There are a few things in life for which you must have personal experience with in order to truly believe; The Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, and this season in CA…Verasion. Verasion is the time of year that red grapes change to their red or black colors and in both red and white varieties, the skins begin to soften. Up until now, I had only heard rumors, stories, and eyewitness accounts from people far removed from the eyewitness. However, yesterday, I was able to see with my own eyes a Merlot vineyard in Calistoga turning colors. It had only just started but it was enough for me to see from the road during one of our wanderings. This further confirms the fact that harvest is going to be late this year.
First of all let me say that I am very envious of all the sparkling winemakers this year! They couldn’t have asked for better weather and a nice slow ripening for bubbly wine. A little less mildew pressure probably would have been appreciated by all growers but it’s going to be a great sparkling wine year!
Likewise I think Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc should have a good year as well with really nice acid good flavor at lower alcohol levels (if we can hold off the botrytis). This also may be the year that CA Riesling gets it’s once out of every 10-15 years to shine. We’ll have to wait and see.
Speaking of botrytis, the other wines that are going to have a great year this year are any botrytized wines as this is perfect weather for it. I’ve already seen botrytis starting in Chardonnay in the Russian River much to the grower’s chagrin. However if botrytis is key to the style you want then this should be a fantastic year with really cool, moist mornings and warm, dry and sunny afternoons.
The reds are a completely different story. One of two things could happen. Either this year has a fantastic Indian summer and the rains hold off until mid-November and this is a great vintage with fresher acid, ripe flavors, and lower alcohols, or the winter comes early and everything turns into bell peppers and string beans with light body and we have to furiously pick everything at one time then stare at it once it gets here to decide what to pull out of our winemaking magic bags to fix it. Naturally I’m hoping for the former option. One only has to look back at the differences between 1998 and 1999 to see the possibilities. So far we are trending very close to 1998 which was not a great year by anyone’s standards.
We shall see how things go. I am anxiously looking at the weather report every morning to see a turn for the warmer weather. Sooner or later this whole thing is going to get started and then we’ll see where we end up at the end.