Dare I say it out loud?

Syrah to quench the thirsts of the godsOkay, I will, but sotto voce: so far, so good.

2011 is shaping up to be a tough vintage for everyone in the Northwest, but you wouldn’t know it from the two grapes we picked up over the weekend. Last Saturday, James and I had an extremely pleasant — and more importantly, rain-free — road trip out to Elephant Mountain to pick up Syrah and Merlot. Denis, the vineyard manager, had been gently lowering expectations leading up to harvest, but the fruit we tasted as we walked through the vineyard with him was supreme.

And back in the winery, the numbers matched: 25.5 brix and 3.43 pH for the Syrah, and 25/3.39 for the Merlot. Great depth of flavor, nice acidity (reflected in the lower pH), ripe but not jammy. Considering the tales we’ve been hearing from our winemaking brothers and sisters in the Willamette Valley — nightmarish tales of grapes stalled a few brix short of the finish line of pickability — we’re incredibly lucky.

Back at the winery, a small but experienced crew gathered and we took care of the fruit in short order. We’d done a little R&D on the crusher/destemmer to adjust its rollers (the part that should crack the berries, but not smash them), and I think we found a setting that, at least for these two grapes, gave us mostly happy, rolling grapes out the other end.

Next weekend, it’ll be Viognier and perhaps Tempranillo and Grenache. Here’s hoping for a copy/paste of this past weekend…

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