According to the early growing season weather last spring, 1998 didn’t promise to be a great harvest, if even any harvest. With above normal soil moisture and fewer grapes to ripen, the vines grew with unusual vigor. Allowed to grow unmanaged, the fruit would be excessively shaded, yielding more rot-prone, vegetal, less interesting wines. In an effort to make the best of this unusual growing season, we removed many more ‘lateral’ vine shoots and basal leaves from the vine than usual. This increased the illumination of the 1998 crop as well as the basal buds (which were in the process of determining the following year’s crop). Whether 1998 would remain colder and damper than normal, or settle back into ‘typical’ weather, the vines were now poised to make the best of it. And they did.
In a typical growing season, my father would thin the crop by performing a couple of passes through the vineyard. Since 1998 promised a small crop, there was no need to spend the usual amount of time reducing it. For this reason, the huge amount of labor my father, sister, and vineyard crew put into the previously discussed canopy work in 1998 (and 1999 as well) was somewhat offset by less crop reduction work, so total labor was about normal. It is great to see someone like my father, in his early 70’s, be so adaptable in his farming practices. This is what separates the ‘men from the boys’ when conditions become unusual.
The cold & wet springtime weather during the bloom of 1998 was also unfavorable for thorough pollination, so there were fewer seeds per berry. Fewer seeds make smaller berries. In a situation like this, one tends to get more skin extraction relative to seed extraction during red fermentation. There is also more skin relative to juice. If the skin material has been properly warmed and illuminated during its development and maturation on the vine, one obtains supple and flavorful red wines with deep fruit flavors. This is the major reason for trellising and canopy work done by hand. When these grapes are allowed to come to full maturity, the results are…well, quite pleasing.
Download the complete newsletter: Futures Offering