When I was a consumer of wine, long before my adventures into winemaking, I was always amused at the next “vintage of the century”.
It was rare indeed to find a winemaker or winery owner who honestly evaluated any of his vintages until they were long sold through. There are exceptions to the rule such as Angelo Gaja, mentioned in other blog posts. Yes, this man, who put a town of 650 people on the world map and took over in 1961, has bulked out four vintages since he took the reins. That means he did not produce four vintages, selling the juice on the open market, because he felt it not worthy of his name. No need to ask him about a current vintage because actions speak louder than words and this sacrifice is done because he has more integrity in his little finger than most do in their entire body.
Our little winery has faced similar decisions and I always refer back to what this great man taught me. If you’re going to represent the very best then give nothing less. With that I will give you some recent vintages and sacrifices we have made. In 2006 we had a vintage that had a lot of rot. We threw out any fruit off of the sorting tables that remotely had any rot at all. That means if there were even one or two berries with rot the entire cluster was thrown to the ground. Why not just pick off the berries that are infected, because inevitably some in the middle of the cluster would get through. So we made the wine with fruit on the floor up to our ankles and waited to see how the wine ended up. Fast forwarding, we eliminated 20 barrels that went to bulk only keeping the barrels that we felt were good enough to wear our name. That was 25% of our production.
In 2007 we had a perfect vintage; these are classic wines. They can be cellared, in some cases, for 20 years. There was a little sacrifice but the yields were very low and so there are not a lot of these wines by Mother Nature’s design.
In 2008 the wines were subject to a cool season but ripened evenly. However, the wines are much more forward because the pH is out of balance in many of the wines. There was a heat storm in June of 2008 that few talk about. Temperatures exceeded 110 degrees in a place that averages 74 degrees through the growing season. A freak, you must agree. This is very early for us to have such a thing happen, if to happen at all, and the prevailing wisdom from those in the vineyard I trust agree that the vines went into prevention mode. Prevention from what you ask? Well, death! The vines sucked from the ground any moisture they could find but as important, potassium. When this happens, the pH in the vineyard will be higher and acids lower as the potassium acts as a deacidifier. This causes the wines to be much more approachable with a shorter shelf life and some so out of balance and not very good. We were also in the last year of a drought and because of this the aquifers were very low. This again allows the vineyard to get an over abundance of dissolved minerals and will also cause the acids to drop and the pH’s to rise. We picked early and made a gallant effort to bring you great wines. In the end we will not release any whites and only 350 cases of reds. A great sacrifice, but one that I believe is necessary.
In 2009 we had a very long and even growing season. The aquifers were replenished from fall and winter rains and the initial reports are the wines will be grand!
And to the 2010 vintage! I’m here to tell you the word of the day, rot. Yes, the same problem as 2006 but this time it’s on steroids. There will be many wines with bacteria problems, and other problems in flavor development. Sugars moving at a rate of 1 brix a day and you can bet there will be many over ripe wines. It’s much too early to condemn all the wines of this vintage but I must say my optimism is not high. We will not be bring a wine to market from the 2010 vintage.
I will keep you posted but the buy light is on for the 2007’s and 2009’s, and some 2008’s!
All the best,