The 2011 season provided an exceptional harvest. The season started quite wet in the spring but was followed by a warm (not overly hot) and mostly dry summer – generally excellent conditions for our grapes. Following the mild winter, crop yields were approaching normal and fruit quality was excellent. September brought more rain than anticipated and this had the effect of further increasing yields as the fruit swelled, but also reduced optimum quality. To overcome this challenge, all fruit was hand harvested in order to pick only the best clusters and leave behind those that were not optimal. We still harvested more fruit than we expected and the fruit was of very good quality.
The white wines are particularly strong this year. The early-ripening varieties, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer are very good. With the Gewürtztraminer, we did a three-day cold soak prior to primary fermentation which has given us pronounced varietal character - that lychee spiciness that makes Gewürz so Gewürz-like. The Pinot Gris is showing a creamy mouth feel and a long finish following its primary fermentation; and the Chardonnay, split between both stainless and barrel fermentation, is showing really well, although it’s hard to say anything definitive before it finishes its secondary, malolactic, fermentation.
Riesling is a later-ripening white variety, harvested at the end of October. The fruit quality was generally excellent and we expect the wines to be outstanding once again. However, we ferment the Rieslings at such low temperatures (60F) to maintain the fruit quality, that the process takes longer and, as yet, is not complete. In addition to the Dry Riesling, the (semi-dry) Riesling, the Bunch Select Riesling, and a Riesling Ice Wine, we hope that this year, for the first time since 2003, we will again be able to make a very special Reserve Dry Riesling.
The red varieties also did well in 2011. It wasn’t quite as warm as 2005, which challenged ripeness in the Pinot Noir. The September rains caused us to harvest the Pinot about two weeks earlier than we would have preferred, in order to stay ahead of some of the problems that cool wet weather can impart on this challenging variety. This year’s Pinot Noir is showing nice tannins and varietal character but is lighter in color and in body compared to other vintages.
With pressing just completed, the Cabernet Franc, the Merlot, the Gamay and the Cabernet Sauvignon are showing nice ripe tannins, good mouthfeel, and good varietal fruit flavors. There is none of the “greenness” or herbal characters that sometimes characterize these cool climate red wines. Malolactic fermentation will take the edge off the acidity, and after months in oak barrels to round out and integrate the flavors, we believe we will have some wonderful reds to work with in creating some great wines.