November 2010

2010, What a Year in the Vineyard!

by Alan on November 12, 2010

Perli Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge AVA

Perli Vineyard, September 2010

Now that all the 2010 Cartograph wines are safely tucked away in barrel for the winter, we can take a moment to reflect on a season that held many surprises.

We had abundant rainfall in the winter of 2009/2010 and a cold spring which gave us quite a late start. And considering the cool foggy conditions that persisted into the summer months, it almost felt like summer wasn’t going to happen at all. To combat the cool wet conditions many growers had to pull most of the leaves from the fruit zone to keep the fruit free of mildew. This set up a perfect storm for some vines as the first real heat came very fast and the temperature went from 51 to 109 degrees in a single day and some fruit was quickly burned to raisins. There were a few more 100+ degree days to contend with after that, so the task of getting quality fruit meant that we had to drop a depressingly large amount of fruit that had sunburn. In our Pinot and Gewürz vines it hurt all the more because half the cluster was raisined and the other half was pristine beautiful berries. But, we knew we couldn’t pull them all apart on the sorting table so to the ground they went.

As a winemaker I was really excited by the cool summer because the cool conditions had the grapes maturing very slowly. This meant the grapes had ripe flavors at low sugar levels. We picked most of our Pinot around 22.5 Brix. In a typical year grapes at this sugar level would still have green seeds and very high acids. It was a wild ride as we dodged heat spikes and threat of rain to get the fruit in but the many passes in the vineyard paid off with beautiful grapes going into the tank. All the Pinot noir came through fermentation with alcohol levels under 14%. For every winemaker who ever said they wished they could get fruit in with good flavor at reasonable sugar levels, this was the year it was possible. We’re ecstatic.

It seems pretty nerdy to be excited about a stainless steel fermentation tank but this year we added a temperature-controlled tank specifically to ferment our small 1.5 ton lot of Gewürztraminer. It was a cold, slow, fermentation that really has the aromas popping out of the glass right now. These aromas will moderate before bottling to better match the dry mineral-driven complexity of the wine. We’re really excited by the Gewürz again this year.

We’re going into winter very grateful to have such great growers to work with who provided awesome fruit in a year that took creativity and a LOT of work to deliver such killer grapes.

Here’s to a nice mellow winter.

Cheers, Alan