Harvest Update, September 2010: Europe approaches harvest, California continues waiting game
As summer turns to fall, we’re taking a broader look around the world to see how harvest is shaping up in some of our favorite regions. Can Bordeaux deliver back-to-back bliss with ’09 and ’10, as they did many moons ago with ’89 and ’90? Which region of Italy is set to make the biggest splash? And after one of the most interesting growing seasons on record, what will 2010 mean for Napa and Sonoma?
In Bordeaux the other week, the initial passes were made through the Pessac-Leognan and Graves regions to bring in the first ripened clusters of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. All signs point to another stellar vintage for the region after a growing season that has been at times both extremely hot and dry. Top producers have done well to avoid excessive heat and sun exposure. Comparing this vintage to years past, it could turn out to be more like 1989 in style, with classic flavors, complexity, and enhanced ability to age. By contrast, the more flamboyant wines of 2009 have more in common with the lush, fruit-forward clarets of 1990 and 1947. Regardless, Bordeaux connoisseurs have much to look forward to.
A review of Italy reveals that this vintage shows great promise for many top regions, with Piedmont and Tuscany in particular leading the charge. Both regions are poised to enjoy a harvest rich in quantity and quality, eclipsing the smaller yields of 2009 but still setting the table for wines that are structured, bold and complex. Of course the treasured Nebbiolo grape of Piedmont is both blessed and cursed by its need to be harvested late, so plenty of time yet remains to shape the final outcome of the vintage. As for the earlier-ripening Sangiovese, Chianti and Montalcino producers are chomping at the bit to bring in the fruit of their labors and to ensure a great vintage.
On the home front, our winemaker Hélène Mingot is keeping quite busy fine-tuning the vineyards and prepping them for what is still destined to be a late harvest. Veraison is mostly complete in Sonoma and Napa, and the consistent temperatures throughout the growing season have our grapes looking beautiful. The nights remain cold, meaning harvest could creep into early November for some properties, particularly those at higher elevations. While many growers, especially those on the valley floor, are concerned about the recent heat spike that brought record temperatures to Northern California, our grapes have remained in great condition.
Each of our parcels looks promising, but Hélène reserved the most excitement for a pristinely manicured vineyard we work with on Howell Mountain. The vineyard sees a minimum of three to four passes every day, getting enough attention to where they can catch a leaf before it hits the ground! That’s the kind of effort you come to expect from one of the world’s leading vineyard managers.
Every vintage tells a different story, and it looks like this one is headed for an exciting ending. Stay tuned!