Testarossa celebrates ‘mostly good’ yields with 136th grape blessing

Winemaker says only 20% of expected fruit has been harvested

The team at Testarossa Winery welcomed visitors to their annual blessing of the grapes earlier this month at the Novitiate in Los Gatos, with a distinct autumnal chill in the air and the grounds festively festooned with pumpkins and gourds.

Over a dozen priests who had once worked at Los Gatos’ oldest winery, built in 1888 to generate funds for the Jesuit seminary college built on the property the same year, were in attendance. The Jesuits ran a winery here until 1986, when it was leased to other brands until 1997, when Testarossa moved in and the annual blessing started.

Rob Jensen, the owner of Testarossa, was quick to point out that this was the 136th harvest that these old stone walls had seen. This year was extra special, he said, because it was his wife Diana’s birthday, and her mother, as well as their daughter, were present. Jensen then looked at his watch, looked around the room, and declared, “If we gather here at 6 o’clock, the tradition is to have 6 ounces of wine, but if we gather here at noon, we have 12.” So, let’s get started!”

Fr. Peter Pabst performed the honors, requesting blessings for everyone who works at Testarossa in all aspects of the business. He generously doused the surrounding throng with holy water, also sprinkling the bin of Fogstone pinot noir.

Jensen invited people to sample the freshly blessed Fogstone pinot noir clone 777 that would eventually go into the crusher. The small clusters and berries were quite ripe, with very brown and crunchy seeds—exactly what winemaker Bill Brosseau was looking for.

“We practice deficit irrigation at this site in order to concentrate the fruit,” Brosseau explained in an interview.

Carol and Bret Sisney, as well as Gary Filizetti, who are longtime friends of the Jensens and own Devcon construction, own the Fogstone Vineyard.

Last year’s annual blessing was held on September 29 over a bin of ripe Fogstone chardonnay on a very warm summerlike day, when the majority of the season’s grapes had already arrived. This year, according to Brosseau, they have only brought in about 20% of their expected fruit, making it one of the late harvests in a dozen years.

The first grapes of this year’s harvest arrived on September 11, beautiful clusters of chardonnay from Bill’s parents’ Brosseau Family Vineyard in Chalone. Tondre Grapefields in the Santa Lucia Highlands, as well as Rincon, Rosemary’s, La Rinconada, and Rancho La Vina in the Arroyo Grande Valley and Santa Rita Hills AVAs, have supplied grapes to Testarossa. They’d also received a substantial amount from Fogstone and were expecting a shipment of grapes from Doctor’s Vineyard later that afternoon.

“We’re hoping to get everything in before the beginning of November,” Brosseau said. “By the beginning of December, everything should be in barrel.” The yields appear to be mostly good and slightly higher than last year.”

Brosseau anticipates bringing in Graham Family pinot noir grapes by the end of the week, and then picking the majority of the Santa Lucia Highlands fruit over the next 10 days. Fortunately, there have been no significant heat waves to put strain on the picking or cellar crews, and the forecast is for moderate warmth through the rest of October.

That’s a blessing everyone can appreciate after last year’s hot and frantic harvest.

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