Vineyard Walks, Talks and Thoughts

In anticipation of the 2013 harvest, I walked several vineyards and sampled plenty of fruit this week in Dry Creek Valley. Characterizing the last couple vintages and prognosticating about the current one, reads something like this:

2011 was under-ripe (for some, not us) and already being discounted by some winemakers and critics (again, not us)

2012 was near perfect in every way. Which is good for everyone.

2013 is early…maybe. Yields are lower than 2012, at least from my samples. Mother Nature is still deciding if She wants to keep the weather consistent or throw either a heat wave or rain storm our way, but Dry Creek Cabernet is probably 3+ weeks away...maybe.

I think 2013 is exposing the mettle of the full time farmer, their experience and how little credit the farmers' receive for the work we as winemakers and wine company owners take credit for.

When was the soil disked? How was the vineyard pruned? Is the vineyard dry-farmed? How is the vineyard fertilized? What type of canopy management system is employed? Leaf thinning? Fruit thinning? Water regime? How well do the vineyard managers, winemakers and owners communicate with each other?

Lencioni Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley

I think the aforementioned questions are making a bigger difference in 2013 than last year.

I’ve tasted a lot of nearly-ripe fruit in 2013. I’ve tasted a lot of green fruit in 2013. I’ve even seen raisin in 2013. I’ve never seen raisin this early in Dry Creek Valley. I can’t do anything with raisins.

We generally will pick Cabernet the first week of October in a normal growing season....but it could be the last week of September in 2013 and it's VERY site specific.

Translation: Know your farmer, because he knows his farm better than you.

What’s the point of all of this? There are a lot of things happening behind the scenes in the vineyard this year (and every year) and the tension is palpable.

SO next time you raise your glass, give a toast to the wine grape farmers and vineyard managers. They’re under a lot of pressure right now.