st were just cold enough to affect early bud breaking varieties, like Tempranillo and others. Then, on March 25th we had another hit of low temperatures. These low temperatures may have varied in different sub-valleys within the Hill Country, but overall the temperature contributed to a low yielding year.
##Varieties Tempranillo, Salt Lick Vineyards – We are extremely excited about the 2016 Tempranillo from Salt Lick Vineyards. Like in 2015, this was the first red variety harvested this year. We harvested two separate blocks of the vineyard on August 4th and combined them in the winery due to small yields. Near-perfect ripeness was achieved at 25.1 brix and 4.11 pH. During the 19-day fermentation, special care was given to this highly tannic variety to encourage supple and delicate tannin extraction. The resulting full-bodied wine has complex flavors of mocha, chocolate, earthy spices, and dark fruits, and it has the potential to be our best version of this Spanish variety to-date.


Syrah, Salt Lick Vineyards. Our second red variety to bring into the winery was the 2016 Syrah from Salt Lick Vineyards. This at times fickle variety came in impeccably ripened at 25.0 brix and 4.08 pH. The must was fermented in one of our stainless steel tanks, where it remained for 28 days. The combination of high quality and long maceration time resulted in a big wine loaded with crushed violet, jammy plum, and velvety tannin. The wine is intricate and balanced on its own, but it will also be an excellent component to our 2016 FALL CREEK Vineyards GSM blend.

Sauvignon Blanc, Mesa Vineyards.- I would find it difficult to find another Sauvignon Blanc vineyard with 23 days on or above 100ºF under its belt during the growing season and yet be able to produce such a lovely wine. To add to the context described above, this vineyard was harvested right at 3,120 GDD, which was reached on July 26th, falling right in-between regions II and III on the Winkler scale. At print time this wine is kept cold over its fine lees, and we are sure it will make another astonishing wine this year.

Chenin blanc, Mesa Vineyards. Just like the Sauvignon blanc, Chenin Blanc finds Pecos County its perfect home. Over the years it has shown great consistency. Chenin Blanc reaches such high quality that we decided this last season to introduce a 2nd vinification: FALL CREEK Vineyards dry Headwaters Chenin Blanc as a tribute to its potential. This year is no different. Lovely fruit character, lots of concentration and elegance. I can’t wait for you to taste this new vintage!

Mourvedre, Salt Lick Vineyards. Another component of the future 2016 FALL CREEK Vineyards GSM, the 2016 Mourvedre from Salt Lick was the third red variety harvested. This is a Spanish grape, like the Tempranillo, that seems to tolerate the Texas heat remarkably well. The grapes were fully ripened at 26.3 brix and 4.03 pH. They were brought to Fall Creek on August 12th, just before the heavy August rains began. The wine has developed everything you would want from a Mourvedre throughout its 25 days in tank. Meat, earth, and subtle hints of guava and passion fruit are a few characteristics that mark this medium-bodied wine as a must-try from the 2016 vintage.


Grenache, Salt Lick Vineyards. The Grenache from Salt Lick Vineyards was the last red variety that we harvested for the 2016 vintage (August 13th). Last year, we used this fruit to make an internationally awarded GOLD medal FALL CREEK Grenache Rosé, but this year we felt that it had enough color and fortitude to be made in a red wine style. The sugar accumulated to 24.2 brix, while the pH reached to 4.20 at harvest time. After 24 days in tank, the resulting wine is a light-medium bodied wine with notes of graham crackers, maraschino cherries, and strawberries. Look for this wine to make an appearance as the third variety in our 2016 GSM.
Finally, as described, we just finished another tricky year. This 2016 season kept our hopes up for a higher crop yield, until the grapes were finally harvested and suddenly we realized shorter than usual days in the field. Anyway, Mother Nature takes and gives, I guess, and we need to be thankful of the good quality which in the end is what contributes to the prestige of FALL CREEK Vineyards Texas wines.


Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking



PS. More about Growing Degree Days (GDD).
For example, if the average temperature in May is 74ºF the accumulation of GDD for would be:
74ºF – 50ºF = 24ºF, and then,
24ºF x 31 days in May = 774 GDD for that month.

The same is done on the whole Apr-Oct period in order to get the total GDD of a particular area.

It is assumed that below 50ºF plants stop growing metabolism, that’s why GDD is considered an accumulation of plants active heat and helps quickly describing an area in terms of temperature. It is not meant to be final as there are other more complex models that take a number of variables like latitude, humidity, winds and more, but it’s a simple and easy tool to use.



Literature cited

Eichhorn,K.W., D.H. Lorenz. 1977. Phänologische Entwicklungsstadien der Rebe. Nachrichtenbl. Deut. Pflanzenschutz. 29, 119-120
Winkler, A.J., J.A. Cook, W.M. Kliewer, and L.A. Lider. 1974. General Viticulture. 4th ed. University of California Press, Berkeley.



Texas Wine and Climate Change

20th Jul 2017 @ 09:21 by ame@fcv.com

March 2016

Each year is filled with important milestones and 2015 was not the exception. One of these recaps was the Cop21 or United Nations Conference on Climate Change held in Paris, not long after those infamous attacks at the French Capital.

Countries gathered at the Parc des Expositions Paris le Bourget have pledged to stop the Earth’s temperature from increasing more than 2ºC (3.6ºF) and plan to achieve this goal by the end of the century (as their models suggest that earth’s temperature would reach this increase). Furthermore, they agreed to try to keep it below 1.5ºC (2.7ºF) to protect island states which are more exposed to the rise in sea level. All of the above is based on predictions of life threatening consequences in some areas of the globe they say would happen if the temperature were to rise above that of 2ºC from what it is today.

Being a humble winemaker in Texas I cannot do much other than accept what 195 countries have adopted as the truth: the planet is getting warmer and if we do nothing about it, it is going to get worse.

Since my plan (God willing) is to stay in the wine business over the next four decades it concerns me as to what the situation will be, say in 2050. Am I still going to have a job, should I consider a career change?

So, I ask Mr. Google about “climate change” and I read a paper called “Climate change, wine, and conservation,” by Lee Hannah and eight other scientists, published by PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) in 2013.

I’m shocked right from the first paragraph of the abstract writing, because they have both optimistic and pessimistic scenarios for the coming decades that forecast substantial decreases of suitable area for viticulture from 19% to 73%! I stopped reading right there and went for a glass of our Fall Creek Vineyards Vintner’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Sangiovese/Merlot blend, just to make this mind blowing fact more palatable.


Then, they suggest that since the air is going to be so hot, sprinkling water over grapes will be necessary to cool grapes down to a reasonable temperature. As a result, this brings up new water conservation issues. Of course, I also, said, “WHAT?! For those of you not familiar with viticulture should know that any free water over grapes during the summer is literally a hotbed for fungus deceases.

Digging a bit into the paper regarding the suggestion to cool grapes down, I find only one reference from an engineer that was measuring stream flow variations during hot days in the summer and cold days in the spring, but no explanation of the need to create a “cooling down system”. Apparently they confused a standard irrigation procedure (focused on the roots) during high atmospheric water demand periods with some novel cooling system, which, by the way, works fine for frost control during cold spring days. Maybe that is what confused them?

After a few sips of wine I keep reading. They published striking maps showing soon-to-be-gone viticulture areas and new ones to come around the world. For example, Italy (and all red colored areas on the map) would no longer be able to produce wine and France would be completely redrawn…start thinking about something to replace those beautiful Brunellos! More wine!

Further down the article I had to say, “Wait a minute”! On one hand they point out that the most prominent new wine region in the US would be the Northwest especially in the Rocky Mountains near the Canada/US border (shown in blue and light blue on the map). On the other hand, they say expansion of new vineyards in the area, including all its related developments (houses, roads, wineries, etc) might threaten protected habitats, of perhaps Yellowstone and Yukon. So here is the prediction: a climate change with the capacity to eliminate vineyards in vast areas, relocating them to new zones, is not strong enough to affect current ecosystems where large mammals and other species are protected. How could that possibly work? They even suggest timely land acquisitions to prevent the potential ecological threat that the wine industry represents.


The article simply gets worse. These scientists claim that tropical mountain terrain have the potential to become relevant viticulture areas, threatening, again, those high biodiversity areas.

Well, maybe I don’t know enough to criticize a scientific paper like this, even though I still think it should be cross checked with people belonging to the disciplines they are talking about and who work with viticulture. But, the one thing that irritates me is how tunnel visioned they are when they boldly affirm that certain areas will be too hot and/or too dry to grow grapes. And I have two reasons to be outraged at them:

1. Grape growing started, at least, some 7,400 years ago in the desert regions of the Middle East where one of the most torrid summers on earth can be felt and yet vines where able to thrive there even before they were domesticated. Professor Patrick E. McGovern (www.penn.museum/sites/biomoleculararchaeology/) can tell you all about it.

This is the reason why we can grow wine grapes successfully here in Texas. Grapes are fully adapted to the hot weather just like they were when they were first discovered by early civilizations, so I think there is also a need for cross checking, so they can really back up their conclusions.

2. The kind of environment which these writers are claiming to be impossible for viticulture in the future already exist on our planet, actually, within the very USA. It is like these people have a “window to the future” where grapes are thriving in places that today are as warm as the places which they are predicting are going to be in the future. In other words, they have the perfect “test site” right here, right now. Why not use these areas to check and eventually correct the models?


If they don’t pay attention to this and Texas goes beyond 10,000 acres of vines these scientists are really going to have to come up with a good explanation about how their models are wrong.

As I said at the beginning, I can’t contradict what has been agreed by all the countries on the planet but, honestly, if they are airing their concerns in publications like these I’m not so sure anymore.

Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking



2015 Harvest Report

9th Jul 2017 @ 13:00 by ame@fcv.com


October 2015

Another growing season has come and gone in the Texas Hill Country. It is time to review what the grape vines endured this year, and I am sure more than a few of you will be intrigued to know how that wet spring affected the vineyards.

Weather/precipitation

The following graph shows this year’s cumulative precipitation from the Dripping Springs Weather Station which we use to cover the Salt Lick Vineyards, which accounts for a significant amount of our grapes. As can be seen right from the beginning, it rained more than the long term average. In fact, on May 29th the accumulation of rain was almost twice that of the average. Moreover, that month was the wettest month on record with an outstanding 10.82 in (275mm) of rain, which, also, was the case state wide. It actually rained 2 out every 3 a days in May. Then, June came and added a more humble 3.04 in (77mm) amount of water and unexpectedly, it stopped. There was no rain in July and August, except for the 0.02 in (0.5mm) on August 16th to be exact. It was like someone had closed a valve, going from a very wet season to a very dry one.


One hundred miles Northwest of Driftwood the case was a bit different. At the Brady Weather Station, which we use to cover Certenberg vineyards, another very important source of grapes for us, an above normal rain pattern occurred only from May on, although of a moderate magnitude. As it can be seen, it rained two thirds of the volume in Dripping Springs.


Now, what is the effect of these rains on grapevines? Well, there are stages during the season when plants need to grow and develop and times when they just need to concentrate their efforts on the clusters. Below is a scheme of the phonological stages of vines (Adapted from Eichhorn and Lorenz (1977) and Lorenz (1994)). From stage 1 to 33 they need to expand their shoots and develop. After that, which is marked by veraison (the change of color of the grapes), vines simply need to stop growing and divert photosynthesis production from new tissue to grapes. This simple change in behavior is one of the most important elements which predicts the quality that follows.



The onset of such a phenomenon, also considered the onset of ripening, is very well aligned with temperature and the availability of water and nutrients. If the vines experience too much water and nutrients, then, the more difficult it is to accomplish a good ripening period. This is why it was very important to have that dry period starting just before veraison this year. The plants had more than enough water to grow when it was needed the most and scarcity when it was not needed. In fact, it became so dry we had to irrigate the vineyards, in order for them to survive and do well, which is a standard summer practice.

Having said that, this season was a good opportunity to see how different vineyards or even small patches within vineyards responded to such a volume of rain. The following picture shows a vineyard that pretty much enjoyed the excess of water. The light green color at the top of the canopy and how dense it is give away the fact that they were using the excess water and nutrients for canopy growth (which doesn’t participate in the actual grape development/winemaking). Some leaves inside are so shaded they turn yellow due to the lack of light.


At the same time, there are other sites where the excess water was removed through drainage or superficial run off, and the plant got to “taste” just a bit of it, showing a better balanced looking canopy like the picture below. In this case, the plant shows a more transparent canopy, no growing shoots, even though this photo was taken the same day as the picture above. Both are of the same variety, Tempranillo, and are not located very far from each other. So, under the same weather conditions, which includes temperature, rain, radiation, wind and relative moisture (again to be exact), one variety can show diferent performance depending on the characteristics of the soil where they are planted.

Weather/temperature

The table below shows the Growing Degree Days (GDD) accumulation zones as described by the two authors. The numbers indicate the summation of daily average temperatures minus 50ºF for a period of 7 months. I showed this scale last year, but I think it is good to refresh the context. This year, counting from April to August, there were 4,388 GDD accumulated in Dripping Springs, which is enough to fall into Zone V in the table, which is usual, by the way. The fact that the scale includes a longer period (October included) addresses the authors’ opinion about how correct GDD are in predicting plant growth. Because, at the end of the day, we see varieties being harvested at an equivalent heat accumulation index in the Texas Hill Country as compared to other cooler regions where this system was once established. So, more important than the growing season length is the actual number of Degree Days accumulated.


All in all, this season was a mere 2.1% and 4.3% warmer than last year and the long term average, respectively, (again, this is until August). This is why most of the varieties kept their usual harvest dates within a reasonable range. The one that escaped our forecasts was Tempranillo. It was somehow sufficiently efficient enough to be ready to be harvested some 11 days before last year. So, August temperatures do not even count in this case. Since it was harvested on July 31st , we can say that it needed 3.268 GDD to reach ripeness, which is obtained after taking August out of the sum.

Varieties

Notwithstanding rains stopping at just the right time, it rained so often during the growing season, that it was a challenge to keep up with the scheduled sprayings. This affected some canopies in general during that rainy period, but they recovered a healthier growth later in the season. Other than this minor blip, the grapes made their way to the winery in very good condition.


Tempranillo, Salt Lick Vineyards – As described above, Tempranillo beat even Chardonnay as the first grape variety within our portfolio to be ready for picking. The practice this year was to segregate the field so that the first-picked fruit would come from the most evenly-ripened plants as possible at one time. This allowed for clusters of similar ripeness being fermented at the same time. All is looking great so far; bright color and nice concentration is what we see at these early stages. Also, after a year of no fruit (in 2013) and a recovery year last season (in 2014), we finally had enough crop to make up for this much sought after wine.


Chardonnay, Certenberg Vineyards - We had a nice crop, harvested at a similar time in the past, and good flavors is what best describes this year for this variety. We separated the best area of the vineyard for our Barrel Fermented program, and the aging wine will stay on its lees for a long while until next summer, at least. The other portion of the Chardonnay was tank fermented on its lees, un-oaked and is a delicious wine.


Sauvignon Blanc, Mesa Vineyards.- Lovely fruit this year. We got it at a very right ripening time with just about 22º brix in the tank. You would have loved to taste it when fermenting, it was fantastic!, but the wine is even better. Great aromas and an even better mouth feeling. We’re hurrying to get it out quickly because I know there are several people just waiting to get this one by the case and let me tell you, they won’t be disappointed.


Syrah, Salt Lick Vineyards. This year the Syrah was fermented on its own, because it was ready just a bit before the Grenache. Very dark, velvety and concentrated is the wine, and it will be the main part of the future GSM from this year, for sure.


Mourvèdre and Grenache, Salt Lick Vineyards. This season the Mourvèdre and Grenache ripened at the same time and a bit earlier than last year. Maybe, the Grenache was the one most affected by the rains in May, because there were clusters that had visible lower color content when compared with others. So, we decided that it was a good opportunity to make a Rosé out of it. Hence, we reserved a bit to this purpose and left the rest to ferment with the always consistent Mourvèdre. The Rosé is looking very promising, and we are working against the clock to have it ready as soon as possible.


Sangiovese, Salt Lick Vineyards and Tahzii Springs Vineyards.- These two vineyards had a low crop this year, and, so, we fermented them together, since they are only 14 miles away from each other. Interesting notes on the nose and a silky mouth feel make this wine a good blending option for our recently released blend of this variety Sangiovese with Cabernet and Merlot for a “Super Tuscan” expression.


Merlot, Certenberg Vineyards. Merlot was harvested only 2 days before last year’s harvest. This grape pleased us again with an outstanding performance. Very balanced juice and deep color reflects its great ability to adapt to the climate and an even better site, which is completely rain proof, sort of speaking, because of the soil’s great drainage condition.


Cabernet Sauvignon, Certenberg Vineyards. So, we now look to Cabernet Sauvignon the king of all grape varieties. No wonder this is the most famous variety of all. This year Cabernet came in an incredibly balanced condition/with a book-like description: Brix was just above 24, pH right on 3.79 and a TA of 6.15 (g/l tartaric, for those of you for whom these numbers don’t mean a thing, sorry, but, you’ll have to believe me).. Again, we’re witnessing the effect of a very good site here that allow plants to glide through different kinds of vintages and still get the best results from these varieties. In the tank the just-made wine shows an attractive color and beautiful aromas. It is almost ready to go into barrels for ageing for over a year, but it looks just wonderful now.

Finally, this vintage is going to record in history as being the one when our 7 year long drought came to an end and two of our major Colorado River reservoirs, Travis and Buchanan lakes, finally came up from historic lows. The wet spring made us anticipate a challenging year, but the rain stopped right when it needed to stop, and nature gave us splendid weather during the ripening period. So, this extraordinary potential portends another great year for the Hill Country.

Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking



P.S. More about Growing Degree Days (GDD).
For example, if the average temperature in May is 74ºF the accumulation of GDD for would be: 74ºF – 50ºF = 24ºF, and then, 24ºF x 31 days in May = 774 GDD for that month. The same is done on the whole Apr-Oct period in order to get the total GDD of a particular area.

It is assumed that below 50ºF plants stop growing metabolism, that’s why GDD is considered an accumulation of plants active heat and helps quickly describing an area in terms of temperature. It is not meant to be final as there are other more complex models that take a number of variables like latitude, humidity, winds and more, but it’s a simple and easy tool to use.



Literature cited

Eichhorn,K.W., D.H. Lorenz. 1977. Phänologische Entwicklungsstadien der Rebe. Nachrichtenbl. Deut. Pflanzenschutz. 29, 119-120
Winkler, A.J., J.A. Cook, W.M. Kliewer, and L.A. Lider. 1974. General Viticulture. 4th ed. University of California Press, Berkeley.
Jones et al. 2010. Spatial Analysis of Climate in Winegrape Growing Regions in the Western United States. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 61: 313-326



Killing the messenger or the message?

9th Jul 2017 @ 12:39 by ame@fcv.com


September 2015

In a recent, interesting New York Times article, Bruce Schoenfeld confronts two sides that appear to be in the antipodes of wine profile or taste and how it should be made as a result.

Schoenfeld points out that for the last three decades some wine consumers and, thus winemaking, have been too influenced by just one person, Robert Parker JR. Parker’s opinions about any wine have been enough to make the difference between success and failure. Through the invention of his 100 points score system, he has established the most influential wine publication, The Wine Advocate, in the world. If a wine gets 95 points or higher on one of his reviews, it surely sells out quickly and becomes a sought- after item at the same time.

His detractors argue that he likes only one style of wine, usually wine above 14.5º of alcohol, so called fruit bombs, of inky color and almost a sweet mouth feeling. These characteristics can be obtained when the grapes from good vineyard sites are harvested fully ripe or even a bit over ripe, because it is then that the wines develop these descriptions and are rid of any green flavor. In fact, in search of ripeness, extending the hanging time has been widely practiced by the vast majority of wineries all around the world thus increasing the sugar in grapes and hence the alcohol of the resulting wines. This is easily confirmed by looking at wine labels on any retail store, where one observes that alcohol levels are above 14º on the higher end wines, as opposed to around 12.5º level where they were in the past.

Despite the success of mainstream wineries which have searched for high scores and recognition, there is a sort of a protest movement that proposes that wines harvested and made with lower alcohol levels, as a result, are better representatives of the place, as they put it. Wine aromas and flavors, according to their mind-set, are things you would never think to connect to wine, like the leaf-¬strewn ground in a forest—Schoenfeld remarks.

These complaints (which I have authoritatively curtailed to save you time) are not new and as a winemaker I have heard them all for such a long time that I think it is time to try to pose the question: what are they trying to kill, the messenger or the message? As a result of the unstable weather pattern of the European summers, each year’s wine quality, and quantity, is unknown until the last part of the season where temperature and rainfall play a crucial role. By looking back in time, before Parker, we can find information about how each harvest has been perceived and rated by critics and consumers who have paid a premium for the so called outstanding vintages.

On the figure below, two axes have been combined and vintages/years have been located according to the weather they had in August and September in Bordeaux. The horizontal line goes from cold temperatures on the left to warmer ones to the right; and the vertical line goes from wetter conditions on the bottom to dryer times to the top. Dark shaded dots are above average priced wine and light shaded dots are below average priced wine, and the time range goes from 1952 to 1980.
Figure 1 Vintage distribution 1952-1980
(Adapted from Ashenfelter, Ashmore, Lalonde “Bordeaux Wine Vintage Quality and the Weather”)


It’s clear that dryer/warmer weather (particularly warmer) helped in making wines that reached higher prices as compared to cooler/wetter years. We can assume without too much risk that those warmer years produced riper, higher alcohol wines, as compared to the colder ones, and as a result they were considered better and more expensive.

Therefore, it seems as though Parker’s sin was to prefer and prize those better wines that everybody else had liked. Prior to this protest movement, riper, higher alcohol wines were already appreciated by people willing to pay more for this style of wine. And even before Parker there was The Judgment of Paris in 1976 when California wines beat French famous counterparts in a blind tasting that has inspired books and movies. Why did this happen? Think about what California weather is like during the summer. Is it cold and wet or warm and dry? There you have it.

So, I think that after Parker created his 100 point scale, understanding wine quality became extremely (maybe too much) easier for eager consumers who were trying to interpret subjective wine descriptions until then. The phenomenon that resulted is now known history. In fact, it wasn’t long before he was not alone in giving scores to wines from all over the world.

Though the one thing they (Parker and other publications) didn’t do was to impose a new wine taste profile among consumers, because that taste profile was already in place long before they began rating wines.

So, if you don’t like Parker’s high score wines don’t blame him because he is a mere (though successful) messenger. As the figure above shows, the wines he likes have been appreciated by people for decades.

Now, I welcome all new initiatives, though I cannot hide my skepticism when I hear someone is going to harvest early just because that would produce a wine with no “Parker” tag attached to it, or, when they are searching for the most remote cold place to grow grapes just to go against mainstream thought. Remember that monks in Champagne used to make awful wines (it is too cold there) until they discovered they could make the bubbly stuff. I prefer more focus on facts than emotions.

Nevertheless, at Fall Creek Vineyards, our winemaking efforts are to please people with wines that combine four attributes: Elegancy, Concentration, Complexity and Uniqueness. This subject is to the topic for another post, to develop all four of these qualities, because we are in the position to say is that here in Texas we have the ability to get all these qualities in one glass. I know that this statement would be better to taste than to read, so check us out on-line or at your closest retail store in Texas.

Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking



2015 Growing Season

9th Jul 2017 @ 12:19 by ame@fcv.com


May 2015

The intrinsic quality of any given wine is explained by interacting factors which include, among a long list, the weather of that particular vintage. So, it’s good to keep an eye on the charts and how they compare to previous years or long term averages to sort of staying in touch with what plants are going through.

It’s been a convention to start keeping track of the season on April each year, even though plants may “wake up” a bit earlier. Anyhow, April is history and it’s time to auscultate what was behind this kick off month.

Thank to the Southern Regional Climate Center (http://www.srcc.lsu.edu/) we can have an easy access to several weather stations across the State, including two that we follow, Dripping Springs, TX, and Brady, TX.

If you are around Austin, especially to its South West outskirts and have felt like this is a wetter year, you are right. By April 30th we had an 81% above average rainfall, counting 13.77 inches of rain compared to 9.8 in a normal year (*).


Curiously enough, this much more water has been accompanied by higher than usual temperatures. April long term average is 66.95ºF and this year it was 70.08ºF. This means that plants have had 18% more of “useful” (**) temperature to grow.

As expected, they responded accordingly with a rapid shoot growth as seen on the pictures from one single plant. They were taken on March 27th, April 20th and April 28th (left to right, obviously). Over that period some of the shoots grew more than ½ an inch per day.

Also, they made it to flower within April, as can be seen on the picture to the right (taken on April 28th). This is almost a month before a cooler region, which is totally normal because they basically work in alignment with the surrounding temperatures.

Brady

From a water surplus in Dripping Springs we turn into a deficit Brady, TX (some 160 miles to the North West). In fact, instead of 7.17 inches from January to April, it has rained 6.27 only, or 13% lower than a normal year. Not bad if we consider that last year it was only 1.31 inches up to April.

About temperature, it has shown a similar pattern compared to Dripping Springs, with a 21% above average, taken from 67.55ºF average during the month over an historical 64.45ºF.

Overall, it’s been a good kick off month. Plants are showing a healthy and steady growth and are getting used to the warm temperatures. It’s too soon to speak about this year’s quality potential, because that is defined later in the season, though so far so good. Stay tuned!

Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking



Thoughts on Vine Metabolism in Texas

21st Jun 2017 @ 09:33 by ame@fcv.com


February 2015
In one of Stephen Hawking’s books, the renowned scientist, warns the reader about his disregarding the advice of the editor who said he would lose half of the potential readers for every mathematical equation he put in the book. He said he had to include Einstein’s famous relation between energy, mass and the speed of light if he wanted to explain the fundamentals of the universe in simple words. I just remember this because in a more human scale matter I’m going to take the risk of losing half of the readers by going a bit deeper in trying to explain why is it that we are able to make such high quality wines at FALL CREEK Vineyards in Texas. So, here we go!

Vitis vinifera (which includes practically all European varieties, though originally from the Middle East), or just vines for our purpose, has two kinds of metabolisms as most of other plants do, the primary and the secondary. The first includes, but is not limited to, the production of metabolites that are essential to plant growth and development, like rich fuel molecules such as starch or glucose, structural molecules such as cellulose and other important molecules found in all plants. On the other hand, secondary metabolites are often colored or fragrant or flavorful compounds and they mediate the interaction of the plant and the environment, including other organisms and abiotic factors like temperature or light.

Among secondary metabolites are polyphenols which include anthocyanin, flavonols and tannins, three of the most important contributors to wine organoleptic properties. Their function within the plant is more or less studied, but the one thing that has been proven is vines growing in ideal conditions of water, nutrients, temperature, light and absence of other pathogens tend to accumulate less concentrations of polyphenols, so, their synthesis is encouraged by the influence of one or more “stress conditions”, in fact, vines show a different response if they are exposed to one stress or to two of them, as it normally happens in nature, heat and drought being the typical example.

The response to stress, particularly heat, not only includes polyphenols but also certain proteins called Heat Shock Proteins (HSP) of several size and functions. Amazingly enough, inside the cells they are able to chaperone (they are actually called molecular chaperones!) other proteins and prevent them from getting affected by high temperature. They act by responding, maintaining and repairing the effects of a heat period, which we know in Texas can be quite extended, and their effectiveness can be seen on this fine looking plant growing under the Texas Hill Country weather.

Where am I going with all this? Well, these molecules are costly for the vine. That’s why they save the effort if they are not needed. They consume significant amounts of energy and resources, so, if put under extreme stress plants may have a different compound composition when compared to plants under normal conditions.

In Texas we have the kind of summer temperatures than can fall into the extreme category, to say the least. Several weeks in a row with maximum temperatures above 95ºF (35ºC), some periods above 100ºF (38ºC) and even a few times above 105ºF (41ºC) would definitely count for the typical condition in central Texas. Also, not to mention, minimum temperatures averaging 75ºF (24ºC) over the same period, though less scarce, contribute to what is usually considered normal.

These summer temperatures do trigger the synthesis of secondary metabolites, like polyphenols and HSPs in particular, all of them, as pointed above, to the expense of energy or, in other words, sugars. The result is a lower sugar/secondary metabolites ratio. Translated into English, this means more ripeness at a particular level of sugar content. For those of you patient enough, an example: imagine two Cabernet Sauvignon plants, one grown in Texas and one in any other cooler region, both with the same sugar content. What this means is that the Texas plant is going to have a more advanced ripeness because it has been spending energy doing things the cooler region plant has not had the need to do.

This did not occur to me immediately. I have been observing this phenomenon the past two vintages since becoming Director of Winemaking at Fall Creek Vineyards in Texas. During the last harvest, I found these fully matured seeds whose grapes were only some 22.6º brix. Consequently, all of our grapes were harvested between 23 and 24º brix with great results. Usually, at that sugar level, grapes are unripe in cooler regions.

I know I must have scared half of you off at the second or third paragraph, and maybe the other half before this last paragraph, but I have this problem of experience telling incontinency, and I had to share these thoughts with y’all!

Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking




References: Al-Whaibi, M.H. 2011. Plant heat-shock proteins: a mini review. J. King Saud Univ. Science 23:139-150.
Downey, M.O, N.K. Dokoozlian, and M.P. Krstic. 2006. Cultural Practice and Environmental Impacts on the Flavonoids Composition of Grapes and Wine: A Review of Recent Research. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 57:3 257-268.
Morrel, A, M., R.L. Wample, G.I. Mink, and M.S.B. Ku. 1997. Heat Shock Protein Expression in Leaves of Cabernet Sauvignon. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 48:4 459-464



A Look Back in Time

21st Jun 2017 @ 09:23 by ame@fcv.com


December 2014
In previous posts I have highlighted the high quality potential of the Texas Hill Country as a wine growing region. The more I taste local wines the more I realize that fundamentals for high quality grape production, that is, weather, varieties, soil and knowledge, are finally getting in symphony.

So, the question arises: why has this tremendous quality potential gone unrecognized by the world’s agri-business sector for the most part of the last century with only this best kept secret just beginning to make noise in recent years? We all know about the devastating effects that prohibition had over the entire United States wine business and, all things considered, that might be THE reason why.

So, what about before prohibition? The Bob Bullock Texas History Museum at Austin shows the Spanish flag at the front gate to remind us all that those people were the first Europeans to ever claim possession of what we now call Texas. Some were conquerors that came to stay for good so they brought their knowledge and culture, which included religion and the need of wine for the Catholic mass, which is a good excuse to plant vines, indeed. I recently got the chance to read more about wine production in Texas in those early days.

Sarah Jane English wrote The Wines of Texas,
and on the first chapter she covers those founding times. Thanks to her great historical work, it is fascinating to realize that the vines they planted some 350 years ago not only did thrive in El Paso but also made outstanding wines for centuries to come. As Lt. Zebulon M. Pike wrote in 1806, “numerous vineyards from which were produced the finest wine ever drank”. A few years later Stephen F. Austin himself wrote “nature seems to have intended Texas for a vineyard to supply America with wines”, a quote also highlighted by Russ Kane in his book The Wineslinger Chronicles of 2012 (vintagetexas.com). More officially, in 1837 on a message to Congress, the President of the Republic of Texas, San Houston stated: “Her cotton, sugar, indigo, wines, peltries, live stock and the precious minerals will become objects of mercantile activity”, regarding the trade of the young Republic.

The book keeps on mentioning a number of scripts where we can learn about comments and references regarding producing wines in Texas. One of those is from J.D.B. De Bow who edited a monthly publication in which he reports “…We are confident that the vine can be cultivated to a far greater advantage in the undulating region of Texas [the Hill Country?] than in any other part of the Union. The climate and soil resemble those of the best wine growing sections of Europe and Asia.”

It’s also interesting to read about the eagerness of the French chargé d`affaires, a sort of delegate from the French government, to abolish any taxation to the French wines imported to Texas in February 1840, so they would compete side by side with the locals.

By the end of the XIX century there already were prohibitionists that eventually prevailed until 1918 when the State finally adopted the federal government’s amendment which lasted for seventeen years. As the author puts it: “prohibition caused an immense gap”. An aftertaste of this can be seen today in some localities that are still “dry”.

So there we have it. Very early in Texas’ formative years they found this land as more than suitable for producing fine wines. I guess right after 1935 there was a race for filling the gap, and California with its easier weather (basically lack of hail, strong winds, and freezes) made the first and fastest move soon after prohibition was lifted. Whatever the reason, we are following the first settlers’ paths today, and we are getting to the same conclusions, maybe this land was intended to supply America with wines after all!

Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking



Texas Terroir, Part Four

15th Jun 2017 @ 15:29 by ame@fcv.com


October 2014
While the first three parts of this blog series theorize about what happens in the Texas Hill Country, this post focuses on a practical summary of the previous ones by following the life of a vine during the growing season, from pruning to harvest, combining pictures of its cycle in order to save some 10,000 words!

To begin, I will be referencing a single vine in Salt Lick Vineyards and rather than refer to this vine with some technical name such as “1R24”, I will name this vine with a cute Spanish name, Cabrilla (translation little goat kid). So, Cabrilla was, one day last winter, just waiting for its final pruning. Since it is a Tempranillo vine the usual gauge is to wait as long as possible to prune it because this causes bud break to be delayed a few days, which gives the vine a chance to escape eventual early spring freezes. So here below it is shown, on a cold March 18th day this last winter. It was already pre-pruned which helps to make the final pruning a bit easier for the worker.

In the next picture, Cabrilla can be seen on March 31st already showing its first shoot tips coming out of the buds. Also, the definitive pruning can be seen and compared with the previous picture. It’s interesting to note that this date is not that far apart from what happens in cooler regions. As a matter of fact, there are places in California that have an even earlier bud break date. So this means that plants lie dormant just like anywhere else during our winter.

Now, on April 11th, shoots were already some 5 inches long on average and at this stage it’s possible to see in the picture below small tight bunches with inflorescences at the base of each shoot. Believe or not, we are able to have an early evaluation of the yield by counting bunches. But since it’s early in the season and so many things can happen we just can’t bet on this count. Having that said, it gives us an indication of how fruitful shoots are in the current season, which is the result of how balanced the plant was during the previous season. So, you ask, the conditions of one season can affect the following one? Absolutely, but that explanation will have to wait for another post.

Five days later shoots and leaves grew longer and thicker adding another inch and a half in length. At this point it’s been 16 days to grow some 7 inches which means almost half an inch per day. For any standard, this is fast and it’s going to get faster, being THE one aspect that is totally different from other regions. While in other cooler regions viticulturists can have a long window of a few days, even weeks depending on the issue, to organize farming maneuvers; in Texas, we just don’t have that luxury.

The picture below is from May 3rd. It’s been a little over a month since Cabrilla woke up and it’s already flowering. And no wonder, the average temperature (Tºmax + Tºmin divided by 2) in April was 67.3ºF (19.6ºC) which is the June average temperature for Napa Valley, CA. At flowering, warm temperatures are known to be beneficial for fruit setting, so we can rest assured about this fact. I would love to see some poor fruit setting varieties here, because productivity would increase as a result of the temperature.

Then, on May 13th Cabrilla is already showing pea size berries, using the viticulturists jargon (sorry about the clouds in the sky ruining the sequence and the picture). This development is a good month ahead from other areas.

At this point, we can certainly have a more precise approach of the yield by counting bunches per vine or yard (assuming there are no gaps between plants for the later) because there is no risk of freezes anymore, and the fruit set is done. We only need to use some previous vintages bunch weights to estimate the block’s production.

Two weeks later on May 28th it is filling out its growing space. Some shoots are grabbing the upper wire using their tendrils. As you can see, we can’t let the vines escape from us. For example, if we want some more sun exposure on the clusters some leaf removal should be practiced soon. Other than that, we are waiting for the grape color change or “veraison”.

In this picture, from June 20th, some leaf removal can be observed. This date marked the beginning of veraison in some other areas of the block, but not in Cabrilla though, as seen on the picture on the right taken that same day.

I normally took these pictures before 9 am when it is fairly common to have clouds that usually break up later just before noon. Temperatures during this time of the year average some 80ºF (27ºC) and the oscillation (max – min temps) can be 20ºF. The trained eye can realize we are facing a good site because all we see is a balanced plant that doesn’t need to be trimmed even though there were few buds left after the pruning, which is no surprise because this is in fact where our acclaimed Tempranillo comes from.

In this picture, from July 2nd, veraison is almost finished and since the berries become more visible and “tasty”, a net needs to be put in place in order to keep all sorts of critters out. These include but are not limited to raccoons, deer, opossum, rabbits, birds and even some eventual vegetarian foxes.

It has been three months since plants started growing, and we have accumulated enough temperature to situate us in Region I on the Winkler scale (more about it on our harvest report), which takes April to October as the growing period. This is the first sign that temperature alone cannot be the sole basis when assessing a region. Finally, the ripening period has arrived, and so a lot of berry tasting needs to be done to assess the ripening development. As pointed out above, due to the speed grapes are progressing, tasting needs to be done on a daily basis particularly when approaching the desired ripeness. Another important point, not to mention that harvest crews and logistical plans ought to be ready at the starting line waiting for the call, because vines show a remarkable small time frame in which they need to be picked and beyond which we can easily go into the state of over ripeness. The picture on the left was taken on July 29th when we had had enough heat to be in Region III on the Winkler scale.

Harvest of Cabrilla occurred on August 11th, just a few days later than previous years. They reached 24.6º Brix, a pH of 3.81 and an acidity of 4.35 (in tartaric). Back then, I thought a day earlier might have been better but that was a Sunday when there is practically no chance to harvest. Today, it seems like it was picked within the right time window, to tell from the amazing quality wine that is already ageing at the winery.

This last picture was taken on August 12th, a day after harvest. Again, the trained vine dresser would applaud the way the plant reached maturity. The complete canopy shows an active green color and no shoot growth which means all of the plant’s efforts were destined to the clusters. Now, Cabrilla can easily concentrate on making and saving reserves for the winter during the next two and a half months.

Forgive me if I bring this up too often, but by the end of August we had reached enough heat to be in Region V on the Winkler scale (the last and warmest level) and if we add September and October, according what the scale says, we would fall into level VIII, which doesn’t exist. Moreover, recently published scientific work affirms that our temperature accumulation is just too much to grow grapes!

My point with this post is to show everybody that this is another example of nature surprising us. Who would have thought that we can make world class wines here? The fact is we can, and we have made them. So, come and taste these wines yourself, so the wines can do the talking!

Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking



2014 Harvest Report

14th Jun 2017 @ 10:06 by ame@fcv.com


September 2014

Time during this harvest season has flown like a wild Texas wind! Grapes were hanging on the vines only weeks ago, and now they are converted into the wonderful beverage we all love to enjoy. Even though the wines are at the early stages of development, we are in the position to foresee where they are heading, and this report is what I want to share now. However, let us first take a look into what happened in terms of weather during the season.

Those of you living in central Texas won’t be surprised by the fact that we had one of the coolest summers in years. Days over 100ºF could be counted on one hand and the temperature did not go much over a few units. Actually, temps in Dripping Springs, for example, which is the closest weather station to Salt Lick Vineyards, registered only five days that were right on 100ºF, not one degree higher during the entire season. Now, I know that the psychological intimidation of 100 degrees may seem plenty high, but consider that in recent years there were all sort of records that tracked many days above 100 degrees. In fact, temperatures tracked way above 100 degrees, like in 2011 when there were around 77 of these days, including one reaching 110 degrees. Hence, this summer was cooler by Texas standards. What this means, according to the Winkler Scale, is that this season in Texas has fallen off the chart.


The Winkler table to the below shows the Growing Degree Days (GDD) accumulation zones as described by their authors. The numbers indicate the summation of daily average temperatures minus 50ºF for a period of 7 months (more details below). Interestingly, they were prudent enough to leave the fifth zone without a limit, contrary to more recent studies that indicate a ceiling of 4,860 GDD beyond which the area is considered “too hot” (Jones et al, 2010). Well, this season central Texas had about 4,250 GDD up until August. Estimation for the whole period (April to October) would be 5,620 GDD which would lead us to “zone VIII” if we follow Winkler’s rationale. If Professor Winkler was with us today he would most likely be adjusting his scale either upwards and/or shortening the growing period. So, why can we get world class wines here in the Texas Hill Country? Well, to begin, note that plants get the same amount of heat here compared to a cool climate region, the only difference is that they get it much faster in Texas. Read about it in an earlier post here.

In terms of rainfall, it would seem that it rained a lot, but the case is that up to August we carried a 30% deficit compared with the long term average in Dripping Springs. The situation in Brady, close to another of our growers, Certenberg Vineyards, is quite similar, a slightly lower deficit but basically the same amount of water, about 16 inches so far this year. When compared to last year, surprisingly enough, they are very similar on the total rainfall, but this year there have been more episodes of rain, and there is where the feeling that more rain is coming from.

Varieties

Overall the crop was normal to low in some cases, like Syrah which was affected by hail early in spring. There were no health issues whatsoever and the vines enjoyed a longer and steady ripening time. We see great quality across the board, so we are very pleased by the results and anxious to see these wines in the market. Chardonnay, Certenberg Vineyards - As usual, we open the season, so to speak, with this variety. We tried to get it in at an earlier stage of maturity this year, so we harvested it on August 1st, just three days earlier than last year. This way we were able to get a very fresh and vibrant wine. After whole-cluster pressing, part of it went in to ferment in new French oak barrels for about 4 weeks. Now it is resting in them after a racking, and the plan is to keep it there for a few months at least. It looks very promising!
Chardonnay Grapes
Tempranillo, Salt Lick Vineyards -This variety pays good tribute to its name by being the very first red one to be ready for harvesting. We picked it on two dates, August 11th and 13th. At Fall Creek Vineyards, the approach with Tempranillo, as with some other varieties as well, was to work on a row by row basis, even plant by plant in some areas, in order to segregate them into two groups. It’s not unusual that, due to a number of reasons, some plants develop a greater canopy than others and their fruit might be a little different. It is very important, if the vocation is to make quality wine, to be aware of this early enough and act accordingly, which we did this year with great results so far. Again, the idea was to harvest at the very right stage of ripeness, which can best be assessed by tasting (and analyzing) grapes on a daily basis. Walking 3 to 4 miles every day pays off because we’ve got a wonderful, highly concentrated wine that got us very enthusiastic.
Tempranillo Grapes

Syrah and Grenache, Salt Lick Vineyards. They are meant for our GSM, so a co-fermentation is just a way to let them get along well from the beginning. Besides, they shared the same ripening time this year. Beautifully colored and nice fruity aromas came out of the tank today. The blending with the Mourvèdre is a no brainer. so we’ll have a wonderful Rhone style wine from this vintage.

Merlot, Certenberg Vineyards. Harvested on August 21st, this grape was just fantastic. I can’t describe how pleasant the aromas are today and the color is outstanding. Tannins are velvety and the wine as a whole is unique. I am really surprised by how well adapted this variety can be to the place it’s grown. It will make a memorable Meritus once combined with the Cabernet.

Mourvèdre, Salt Lick Vineyards. As described above, the Mourvèdre is a very nice component of our GSM. It adds soft and easy tannins regardless of the long skin contact time and a nice color too. It’s interesting to note that it took up to August 28th to get it ripe.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Certenberg Vineyards. Like the Tempranillo, the Cabernet was separated into two loads and kept apart at the winery. This decision paid off, because now we have two wines which complement each other, and we can then blend for the very best resulting wine. The wines are very serious Cabernets, dark and powerful, so they will need a long time for ageing, I would say not less that 18 months at this time.

As mentioned above, we expect this vintage to be another contribution to the prestige that Texas wine is steadily gaining. We know we have all that it takes to produce premium wines, and the 2014 harvest reassures us in pursuing this goal.

Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking


P.S. More about Growing Degree Days (GDD).
For example, if the average temperature in May is 74ºF the accumulation of GDD for would be: 74ºF – 50ºF = 24ºF, and then, 24ºF x 31 days in May = 774 GDD for that month. The same is done on the whole Apr-Oct period in order to get the total GDD of a particular area. It is assumed that below 50ºF plants stop growing metabolism, that’s why GDD is considered an accumulation of plants active heat and helps quickly describing an area in terms of temperature. It is not meant to be final as there are other more complex models that take a number of variables like latitude, humidity, winds and more, but it’s a simple and easy tool to use.

Literature cited

Winkler, A.J., J.A. Cook, W.M. Kliewer, and L.A. Lider. 1974. General Viticulture. 4th ed. University of California Press, Berkeley.
Jones et al. 2010. Spatial Analysis of Climate in Winegrape Growing Regions in the Western United States. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 61: 313-326



The Joys of Fall Creek Harvest

14th Jun 2017 @ 09:23 by ame@fcv.com

August 2014

We are in the middle of the FALL CREEK Vineyards harvest, once again, so I thought it was a good idea to let you know about what’s going on this year and how we see things developing.

If you live in Central Texas you’ll know that we have been experiencing a cooler than usual summer. Now, by cooler I mean comparing the last few years because, let me tell you, the summer temperatures we are having are very close to long term averages. The two following charts show temps for Dripping Springs so far this year and last year (thanks to the Southern Regional Climate Center). It can be observed that while this year’s data moves on and not away from the long term averages curves, last year’s summer temperatures were typically above the normal. The cooler than average temperatures allow for a slightly slower ripening process which allows us, the harvest team, more time to coordinate the numerous logistical issues of a typical harvest period.


Be that as it may, we started harvesting Chardonnay from Certenberg Vineyards on August 1st, and we finished on the 4th. We selected this harvest date, not so much because it was super ripe, but because we want to make a fresh and vibrant style Chardonnay, and it tasted ready. Interestingly enough, last year’s date of harvest was similar but it had 3 more Brix than this season. It’s fermenting nicely as I write this, and it tastes wonderful. A few French oak barrels were selected for barrel fermentation, and we kept some wine aside in stainless steel. The idea is to blend them after fermentation, finding the right combination of both components in order to showcase the best of the variety.

August 11th and 13th were harvest time for Tempranillo from Salt Lick Vineyards. What wonderful looking vines and grapes. These two pictures were taken of the very same plant 13 days prior to harvest (left) and the day after harvest (right). It’s good to note that the vine ended it’s job with a fully working canopy demonstrated by the even green color of all leaves, just the way we want them to be. This means they were exclusively working for the grapes, and now they can concentrate on preparing themselves for the winter during the next 60 days , which is plenty of time to have a really nice accumulation of reserves and nutrients for the next season.

There is a lot more information to come, and we will keep you posted with the latest in the next post when we can tell you more about the most exciting part, the making of the wines!

Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking