2011 VintageHere we are at the very beginning of our harvest, and we winemakers are already  impatient to read the quality of our vintage, even though we can only talk about the potential of the grapes to date.

So these are my observations thus far.  This year’s winter gave us enough cold for a solid period of dormancy and sufficient rain to rebuild our soil’s water reserves. A hot, dry spring generated an early budding, consistent with the 2 to 3 week lead from the previous year. It was easy to talk about global warming and that we would have “the earliest harvest in history.” But as farmers say “trees don’t reach the heavens” and from mid-June to mid-August, we had a cool rainy summer that made us doubt our previous certainties.

Today I find myself constantly delaying the harvest of most of my parcels because based on our maturity checks the vineyards just aren’t ready. Thus far we’ve only brought in our 70% of our Viognier and most of our Roussanne. The grapes are of high quality, characterized by good acidity and rich colors that promise to be deep. The amounts of tannins are below average and it seems we’re heading towards a good coordination of physiological maturity (sugar / acid), aromatic maturity, and phenolic maturity (tannins). This would mean that we won’t have to push too far for ripe tannins and thus have reasonable levels of acidity. A very drinkable vintage !

But, as always “it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings” and to date the grapes are relatively fragile. Clusters are large and compact due to exceptional conditions during the spring bloom, the skins are thin because the vineyards were not stressed water-wise and the successive generations of grape moths were virulent this year. We are seeing some symptoms of rot in a few parcels, so sorting will be paramount this year.

Harvesting conditions will be key for this vintage.  I’m just thankful for all the quality work we’ve done in our vineyards (green harvest, budding and tying), it will surely increase our chances for bringing in healthy well-ripened grapes.  We will know more after Oct. 15 …