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Friday, January 7, 2011

Vintage 2010

Sunburned mid-veraison bunches - oh 2010...
San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara 2010 Climate Report

This is a very interesting report on the climatic conditions of the 2010 vintage in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties by Mark Battany, Viticulture and Soils Farm Advisor. Unfortunately for us in NorCal it only reports on those two counties. The amazing thing is that from Santa Barbara to Walla Walla, Washington, most of the West Coast was consistently three weeks behind, but some microclimates were very close to average! Some of our blocks were picked ahead of 2008 for example. Sangiovese we picked up from Amador County was only a few days late. Some Tracy Hills fruit  was picked a little earlier than last year!

It is exciting to be part of a challenging and varied year. Lake County had it quite well compared to most areas, but suffered increased mildew and some pest pressure, and even the bird damage responds to the insect population which depends on the growing cycle. Lake County's problem child Cabernet Sauvignon had a miserable time with uneven ripening and clonal variations up to three weeks apart. Most growers scrambled to pick before the rain deluge struggling to average at 24 Brix, while many winery-owned  vineyards waited for more ripeness with some picking into the second week of November. Fermentations were very challenging after the rain, smelling like acetone and heavily dosed with S02 which altered the kinetics. Those of us with tanks outdoors spent every night tarping, wrapping and trying to squeeze space heaters underneath everything everywhere.

Going back to pest pressure, more weeds can mean more bugs meaning more birds eating your Zinfandel (or your Pinot in Oregon). And speaking of Zinfandel, the grape variety ripening variation was huge this year. In Lake County Nebbiolo and Touriga failed to ripen, while in Dunnigan Nebbiolo died on the vine mid-October before Greco Bianco was ripe - even Riesling Renano outlived many late-season reds, including Nebbiolo! A few harvested Chardonnay into the second half of October. In Lake County with our judicious canopy management the Aglianico somehow came through last week of October (ahead of 2009!) so beautifully (yes we stripped leaves heavily after the six inches of rain) and classically styled that Mastrobeardino will be begging to buy barrels in no time. Incidentally, I am becoming convinced that late season Aglianico does not obey the 55-degree shutdown threshold. The Primitivo speaks the elegant, feminine side beautifully, but some whites never really hit their California typicity. Fascinating stuff...

A small part hopes that the difficult vintage will engender a bit of paradigm shift in the future with the "California style" continuing to disperse and erode in favor of regional profiles and varietally-specific bottles at lower prices that are unique AND accessible for the consumer. Here is to a low oak 2010.