Three members of our handsome production crew sorting through the chardonnay: Erik Ayala (son, left), Romel Rivera (associate winemaker, center) and Ruben Ayala (father, right).
The years 2012, 2013 and 2014 will likely go down as the greatest consecutive trio of vintages in Napa and Sonoma history. In terms of wine quality, the 2012 reds, with their approachable charm, are quite similar to 2002 even if 2002 was an overall cooler year than 2012. Continuing with vintage comparisons, 2013 is very reminiscent of 2001, not only in terms of weather statistics, but in the boldly structured and intensely flavored wines that were made. Lastly, 2014 is the warmest of the 2012, 2013, 2014 series, and if the flavors of the grapes in the vineyards are any indication, it has a good chance to be the greatest of the three.
The 2014 vintage has been “early” from the get go which is historically a reliable indicator of great fruit quality at harvest. Bud break was in mid March, with fruit set completely finished by the third week of May. This is about one month earlier than normal. Temperatures throughout the growing and ripening season have been above the historic average (and 11% higher than in 2013 and 13% higher than in 2012) but without any significant heat spikes to shut down the vines. Despite the overall drought we are going through, there was enough spring rain that we had good shoot growth back in April and May so that there is a nice balance between the crop load and the shoot length.
Starting last week, we began harvest with both the chardonnay and viognier coming in. The perfumed heady flavors in the viognier were off the chart. Get ready for our 2014 Viognier to be full and rich and loaded with apricot and peach flavors, even more so than in the great 2013 vintage. The 2014 Chardonnay has flavors comparable to the 2012 and 2013 vintages, so if you have tried our 2012 Chardonnay, you will be getting more of that beautiful character in 2014.
The first baby lots of red grapes began to come in last Friday from small sections of cabernet sauvignon blocks that were ready before the remainder of the block. Being able to go through the vineyards and harvest only some of the clusters on individual vines or harvest only parts of a vineyard block is one of the great advantages to having your own crew who has been working with you for many years. The bulk of the red grapes should start coming in next week. The flavors are fantastic in all the red varieties this year.
Although the production crew is always hopeful when harvest begins that the wines are going to be top notch, the signs in 2014 indicate that these truly are going to be amazing wines, maybe the best ever. In about six months, we can check back in with you and let you know our first impressions of how the 2014 vintage wines came out.
-- Steve Pride