Brian's Thoughts on Harvest 2021
Someone asked me recently “when do you know how good a wine is going to be?” A good question but not so simple an answer. I compared learning about a wine to peeking through a doorway. At first the door is only cracked, like when you look at the grapes and taste them right off the vine. You can get some idea but there is a lot more to know before you see the full picture. When you taste a red or white wine during fermentation you can see a little more, then when a red wine is pressed, and again at first racking you see a bit more each time. Experience helps to figure out what the final wine will eventually be but sometimes one is surprised and the first glimpses may have given you the wrong impression. Indeed, I have, for instance, made my conclusions on a wine at the time it is bottled only to be surprised 10 years later how much better it has become. Wines are complex and like people, they don’t always reveal their true identity to you in their youth.
This is a long-winded way of saying that I really don’t know for sure how good the wines are from the 2021 vintage. All the reds are in the barrel and most the whites and rosés have completed fermentation. I have probably tasted every lot several dozen times already. The wines are young and especially the reds need to shake off their fermentation aromas before I can decide how they will best work in each of the blends. All that being said, I am quite excited about the 2021 wines. The white and rosé wines have good varietal fruit character and good acid balance. On the reds, the berries were smaller than usual leading, in most cases, to darker, richer wines. I could see early that the tannins might be a little high and therefore we did not wait an extra day to get the pressing done. As a result, the wines are well balanced and not over the top in terms of extraction.
The weather experts are saying that the 2021 growing year is now the hottest on record surpassing the 2015 vintage which was the old record holder. However, those heat units that piled up in June, July and August were moderated by average temperatures in September and an even cooler than normal October. These latter months are more critical in giving us the darker color and the acid balance that I desire in our food-friendly wines. At this point the Bordeaux varieties are showing particularly well. On the downside, many of these lots picked out shorter than predicted so we don’t have a lot of them, the smaller berries contributing to both higher quality and lower yields. One other variety that I am particularly excited about is the Graciano. We picked from two vineyards this year and both are stunning.
Stay tuned as Robert and I are about to start racking the reds and soon that door will open a little more hopefully revealing how the great 2021 vintage will be.
Brian Carter, Winemaker