2004 can best be categorized as a roller coaster vintage. The year started with pruning and the realization that the difficult 2003 vintage had resulted in weak vines that became damaged from an otherwise mild winter. In 2003 most of our late ripening varieties were harvested in November. The vines did not have any time between harvest and frost to accumulate carbohydrate reserves for the winter and spring. Vines that suffered the most were older, later ripening vines, on heavy, vigorous soils. The growing season was quite good, with a very early flowering due to a hot May, below normal summer temperatures, and slightly higher than normal rainfall. Unlike 2003, the rains were not constant drizzle, but the occasional soaking rain with lots of sunshine in between. Mid August through early September was a beautiful window of perfect ripening weather. Low crop levels combined with an early flowering resulted in a very early start of the harvest under ideal conditions.
White wines: Early ripening varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Seyval and some young vine Chardonnay will be arguably the best wines of 2004. An unfortunate series of hurricanes marred the September mid harvest. We were somewhat relieved that we were spared from most of the rains generated from Bonnie, Ivan and Charlie, but Jeanne was a direct hit. Chardonnay, Riesling, and Vidal were plagued with rot and dilution. Meticulous sorting saved the wines in terms of quality but resulted in miniscule quantities.
Red wines: Late September through mid October gave us beautiful sunny, dry weather. The reds were able to take advantage of this. There was much fruit desiccation because of splitting and Botrytis from the hurricanes, but this seemed only to concentrate in a good way, as there was no sour rot or off flavors. These will be medium term aging wines. The vintage reminds me of 1999, which produced wines with silky tannins, generous fruit and medium body. Drink from 2007 to 2010.