The Joy of Last Place
Sometimes being the caboose has its advantages

In a recent conversation with Craig Jaffurs at his annual wine club picnic at the ranch, he recalled harvesting his Thompson Mourvedre after Thanksgiving on November 28. 

November harvests of Thompson Syrah and other varietals are also not unheard of, well after other vineyards have parked the tractors, hung up the snippers, and settled in for a long winter’s nap.

While Thompson may not necessarily be the coldest, foggiest, windiest, highest, or winner of any other extreme-weather trophies, something about the exact combination of where these old own-rooted vines sit and how mother nature slowly coaxes them along every year results in a gradual, full, and freakishly long ripening process. 

Elegance-obsessed cool-climate winemakers seek out this rare “Goldilocks Zone” where lengthy hang-times allow them to patiently observe the fruit evolve until it is exactly where they want it for graceful, balanced, terroir-driven wine.  When grapes ripen too quickly (too much sun), their sugar levels can spike while acids fade, forcing premature harvest before desirable nuances that contribute to a wine’s complexity and grace have taken hold (sometimes called “phenolic maturity”).  When grapes fail to completely ripen and mature (not enough sun), wines can taste overly astringent, thin, tart, and green.

In addition to Thompson, the folks at Coastal Vineyard Care manage nearly 40 premier vineyards in Santa Barbara County, from Sta. Rita Hills to Ballard Canyon, Happy Canyon, Santa Maria, Los Alamos, Santa Ynez, and everything in between.  According to the folks at Coastal, Thompson consistently receives the blue ribbon year after year as the last vineyard of all to be harvested.


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