As I hopefully illustrated in my previous post, in addition to espousing my love for harvest season, it is at this time of year that winemaker's earn their wings. But in addition to bringing together the culmination of a full year's work in the vineyard, winemakers are also, alas, forced to play the hand they are dealt. That is, not everything is within their control. And in California this year, vintners have been harvesting in the aftermath of a particularly challenging growing season. Beginning with unexpected and untimely late frosts at the beginning of the year, moving through a hellish season of wildfires, and finally enduring another drought year, the grapes in this season's haul have been through it all.
Reports indicate that the yield is smaller than typical, but that the quality is high. While there have been few reports that the smoke that blanketed the state for so long has tainted grapes, it certainly hasn't helped. And that is to say nothing of the vines that were wiped out entirely.
So it seems the biggest challenge is - as it is frequently in the west--water. During dry years, vines compete diligently for water, and the stress placed on those vines in that struggle results in fruit that is highly concentrated in juice and with thicker skin surrounding it. That usually means more flavorful wine in the bottle. So while we may have fewer bottles to choose from in the 2008 vintage, I'm sure you'll agree that quality over quantity are good words to live by in any year.