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What Makes a Good Year?

by David on January 1, 2011

As we say good-bye to 2010, it seems like a good time to ask, yes? Of course, we’d love to take credit for a good year, but it’s really the weather. If you look at famous wine-producing regions world wide, we all have fairly mild, Mediterranean climates. And we all want the same thing. Enough sun and heat to get the grapes ripe and not much more – and plenty of rain, but NOT during harvest. That’s a good year.

And, of course, every wine region has its complaints.

In many of the famous European winegrowing regions they worry that they won’t get enough heat and sun and they’ll be forced to make wine from less that perfectly ripe grapes. You know what under-ripe produce tastes like – not very flavorful and a little on the tart side. It’s pretty much the same with wine. Under-ripe grapes make wine that’s tart, thin and not very flavorful – therefore, no fun. And, they also worry about ill-timed rain causing rot.

It’s the opposite, here in sunny Napa Valley. Some years we complain that it’s too hot and the grapes are getting sweet faster than the flavors are maturing. Since the sugar provides the alcohol, we’re concerned that the wine may be a little too generous in that regard, which can feel a bit hot on your palate. Or, if we harvest at low sugar, to assure a moderate alcohol, we might sacrifice a bit of flavor maturity. Thank heavens, harvest rain is rarely an issue for us.

So, we meet in the middle. The warm vintages are the best ones in cool climates and the cooler vintages are the better ones in a warm growing region like Napa Valley.

It’s very interesting that ever since the topic of climate change has come up, we’ve had remarkably mild, cool weather here and some truly fine vintage years. But, that’s a topic for another day!

More on vineyard cycle

2011 Vintage Recap (podcast)

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