The 2018 vintage, vineyard news

Mark loading 2018 Carmel Valley/Not Carmel Valley Pinot Noir into the destemmer.

The 2018 vintage is looking good, with good yields on all but the Santa Cruz Sauvignon Blanc vineyard.  It was a cool, moderate summer, with none of the hot spells that usually occur.  That is good, but meant for a later than normal harvest, as we had to wait for the high acids in the fruit to go down. As grapes mature, color, pH and flavor generally go up, and acids go down. So as a rule our 2018s had either high acid or high sugar, which ferments into higher alcohol. The 2018 whites are high acid, low alcohol, the reds high alcohol. Every year is a challenge in one way or another.  We have it good in California.  This year was an unmitigated disaster for the Mid-Atlantic, with a cloudy wet summer capped off by hurricane- induced deluges right at harvest time.  I made wine for two years in Virginia, and I feel their pain.

New for us this year is Pinot Noir from Carmel Valley, which oddly is not Carmel Valley (when they created the AVA most of the vineyards were actually in the neighboring valley, Cachagua).  More oddly, it was the last fruit we harvested.  Pinot is usually the first red to come in.  We are making our first Zinfandel ever (I made it for many vintages as a hired gun), and Syrah, Cab Sauv and Cab Franc from Highlands Vineyard, in the mountains between Carmel Valley and Arroyo Seco. These are all through fermentation and they are big, ripe wines- outside our normal milieu. Let’s see how we do.  Our estate organic Syrah was a little tamer, but still ripe.  As with 2017, the lower three rows, late to ripen, were harvested later and fermented after carbonic maceration, to reduce the acidity.  It adds a fruity bubble gum aroma, think Beaujolais Nouveau, which is made that way.  If I can find time to bottle, the 2017 Carbonic Syrah is ready to drink.  Maybe it will be bottled in time for Thanksgiving!

Carmel Valley Pinot 2018