This winter was wetter and milder than the past few (32” of rain as opposed to 20"-22" the last few years). Bud break was one week early. We had cool weather through flowering in April, which caused shatter in the Sauvignon Blanc (cold weather causes flowers to stay closed and not be pollinated, simply falling off). Shatter means reduced yields, and it looks like our Sauvignon will be scarce this year.
The same cold weather caused Millerandage in some of the Pinot Noir, also known as hens and chicks in English. This is a condition that means berries are pollinated, but set improperly. The affected bunches develop berries of different sizes that mature at different rates. It is commonly viewed as a problem, as it reduces yield, but a vintner can use use it to his or her advantage as the berries that do develop tend to be highly concentrated in flavor.
This past week we saw cloudy days and some sprinkles, which should put harvest back into a normal range, starting in September.
It will not be a great vintage for farmers (lower tonnage than average) but the potential for concentrated fruit due to that low tonnage combined with more skin tannin and color from the small berries could make for some excellent wines. Managing tannin from the small berries plus tannin coming from stems and oak will be different than in years past, but the all-mighty basket press is the great equalizer. We employ a traditional, wood-slatted basket press for our wines, which allows us to taste as we press and get the desired amount of tannin before the wines go into barrel. We can also use less new oak for less oak tannin, and more for more.
To test the fruit before harvest we typically take samples of 100 berries from each block, then test that. Because of the irregularity of the clusters I will be taking cluster samples this year instead.
Timing irrigation, if there are any heat waves near harvest, will also be key to keep the little berries from shriveling into raisins.
This will certainly be a vintage where I feel small wineries with extra attention to detail in the vineyard and winery will show.
Winemaker, Foursight Wines