Every harvest brings its own challenges and victories, and no two years are ever alike. There’s only one rule that winemakers can count on year after year: Mother Nature calls the shots. And this year was no exception.
Now that the picking knives have been put away and the staff has caught its collective breath, it’s time to take a look back at the 2015 harvest.
The drought in California, now in its fourth year, remained a factor. Fortunately, Sonoma-Cutrer made it through the growing season without any water shortages thanks to a deficit irrigation strategy and meticulous moisture analysis.
Mild, dry weather caused harvest to start a solid week early—the second earliest harvest in the history of Sonoma-Cutrer—and the picking officially commenced at Les Pierres on August 17. The very next day, cool weather returned along with the area’s signature fog, slowing down the pace of harvest and creating ideal ripening conditions for the next two and a half weeks.
The fruit continued to ripen slowly throughout the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast until a hot spell just after Labor Day. Suddenly, all of the fruit seemed to ripen at once leading to a picking frenzy that continued for the next two weeks, during which a staggering two-thirds of the harvest was processed.
Similar to the Chardonnay patterns, Vine Hill’s Pinot grapes came in slow and steady over the course of two and a half weeks while Owsley’s fruit ripened all at once during the week of the warm spell.
And just like that, another harvest was over, with yields just slightly lower than average. So what does this mean for the wine that will end up in your glass? The news is very good.
The long hang time allowed the fruit to develop rich, complex flavors with bright natural acidity. As for the Pinot, Vine Hill’s grapes appear to be representing the classic elegance of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, while Owsley is showing its signature power and depth.
It will be up to two years before the results become official, but all indications point to another stellar vintage at Sonoma-Cutrer.