We can now see the end in sight for the 2012 harvest! This year has been a peaceful season (so far), especially when compared to the 2010 and 2011 nervously cool harvests. The season kicked off with an unseasonably hot Spring (see the below chart). In late May, the temperature rise slowed down considerably with some rain and cool weather, which made us worry that we may see a repeat of the two previous vintages (see the black line in June to Mid-July creeping closer to the blue line). We were proved wrong by a beautiful and steady summer and we actually got an average growing degree day (GDD) vintage. We only saw 10 days or so of hot weather in July, which unfortunately brought some sunburn and sun delay in many overexposed vineyards.
Our harvest started a good three weeks earlier than 2011, but rapidly slowed down due to a larger crop load than expected. This extended our harvest season by a week or so. We believe many growers were trying to play catch up from two low yield vintages and many vines were just ready to produce more fruit after two years of small crops. The heavier crop is proving to have the associated advantage of preserving our acidity and we are seeing very high acid levels that are usually associated with a cooler vintage. Overall, the delay in ripening will mean we will finish only a couple weeks earlier than last year; but only time will tell.
The quality is looking very good! All our tanks are still fermenting, but it looks promising. The sugars are in check and the acids are high. The flavors are very impressive despite the higher yield. It will be a benchmark year for our sweeter styles. In order to get the sweeter Rieslings in balance, it will require more sugar than a “normal” vintage. Don’t worry, we’ll make sure the dry styles are fantastic too!
It feels good to have a “normal year” after a few challenging vintages and with ample quantities when most of the world is suffering shortages – this could be another vintage where Washington earn its stripes!