I can best categorize the 2009 growing season at Linden as “uncommonly lucky.” It was a vintage that started as alarmingly awful and ended spectacularly sweet; again reinforcing the adage “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”
Bud break for Chardonnay was on April 20, which is the historical average date. There were no freeze or frost issues, but May and early June were dreary, cool and damp. We were hearing the dreaded 2003 date come up in grower conversations. Flowering was from early to mid-June. Weather conditions had improved slightly and concerns of poor fruit set were largely unfounded, with the exception of vines on more vigorous soils. However, flowering was prolonged due to cooler temperatures. This resulted in uneven berry development within clusters and was feared to be the Achilles heel for the red grape crop.
As the summer progressed, weather conditions improved. The remainder of June was manageable, July was typical with only the occasional thunderstorm and August was dry, but cooler than normal. It was obvious at veraison that it would be a late season and that red clusters, especially Cabernet Franc and Merlot, were uneven in their ripening. As a result, green harvest at 80% veraison was ruthless.
“Uncommonly lucky” refers to an amazingly dry stretch during harvest. Northern Virginia was spared from the significant rains that soaked areas to the north, east, south, and west. It was a great vintage for white wines with bracing mineral acidity, good textural balance and ripe flavor profiles. Reds required more judicious work in the vineyard, meticulous sorting at the crush pad, major bleeding (lots of 2009 Rosé!), and draconian declassification of weaker lots in the cellar. Thus far, surprisingly, Cabernet Sauvignon seems to be the star of the red wine lots, even though some blocks endured rain in late October. The reds in general are fresh and posses good structure, but need more fat and flesh on the bones. Our hope is that lees, malolactic fermentation, and oak elevage will add this textural dimension.