It’s already happening, everyone is talking about the weather. Being farmers, we talk about the weather all the time; every day, all year long. But when the weather has the potential to increase the price of a bottle of wine, it broadens that conversational circle.
The 2011 winter in California was cold and rainy, the summer was cool and humid, and then it rained the first week of October – right at the beginning of harvest for a lot of growers. Crop levels were down and then those early rains ruined much of what was left on the vine at the end of the season. Growers were scrambling to fill the grape contracts they had and there was virtually no supply of excess fruit for wineries without contracts. In the short six months from February to August, we saw the price of coastal fruit skyrocket. The cycle has officially turned: it is now a growers market.
When you are both a grower and a winery, these market cycles aren’t really a part of your world. The grapes cost what it takes to grow them and that doesn’t change much year after year. And if you are in the Dunnigan Hills bubble, the 2011 growing season was pretty ideal. Cooler weather to us meant a summer of balmy days in the low 90’s and nights in the mid 50’s. We had a long mild growing season with a dry summer and a harvest that ended the day before the October rains.
The 2011 Matchbook wines will mirror what we harvested for the 2010 vintage: intense flavors from the long hang time. The fermenting Chardonnay already shows pronounced honeysuckle, melon and tropical flavors; the Tempranillo, its characteristic combination of espresso spice and dark berries. The Syrah had time to develop exceptionally deep color and robust tannins.
Wines from the coastal regions will be a different story and the weather will be the story of the vintage. There will be shortages and there will be price increases. But for those of us on the east side of the Coast Range Mountains, 2011 was pretty much the same and it was pretty wonderful.