April 29, 2010
The Perfect Vintage
One of the greatest things about producing wine is that you never get bored of doing “the same old thing”; there is an ever-changing agenda that evolves with the seasons and is never the same from one vintage to the next. The first leaves are all out on the vines now, the last droplets of rain have fallen this morning (so we hope), and what the 2010 growing season will be like is an absolute mystery at this point. Due to all the water in the ground from the considerable spring rain, we can anticipate a lot of growth and, therefore, thinning of the canopy early on (May and June). We dodged a spring freeze this season but still have vivid memories of the last one in 2008 which, in our 20 year history, is the only freeze to have produced significant damage. In the two-year aftermath of the 2008 freeze, we have performed some unique pruning each winter to guide the affected blocks back to their usual habit, and this spring, they look just like normal.
Each vintage is entirely different from the one before just like every child in a large family is unique and special. And you love each one for its unique and intriguing personality. No matter how many vintages you live through and how much you study viticulture, you still never quite know for certain what makes a great vintage for any given block. In 2006, the vines did not leaf out until early May (which is late and, therefore, a concern) and one of our Merlot blocks, Callie’s, set a huge crop which, in years past, usually meant reduced quality. We thinned it a lot through the season but it still came in with a record yield and we were reprimanding ourselves for what surely was going to be a weak lot of wine. Low and behold, the 2006 Callie’s Merlot was by far the best most concentrated wine ever made from that block in its 16-year history. What precisely happened during the growing and/or ripening season that allowed that to occur in 2006? We will never be certain but regardless of that experience we still want to avoid large yields in Callie’s!
There are multiple stories comparable to 2006 Callie’s each vintage, some in which you guess right, some wrong. And with the start of each vintage there is always that hope that everything Mother Nature does, and everything that you do with the vines in response, will conspire to make the perfect vintage, the perfect wine. But, like with children, regardless of what develops you know you will love the vintage and that it will fill you with happy memories even if, come December, you are certain to sport a few more grey hairs.
- Steve Pride