In May of 2023 we had a tasting of the 2022 vintage in barrel, along with the past vintages from the vineyard. It was wonderful to have the three winemakers together to share stories of their impressions of the vineyard and the resulting wines. All agreed that the future of this vineyard is bright, and we look forward to many more vintages together. With the welcome rains over the winter of 2022 and 2023, we are looking forward to a much bigger crop in 2023. The vines have recovered from the drought, and the work we did to conserve energy is paying off. The year 2022 imprinted drought upon our minds in Sonoma County very early in the year. The promising rains in the fall of 2021 fell to memory, and as January dawned we saw unseasonably warm weather, with some of us vineyard owners remarking that we feared for a January bud break. Thankfully, temperatures subsided for a while, but bud break did start around Feb 19, almost a month earlier than in 2021.
Our young vines had struggled through the summer heat and drought of 2021, and we needed to be proactive about watering early in 2022 since the winter rains had not come. We started irrigating around bud break and continued to support the vines with fertilizer in April and watering through bloom to ensure as good a fruit set as possible.
But then an unusual late frost hit the vineyard during bloom. We normally don’t experience frost at our altitude, but this spring was one for the record books, and the young blossoms were affected. This, coupled with sharp pruning from January to conserve energy and provide for better strength in future years, resulted in a much smaller crop for 2022.
The summer progressed with lots of warm days, and veraison started around July 10 – another early date versus previous years. We were encouraged by some good-sized bunches, but clearly the crop was going to be lighter than last year.
We kept supporting the vines with nutrients during the ripening process, including a compost extract and Potash to provide potassium. We have a hard time incorporating physical compost into the vineyard because of our rocky soils, so the liquid compost extract works great for us because we can inject it into our irrigation lines and provide the nutrients directly to the vine root zone.
In mid July we hedged the vineyard for the first time. This may seem like a mundane task, but for us it was a first sign that the canopy was finally growing to normal levels and that the vineyard was coming into maturity. How exciting! And it all looked so tidy
By early August veraison was complete and the grapes were starting to ripen. Neighboring birds were starting to notice, so it was time to raise the netting to protect what crop we had. We can’t net the entire vineyard, but we do protect the edges of each row and the few rows at the edge of the vineyard. It seems to discourage interlopers for the most part.
Deciding on the day of harvest is always stressful. I take preliminary tests when it looks like the sugar levels are approaching where we want them, but the final decision is always up to the winemakers, and both Adrian and Garry came out to take samples in 2021. We decided to harvest the rosé on August 19. The rosé harvest is always a family affair, with friends and colleagues meeting at the vineyard at dawn to pick the roughly half-acre of grapes designated for rosé. We started at dawn and finished up around 10, with a lighter harvest than we had hoped for, but the grapes looked and tasted great.
I always try to do something special for harvest, and this year I made my daughter’s recipe for apple cider donuts. They are amazing! Everybody enjoyed them and it made the work seem lighter.
Because of the light harvest and the warm temps, we harvested both clones of the Pinot Noir together on August 26. We came in with a little over 6 tons, roughly half of what we harvested in 2020. Plus we divided it 4 ways this year, between Panther Ridge, Joseph Jewell, Brooks Note and Lynmar. We did our best to give everyone their fair share of each clone. We were all disappointed at the light return, but everyone was very pleased with the quality of the grapes and felt great about the future wine to come.
Careful sorting at the winery ensures that only the best of quality goes into the fermentation process. Adrian pronounced the grapes had amazing flavor, and when I tasted the Panther grapes waiting in line to be processed against another vineyard’s grapes, I finally understood what he meant. You can really taste the difference, even before the grapes have started down the road to becoming wine. Having great flavor at the beginning can mean the difference between an okay wine and an outstanding wine. It’s all about the farming, the climate, the soils, and the care that goes into the wine before it arrives at the winery.
In May of 2023 we had a tasting of the 2022 vintage in barrel, along with the past vintages from the vineyard. It was wonderful to have the three winemakers together to share stories of their impressions of the vineyard and the resulting wines. All agreed that the future of this vineyard is bright, and we look forward to many more vintages together. With the welcome rains over the winter of 2022 and 2023, we are looking forward to a much bigger crop in 2023. The vines have recovered from the drought, and the work we did to conserve energy is paying off.