Every vintage has its challenges. Some are cold, some are wet, some are plagued by high or low yields, some are early, some are late. Even “perfect vintages” come with their own challenges. Thankfully, I have been at it long enough to have seen lots of different scenarios. Then a vintage like 2015 comes along and challenges you like no other. Expectations and predictions literally went by the wayside this year.
This has truly been a year like no other. Most other winemakers that I have spoken with agree that this was a “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” kind of year. First of all, the vintage started earlier than anyone guessed. We were still in our bottling season when harvest started in August (many started picking in July). Yes, the drought contributed to the early harvest, but only indirectly. The three years of drought and poor weather during fruit set reduced the yields in the vineyard by as much as 50% in some blocks. These smaller crops of tiny berries ripened very quickly in the hot summer months. Our evenings were not as cold as normal either, which further contributed to the advanced maturity. September, the month in which we harvested most of the Rhône varieties off of the Curtis Estate, was painfully hot. Even night harvesting helped very little, as the nights in September were often in the mid-60’s and sometimes even in the 70’s. The cool snap of fall finally arrived in late September, but it did not last. We ended up nearly completing harvest before the end of September. As I type this letter, we have one more day of picking left, and the weather looks to be turning towards the mid 90’s again. In spite of yields being down, the pace of harvest was just frenetic this year. We essentially completed the entire harvest in just a bit over a month.
I am feeling more exhausted than I can remember. This harvest has taken me to the brink. I feel like I have been living here lately. At least this is an amazingly beautiful place and I get to work with some of the hardest working people in the wine business…they have truly become my Harvest Family.
Moi, Chino, Rudy and Ben in the vineyard, Miguel, Santiago, Victor and Spencer in the new cellar, and Greg up running point at the old cellar. In the end, in spite of my fears and pessimism over the 2015 vintage, the new wines are tasting really good, some of them even AMAZING, even at this early stage. Like every vintage before, this year taught me so much about winemaking and even a few new things about myself. Crazily enough, I am enjoying the craft of winemaking more than ever. I hope it shows in the quality of wines that we are growing and bottling for you. I am confident that we are currently releasing the best wines we have ever crafted. Thank you so very much for joining me on this wild ride!