I’ve decided to initiate this writing by optimistically pouring myself a half full glass of 2011 Pinot Noir.
In what seems like the wettest summer in recent memory, there have been a few positives. Not the least of which is that I now know it’s possible to grow grapes in a climate where it rains every other day. The vines are indeed lush and happy, but ripening this crop of monster-sized berries could prove to be the rub.
It may be a blessing in disguise that our poor, winter-ravaged vines were treated to a stressless year such as this. We haven’t exactly been afforded the heat units and dry conditions seen in “glorious” years like 2010 and 2012, but that isn’t the be-all and end-all of crafting decent wine. I’ve come to accept this stubbornly, as people continually seem to prefer the wines we’ve made in less extreme years like 2009 and 2011. The superior elegance and early approachability of these vintages has been surprisingly matched by their ability to age splendidly. However, given the choice I’d take the easy growing season every time!
I shudder at the memory of the nightmare harvest of 2011, and that optimistic glass of Pinot suddenly becomes half empty. I start to worry that even an unprecedented two month stretch of dry heat may not be enough ripen our beautiful (but late) crop of Cabernet Sauvignon. Due to the sluggish start and lack of sumer heat, we’ve had to thin the crop down to its lowest level since 2009 and the cluster and berry sizes are reflective of that – GARGANTUAN! Winemakers are not generally fans of big berries, although farmers like my dad love them. Larger berries tend to be more dilute in terms of flavour and suffer from lower skin to juice ratio, not the textbook combo for premium wine.
Perhaps it’s too early to worry about such things. The glass is now empty.