As soon as harvest wrapped up this year it was right onto the road for a couple of whirlwind trips around the good ‘ole US of A. Even early on in the winemaking process the 2018 vintage is looking very VERY solid. With an incredibly consistent growing season, mother nature has set us up for success. Now it is time to make the magic happen!
2018 provided a fairly mild growing season, warm but not hot with some very cool nights into the home stretch of October and early November. With a little heat spike in late September there was a decent spike in activity but for the most part a good chunk of Napa’s bigs reds stayed on the vine to continue to build flavor, complexity and to balance out some big acidities that were hanging around.
For MTGA our harvest started about two and a half weeks later than the last few years, which is actually closer to our average harvest date. With some incredibly dry and hot years (looking at you 2014 through 2017) behind us it was pretty nice to stretch out the season a bit more. Quite frankly the grapes needed that as well. The first lot to come in was a solitary ton of our Pinot Noir. Two weeks later we had a mad dash to bring in all of our Merlot, Riesling and another third of our Pinot Noir production all in the same night. Starting at 10:00pm on a Wednesday and lasting until 7:00pm the following day it was quite the marathon but it could not have gone off any better.
This year the Riesling is officially coming from our brand-spankin’ new vineyard source in the Dry Creek area of Sonoma. Sitting at about 1800 feet of elevation above Lake Sonoma it is a super unique site and grows an AWESOME Riesling. We were able to snag just over two tons which will allow us to make 5-ish barrels of our Dry Riesling in 2018. Over the course of the 3-plus week fermentation process we have been able to get some sneak peaks into what to expect from this new release when it comes out later next spring. Our Riesling also has been exclusively made in stainless steel over the last six years but we did do a little test run with a barrel fermentation as well as part of our R&D this season.
Per usual our Bennett Valley Pinot Noir is the most sporadic of our wine lineup. Each clone that we utilize ripens up roughly a week apart starting with the Pommard, then 667 and finally the 115 to round out the season. For consistencies sake we ferment each lot with the same yeast strain and utilize very similar cooperages for our barrel program. As a result the biggest difference is simply the clone. Even though it is all Pinot Noir from the same vineyard site we see some really amazing differences between each clone, which helps build out the final blend of our Bennett Valley Pinot Noir. It will be another 18 months or so before it is ready to be bottled up…so for now patience is a virtue.
Now onto our flagships, the MTGA Merlot and Single Barrel! At this stage we are still in the process of deciding which barrel will end up as this year’s Single Barrel selection but the Merlot is off to a rocking start. Similar to the 2016 vintage it is showing some great structure and rich fruit characteristics that will take some time to come together over the next 22 months in French Oak. The fermentations, similar to the Riesling, were really steady and didn’t try to kick along too fast. Even through the pressing cycle we are seeing some great intensity and balance as the aging process begins.
As always we try to have a not-so-secret project in the cellar each year. Last year’s was unfortunately foiled due to the fires but is officially in action this year. We have had our eye on an extremely small “backyard” vineyard on Mt. Veeder to see how it might integrate into the MTGA program. It yields less than half a ton and as a result it became a perfect candidate to co-ferment with a small portion of Merlot to round out a full barrel of wine. This fermentation also happens naturally which is a first for us as well. Similar to our previous vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon and our Merlots, it is going to take some time to see how this little project fits into what we do year in and year out. At this stage it is just a ton of fun to look forward to adding something new and different to the lineup!