2011 Winegrape Harvest Update
Monterey County Wraps Up A Positive – If Unusual – Vintage
“This is my ninth harvest in the area and it has been unlike any that I can recall,” says Executive Director for the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association, Rhonda Motil of Monterey County’s 2011 growing season.
“The growers have all handled Mother Nature’s curve balls with the patience and expertise indicative of our winegrowing region.”
While growers and vintners throughout Monterey County admit that this has been an out-of-the-ordinary year, lovers of the area’s elegant and well-balanced wines will be pleased to learn that the strange growing season has yielded overwhelmingly good quality across its nine AVAs.
“Climactic events like a wet spring, late rain in June, a milder-than-usual summer, and a big rain storm in early October presented us with many challenges, but the fruit coming into the winery is superb,” said Matt Shea, Vineyard Manager of Bernardus Winery in the Carmel Valley. “The long summer coupled with adequate soil moisture created the perfect conditions for Pinot Noir on the Central Coast. The loose clusters, small berries, low yields, and long hang time will equate to concentrated wine with lots of depth and flavor.”
Bernardus Winemaker, Dean De Korth, concurs: “I’ve heard some dramatic stories from our friends in other regions, but we were fortunate that several of the storms that plagued them bypassed us with little to no impact on our grape quality. All our Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes were picked under beautiful conditions prior to the main rains in early October, and they’re all coming in at optimal sugar and acid levels with delicious, concentrated flavors.”
De Korth echoes a sentiment heard among several Monterey County growers: that the benefits of a long, mild growing season are particularly evident in the region’s Pinot Noir crop. “Pinot Noir excels in minimal diurnal swings - the less fluctuation in temperature, the better,” said Andy Mitchell, Director of Vineyard Operations at Hahn Winery in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. “The 2011 vintage certainly bears that out. We’re seeing full flavors, with brix and acid levels in wonderful balance across our Pinot Noir fruit. In prior years, we’ve had to wait for either the sugars or the acids to come into balance, but this year, everything came together to full maturity at once.”
While wine quality for the 2011 vintage is predicted to be high, volume will be an issue. “Our Pinot Noir crop was 50% lighter than usual,” says Mitchell. “You can count on great concentration, but it will be at the expense of the wine’s accessibility.”
In the southerly San Antonio Valley AVA, Lockwood Oaks Vineyard owner, Joyce Yates, speaks to the quality-versus-quantity issue. “My crop is coming in as good, if not better than, last year. The phenols, acids, tannins, and flavors are excellent. Although the quantity isn’t what we’d like to see, overall, this vintage was terrific quality-wise. There’s no question, we can count on 2011 being a terrific vintage for wines from this area.”