“It’s a cruel, cruel summer.”
The song got it right this year with the sweltering summer heat doing a number on the vineyards. Thankfully a cooler-than-normal and wet spring got things off to a great start for our vineyards across the state.
The consensus among the Texas Fine Wine group is this year’s harvest looks very good, with normal to better yields, and high quality, concentrated fruit. The challenge, if this heat continues, will be harvesting the grapes to balance both sugar ripeness with phenolic ripeness to ensure the grapes develop secondary and tertiary notes.
Ron Yates, Spicewood Vineyards
Before the summer heat set in, it looked like 2023 would be one of the better harvests we’ve ever had in terms of quality and yields. The extreme heat will move harvest up, possibly as early as July 15 for some whites. We will make sure to balance sugar levels with phenolic ripeness so that our reds, in particular, develop secondary and tertiary notes before we harvest them.
Dave Reilly, Duchman Family Winery
Given we never have a “normal” harvest, this year is turning out to be fairly normal. Spring was kind to the vineyards, giving us a great start for high quality and good yields of fruit. Our forecasted yields are coming in on target. We are excited to get our first harvest of Vermentino since 2016, which will help us get our popular white wine back into distribution. We are also excited about a bigger-than-normal crop of Sangiovese, which we didn’t get at all last year. Just like Ron and the others in Texas Fine Wine, we pick based on physiological ripeness to ensure we get the flavor compounds in our wines. If this heat settles, we will have a really good harvest, especially for reds.
Despite the summer heat, we are excited about this year’s grape crop from our estate vineyards and across the state. We expect a bumper crop from several of our vineyards and are excited to have our second harvest of Crimson Cabernet (genetic cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Norton) from our estate vineyard. Last year’s Crimson Cabernet was harvested for a rosé that was just released to vine parents. After being on order for five years, we finally received and planted 800 vines of Camminare Noir, which is resistant to Pierce’s Disease and has characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah.
With these high temperatures, the vines’ photosynthesis shuts down, which can throw sugar and phenolics out of balance. This is where our natural intervention tools like Cryo-Maceration (freezing) and flash détente (rapid heating and cooling), can help extract the phenolics from grapes during tough conditions like this summer. The grapes are going to appreciate getting to chill out after this summer of heat!
Like the others, this year is looking to be one of our better harvests, with higher yields and really good quality fruit. A spring hail story in the Texas High Plains damaged one of the vineyards we work with, so we won’t be getting Graciano this year. However, we are excited to get Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Alicante Bouschet from the mostly organic Desert Willow Vineyards and our first fruit from our estate Kuhlken Vineyards since 2020. Everything leading up to this point has looked really good – our vineyards have enjoyed great vigor and canopy. While the heat is unfortunate, I am not overly worried about it compromising a good crop. It’s looking to be a good harvest for us.
Texas Fine Wine is a group of four highly respected wineries making quality, benchmark wines that reflect the climate, terroir and spirit of Texas. Texas Fine Wine includes Bending Branch Winery in Comfort, Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood, Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall and Spicewood Vineyards in Spicewood.