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Historically Speaking

August 28, 2009

What’s happening now in the vineyards is intimately linked to the earlier portion of the growing year. So for the benefit of those who were not here, or might not have tracked it — a synopsis of prior elements of the emerging 2009 vintage:

Each year begins with private prayers for “normal” rainfall levels (around 35 inches annually for Napa Valley), however our winter often felt more like spring this year, with mid-70 degree temperatures in the last two weeks of January. Thankfully the vines slept through the warmth and February — traditionally the wettest month — did bring the rains. March brought continued warmer than average, dry weather and the 2009 rainfall totals were roughly two thirds of normal, causing some concern as both 07 and 08 were also on record as fairly dry as well.

In spite of the temperate weather, bud break was recorded roughly ten days behind the prior year and although there were several watchful nights for many vineyard managers, spring frost was not much of a factor this vintage as compared to the extremely challenging conditions of 2008.   Measurable late spring rains, approximately 3” in total, arrived at well-spaced intervals, delivering welcome moisture to vineyard soils.

Moderate temperatures with only a few hot days in late spring/early summer allowed vines to bloom and set without much complication, and there were very few reports of shatter.  Fruit set appeared normal in most varieties going into veraison and comparatively cool weather in June and July had many vintners reporting maturation slightly behind ‘normal vintage’ calendar schedules.  Summer heat finally arrived in August, but was fleeting and by mid-month vineyards were continuing to ripen slowly but evenly.  White varietals have begun to trickle in, however should we see heat spikes in September (not unusual in the Napa Valley) the picking pace will be fast & furious.

Although reports from vineyard to vineyard inevitably vary, and winemakers are traditionally cautious to make any predictions, there is a general air of optimism for a very fine vintage.

Note: many thanks to Kimberlee Nicholls, Markham for her contribution to this piece!

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