Submitted by Jeff Meier, Director of Winemaking, President and COO
Sitting down to write this blog, we are still very much in the early stages of harvest, with a lot of ground yet to cover, and the large majority of our grapes still to come in. Knowing that Mother Nature can always offer a few late-vintage surprises, I’m usually hesitant to make prognostications about a vintage before the last grapes are in the winery. Even so, as we look at the color numbers and the quality of our early fermentations in 2013, I can’t help but be reminded of the now-legendary 1997 vintage. Just the fact that I am even thinking about 1997 at this stage in the season is a sign of how hopeful and excited we are about the 2013 vintage.
Two factors define the quality of a vintage more than anything else, the weather and our experience as winegrowers. For a little background on the experience of our team, I invite you to read our August 22 blog about our “20+ Vineyard Club.” As for the weather, it’s been exceptional. 2013 offered a significant departure from the coolness of the last four years. We had a very warm, dry spring and a very warm-to-hot June through mid-July. As a result, we had near-perfect set and flowering. Come late July, as we entered veraison, the weather continued to cooperate as things cooled down dramatically—especially in Paso Robles, which is ideal for color development.
Up until the cool down in July, we had been anticipating an early, heavy harvest, with everything coming into the wineries quickly, but happily that did not end up being the reality. The slowdown in ripening due to the cooler temperatures was extremely welcome. I am really optimistic about our Cabernet Sauvignon, which could not look any better at this stage of its development. If things stay the course, it will have incredible color and the voluptuous black currant and cherry flavors we love from warmer vintages.
In Monterey, we also saw cooler weather in July and August, with lots of fog and clouds. From our early sampling, the acids are looking typical for a coolish vintage, which will give the wines lovely structure and focus, but there is also excellent ripeness. We are harvesting our Arroyo Seco Sauvignon Blanc this week, with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir starting in earnest in mid-to-late September (in both the Arroyo Seco and Santa Lucia Highlands). And again, if things hold to course, the quality will be phenomenal.
After several very low-yielding vintages, our crop sizes look to have returned to normal this year. Where necessary, we thinned the crop, but almost across the board we have seen great vine balance and ideal ripening. The first fruit to come in this year was our Sauvignon Blanc from Carol’s Vineyard in St. Helena on August 19 and 21. The flavors are showing the passion fruit and grapefruit notes we love—it’s going to be a stellar wine! Prior to Labor Day, we picked some of our Syrah vineyards, and early evaluations of the color and density of the fruit has us excited for what’s in store. We have even picked a little bit of Cabernet, but most of it will come in late September to mid-October.
From here on out, we want drama-free free weather; no heat waves and no rain. In Monterey, we’re hoping for foggy mornings and temperate days, and in Paso we’d like to see no more than a few days in a row above 100 degrees. If this is what we get, then 2013 really might be another 1997!