Meteor Vineyard
Jason Alexander
October 4, 2010 | Harvest | Jason Alexander

2010 Harvest; Patience, Experience and the Importance of Site

Three things come to the forefront in a vintage like 2010 – experience, patience and the incredible importance of that elusive term terroir.

The classic “indian summer” conditions swept in the first weeks of October to provide PERFECT conditions to finish up the growing season.  Mike Wolf crew swept into the vineyard at 230am on October 14 and started to harvest.

The cool temperatures in the early months of the growing season were a major topic of conversation.  You couldn’t walk past winemaker or vineyard manager without stopping for a few minutes of careful consideration about when, exactly, we had seen an early season so cool (1999 seemed to pop up often as a reference).  Bloggers and critics immediately went to work denigrating the vintage as a whole, rarely recognizing that months of potential summer heat lay ahead.

At Meteor Vineyard we had bud break on March 19 and had 50% bloom by June 3.  Not unusual, particularly as we are a slightly more temperate climate than other areas of the valley.  Post bloom the cool conditions continued.  This was really true throughout the state of California – even Los Angeles experienced one of the coolest summers on record!  Verasion began in early August in pockets of the vineyard but progressed slowly, with only 50% complete in the middle of the month.

I started spotting Mike Wolf’s truck in the vineyard several times a day and would catch glimpses of him scratching his head as he strolled the rows.  Elsewhere in the valley, rumors of extreme green harvesting began circulating.  Vineyard managers narrowed their range of options to two; extreme harvesting, often to one cluster per shoot – and pulling the leaves from around the clusters to ensure maximum sun exposure, or diligent and considered green harvesting which recognized that many more degree days lay ahead.

Anyone who has spent any time in nature understands that the logic of the natural world, while identifiable on a molecular level, is unstable and downright confusing on the macro level.  How many times have you scratched your head in wonder while or your local weather person proclaims a likely rainless day as the showers pour down?  While Mike can’t predict the rain (though he can exhaustively gather and analyze data on pressure systems, moisture levels, etc.) his experience and patience were tantamount to pushing us into September with healthy fruit, perfect clusters and room for introspection.

As should have been predicted, the thermometer crept up into triple digits several times over the week in September and into October.  Those who pulled leaves were left with substantial sunburn (I have heard rumors of upwards of 50% of peoples crop destroyed by sun).  We largely missed all of the damaging effects from these high degree days and the temperate nature of Coombsville and the unique situation of Meteor Vineyard once again proved fortuitous. There will be tremendous variation in the 2010 Cabernet based wines from Napa Valley.  What to look for?  Sites tempered by elevation or breeze, winemakers and vineyard managers with experience, and owners dedicated to producing only the best in every vintage, particularly the challenging ones.

A quick recap of phenology;

March 19 Budbreak

June 3 50% Bloom

August 16 50% Verasion

Anticipated harvest?  Second week of October?


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