The 2008 growing season at Linden Vineyards was one of great challenges and windows of opportunities. As winegrowers, we had to often reflect on past experiences to pull off what has turned out to be a good year in terms of overall quality.
Winter was extremely mild and uneventful. Bud break was at typical timing in April. May was a very difficult month with cool, wet weather that brought concerns of disease and poor flowering (there was talk about another 2003, which was our most difficult vintage). Early June turned our spirits and hopes as beautiful warm, sunny days resulted in a very successful flowering and fruit set. Summer was wetter than normal, but each month progressively became hotter and drier. Most of August was a drought, putting a much-needed halt to vine vegetative growth. Very late August through most of September alternated between 2 or 3 days of rain and 4 or 5 days of sunny, warm conditions. October was gloriously dry, sunny, and warm.
In the vineyard, because of the wetter than normal conditions, canopy and cover crop management required much precision and labor. Leaf pulling severity was much more extreme than 2007. Cover crops were allowed to grow in order to compete with the vines and slow vegetative growth. While a dry August kept berry size relatively small, the rains of September caused some Botrytis rot in most of the white varieties and Merlot. Fortunately the rot was mostly of “good quality” (very little sour rot), but sorting was a major task in 2008. Natural acidities were quite high. White wines from 2008 will be very mineral driven (similar to 2006) with bright acidity, low to moderate alcohols, and botrytis-influenced exotic aromas.
Red wine style and quality was variety, vine age and vineyard site specific. Early ripening varieties (Merlot) and sites took the biggest brunt of the September rains. Unfortunately I can taste the rain in these wines. They lack concentration. Later ripening grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Carmenere) benefited from the dry October and have intense concentration and very high alcohols. Some of this was a result of berry desiccation, which raises concerns of more dried fruit characters in the wines. Blending decisions will be critical in producing a balanced wine. At this writing it is too early to specify 2008 red wine characteristics and quality.