This was the longest year in so, so many ways. And also the most action packed, intense and almost cerebral, if a winery can claim that. No matter what we want to call it though, it was very busy.
Crush I get super excited about crush and cannot wait for it to start every year. As a former kitchen guy I thrive on the focused and controlled chaos of fermenting grapes everywhere in everything while pressing, bottling, crushing and picking at the same time. But holy cow, did this one go on forever. Muscat Canelli and Giallo came in from Yolo County and were crushed on September 5th. Aglianico was pressed November 27th. That was the spread in time. We did a record 17 grape varietals this year.
Aglianico, Barbera, Dolcetto, Primitivo, Sangiovese, Refosco, Tocai Friulano, Greco, Chenin Blanc, the Muscats, Sagrantino, Montepulciano, Nebbiolo, Cab Franc, Carmeneré, Tinta Roriz, and Petite Sirah. Many of these were in multiple lots of different clones - Sangiovese and Nebbiolo in three, Primitivo, Barbera, Refosco and a couple others I can't remember in at least two lots. Despite good crop control we also had record amounts of our estate varietals, pushing the ripening back a little bit. Zinfandel and Primitivo had an odd year on the North Coast with many surprised with huge bunches and little in the way of hens and chicks. We will likely squeak by under 14% with ours while a little more on the brambly rustic side - no complaints here.
Planting We are running out of land. We completed planting our Sangiovese blocks this year, adding the Biondi-Santi clone of Brunello to the usual FPS 06 Brunello clone, but we are banking on the lowly Romagnolo VCR 23 clone as the foundation for our (probable) cuvée. We also have some Vino Nobile in there as well. We are just a big test garden after all. We also got our Sagrantino in, cobbling together some of the only vines in the U.S. and taking a road trip to Washington state to pick up what we couldn't get in California. And we added another clone of Barbera in a small block. The two blocks we have are producing shockingly different wine and there is hope of a spicy bridge between the two in the future. Weather The weather was interesting this year. Rainfall for the winter was around 14" with a dry Spring,
substantially below the normal 25" mark. And, no frost. In the Kelseyville area we had the eight-day stretch over 100F in August many had, but things were pretty smooth for a low rainfall year. The dry-ish beginning to the season forced the hard choice of either very early watering to replenish groundwater or use the early water deficit to control vine growth cycles and hope for an earlier end to vegetative growth. We opted for the later. The .7" of rain on October 21 which was basically in the middle of reds for a late year rattled some nerves with a lot of grapes still hanging but everytime we got nervous the sun came back out and the heat came back on. November 6th hit 82 degrees here, and it could not have been more timely or just right. Whether or not it was an amazing vintage still remains to be seen, but it feels pretty good. That late rain slowed things down but the weather was good and the sugars remained in the ideal zone. Flavors were slow though, and those growers in other areas who got excited by the prospect of a "normal" year and heavy crop who then picked early like little 25-brix seeking robots so they could go on vacation early may have missed out. Lake County Lake County continues to be in a state of proverbial one step forward back and one step back. On the negative side tourism has been declared to be at an all time low. We are a wine country two hours from the Bay Area and that is simply too much for many. This is an historical dilemma that goes back over one hundred years and had effects on the timber and mining industries here. It is ironic to think that tourism thrived here 100 years ago, when transportation was slower and more arduous. Lake County's virtues of high and pristine isolation is also it's curse. Restaurants and resorts close and sit. Everything is poised to begin a growth cycle. But, waiting.
On the positive side Lake County wine continues to receive more press and recognition (like here) and outreach has continued to grow. Lake County's grapes are the third most expensive in California, eclipsing Mendocino's and all of our friends to the south. Things like Chacewater winning best California Winery at the state fair are important components of a general and continuing forward surge. On the don't-know-what-to-think-yet side we now have to ask what happens when the job is done too well? What does it mean when Gallo buys Snows Lake ($42 million is the number I have seen - article here) which was one of Lake County's benchmarks, and might strip Lake County off the label forever? Will Foley buying a controlling portion of Langtry be an asset to the region or not? Olives
Freshly harvested Tuscan Blend Olio Nuovo is available today! After last year's statewide olive deficit this year could not help but be better. The majority of our Tuscans have been harvested and the Arbequinas are ripening up nicely and should progress as long as the frost remains minimal. Olives are on the late side like the grapes though, and as the winter progresses we get a little bit anxious to get them all in. One stretch of good weather after all this rain will put everything in the zone.