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Monday, September 5, 2011

2011: Vintage of the decade?

Is 2011 going to be a vintage year in California?   Of course, just ask anyone in the local wine biz!

In the past wine experts (mostly wine writers actually) have proclaimed various years as great vintages--1997, 2001, and 2007 come immediately to mind.  In fact, some jumped right on the bandwagon calling 2001 the vintage of the century!

So what about '11?  Winemakers will probably get a fuzzy idea as the look at the grapes coming in during the harvest but will have a better idea a few months later when everything is crushed, fermented and settled in.   What everyone seems to be saying now is the season was delayed by at least a couple weeks because of the cool, wet spring plus the crop size will be smaller because of the wet weather.  None of that is bad for quality.  In fact, a reduced crop size is good for quality if not for the grape growers pocketbook.

The weather seemed to be pretty much "standard Sonoma County" once the late spring rains ended. Summer was warm, but not hot, during the day with cool nights and mornings.  Seems pretty near perfect.

Of course, the other issue is not all of California is the same and not all varieties will act the same in a given year.  For instance one particular vintage might be great for Central Coast Pinot and not so great for North Coast Cabernet.   In 2010 Chardonnay and Zinfandel seemed to get hit particularly hard by the weather in Sonoma County.  But even then it doesn't mean 2010 will be a bad year for Chard and Zin as long as the winemakers aren't using the substandard fruit (I saw lots of Zinfandel cut off the vines and left to rot in the autumn of 2010).

So is the 2011 vintage going to be great?   Absolutely.

A bin of nice looking grapes at Field Stone Winery in '09