Vintage 2017: The rains that never fell

Late winter brought an unsettled warm/cold pattern that was concerning and reminiscent of the disastrous winter of 2014. Temperatures in February reached into the 80’s with cherry and peach trees blooming. A few nights in March dropped to the teens. However, fears of trunk and vascular damage proved to be unfounded. Spring still came in a full ten days early, but there were no damaging frost events.

Chardonnay flowering began a week early (late May) under less than ideal rainy skies. By the time Cabernet Sauvignon was flowering, conditions improved. Fruit set was above average for most varieties.

The rest of June and all of July was very dry. Shoot growth was less than normal with very little hedging needed. Young vines and less water retentive soils showed drought stress. We needed rain, but not the 3.5 inches that fell over a few hours on August 11. Semillon berries split, clone #4 Chardonnay showed some rot and all clusters swelled. The rest of August was uneventful allowing clusters to lose some compactness.

A forecast can sometimes become confused with reality. The beginning of harvest is best remembered by the threats of Harvey, Irma, Maria and Jose. They were no shows, with little affect on quality. However fears of their potential impact did influence picking decisions. Harvest began about ten days early on August 28. It was an uninspiring beginning under threat of rain. Boisseau Chardonnay and Viognier along with Hardscrabble Semillon were picked without much enthusiasm.

After a week of hand wringing and watching hurricane tracks, we started to pick young vine Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. They were ripe enough and menacing Harvey and Irma were set to track up the Blue Ridge. The rains never happened. Soils dried out and cool temperatures prevailed for several weeks. Old vine Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc benefited showing good verve and ripe flavors.

The rest of September was warm and dry setting the stage for one of the best red grape harvests in the 30 years of Linden’s history. Reds came in with balanced sugar, flavor, acid and skin tannins. The only potential downside was slightly under-ripe seeds, but we did not taste any green tannins during fermentation. 2017 white wines show classic verve and acidity with a lean, focused texture. 2017 reds are powerful and ripe, but have freshness rather than heaviness. These will be wines to age.