2010: On or off the charts?
As vintners ring in the new decade and last summer’s weather angst evaporates like the bubbles into celebratory Prosecco, thousands of newly harvested California grapes start their fermentation journey. The question remains, just where will this year’s vintage end up on the charts?
Jonathan Pey of Pey-Marin vineyards in Marin County:
“2010 will likely go down as a ‘cool’ vintage for Pey-Marin — flavorful and balanced with low alcohol. The winter was predictably wet, the spring was cooler than normal, and the summer continued to be very cool, leaving some to worry if Mother Nature could do her job of ripening the seeds to allow new plants to grow the following season. Alas, we had a heat spike in August and a warm September. In the end we harvested our Pey-Marin Pinot Noir about two weeks later than normal, but, surprisingly, our Pey-Marin Riesling was picked on the very same day as the last two harvests. Hence by the end of the season, Mother Nature did her job last fall—just like the Giants!”
Eric Flanagan of Flanagan vineyards, Bennett Valley, Napa Valley:
“In a normal year everything ripens in Napa and Sonoma. In 2010, cold summer weather, an early September heat spike, and October rains made this anything but a normal year, making it a true test of focus and patience for winemakers. Overall, it took a lot more work in the vineyard this year to ripen and harvest a smaller crop of clean fruit. Due to the very long growing season (we harvested November 5) there will be some wines of exceptional maturity and complexity, countered by a lot of wines exhibiting unripe or even dilute qualities. Bottom line is there will be a much greater difference in fruit quality between the top and the ‘less stringent’ producers in 2010.”
Erik Miller of Kokomo Winery, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma:
“We are extremely pleased with what we have in the cellar; the colors are deep, tannins are big, and we have a beautiful amount of natural acidity. I believe this all adds up to what is going to be a vintage that can be cellared. It was certainly a challenging year for zinfandel in the vineyard, but we are pleased with the balance on the zinfandel wines, which have great acidity and alcohols that are in check.”
Christophe Paubert of Stags’ Leap Winery, Napa:
“Overall, this particular year merlot fared better and more powerful than usual, yet these weather conditions did not have a negative impact on cabernet. In general the season was cooler with a longer ripening period, 12 days longer in average; the benefits were seen in our estate fruit in a very favorable way. In addition, the early rain in spring allowed us to build a very balanced canopy naturally, without irrigation. The result has been wines typical of Bordeaux with very refined aromatics, complexity, rich, soft tannins and intense color with superb overall elegance.”
Jon Priest of Etude Wines, Carneros:
“The long, cool 2010 growing season allowed for a slow yet deliberate ripening of the grapes and created an ideal environment for culturing our pinot noir vines. The vintage required patience while we waited for the perfect grapes to develop through the cool summer and fall. The warmth at the end of September added the punctuation the season needed to bring the pinot noir to full maturity and flavor.”
Julie Pedroncelli St. John of Pedroncelli Winery, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma:
“I was relieved to only lose 35 to 50 percent of our grapes. In order to bring in the best fruit possible, we employed the grape-picking crew by the hour rather than by the bucket to comb through the zinfandel on each vine. However, it was perfect ripening for the Rhône and Bordeaux reds. A big storm at the end of October dropped up to four inches of rain in some areas, but most of the grapes had been harvested or were thick-skinned varieties that withstood the moisture. Everything came in perfectly ripened with great hang time achieved in the month of October. We were glad to finish before the rain.”
Hugh Chappelle of Quivira Estate Winery, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma:
“The 2010 harvest was a roller coaster ride; however, I am very pleased with the quality of Quivira’s Dry Creek Valley Fig Tree Sauvignon Blanc. While we had to do some serious fruit thinning in the field, and further sorting on the crush pad, the quality of flavors and perfect sugar-acid balance bodes extremely well for our house style of crisp, refreshing and under 14 percent alcohol.”
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “Appellation”.