Saturday evening we attended a “Release Dinner” for one of our favorite wineries up in Napa. That’s where they roll out the vintage they’ll sell in the upcoming year (in this case, the 2014 vintage), sip some samples of the vintage, and maybe some past vintages, enjoy some food, and hobknob with the owner and the winemaker and the staff and other fans of the winery. They are fun events.
Midway through the evening each of the principals stood up and said a few words. The winemaker, Ricardo Herrera, was third or fourth up, and he said, in his quiet, shy way, that he told his staff and his colleagues that 2017 would be “one of those harvests you never forget.” He was referencing the difficulties they had with the weather, which was warm all summer and featured late rain, and a delicate balancing act. The grapes hadn’t ripened fully due to the odd weather, but the unusually high heat they experienced in September presented the possibility that the fruit might not fully ripen before it was shriveled by the sun. So it was wait and risk a severely reduced yield or harvest early and try to work with under ripe fruit. They decided to wait and risk it, but hedged with some extra irrigation. (They are loathe to do that because they prefer that the vines drive their roots down to find their own water rather than rely on irrigation.) There was a lot of discussion among winemakers and vineyard managers about which course was correct, and not everyone decided to wait. We’ll have to see how the wine turns out to know if Ricardo guessed right. He said he thought we would be rewarded.
Of course when he spoke, Ricardo could not have known about the wildfires that were to sprout a night later, the unforgettable unwinding of the deal he had struck with nature.