A third consecutive winter of low rainfall started the 2008 season. Budbreak was slightly later than average, with most signs of green growth not showing until the first week of April, rather than the more typical March. The interval was short before the commencement of the flowering and fruit set period in late May, punctuated by a heat spell in the high 90s and brisk winds. The warmth certainly encouraged fruit?set, and all varieties were completed in less than ten days after bloom, giving great consistency to the individual berry development. Summer in 2008 was undoubtedly hot, with multiple heat spikes over 100º F. The harvest commenced with a bang after a heat wave in late August/early September though the weather then moderated to a long and mild fall. A moderate crop level in Petite Sirah was achieved through judicious early cluster thinning, producing wines of magnificent concentration. Petite Sirah is the grape we prefer for our fortified dessert wine because of its deep inky color, tannin power and naturally hedonistic personality. After picking, the ripe fruit was crushed into tank and cold soaked to extract color and tannin for four days before commencing fermentation. Fermentation proceeded for an additional four days before the must was drained and pressed at approximately 12 degrees Brix. We then arrested further yeast activity by fortification to 18.5% alcohol with pure, pot?distilled brandy, thereby retaining the desired level of natural grape sugars in the wine. This fortified blend was then racked to older oak barrels and moved to our caves for aging, then racked out of barrel after 22 months for bottling in July 2010.
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