Pride Mountain Vineyards home
February 27, 2015
Warm and Dry (So Far)

This is the warmest and driest winter that we can remember in our 25 years at Pride Mountain Vineyards despite two nice rain events in December and February.   As seen in the photo, the chardonnay vines have already had their buds break and first leaves emerge.  We have never had the vines leaf out this early in any other vintage.  Due to warm ocean temperatures off of the California coast, high pressure has developed over California which blocks the Pacific storms from getting to the mainland.  The long range forecast for this spring predicts the warm and dry conditions to persist into the growing season. 

The good news is that when budbreak occurs early and springtime is warm and dry, we historically make fantastic wines (think 1997, 2001 and 2013). 

A bit of rain in May and April can make a huge difference in the resulting wines even in warm years.  If there is plenty of moisture in the soil at fruit set (typically late May up to mid June for us depending on the spring temperatures), all the cells in the grape berry form which results in larger grapes at harvest.  If there is less moisture in the soil, not all the cells in the grape form which results in smaller grapes and larger ratios of skin to pulp.  The grape skin is responsible for wine texture, color and flavor.  So when there is a greater ratio of skin to pulp, the wines are always more structured, concentrated and intensely flavored. 

The last two years, 2013 and 2014, were nearly identical in terms of above normal temperatures and “growing degree day” profiles throughout the growing season.  However, in 2013, the soils were quite dry at fruit set and the resulting wines, especially cabernet sauvignon, are monumentally structured with the highest tannin levels any of us can remember.  Our task with these wines is to “tame the beast” prior to bottling through blending and fining.  In 2014, there were late spring rains despite the warm temperatures, the grapes fully formed and the resulting wines are softer and surprisingly approachable given the warm growing season.   So despite the temperature profile being quite similar in both 2013 and 2014, the wines from these two vintages are quite distinct from each other.

2015 is setting itself up to be yet another blockbuster vintage in both Napa and Sonoma.  Whether the wines will be geared more toward 2013 or 2014 will depend on the amount of rain we get in April and early May. 

- - Steve Pride