006 was a good year at Linden. I would have to characterize the vintage as “classic” in that the growing season was about as close to typical as is possible. There were substantial swings in temperature and rainfall during the summer, but in fact, this is normal for Virginia. The red grapes ripened fully with good balance. They were by no means overripe. They were “crunchy”, red fruit, ripe. Cabernet Sauvignon tannins were fairly supple, which is the best indicator of the quality of a vintage here. There was some dilution with late rains, which resulted in significant bleeding of the juice at crush. The white wines show the most minerality since 1999, and in fact there were some distinct similarities in these two vintages, although I believe that 2006 will outshine 1999 because of its concentration and sap. 2006 was probably closest to 1990 in terms of typicality.
Bud break was at a normal time with no frost except to our lower elevation Boisseau Vineyard where the Chardonnay did suffer some frost damage in April. Early spring was exceptionally dry. Own rooted Seyval and young vines had slow development. Temperatures were normal, as was flowering. Dry, low vigor conditions lead to a very large fruit set and a potential enormous crop, with the puzzling exception of Merlot which had cluster sizes less than half of normal. Late June gave us a deluge of rain, rejuvenating vine growth and worrying growers about disease. Leaf pulling around the clusters was done earlier and more meticulously as a result. Weaker vines, slowed by the dry spring were cluster thinned early and rigorously. July and August went back to being dry and hot. As a result, vines stopped their growth earlier than normal, which is what probably made the vintage for us. It confirmed to me the importance of vine balance and having the shoot tips cease growth at veraison. Green harvest took place for the reds in early to mid-August. Young vines had very large clusters. Even one cluster per shoot was too much. This required shoulder (wing) removal to balance yields. Veraison was fairly uniform with the exceptions of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, which required more meticulous thinning.
By late August we were in the unusual position of hoping for rain just before harvest, as young and swallow rooted vines were showing water stress. We got more than we had hoped for in the form of Ernesto and 4.5″ of rainfall. Very fortunately, there was no berry splitting or rot, but there was some dilution.
I refer to September and October 2006 as the great obstacle course, with alternating sun and rain. The early whites (Seyval, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay) ripened slightly earlier than normal, because of the dry summer. It was a cooler fall than normal. This pushed back ripening of the reds, but because of more rigorous crop thinning, our harvest dates were normal. Crop levels seemed to have had a large impact on red wine quality in 2006.
Both Reds and Whites show great aging potential. The Chardonnays are similar in style to the 1999 vintage which is drinking wonderfully at 10 years old. The 2006 reds are very Bordeaux in acidity and structure which should make them candidates for long term aging.