2009 California Harvest: Montesquieu Vineyards Show Great Promise
The 2009 California grape harvest has come to a close after one of its most frantic and labor-intensive Octobers ever recorded. Over the past month, Mother Nature gave growers many sleepless nights and their fair share of back-breaking days after delivering two nasty, winter-inspired storms that arrived much earlier in the season than usual. The weather has dealt many unprepared producers a crushing blow to their hopes of making great wine in 2009. In contrast, those growers who stayed calm and literally weathered the storms should have impressive fruit to work with.
The following is a final analysis of the nail-biting 2009 harvest, with a particular focus on Montesquieu’s hillside vineyards in Napa and Sonoma.
White wine drinkers can rest easily knowing that most Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc – and all of Montesquieu’s white wine grapes – made it in to the winery well before the inclement weather took hold in the North Coast. Wet weather coupled with higher humidity is a dangerous combination for white grapes near harvest. Their tight clusters and thinner skins retain water and fall victim to splitting and rot much more easily than red grapes. Thankfully, the early part of the month offered consistent temperatures and pleasant conditions for bringing in excellent fruit. The overall cooler weather will translate to fresher, cleaner whites with a greater emphasis on terroir rather than wines burdened by low acid and excessive sweetness.
A combination of many small decisions made throughout the course of the growing season and a few big decisions made during the last week of October brought success to Montesquieu’s red grape harvest this year. Our final parcels came in showing beautifully on October 26. Overall, we were able to bring in fruit from 20 different unique lots this year, not an easy feat when you consider the diverse microclimates and terroir of each property. Fall weather has since arrived, and its cold rain and wind have drawn a definitive close to harvest activities.
While many producers frantically harvested their fruit prior to the first major storm on October 15, we chose to hold off. Panic set in on the valley floor and many growers decided to bring in slightly under-ripe but intact fruit rather than take their chances with the pending wetness and humidity. Meanwhile, our vines sat happily above the insanity in its higher elevation environs, slowly gaining complexity and balance. Only a few days after the rains our hillside fruit had recovered and once again showed great concentration. There’s no doubt that quality will vary greatly depending on when producers elected to harvest. For our part, Montesquieu is blessed to have top notch fruit in our cellar.
2009 will be an exciting vintage for Montesquieu, as each of the vineyards we work with has something truly special to offer. The harvested fruit came in incredibly juicy and ripe while still retaining the mark of its terroir. The Napa Merlot was picked soon after the rains and in very ripe condition. From Sonoma, our new Phil Coturri relationship is paying dividends as the Cabernet from his vineyards looks to be some of the best Sonoma fruit we’ve seen. And from Napa, our Howell Mountain fruit from legendary vineyard manager David Abreu promises to make for some really special wine.
We look forward to sharing the success of the harvest with our clients!