Harvest 2011: Mother Nature has a Strange Sense of Humor

The 2011 growing season started off being cool and dry. We had relatively cool summer and, frankly, were hoping for a fall miracle of Indian Summer heat.

We didn’t get our wish, but we did get moderate temperatures and dry conditions through September, which enabled early varietals – Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Malbec and Zinfandel – to ripen nicely. As you might expect, cooler districts such as Carneros lagged behind the ripening curve.

Then, in early October, we were hit with two storms, yielding a total of about four inches of rain. Believe it or not, that was less than we had in 2010!

Post-rain conditions, however, were humid, and were very conducive to the growth of various types of mold, primarily Botrytrtis cinera. It may be called the “noble rot” in France, but it’s not so “noble” here. By the time we picked the later Bordeaux varietals and Chardonnay, varying degrees of mold had appeared. This necessitated selective picking in the vineyard and even more sorting in the winery, using both pre- and post-crusher/de-stemmer sorting.

With our new technology equipment and lots of old-school “human power,” we managed to make wines that are, if I may say so, very good to excellent.

Overall, I am pleased. We made good wines in a challenging year by staying diligent, keeping a close eye on the vineyard, and putting a lot of extra effort during crush. I’m hoping Mother Nature will take note of our hard work, and will give us a 2012 season that is kinder and gentler to grapes and winemaker alike.

– Randle Johnson, Winemaker

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