The more growing seasons I experience here in Dry Creek Valley, the more I realize there really is no "typical" year. Each season presents its own challenges and has its own unique signature.
After three huge yields from 2012-14, many growers were predicting a lighter crop heading into the season. In fact, a lot of us winegrowers even felt the vines needed a break so they don't get too stressed or overworked. And that's exactly what's happened in Sonoma County in 2015 with nearly everyone reporting yields down at least 30% from the past few years.
Spring got here a bit early, with warm temperatures in March helping to kickstart budbreak a few weeks ahead of schedule. There was talk of an early harvest, but lots of cool mornings and afternoons in May seemed to slow things down back to a more traditional harvest pace, which is right where we ended up after all. June was tailor made for vegetative growth, with perfect weather in the mid 80s for most of the month helping to create some of the tallest shoot growth we've ever seen, and a thick, lush canopy of leaves.
This summer has been a hot one, and especially so this past month. We've seen lots of 100 degree temperatures, including 4 out of 7 days last week, topping out at 106 degrees last Wednesday here in the northern end of Dry Creek Valley. Those scorching conditions contributed to the devastating 65,000 acre Valley Fire, that is still only 30% contained as of this morning.
From a winemaking standpoint, we can't help but wonder how the smoke that's covered Dry Creek Valley the past two days might affect the vintage. More so, we feel for our neighbors a short drive east of here who lost their homes and saw their community destroyed by the flames. The smoke in our appellation may or may not be a story when these 2015 wines get released in a couple of years, but the wildfires and all those effected in Lake County and Napa County are certainly on everyone's minds here in the Bay Area this week. If you'd like to help there's info HERE and HERE.
The heat did cause a bit of raisening and some shriveled berries, but the heavy canopy created in early summer really served to protect the clusters well. Regarding the crop load, predictions of a lighter harvest this year were accurate. Some growers in Sonoma County are down as much as 50% from last year, but 30% seems to be about average, and so far we are about one-thrid lighter as well.
Yields are one thing, but what about quality? We're delighted to say that despite the lighter load, the Zinfandel, Primitivo and Petite Sirah we've picked so far are certainly not light on flavor. We're predicting more of the same Collier Falls wine you know and love for our 2015 Vintage!
Early next week we'll harvest the Cabernet Sauvignon and celebrate the completion of our 2015 Harvest.