The 2014 Vintage

In 18 harvests I’ve never once experienced a season as lovely as the 2014 vintage. A hot spring flowed into a hot summer that blending into a hot fall. I’m choosing my words carefully here. Hot does not mean warm, it means hot.

We hit record growing degree days, highs and sustained highs by any number of different calculations. Pick a week, a site or a measurement unit and the answer will be that same: hot.

Hot means bad for two main reasons. First, the acids in your grape cook out while they are still on the vine. The wine you subsequently make with that fruit will be flabby, have no finish or structure and will age poorly. Second, that wine may have reached such high sugar levels so quickly that the full spectrum of nuanced flavors may not have had time to catch up and create themselves by the time the winemaker is forced to pick (or make a 17% alc wine).

What became more than a pleasant surprise in 2014, is that the first issue never happened, or not nearly to the degree suspected. The grapes retained a surprising amount of acid. It turns out that heat spikes are more likely to cook acid out than heat. The two, until this vintage, have been synonymous. There was never a heat spike because there was never a cool dip. The vines re-calibrated early on and never looked back.

The latter will be a question for the next couple of years as these wines go through malolactic fermentation and grow up a bit.

From a personal standpoint, the end of harvest is never anything less than brutal. It’s 33 degrees and raining. The wind is blowing, you’re filthy. You’ve resigned yourself to the lack of clean laundry that now is your life. The dog is staring at you desperately and longingly because he is hungry- you didn’t tell him today was going to be a 16 hour day. The propane on the forklift just ran out and is that snow in the distance? Yes it is.

But if all of your fruit is picked 15 days prior to the first frost, it looks nothing like that, nothing at all.

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I hope you had a great weekend, Ashley

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