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A State Of The Vineyards Report

24 December 2011

Living in Chicago, far from any wine country of note, it can be hard to feel connected to the winemaking process, the most important parts of which happen in the vineyard. It was therefore especially fascinating to meet Bruce Curtis, the E-Commerce Manager of Artesa Vineyards and Winery, at this year’s Wine Blogger Conference. He works on the front lines of the American wine industry in Napa Valley.

Whether you prefer drinking Cabernet or Counoise, what happens in the northern California vineyards affects all of us wine consumers in the United States. I checked in with Bruce to see how this year’s harvest turned out:

2011 will go down as a winemaker’s year in Northern California, meaning each and every winemaker this side of the Golden Gate Bridge really had to earn his or her keep and be super-proactive throughout the entire season.  This was not one of those years where the winemaker could coast along on semi-auto pilot; it was a challenge the entire way, to say the least.

The season began cool and wet which lasted through most of the spring. The rain also came during the most sensitive time of year …pollination. This can lead to disaster if the vines get damaged, resulting in lighter crops. The summer was decent, and gave the vines a fighting chance to pull off a great finish to a slow beginning.  Alas, Mother Nature would not let us get away with it that easy, and she threw a massive curve ball of rain across Northern California in early fall that pretty much lasted until the end of the growing season.

Being in the Carneros region of the Napa Valley [at a relatively high elevation in the mountains], Artesa’s vineyards escaped a lot of the botrytis issues that most areas suffered heavily from, and they also managed to bring in most of their white varietals before the wet weather set in. For those growers and wineries that didn’t, the outcome was pretty tough with a lot of loss up and down the valley.

The silver lining that comes from such a hard year is that having less of a yield means the grapes picked were much more highly concentrated, bringing in super quality grapes for what we hope will be super quality wines, putting a cork on the end of a very tough, rough and tiring season!

I’ll drink to that.

It sounds like though it was a tough year, those wines that do come out of 2011 will be quite good. I’ll drink to that as well!

Thank you to Bruce Curtis for putting this report together. You can follow Artesa Vineyards on Facebook, and you can read my impressions of their tasty Pinot Noir here.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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