Vine Talk: Vintage 2010 most unusual in memory

Tue Oct 19, 2010 7:08am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Robert Whitley

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - As the California wine grape harvest draws to a close, three to four weeks later than normal, one thing is perfectly clear: Vintage 2010 has been the most unusual in memory, more Bordeaux than Napa.

It is a crop that will challenge winemakers conditioned to dealing with the certainty of perfectly ripe grapes each year.

The summer of 2010 was unseasonably cool and wet all along the California coast. California's finest vineyards populate the east-west valleys along this corridor, where they thrive on the cooling maritime influence.

The combination of hot days and cool nights is good for wine grapes. But the lack of sunshine and the potential threat of autumn rain pose a risk to the California wine industry's money grape, Cabernet Sauvignon, which can take the heat (indeed, it needs it) and ripens late even in the best of conditions.

"I'm thinking about grafting my Cabernet over to Pinot Noir," winemaker Gary Eberle quipped on an August afternoon in Paso Robles, in the heart of California's Central Coast. "This time of year it's usually around 95 degrees by mid-afternoon. We'll top out today around 73 degrees. We haven't had a single day all summer when it's hit 100.

"I'd say our Cabernet Sauvignon is at least three weeks behind schedule, maybe four; never seen anything like it around here."

Eberle has been making wine in Paso Robles for nearly 40 years. Other California vintners have similar thoughts.

Winemaker Cathy Corison is a veteran of nearly 30 harvests in the Napa Valley. Corison has taken note of the dramatic drop in temperatures throughout Vintage 2010 and relishes the rare opportunity to work with grapes from a cool growing season.   Continued...