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    NAPA VALLEY 2010 & 2011 VINTAGE REPORTS by Bryant Family Vineyards, Colgin Cellars and Harlan Estate

     

    Marc GAGNON, winemaker / Bryant Family Vineyard

    2010 Vintage

    Budbreak began in the last week of March at Bryant. It was about 2-3 weeks later than an average year.  Flowering and fruit set followed similarly postponed 2-3 weeks as the weather remained cool through the spring and into the heart of the growing season. With only a few heat spikes in August and September. The berries were small in size and reached an optimal ripeness steadily. At the estate, all blocks were picked within the third week of October.  The non-estate Bettina blocks began to be picked the first of October through the end of the third week of October. 

    The overall long cool growing season produced wines of intense density along a brooding more dark fruit and savory spectrum while beautifully expressing varietal nuance and complexity.

     

    2011 Vintage

    The 2011 vintage had a similarly late bud-break to 2010 being in the last week of March.  Onset of bloom pushed back to the end of May and, due to varying cool and hot weather, heavy shatter occurred – reducing yields between 25-35%.  Temperatures during the growing season were on par with the preceding 2009 and 2010 vintages.  With heavy shatter and another cool year expected to unfold, cluster and canopy management was of utmost importance to maximize photosynthesis and produce optimal quality in the fruit. 

    Patience and intense vineyard management was rewarded as we picked our estate over two weeks: October 17th to November 2nd.  The expressions of the different terroirs of our non-estate vineyards were intensified in 2011, with harvest starting in the warmer sites as early as October 3rd, and the cooler sites as late as November 3rd.

    I find the wines of 2011 with an elegance and grace that harks back to earlier years of Napa Valley; wines that I originally fell in love with and drew me to this region.  I love the remarkable freshness and enhanced savory aspects that the 2011s bring in spades and will carry them through their undeniably long lives.

     

     

    Allison Tauziet, winemaker  / Colgin Cellars

    2010 Vintage

    The 2010 was a relatively long, yet cool growing season.  At our vineyard sites, the canopies were moderate to higher vigor, which was a blessing in a cooler year as it ensured we had the right size “engine” to ripen the fruit.  A healthier canopy also contributed a very nice level of acidity.  In 2010 we saw moderate crop levels.  The fruit contained extraordinary amounts of flavor and color, which were all preserved beautifully up to the moment of picking thanks to the cooler weather in October.  The extraction formed easily. Our focus was in preserving those fresh flavors, as they were just so gorgeous to work with.  Flavors spanned the full spectrum in 2010.  The fruit achieved those intense dark fruit flavors we love from Napa Valley, but terroir driven earth and rocky notes remained a driving part of the personality in the wines.  I love this vintage!

     

    2011 Vintage

    The weather in the 2011 growing season was quite far outside the norm.  It was a short, yet cool growing season, which felt a lot more aligned with what you’d experience in Bordeaux, than in Napa Valley.  That being said, I love what the season taught us about our vineyard sites.  Thanks to hillside’s rocky soils, we had a great drainage on vineyards, which gave us an advantage in terms of fruit quality.  The crops were quite light, so with a short growing season, we were still able to ripen our fruit fully.  The 2011 wines on a whole have fabulous freshness and acidity.  They are less fruit forward than a typical Napa Valley vintage, but they make up for it with their earth and savory succulent notes.  They are less full-bodied than on average years, but they are bursting with elegance and sophistication.  This vintage is very close to my heart as I feel it’s the most challenging vintages that really set apart the greatest terroir.  I’m very proud to craft the wines from the IX Estate, Tychson Hill and for Cariad, Madrona Ranch and Thorevilos.

     

     

    Justin Dragoo, General Manager  / Gargiulo Vineyards

    2010 Vintage

    The 2010 was a cool vintage compared to the prior warm vintages – 2007-2009. Unusual rains mixed with heat spikes had our vineyard crews scrambling throughout the growing season. We experienced nearly four inches of rain in October. Our concerns mounted as harvest approached, but after the grapes were harvested and in the cellar, it was clear that this will be an outstanding vintage. The cooler than normal vintage led to a freshness in the wines that has not been seen in years, and despite any prior worries there were no green or under-ripe flavors detected in any varietal. The 2010s continue to be among our favorite wines produced from the estate.

     

    2011 Vintage

    We thought 2010 was a cool vintage with unusual rains … until 2011 came along. The 2011 vintage was unusually cool and rainy at level not seen in decades, and provided a challenge for most young winemakers in the valley. Huge rains in March led to multiple issues at fruit set and maintaining high standards for adopted quality throughout Napa Valley.  The grapes were carefully selected at harvest and on the sorting table which lead to dramatic drops in the quantity of wines produced in 2011. Initially vintners detected herbal and green flavors in the wines, but at our estate, this early-harvest style has led to complex tobacco and coffee flavors in our reds.  The higher acidity of the vintage should lead to an unusually long cellar life, and they are just starting to develop what will become a couple decades of slow evolution.

     

     

    Cory Empting, winemaker  / Harlan Estate & BOND.

    What is interesting about 2010 and 2011 is that they both had almost the exact amount of thermal accumulation throughout the season. So, you cannot say that one was cooler or warmer than the other. The biggest difference between the two was the amount of rainfall and more importantly the timing of the rainfall. In 2011 we had large rain events in the first week of June that coincided with bloom. In many places depending on timing this brought the yield down significantly and temporally disoriented the vines. They were not sure whether they should produce more shoots and leaves or ripen the clusters. The soils that drained more quickly were less affected by this. Both vintages had rain during harvest, but in the case of 2011 the rain was followed by dense fog in the valley. This created ideal conditions for botrytis to develop in many low-lying areas. 

     

    2010 Vintage

    In 2010 the challenge was all about timing – timing of crop removal, leafing and picking. We knew it was going to be a cool year and that we had a short runway to ripen fruit. We had to thin earlier than normal to ensure the development of fine tannins. We also opened canopies more than normal. This is always a risky maneuver in our climate where the sun can play a powerful role, but in the end nature rewarded us for this gamble. Extraction needed to be moderated in order to find the right balance.

    The wines are muscular with layer upon layer of fruit, but what makes these wines exciting is the amount of acidity. It matches up to the hedonic density of the wines providing life on the palate and freshness in the nose. These wines are meant for the long haul and I believe they may outlive us all. 

    2011 Vintage

    In 2011, the greatest challenge was to stay mentally strong. We had very low yields and had to take steps to remove even more crop in order to tighten the maturity window. Throughout the season nature was clearly in the driver seat. I say it is a year about faith in place. So many times we proclaim the greatness of site in Napa, but how many times are we truly tested? There were so many times that were mere spectators to the whims of nature and yet the great sites prevailed.

    Aromatically wines have fruit, minerality and freshness that seems almost floral. They have all of the detail that we normally see in a wine that is at least 10 years old without showing any other signs of age. These wines aren’t about structure and muscle they are about grace and charm at the highest level. I believe that 2011 produced some of the greatest wines we’ve ever made from certain sites, but only time will tell.

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    Napa Valley Vintage 2008  - From Extreme to Supreme

     

    A group of ten or so wine experts excitedly awaits the revelation of fifty foil-wrapped wine bottles. Consisting of sommeliers, winemakers, wine auctioneers and wine writers, the group has spent the last three hours at the table, blind-tasting the top Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons from 2008. Generally speaking, opinions are very positive. In contrast with the Napa Valley Vintage 2007 tasting last year, the wines have much more distinct styles; this is due to the exceptional weather conditions of 2008, which forced producers to use all the tricks in the bag to guarantee grape quality.

    The harvest in 2008 was very different from the norm in Napa Valley. Mother Nature turned the year into a real thriller, which held producers in its grip from the start all the way until harvest time.

     

    The year began in stormy conditions: the valley was buffeted by downpours and storm winds. These then gave way to an agonisingly long dry period. The spring’s rainfall only reached 60 per cent of the average, and went down in history as one of the driest springs in Napa Valley. Due to the mild and dry weather, the vines’ growing season started earlier than ever. The early sprouting was fateful, however, when the month-long dry period in the spring was followed by destructive sub-zero night-time temperatures. This was not just on a few isolated nights, but went on for a whole month. The long night-time frosts had a devastating effect on the sprouting vines, cutting harvests by up to one third.

     

    During the long frost period, producers pulled out all of their tricks to protect the vines. Some vineyards in the valley have large fans, which were in intensive use throughout the spring. Areas that did not have fans used sprinklers for watering the vines so that the water would freeze onto the buds to shield them from the icy cold. The flowering season after the frosts was irregular and, due to uneven pollination, led to below-average harvests. The summer started off cool and remained so until late August. As a result, the grapes developed slowly and became intense and concentrated. In the late summer, ripening was accelerated by a one-week heat wave, which was followed by dry weather during the harvest. Although the harvest was smaller than usual, the grape quality was excellent.

     

    Conclusion

    2008 reminded Napa Valley producers of the climate conditions with which their European colleagues often battle. The wild weather put the vineyards to the test and required more measures than usual to ensure an optimal harvest. Due to the exceptional weather conditions, the terroir played a more significant role than usual in the character of the resulting wines. Some of the influencing factors were soil quality, vineyard-specific weather patterns, the age of vines and the farming methods used. After the extensive 2008 Napa Cabernet tasting, there were no great qualitative differences, however, as the wines at the tasting all represented some of the best that these top producers have to offer. Although the scores ranged between 87 and 95 points, the differences will even out through longer aging, as the wines reach their optimum drinkability within 10–15 years. It was wonderful to note that a great deal of the wines were characterised by a seductively succulent fruitiness, which made many of them already enjoyable. That is why more than half of the wines already scored 90 or more points, despite their young age. Compared to the 2007 vintage, which contains very refined and long-lived wines, these wines charmed tasters with their open and generous style, even though their best days are still far in the future.

     

     

    2008 Napa vintage comments from the wine producers

     

    Tim Mondavi, owner and winemaker of Continuum Estate:

    “Happily Continuum’s estate vineyards on Pritchard Hill were protected from most vagaries of the weather as a result of our higher elevations and westerly aspect. A heat spike during flowering in May did lower our crop levels but weather patterns were fairly mild from that point until late August, when a week-long temperature jump pushed picking forward. However, no sooner did the heat arrive than it left again and the remainder of the harvest proceeded in a cooler than normal climate. All the fruit was harvested over a period of five weeks, from September 18 until October 25. Overall, the fruit quality from the estate was very good to excellent in 2008.”

     

     

    Nick Gislason, winemaker at Screaming Eagle:

    “This spring was one of the driest on record, and so vines pushed buds early. Then, a prolonged series of frosty nights kept us working hard in the vineyard to protect the young shoots from the cold. This was followed by a hot and dry spring that led to a lighter crop-load than usual with small, intensely flavoured berries that ripened relatively early. A warm and moderate summer naturally down-regulated the vigour of the vines, so that they could focus efforts on fruit maturation. This meant that a smaller but very intensely flavoured crop was picked mostly in the latter two weeks of September. For us, the 2008 Screaming Eagle would be considered a very characteristic vintage, having all of the freshness, floral and perfume elements, as well as finesse, that is classic for this estate. The 2008 vintage, although showing quite beautifully already, is likely to develop some nice nuances over the next 15-20 years as well.”

     

     

    Bob Levy, winemaker at Harlan Estate:

    “2008 was a very unusual vintage; it was a vintage of extremes, with the end result being that the “average” of the extremes worked out to be close to ‘normal’. We had temperatures well below average all spring. In fact, we had frost very late in the year in some locations. The summer also remained very cold, except for the days with extremely high temperatures. We had some concerns about full maturity in the grapes as the summer was nearing its end. However, we did enjoy a long period of ripening throughout September and into October without rain, so ultimately we had a harvest with very good ripeness and very soft, supple and full bodied tannins. There really are no growing conditions that I have experienced that are the same as 2008. During the beginning of the growing season we were concerned that we were going to have a repeat of 1998, however it turned out quite different. While the growing season was different to 1999, the character and texture of the wines are similar–the wines have good fruit ripeness, they are powerful and show a good concentration, and their tannic structure is rich and very supple. This wine has a much greater potential for long term ageing than the 1998 vintage.”

     

     

    Kristof Anderson, winemaker at Gargiulo Vineyards:

    “The late winter and spring of 2008 was abnormally dry and cold.  I was up very early in the morning helping with frost protection and sitting in my truck looking at the thermometer for around six weeks straight. The drought conditions and inclement weather, both then and during the bloom, caused lower than normal yields. The summer was cooler than most years, yet a nice warm autumn allowed for very even ripening. We did a fair amount of canopy management of the leaves and fruit clusters in the vineyards to help maximise the amount of sunlight that reached them, yet we managed to avoid sunburnt fruit. We picked each vine several different times over the course of 2–3 weeks as the cool spring caused an uneven set throughout the vineyard. The quality of the crop was very good. The small berries in small clusters were intense in colour and showed a good amount of phenolics without being over-extracted. The mild weather and low yields made this vintage very unique, although there were some elements that were reminiscent of 2006. However, we did not experience the short heat spike that accompanied that summer.  It also shared some similarities with 2002 but that vintage was warmer during the harvest, so some producers had some pretty ripe offerings that year. The ripeness of the fruit reminded me of 1992, which was my first vintage in Napa, but we were making wine very differently in the valley back then, so the resulting wines are rather different. The balance of these wines makes them rather approachable at a young age, yet they possess plenty of structure and acidity, which should allow them to age well over a decade and even into the 2020s for the well disciplined collector out there.”

     

    Bart Araujo, owner of Araujo Estate:

    “After the early start to the growing season, the Eisele Vineyard harvest began slightly earlier than normal, with the first block of Cabernet harvested on September 11 and the final grapes picked on October 1. The 2008 was unlike any vintage we have experienced since 1991, which was our inaugural vintage. A seriously challenging beginning to the season, but very fine growing conditions from veraison to harvest resulted in one of the best wines we have ever produced.”

     

    Allison Tauziet, winemaker at Colgin Cellars:

    “The 2008 growing season was generally drier than average. The valley experienced no significant rainfall after February, so soils all over the valley, and especially in the hillsides, dried out earlier and the season got off to an early start. Because of the dry soils, vines were low in vigour and consequently produced a smaller amount of fruit. There were both fewer berries per cluster, and the berry size in general was much smaller. The result is a greater ratio of skin to juice, technically speaking. And from a winemaking point of view, it gave us wines that were dense in concentration with aromas that truly centred on the terroir where the fruit was grown. There are more soil driven aromas in our IX Estate Red wine in 2008, such as clay, mineral and crush rocks, than in most vintages. Concerning a comparison vintage, I’d say every vintage is unique and one could never make a comparison. However, if I was pushed, I’d say that 2008 has the richness of the 2004, with the earthy aromatic profile of 2002. We generally recommend cellaring our wines for at least 5 to 10 years, and they will age for 20 years or more.”

     

     

    THE 2008 NAPA CABERNET SAUVIGNON TASTING

     

    RESULTS:

     

    1. Dana Lotus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon                                                          96p (96–100p)

    2. Maya                                                                                                                     95p (95-100p)

    3. Colgin Tychson Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon                                              94p (95-100p)

    4. Gargiulo Vineyards Money Road Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon                            93p (95-97p)

    5. Colgin IX Estate Cabernet Sauvignon                                                                  93p (95-97p)

    6. Gargiulo Vineyards OVX G Major 7 Study                                                           93p (95-97p)

    7. Shafer One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon                                                        93p (95-97p)

    8. Screaming Eagle                                                                                                  93p (96-98p)

    9. Harlan Estate                                                                                                        92p (96-99p)

    10. Darioush Signature Cabernet Sauvignon                                                           92p

    11. BOND Pluribus                                                                                                   92p

    12. Dana Helms Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon                                                      92p

    13. Checkerboard Vineyards King's Row Cabernet Sauvignon                              92p

    14. Notre Vin Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon                                              92p

    15. Blankiet Estate Proprietory Red Paradise Hill                                                   91p

    16. Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon                                                                        91p

    17. Staglin Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon                                                   91p

    18. Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon                                               91p

    19. The Maiden                                                                                                        91p

    20. Pahlmeyer Proprietory Red                                                                                91p

    21. BOND Melbury                                                                                                   91p

    22. Dominus Estate                                                                                                  91p

    23.Continuum Estate                                                                                                91p

    24. Joseph Phelps Backus Vineyard                                                                        91p

    25. Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon                                                  91p

    26 Stag's Leap Cask 23 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon                                               90p

    27. The Matriarch                                                                                                     90p

    28. Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon                                                        90p

    29. Opus One                                                                                                           90p

    30. Hourglass Blueline Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon                                             90p

    31. Inglenook Rubicon                                                                                              90p

    32. Chappellet Pritchard Hill Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon                         90p

    33. Araujo Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon                                                      90p

    34. Joseph Phelps Insignia                                                                                       90p

    35. Roam                                                                                                                   89p

    36. Darius II                                                                                                               89p

    37. Inglenook Cask Cabernet                                                                                   89p

    38. BOND Quella                                                                                                      89p

    39. Realm Cellars Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon                  89p

    40. Hourglass Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon                                                     89p

    41. Stag's Leap S.L.V. Estate Cabernet Sauvignon                                                 89p

    42. Scarecrow                                                                                                          88p

    43. Colgin Cariad                                                                                                     88p

    44. Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon                                                        88p

    45. BOND Vecina                                                                                                     88p

    46. Paul Hobbs Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon                      88p

    47. Stag's Leap Artemis                                                                                           88p

    48. BOND St. Eden                                                                                                  87p

     

     

     

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