The ‘buzz’ is that 1997 is supposed to be a great Cabernet Sauvignon vintage with 1998 and 1999 being lesser, or uneven vintages. However I’m happy to report that our Cabernet Sauvignon has actually improved in these vintages. Both 1998 and 1999 were relatively cool, damp growing seasons. While very high temperatures punctuated these two cool seasons at times, the overall trend was cooler than normal for much of these two growing seasons. This cool weather has its own effects on grapevine physiology, affecting both the current and following vintages’ size and personality. A grower can alter the vine canopy to ameliorate conditions within the vine canopy, but this is costly, time-consuming, and requires highly skilled labor. To us, it is worth it, and a matter of good vineyard management regardless of the variety. Because of this customized grapevine canopy work, the vines were poised to make the best of these unusually cool conditions in 1998 & 1999. The result is more consistent wines. These are some of the things that separate the better growers from the rest in certain vintages. It also doesn’t hurt to go for modest yields as well.
The 1999 Zinfandels and Chardonnays look to be very special wines too. I’ll write more about the 1999 vintage this summer, with the Zinfandel futures offering. But for now, let’s just say that lovers of very dense, ageworthy reds will be pleased. The 1999 Scherrer Chardonnay completed malolactic fermentation quite early this year, and is showing remarkable fineness. The Helfer Chardonnay, by contrast, has conducted a very slow malolactic fermentation, yet appears remarkably consistent in character to the previous vintage.
We began playing with Pinot Noir (another year away from bottling, folks) in 1999 as well: sixteen tiny fermentation lots, actually. Unfortunately, I suspect I will be accused of the same non-committal attitude as with the early days of our Cabernet Sauvignon. With so many Pinot lots, the blending options are numerous. There could be vineyard designates, big blends, or little blends. I just don’t know yet. There is no substitute for experience with vineyards or in life. Thank you for your interest and support of our wine. It has allowed me to achieve my longtime dream of operating my own small winery. I hope to see you at our open house this spring and I hope you will enjoy what we have produced.
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