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It’s all a Matter of Timing

Be it agriculture, baseball, music, marketing, comedy, or winemaking, it’s all a matter of timing. When you: plant your crop, swing the bat, set the tempo/attack the note, roll out the product, deliver the punch-line, or pick/punch-down/press, it’s all about the timing. No vintage illustrates this concept better than 2004. An early budbreak and unusually warm March weather put everything well ahead of the usual schedule. The ensuing months saw beautifully moderate to cool conditions that promised great things if it would continue. Unfortunately, there was a sudden long, hot, dry period during late August lasting through mid September, just as the grapes were trying to finish ripening. Because the vines were not accustomed to very high temperatures, they did not handle this well. We saw shriveling even in under-ripe grape clusters throughout Sonoma County and across all varieties. This made for difficult winemaking. We were fortunate to have good cooperation with the growers we work with and were able to wait until the last reasonable moment to harvest, before shriveling became a significant problem, quickly snatching the grapes out to the vineyards in the early morning. While some of the more exposed clusters succumbed to the solar punishment and became unusable, this patient attitude allowed the more protected, but less ripe grapes finish their ripening. With rigorous triage removing the over ripe clusters at the vineyards and at our sorting table at the winery, we were able to make the very best of a challenging situation. [The early ripening Scherrer Vineyard Chardonnay was the notable exception being fully ripe and harvested before the unwelcome heat arrived.]

Now that we occupy the entire building, combined with the fact that there was a scarce crop even before triage, there was plenty of space and consequently more time to devote to creative, sensitive winemaking and less on forklift shuffling. I have never experienced a more satisfying, yet challenging harvest than this one. There was time to really think about each wine, and make well-thought-out decisions often departing from our normal routine. Right now, the Syrah is still in the field, but everything else is in barrel so they are easier to assess. Of the wines in hand, I am thrilled by their overall quality and find it hard to believe they are all so beautiful despite what I thought the weather would cause. Another one for the memory banks…

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