This is your blog page, add intro text before through the content management tools or add blog posts through the blogging tools:
With the success of our limited production futures program, and the popularity of our unique tableside barrel tasting opportunity, we are pleased to announce our latest offering in this special offering. Our curated approach to futures wines relieves much of the guesswork that might cause hesitancy in commitment to these programs.
Our offering has been selected after careful screening of many many lots, and only after rigorous scrutiny were three special barrels reserved for this extremely limited and exceptional wine.
The 2021 Ektimo Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the hillside of the Southeastern Sonoma Valley and is a wine of some heft and substance. Bold yet refined, intense yet approachable, powerful yet balanced, it is a fine wine that is sure to impress.
Gorgeous coloring of the corundum family Ruby gemstone, the dark red crystal density is intense. Deep aromas of dark cherries and blackcurrants and a wisp of English Oak. On the palate a powerful concentration of dark fruit tones led by Cassis, Tartarian cherry, wild blackberry, Damson plum and Assam tea all unite in a robust package framed in a sturdy and velvety tannin structure that will soften with time and reveal even greater depth and complexity. Bold and impressive from the barrel, it is ready to be enjoyed by those that find appeal in the fierce roguish nature of youth, yet crafted with a vision of dynamic evolutions for years to come.
We anticipate some 68 cases only, so reserve yours and order plenty. Retail is $50, it only sells by the case but for the vote of confidence you get 50% off the retail price!! Buy the case and the price is just $25 per bottle (plus tax and shipping where applicable). Custom label options from simple to irreverent are available at no additional charge, inquire for details or order directly by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
March is the month when wineries seriously start to emerge from the hibernation of the winter months. It is a time of great anticipation, nervousness, planning, and all the work starts to shift gears.
In the vineyard, it can be a very tricky time depending on mother nature. In 2021 a mild temperate start to the year spurred growth early and everything seemed to time out nicely but persistent drought conditions stress the region. In 2022 what started out mild suddenly dipped back towards freezing causing damage to some vineyards which combined with ongoing drought conditions resulted in significant drops in yields throughout the region, the grape growers were not happy.
Now 2023 has started out so very differently. Persistently cold in the winter months without extreme freezing is a welcome change for the vines which have had a well earned rest after the last season. The evolutionary timeline has landed close to what should be standard, as the freezing temperatures started to fade in late March. Glorious rains have replenished the parched soils with quantities not seen in decades. Some over ambitious growers planted well into the wetlands taking advantage of water shortages, and some of those vineyards remained submerged under water for weeks. The rest of the vineyards are in full recovery mode and things look great for the coming season.
Some parts of Sonoma County started to welcome bud break by mid March, and the rest have awakened slowly but surely in preparation for what is anticipated to be a great year. The landscape is green, the cover crops are vibrant which will provide some nice backup fertilization as they get tilled back in between the vine rows, and the new growth on the vines is rising fast.
Making predictions of what this years wines will be so premature, and frankly meaningless at this time. A lot can happen between now and harvest. What we do know, is that so far..... everything is looking great.
In the winery, bottling is rolling steadily along as more and more previous vintages find their way to stability for future enjoyment. As with every step of the process, this can be a tricky time. You have invested so much time and energy into making the best wine you possibly can. Now you had better make sure that you preserve that incredible goodness in a way that will hold for years to come. Our sophisticated bottling line can handle between 1000 and 2000 cases a day but a lot of moving parts have to synchronize with a skilled staff for things to go smoothly. The slightest hiccup and everything grinds to a halt, but when everything works it is mesmerising to behold.
In its' simplest form, you place your wine into a tank in close proximity to the bottling line. Attach a hose, and a pump and connect it to the bottling line. Dump a case of empty bottles at the beginning of the line (and continue doing so for the duration of the run). Fill up your cork hopper and label spool. Turn on the machine and watch it work! The bottles travel down a channel, get purged with gas, filled with wine, corks inserted, capsules sealed, labels applied, and at the exit channel someone puts those bottles back into the case and as it rolls down the exit chute it gets taped and labeled and then someone lifts and stacks onto a waiting pallet. Now imagine you are the guy, the last link in the chain lifting those boxes, 33 pounds at a time. At the end of the day you have had quite the workout having moved 15 tons of product!!!!
February, one of those unpredictable months when you need to be flexible, be able to pivot from one project to another, remember valentines day or else, and get things done before time runs out as February always seems to be short for some reason.
One of the primary project to consider is pruning, which invites us all to become seers, or read the farmers almanac, or just wait for a convenient opening. Pruning should happen during the dormant phase of the vine, so generally occurs between December and March in the Russian River area. Left on its own, a grapevine will sprawl and spread itself out, producing as many leaves and as much fruit as it can. You might be thinking, “More grapes! What’s wrong with that?” But unchecked grapevines yield more grapes than grapegrowers are looking for—huge crops can ripen unevenly and usually result in grapes that lack the intensity of flavor needed to make great wine. Pruning helps focus the vine’s energy on producing a smaller volume of the best grapes possible. The process is best left to skilled professionals, and can have a significant impact on yields, quality, and the health of the vine.
Timing is important, as pruning will be a significant factor in productivity for the season. If low temperatures and strong winds follow pruning, it’s very possible that the pruned parts will freeze. This may make you lose all or part of your crop. If you prune in early December, and suddenly we have a warm february and March, the vineyard may want to bud early. If this happens, and then freezing temperatures manifest in later March or April there is the danger of the buds being damaged, not good. You certainly want to prune before bud break, so if you wait until March you may be cutting back emerging growth, not optimal. Prune juuuust befor bud break, and you might push back bud break by a week or two, which in turn may push harvest by a couple of weeks on the ripening end if this is desired.
This is also a time of planning, as some of the decisions you are about to make will have an impact on yields, quality, and overall health of the vines. It is a delicate balance between the farmer wanting optimal yields without compromising the quality, and the winemaker to get the perfect balance of intensity and complexity by limiting yields and still making realistic numbers. Compromise can work for both.
Sometimes it becomes a matter of practicality. You do not really want to be pruning in the rain or freezing cold, or when the vineyards are sloppy with mud because..... well it is messy, and pruning into a freeze can damage the freshly cut canes. So, you look for a nice window of opportunity where the weather co-operates, and the the pruning crew can get things done quickly and efficiently. You realy want to have all your vines pruned as close to the same time as possible, so if you are one guy looking to prune 10 acres of vineyard at a leisurely pace over the span of a couple of weeks, don't do it. Get your select blocks done same day and all the plants will be on the same team.
Pruning is generally completed by a scheduled vineyard management crew, which leaves the winemaking time free to work on other projects. Aside from the day to day maintenance (remember the constant cleaning and sanitizing?) it is also a good time to schedule the bottling of some previous vintages. If things have gone smoothly, some Rosé's and Sauvignon Blancs may have been finished from the most recent vintage, and are often some of the first, brightest and freshest releases from a vintage.
Some wines from the previous vintage will be timing out to have barrel aged for some 16-18 months and be ready for bottling too. As long as the wine is still in barrels or tanks, it needs regular attention to ensure no compromise to quality. Moving the wines to bottle means that you will have a completed and stable product, ready for bottle aging or release at your leisure but your work on that wine is done!
This is also a good time to start planning out your year with harvest and production goals, start setting up contracts, work out your numbers for production needs such as new barrels, but most importantly, start planning what you plan to make this year. By starting your planning early, it gives you plenty of time to make adjustments, additions, reduce or increase contracts, and generally know what your production goal is for the year. It seems like a long way off, but harvest will sneak up on you and if you have insufficient planning, the chaos of harvest will take its toll on even the most seasoned veteran.
From a hospitality perspective, this is the slowest time, so there is plenty of time for planning there too. Entering select competitions, submitting to publications that may go to print in the fall, hospitality outreach to partner with local lodgings for entertaining opportunities.
Also February, a great time for processing a wine club allocation. The celebrations of Oct, Nov & Dec have taken their toll on everyones wine supplies, so it is time to be proactive and help everyone replenish their favorites. Our quarterly club processes in February, May, August and November. Generally fairly co-operative months climate wise for most of the country, and the months when everyone needs their thirst quenched!..... well those, and the other months that someone might get thirsty for some fine wine.
Wineries.... the glamorous end of farming! With all the finesse and sophistication that abounds in the wine industry, it is quite easy to forget that it all starts with simple farming. Nature has blessed us with a fruit that when handled correctly transforms into quite possibly the most studied, analyzed, and dissected consumable in existence.
Winemaking, at its most rudimentary level is actually quite simple, and the fundamentals of winemaking are essentially the same for everyone. The scenery, the scale, the peripherals may vary some, but the start and the finish are pretty much the same. So, that being said, let's take an excursion broken down into monthly increments of what is quite typical at a small family owned winery.
Not the most exciting month to start with in the wine world, but for chronology sake we will follow the standard "Gregorian" Calendar, and for our purposes we will state that this outline is based on the cycle of a Sonoma County Green Valley Winery..... namely Ektimo.
January is a time of dormancy in the vineyard. Only the clingiest of shriveled leaves remain until a stiff breeze or sturdy rain strips the canes to just the bare branches rising up from the trunk and outstretched arms of the vine. From leaf fall to the beginning of growth in spring, grapevines are dormant and consist entirely of woody tissue. As temperatures fall, vines gradually become more cold hardy, and sugars are converted to starch to be stored for the winter, mostly in perennial structures such as roots and trunks. After leaf fall, vines continue to acclimate to cold weather, but no more carbohydrate accumulation occurs. Relatively little activity occurs during this period. Root growth can still occur unless soil temperatures are too cold to support growth, but it is the time of the year when vineyards remain silent.
However, while all the local wildlife runs unopposed in the fields, there is always something going on in the wine cycle. I the winery, all the primary fermentations are done and the symphony of sounds that ring through the winery are all but silent. January is where attention to detail becomes the challenge of the team. During this time, tiny chemical changes are tediously monitored, and older wines delicately maintained to age beautifully and folow a delicate path to perfect maturity. Wines still in the tanks are analyzed and kept temperature stable to ensure freshness and peak quality.
Wines that have moved to the barrels are closely monitored on their journey too. Barrels by nature are flavor yielding porous containers that through the early phases of storage soak up a portion of wine in the flavor exchange. as this happens, this creates an undesired space in the top of the barrel which if unattended exposes the wine to too much oxygen which is not a friend to wine at this stage. Any visit to a cellar will reveal various containers, kegs, mini tanks, half barrels and carboys scattered around, tagged, labeled and dated. These are used to maintain the "fill" in each barrel to ensure that it is topped off as much as possible and purged of any air.
With hundreds, sometimes thousands of barrels, each one is regularly inspected, topped, and dated as having been serviced on a specific timeline. The inspections also include a visual to see if any flaws are being exposed where wine may be leaking through tiny fissures which inform us it is time for a barrel to be retired.
Cleanliness is important, and this is a task that must be fastidiously undertaken year round. Neglect sanitation at your peril as all those hard days and nights of work and effort can easily be erased if any bacterial growths take hold and contaminate your wines. Household cleansers are a no-no as in the wine world they can just as easily contaminate as clean. The most common cleaning agents you will see in a winery are water/steam, hydrogen peroxide and alcohol. Most of the water used in winemaking believe it or not is in cleaning not growing. Wineries have become quite adept at recycling the water used in sanitizing, moving it back into the water table where it replenishes aquifers and even irrigates vineyards.
On the hospitality side of things, January tends to be dreary, quiet and slow. Gone are the holiday celebrations of the preceding months, and as one of the slowest months for tourism, this is actually a brilliant time to have an in depth visit with your favorite winery. You will likely get the undivided attention of your host, and you can taste at your leisure and get informed on any expectations for the coming year. This slow period in mind, the Russian River Wineroad takes advantage of this time of year by presenting "Winter Wineland". It is a ticketed event in late January where the wineries show their more leisurely side for an event, and usually present the hearty wine selections to get you through those short days and long nights. Well, what else are you going to do in January?
So...... January, keep it clean.
In March as the saying goes, winter is holding back, and spring is pulling forward..... hahahahahahaha whaaaaaaaaat!!!! This year seems to be bucking trends everywhere. They are expecting record breaking cherry blossom bloom in Washington, meanwhile they have been snowboarding in the Napa Valley! Extreme freezing weather in the upper Northeast, while the south from Texas to Georgia is experiencing record breaking heat for this time of year. It is going to be an interesting year.
For California wineries, the snowfall is a novelty, not a cause for alarm, and maybe even a chance for some fun winter sports. At this time of year, snow poses no risk to the valley’s most valuable natural asset: the grapevines.
Vines are dormant right now, in their annual hibernation between the previous fall’s harvest and the budding of the coming spring. If snow or freezing temperatures were to come once buds, flowers or berries have formed on the vines, the fruit would be at risk of frost damage. But for now, during the plants’ dormancy, the snow is just another form of water — which is very welcome after years of drought. Precipitation in any form is great, to fill up our aquifers. While increased rainfall and snowpack throughout California is a step in the right direction, we are still years away from recovering from persistent drought conditions but it is still desperately needed relief.
However, very soon things will be sarting to warm up and another vintage will get underway. March heralds the launch of our season as the first weekend is always focused on the Russian River Wineroad Barrel Tasting Event. A time to preview some young wines and look to the futures by securing some limited supply wines by preview before bottling. Our release of 2021 Lodi Zinfandel has been greeted with rave reviews, and of the 66 available cases 47 have been sold as of this writing. With Barrel tasting this weekend it just might sell out? Our tableside barrel tasting is a creatively unique opportunity where instead of going to the cellar, the barrel comes to you. We rotate some collectible and limited offerings year round and each sells out faster than the last. Add into the mix that we offer custom label options on our futures, and it is achieving cult status among the select few.
So...... if you have not yet secured your supply, get in on the act sooner rather than later. Sure it takes some committment up front, but the reward is such an incredible pay off the only thing you will be asking yourself is "why did I not order more". Available by the case only, it can be ordered with confidence on the website, or come by the winery and sample for yourself. It is one great deal!.
Sometimes blogs are best kept brief, especially when there is something more substantial buried within. That being said, check out the "Wineroad Podcast" with Julius as the guest to speak about Ektimo and more.
Wine Competitions..... we love them, we love getting the medals, we love the pat on the back, but it is important to put competitions, awards and medals in perspective and not all competitions are equal.
So what is a wine competition? Many of these now exist, from state fairs, to magazine and press sponsored competitions where usually people considered to be "experts" in their field are tasked with tasting through a range of wines and determining which ones meet the criteria for excellence in the particular competition. Sommeliers, winemakers, wholesalers, retailers and restaurateurs are invited to judge at competition, and each of these has their own perspective on what constitutes excellence for a specific wine.
In reality, these skilled people may be tasked with tasting through an array of 100 wines in a 3 hour period, and at the end of it all express their opinion on these products and choose their favorites?
Make no mistake, each of these competitions has value. It serves as an attempt by a group of people to rank wines in a manner that might assist the buyer in determining which wine their palate might align with. A Gold medal wine must taste better than a Silver medal wine right? Not so fast. Does a Gold medal winning wine from the Idaho potato festival get bragging rights over a Silver medal winner from San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition? Maybe, maybe not. Is a wine rating 100 points from Robert Parker guaranteed to satisfy more than a wine rating 17 Cheers by Julius? Perspective makes all the difference.
Now I would not for a moment deny the marketing clout that a Parker rating will bring to a wine, or the leverage gained from a 100 Point score in the Wine Spectator. But at the end of the day, each and every one of these awards is an expression of opinion. The consumer is then tasked with deciding how much weight to place on any of these opinions. It is therefore fundamentally important to determine a formula to apply competition information to your own personal preferences.
If, for instance, you have absolutely loved every single Gold Medal wine award that has been awarded by Wilfred Wong, then chances are the next time he rates a wine highly you will enjoy that one too. However if Hubert Schwartz reccommends the 1982 Chateau Lafleur, and you are looking for that rich & buttery Rombauer Chardonnay you will likely be disappointed by his reccommendation.
The scale of a competition can also tell you a lot about its awards. As an example let us take one of the larger competitions, the 2023 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition which just posted it latest array of awards. These figures you will see are pretty close approximations and do not represent all the details, glean what you will.
You just saw a promotion stating that "The Dude (fictitious example)" wine just won Double Gold Medal at the competition... WOW!
Now this competition had 60 judges, analyzing 5500 wines from 1000 wineries in 190 categories, IMAGINE !!!! Of these wines there were 800 Bronze Medals, 2396 Silver Medals, 1155 Gold Medals, 518 Double Gold Medals, 199 Best of Class Medals and Seven Sweepstakes awards. If you were to taste 3 of the gold medal winning wines every day it would take you over a year to try them all !!! All of a sudden the shade of perspective changes everything.
So what should we take from this. Competitions are important, awards are noteworthy, medals have value, but ultimately there is no substitute for each of us stepping into the fray and becoming judges ourselves. That is exactly what you do every time you visit a tasting room or attend a public tasting event. You become the most important Judge of wine there is.... the one that decides what YOU like.
If you are unfamiliar with winery futures programs, here is a brief description of how they work, and how the futures at Ektimo are quite unique.
It the most basic sense, wine futures are a "layaway" program. The practice to sell wine before it’s bottled, commonly known as en primeur or wine futures is a rapidly growing segment in California wine country, and has a well established history in Bordeaux. One of the primary motivating factors in such programs is Barrel Tasting, where you get to preview the quality and characteristics of a wine via sampling from the barrel, evaluate the personality of the wine and project what you anticipate the finished product to be like once it has completed its its metamorphosis, and been bottled and aged to perfection. Unless there is a proven history of consistent outstanding quality, each of these opportunities is a leap of faith, a vote of confidence, and ultimately an opportunity to secure some extremely limited releases before they go mainstream.
Depending on the winery program and the individual wines involved, some of these opportunities require patience and lots of imagination. For instance when sampling the wines of Bordeaux, or perhaps some of the more robust California Cabernet Sauvignon, the rustic barrel samples may be tight, astringent, tannic and very austere. It takes a trained palate to recognize the special qualities hidden within such gems, they are often 12 to 24 months away from being bottled, and sometimes years away from their prime. This being the case, it is a tall order to be asked to invest a substantial sum in advance, being asked to wait 18 months before the wine is bottled and shipped, and then holding that wine for another 2-3 years to reveal the finer qualities of a potentially magnificent wine. Even the most learned aficionado would be hesitant with such an endeavour unless there is some significant pedigree like Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Cheval-Blanc, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Opus One, Williams Selyem or Kosta Browne.
At Ektimo Winery, our approach to futures is a little different. Understanding the desire for instant gratification that is prevalent in the current consumer market, we embrace an approach that delivers rapid fire satisfaction. I have the enviable task of screening our collection of barreled wines, evaluating the qualities of a select few, selecting first class products to present at barrel tasting, and with a targeted turnaround of less than six months. What you sample from the Barrel at our unique industry leading tableside barrel tasting is already an approachable gem, resplendent with brilliant appeal, yet with the promise of further greatness on the horizon.
As an added bonus, many of our futures offerings come with the option to customize a label with a name or special message. Such is the case with our latest offering.
Currently on offer at futures at the winery, we have a special and unique rendition of 2021 Lodi Zinfandel. Check your preconceived notions of Lodi Zinfandel at the door with this one. What would typically be regarded as a full bodied, robust, intense, jammy, peppery, spicy Zinfandel is so not all that. Younger vines, sustainably farmed in the Clements Hills area benefitting from cooler eveningsgives us a delectable, bright perky little number that is a wine for all seasons.
Brilliant "Perfection redcurrant" and "Marasca Cherry" with the faintest wisp of juniper berry and "Pink Pearl Apple", it is juicy and vibrantly fruit forward with a delicate sprinkling of "Vietnamese Black Pepper" and a finish of "Keemun Tea". Ripe, rambunctious and ready to go, this is a wine to be enjoyed early and often. A very limited quantity of 70 cases will be bottled, and with a little planning your customized label proudly read "Ektimo 2021 Lodi Zinfandel, bottled for (your name)" or "The Crazy Daisy Collection", or whatever irreverent comments you choose (no insults or profanities).
First offering at the beginning of November, with a bottling scheduled in early December, the future is arriving fast for this one, so no long wait time, no forgotten purchase from the distant past, this wine is the future offering the instant gratification we all crave. It can be ordered online on this site by just "Clicking Here". Orders are by the case (or multiple cases) only, and for the vote of confidence it is offered at 50% off retail price.
So, when it comes to futures, at least at Ektimo, the future is now.
Wine..... it can make any and every celebration something special. It can mamake a meal an experience, it can make a sunset sublime, it truly can be paired with virtually any experience.
I am sure you are all seeing people express their excitement about the holiday season, halloween decorations in September, we've been seeing Christmas movies since July, it seems like everyone is trying to get a head start on the next holiday, maybe it is time to take a deep breath and embrace each special celebration one at a time. Lets face it, there is no shortage of excuses for a party.
But seriously, wine party season is here and we hope Ektimo wines will be a part of your celebrations, and lunches, and dinners, and halloween, and veterans day, and thanksgiving, and the day after thanksgiving, national mutt day, and national bouillabaise day, and national ugly sweater day, and winter solstice, and hannukah, and christmas eve, and christmas day, and kwanzaa, and boxing day, and new years eve, and new years day, and whatever occasion calls for a glass of fine wine.
WOW, that is a lot of celebrating, better stock up on some wine.
So, here is a good place to start a celebration just because...... November 1st is "National Calzone Day" so here is your recipe for a celebration. Be sure to prepare all your ingredients ahead of time (see the recipe below) so once your guests are ready you simply need to construct and bake the calzones.
Start (and finish) with a bottle of 2017 Ektimo Russian River Zinfandel. This is a bright and lively version of Zinfandel resplendent with ripe red fruit flavors of cherry, raspberry, redcurrant, cranberry and red apple. Tannins are smooth, and only the slightest hint of spice to tantalize your taste buds.
Go ahead, pour a glass for your friends once your Calzone prep is done. Baking time for the Calzones is about 20 minutes so be sure to have a second bottle ready to share once the food is cooked. Get the Calzones in the oven, set the timer and enjoy visiting with your friends as the aromas of the baking fill the room.
Shiitake Mushroom, Pancetta and Arugula Calzone Recipe (serves 4)
12 oz Pancetta - cooked until crispy and chopped
Preheat the oven to 375
Cook the pancetta on the stovetop over medium heat in a skillet until crispy. Once cooled, coarsely chop and set aside retaining the rendered fat in the pan.
Add the mushrooms and shallot to the pan. Cook until the mushrooms soften and the shallot is translucent and fragrant. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and place in a fine strainer to drain off excess liquid.
Place a small amount of flour on a cutting board and divide the dough into four equal portions. Roll each crust slightly to stretch the dough to a full 8" piece. (It will want to return to about 7" and that is ok).
This is the prep to be done in advance so that when your guests are ready and you are starting on the wine all that remains to be done is construction and baking
Lay out each of the pieces of pizza dough and apply 2tbsp of Bertolli Marinara to each one followed by ¼ of the mozzarella, pulled pieces of 2 slices of provolone, ¼ of the pancetta pieces, ¼ of the mushroom and shallot mix and top with fresh arugula and drizzle with olive oil.
Using a pastry brush or finger tips, wet the edges of the calzone with water so that the dough will stick together well when folded. Gently fold the top half over the bottom half and using a fork, press the edges together well. Once pressed, roll the edges and pinch well.
Brush the top of the calzone with the beaten egg, sprinkle with kosher salt and a pinch of grated parmesan. Using a sharp knife, cut three vent holes in the top of each calzone. Sprinkle with chopped arugula.
Gently place the calzones onto the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven, center rack on 375. Bake for 20 minutes and check. The calzone is done when the pastry is nicely browned and slightly crisp. Remove from oven, cool for 5 minutes and then serve immediately.
Once this little get together is over, what do you want to celebrate next? Need some inspiration? Check out the calendar that will give you an excuse to party every day of the year.... https://www.holidayscalendar.com/months/
It is easy to forget, but at its most rudimentary level our business is all about farming. When we wax poetic about the intricate and infinite qualities of wine we must always circle back to the most basic elements. There is a basic and simple rule when it comes to winemaking, it takes great grapes to make great wine. It is quite easy to make poor wine out of great grapes, it is a different challenge entirely to make great wine out of poor quality grapes.
The farming aspect is often what makes the winemaking process so fascinating. We go to great lenghts to find the right location, plant the right grapes, tend them with care every step of the way and when the stars align, magic happens. Sounds simple right? Then there is this force called nature that keeps things interesting.
2022 in Sonoma County, despite the ongoing drought conditions, started out well. A mild winter and temperate spring launched the season smoothly. The dormant vines emerged from their hibernation right on cue, budding and budbreak came and went without a hitch. Decent fruit set on the vines promised even if somewhat below average yields which are a good precursor for quality. Spring changed to summer, and while much of the country baked under the mid day sun, wine country enjoyed a near perfect summer.
Preparations for harvest were smooth and leisurely, and everything was setting up perfectly. Then nature paid a visit. Just as even ripening was spreading across the region we were hit with a heatwave that lasted a week. All of a sudden, the gently ripening fruit spiked and rushed towards the finish line. Everything was ready to be picked all at once. This is where the professionals come into their own and earn their keep. He who panics is lost.
What has been a celebration of nature suddenly becomes a mathematical equation. Not only do you have to get accurate readings on the fruit in the vineyards, but you have to prepare the winery like a high speed "tetris" game where the rapid influx of fruit has to be picked, processed and then placed in the right environment for winemaking to happen. Real estate is at a premium as each wine has to find a container for primary fermentation. The white wines need to fast track and find a comfortable place as they must yield space to the reds that need longer to do their thing before moving on to barrels to complete and age.
Each lot must be evaluated and processed in a manner that will yield optimal results, as mentioned before it is all too easy to make bad wine out of good grapes. Each wine needs to be carefully escorted through its genesis to allow great wine to emerge. This is the time of year where winemaking crews are worth their weight in gold, many of them working 16 hour days with no day off for 7 weeks in a row. The best are the apex athletes of the business, and their reputations are the stuff of legends.
All this begs the question, and it is a question that we are asked repeatedly every year "so how is this years wine looking?". The honest answer is that only time will tell. You see, great wine is not just about great grapes, it is also about great artists. In a perfect year where everything follows textbook perfection, everyone should be able to make great wine, it will never get any easier, and if you fail at making great wine from the perfect season perhaps it is time to evaluate your skillset and follow a new path. The great winemaker, the great "Artists" are those supreme talents that take al the obstacles thrown before them in their stride, all the challenges that nature can present, take all the hits throughout the game and at the end of it all still make great wine.
The bottom line is, there are no bad years for wine (well unless you include prohibition). There are easy years and there are hard years, the great winemakers make great wines EVERY year. If the great winemakers cannot make a great wine, they do not make a wine period.
So be patient, rather than ask about how a wine might be, wait until you have an opportunity to judge what it has become. Then, and only then can you get a realistic answer. In a race, there are no winners until someone crosses the finish line.