After two fairly cool years, we have experienced more summer days over 90 degrees than in the previous 50 years. This heat and low winter rainfall have challenged our viticulture in Amador County. Dry farmed vineyards are ripening up faster than we expected, drip irrigation vineyards have been playing catch-up, and our winemaking staff is trying to stay ahead of “Grapeaggedon”. This is when every vineyard is ripe on the exact same day, and everybody wants to pick grapes. Cool vintages give a more even ripening and a slower pace. The warmer ones may ripen faster, resulting in a harvest pace that does not allow for much sleep. So far, the white grapes Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, and our troika of V’s - Verdelho, Vermentino and Viognier – have crossed the scales. The only red grapes from received Amador have been Syrah, a typically early ripening varietal, and Zinfandel from some really warm sites. From a cooler, but early bud break site, we have received Mourvedre and Zinfandel from Contra Costa County. This heat has also moved Barbera ahead of its normal last place finish in the race of grapes and we may harvest some earlier than some lots of Zinfandel. So far, we are happy with the flavors, and the sugar levels are not as high, so in our minds that is a “win-win”. Stay tuned for faster paced action from Renwood!
Consulting Winemaker Jeff Cohn added, “What a difference a year makes! This time last year it was cold a touch wet, but this year the sun is out and the temperatures have been perfect allowing for the development of complexity and flavors. In the end this should prove to be an amazing vintage.”
Time flies when you’re having fun, and suddenly, it’s harvest! We asked our longtime winemaker, Dave Crippen, to give us a preview of vintage 2012.
“The last couple years – 2010 and 2011 – were atypically cool in Amador County, so picking began later than normal. This year’s growing season has been more conventional, except for a notably dry winter and significant late-spring rainfall. Since early June, we’ve enjoyed a wonderfully consistent weather pattern of dry, mild, seasonably warm days with just a few heat spikes. We like “mild” at Renwood because at our 1,700-2,000 foot elevation, we get plenty of sunshine from April through October with warm-to-hot days tempered by refreshingly cool nights (courtesy of evening breezes flowing down from the Sierras). In contrast, California’s costal wine regions experience warmer winters and early springs, and thus enjoy an earlier start to the growing season. Ripening in those vineyards, however, slows during the summer months due to a persistent layer of marine fog that penetrates coastal wine valleys most evenings and usually doesn’t burn off until mid-day.
“In Amador, we have fewer overall sun days, but the sunlight here is more radiant and intense, which quickly accelerates ripening. As a result, grape growers in Amador have to guard against vine heat stress and grape sunburning, which can be exacerbated by a lack of adequate soil moisture. Despite these perennial concerns, everything is looking good in our vineyards right now, with our red grapes starting to color up – what the French call veraison – and our whites looking like they’ll be ready to pick by early September. (Our first reds should be harvested by mid-September.) In short, barring unforeseen shenanigans by Mother Nature, we’re looking at what could be a most excellent harvest at Renwood and throughout Amador County.”