The Vintner’s Year | October 2013
Jim Law, who, along with his mentee Rutger De Vink at RDV Vineyards, is one of the most accomplished winemakers in Virginia in my opinion, sent this despatch about goings on at Linden Vineyards last month. Our apologies for having sat on it for far too long.
We entered October in harvest overdrive. The good weather fortunes of September continued into the first week of October. Harvest was in full swing. Warm sunny days were quickly ripening many different grape varieties. There was a cascade of grapes - Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Merlot - filling the crush cooler. Our organisational skills were put to the test. But, all of a sudden, there was nothing else ripe to pick. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot needed at least a week more of this beautiful weather so that they would lose a bit more acidity and develop more mature seed tannins. [Sounds just like Bordeaux 2013. See below - Jancis Robinson]
10 October marked the abrupt end of harvest nirvana. For the previous week we had been eyeing Karen, a Gulf of Mexico hurricane. Karen weakened to a tropical storm and briefly faded away south. But she came back. Instead of drifting out to sea, she made herself an unwelcome guest along the Atlantic seaboard for four days. When it became apparent that rains were coming, we spent a lot of time in our Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards tasting grapes looking for something ripe to pick. As desperate as we were, there was nothing out there that we felt would make a wine that we could be proud of. So we took the hit.
The rains were more intense and long lasting than had been predicted. Botrytis rot quickly reared its ugly head. In a matter of days, botrytis rot will turn sound grape clusters into a gooey, furry grey mass. We picked quickly and efficiently in the damp conditions shown above, bringing in most of the Cabernet before its precious skins fell prey to the grey mould. Those blocks that we couldn't get to in time were made into rosé. The juice was a bit on the tart side with crisper, red fruit characteristics rather than black fruit. Sugars were lower than ideal, but the precious skin tannins of Cabernet were wonderful.
It was not until we tasted the wine just this week that we knew that it would be good. I have to admit that for a while there I lost faith in the ability of Cabernet to handle adverse weather conditions but we have some very good young wines in the cellar. However, blending decisions will be difficult and critical. How quickly I forgot my lessons learned during my Bordeaux visits. I'm always much more interested in the lesser vintages: how do the best addresses always succeed in making excellent wine under less than ideal conditions? In fact my only solace during the peak of Karen's rains was catching up on the vintage reports coming in on Purple Pages. My colleagues in Bordeaux and Burgundy would be rejoicing at the harvest conditions we had here in comparison with their vintage 2013. I look forward to comparing notes.
Tasting Notes & Wine Reviews from Jancis Robinson