The majority of the growing season of 2011 was close to perfect with dry, warm conditions all summer. Vines were in good balance with a little water stress by late August. Early ripening grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc were showing concentrated and expressive flavor profiles. We were ready for our 7th good harvest in a row.
It was not to be. The rains started in late August with the, albeit brief, appearance of the residual rains of Irene. This one event was not a problem. The vines needed some refreshment and the clusters were unaffected. Unfortunately Irene was just the beginning of a series of rain events that lasted through the entire month of September.
Early ripening whites such as Seyval, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay were mature enough to harvest before any significant negative impact of the rains. It was the later ripening reds that took the brunt of the storms. Berry degradation and botrytis rot dictated picking schedules. Many a cluster was left in the vineyard. Sorting tables were running slowly. Winemaking was cautious and erring on the safe side: no cold soak, no native fermentations, short cuvaisons, and little new oak. Declassification was the mantra. No single vineyard reds were bottled. Claret comprised of the best lots. A 2011 “Red” was bottled that reminds me of a simple, but refreshing Piedmont Barbara.
In sum, 2011 vintage produced vibrant, mineral driven whites and early drinking, fresh reds. Both will be great complements to the dinner (or lunch) table.