2005 was an outstanding year for whites and a good year for reds. The vintage started very slowly with a very cool spring, delaying bud break several weeks past normal. Immediately we were concerned about the ability of late ripening varieties to ripen fully given the compressed season. (Fortunately due to a hot August and severe crop thinning this did not come to pass.) May was very cool and dry, reducing phomopsis disease pressure, but also further delaying flowering. Bloom was in early to mid June, a full 7 to 10 days past normal and over 2 weeks later than 2004. Fortunately a warm, dry bloom period made for fairly even fruit set. The exceptions to this were some varieties that had uneven timing of flowering due to uneven bud break earlier in the spring. In many cases fruit set was too good, leading to large, compact clusters that would be more prone to bunch rots and over-cropping.
Early summer was slightly dry and slowly became progressively warmer. In early July, Cindy dropped 4″ of rain. This was worrisome at first, but then it became clear that the soil moisture would be beneficial later due to a drier than normal July-September. However, the wetter soil did stimulate both canopy growth and berry development, which in turn required aggressive canopy work (leaf pulling, hedging and lateral removal) along with severe cluster and cluster shoulder thinning.
A welcome hot August helped accelerate veraison and ripening, although we were still a few days behind normal as September approached.
Harvest began with Seyval and Sauvignon Blanc. Warm days and cool nights were the norm. All white grapes (harvested in September) had wonderful balance, good acidity and aromatics. Little or no sorting was required, even for Riesling, which was a first! There was essentially no rain in September, which was wonderful for the earlier whites, but we were worried about drought stress in the later ripening reds. We were in that unusual situation where we were hoping for some rain during harvest to refresh the vines. We got more than we bargained for.
Tammy dropped 4.5 inches of rain in a 24 hour period in early October. We had picked all of the whites (except Late Harvest Vidal and Petit Manseng), but had only brought in less than 20% of the reds (young vines, Merlot, and Boisseau Vineyard from the valley floor). Picking stopped for 2 weeks as we waited for the soil, canopies, and most importantly berries to dry out. Immediately after Tammy we had a very discouraging week of misty weather (NorEasterner) that did not add additional accumulation, but prevented things from drying out. We did have some berry splitting and botrytis (fortunately the only sour rot we had was on a Glen Manor Cabernet Franc block planted on heavier soils). Eventually we got some great low humidity, sun, and drying winds in mid October. Harvest continued with the reds until November 1. The reds were ripe with excellent tannins, but they lost concentration from Tammy. Pre-Tammy harvested reds are blockbusters, with Napa-like concentration and structure. Post-Tammy red wine quality is variety dependent. Most of the Merlot was harvested pre-Tammy. I only wish we had more of it planted. Cabernet Franc did not fare well, as it was the closest to harvest. These are pleasant, simple wines for early consumption. Petit Verdot performed wonderfully through the rain and still came in with high sugars and good concentration. It will be an important part of all blends, adding flesh and mid-palate body. Cabernet Sauvignon had some of the ripest, most supple tannins I have tasted. It did, however, lack concentration. These are medium term aging wines, which should drink well until at least 2012.