2015 was my first vintage as winemaker at Arrowood and it has taken four years to see my vision come to life in the glass. Cabernet winemaking is certainly a marathon and not a sprint!
The 2018 growing season began with bud break approximately one to two weeks after what has been deemed “normal” in the last five years. Although we received some nice rain following the 2017 harvest, most of the season’s rainfall came in March and continued into April.
Arrowood Winery is famous for Cabernet Sauvignon, but when hot summer weather comes, I like to reach for white wines, and so do our wine club members and fans. I only make a very small quantity of white wine -- about 500 cases a year.
I’ve always been intrigued by Bordeaux varieties and their ability to make profound and opulently textured wines, but my Malbec love affair really took hold during my time in Mendoza, Argentina.
As a winemaker, the blending process is where I get to earn my stripes, composing a distinct expression of the vintage and capturing a snapshot in time. Monitoring the individual grape varieties through the growing process in the vineyard and following their progress into barrel lends to a keen understanding of how each grape is performing in the vintage.
Each vintage has its own personality and is remembered for different things. From heavy rains to heat, and wildfires to earthquakes, responding to each year’s challenges often defines what goes into the bottle. The 2016 vintage, however, can be characterized by some of the most consistent weather we’ve had in California for years.
It’s close to a month before we expect to see the first grapes, and I’m still trying to answer the question, “How is this year’s harvest looking?” The growing season got started with the long anticipated El Niño rains, which certainly helped replenish the reservoirs and ground water after four consecutive dry years.
I’ve been asked more than once, “After harvest is over and the wine is in barrel, what do you do for the rest of the year?” As much as I would like to say that I spend the eight months outside harvest lying on sandy beaches with a cocktail in hand, there is actually quite a bit of action during the “off-season.”
The hills are green and the vineyards are striped with yellow mustard here in Sonoma County, thanks to the early (and welcomed) El Niño rains. Although there’s still a long road ahead to complete drought relief, we are starting off the 2016 growing season with flowing streams and replenished soils.
One of the things I love most about winemaking is following nature through its seasons. Now that the grapes are harvested, leaves are turning to show the beautiful fall colors and the vines are preparing themselves to start the cycle all over again. This period of time in the vine’s cycle is called senescence, which much like harvest, came early this year.