2018 Harvest Notes
In the past week, winter has finally set in along the Central Californian coast and rain is soaking the now-dormant vineyards. The harvest is officially in the bag, even for those vintners that like to let the grapes hang late. Lumen’s wines were tucked away in their barrels in late October, safe and sound until racking in the spring. We had a lot of extra help this harvest – even Winslow did her part (mostly watching daddy work, and asking LOTS of questions).
2018 will be a banner year for most of California. My winemaker friends all seem to think it could be the vintage of the decade, from Napa to Santa Cruz to good old SBC. The reasons for that, of course, are manyfold.
First off, the weather was perfect for most of the growing season. We had fairly normal timing for bud break, when the vines come out of dormancy after their winter sleep. A brief frost scare in March was narrowly averted, after which we had a normal spring followed by an unusually cool summer. For the first time I can remember in California, we had no Indian Summer heat wave. Labor Day slipped past with temps barely cresting 75 degrees in the Santa Maria Valley. The nights were cold. What that means is that the grapes ripened slowly and the acidity levels stayed high – the perfect combo for making world-class wine.
Lane and I are always trying to pick at the lowest sugars possible. In other words, we are hoping for maturity in the grape’s flavor before the fruit gets too ripe. In banner years like 2018, the fruit matures without the sugar spiking, meaning that natural acidity is high, and the ensuing alcohol content in the wines will be very low. Even better, the wine’s pH will be perfect for long-term bottle age.
We picked our fruit later in the summer than we have since Lane and I started working together. The buzz around SB wine country was that it was an unusually late harvest – but the old-timers chuckled and said it was actually a normal year, and that the rest of the decade has been early. Wherever the truth lies (and I side with the old guard), 2018 will be a vintage for the record books.
– Will Henry