2014 could mark the end of an era, or perhaps just the beginning of new things. 3 years, 4 harvests, each so unique I sometimes feel like the only common thread is that I spent them all with Winemaker Michael Lundeen at Walnut City Wineworks.
2011 was my debut vintage, as well as a difficult harvest, and looking back, I honestly don’t know how we got through it. It was my first time in a winery, Michael’s first harvest at WCW, it was long, drawn-out, cold, wet and we clawed our way out from under nearly 200 tons of fruit with just 3.5 people and vowed, ‘Never again.’ I’m still trying to get my head around these wines in all their high-acid, pretty elusiveness, still just out of reach, on the cusp of being special, or great, maybe both.
2012 was a gift, albeit a bit of a race at times, or all the time, to get fruit picked before dehydration and creeping sugar levels threatened unanimous power over elegance. I think we managed some of both with these wines, taming one and harnessing the other. These are tough, well-built wines, that despite broad industry expectations of immediate gratification upon release, will continue to show their true breadth and complexity years down the road.
Then their was 2013, the year that changed just about everything I came to understand over the previous 2 years.
Harvest was shaping up nicely, fruit was ripe, and then it rained. It rained and didn’t stop raining with reports of 8 inches or more falling during what would have been our optimal picking window. We came out on the other end of the rain with a litany of new challenges as fruit started to roll into the winery. It became quickly apparent that we were going to have to get clever and put everything we had into pulling great wines out of this vintage. Some of those wines have made their way to bottle, others are still aging. But, tasting these wines now, seeing their early balance and completeness, it’s both mind-boggling and thrilling at the same time to reflect upon those early days of harvest a little over a year ago.
Could I have picked a better year than 2014 to go out on? Probably not, even if I had another decade of harvests to choose from.
So many moving parts in these short span of weeks, and it felt like everything was in our favor. A veteran team, everybody knowing their roles in the process, incredible weather, a perfect pace of just the right amount of fruit. Acid levels were a bit low, sugar levels a bit high, and there were some early flavor profiles that were a bit more exotic than we are generally used to seeing, but there was not much room for complaining, and I think we made some of our best wines this year.
What an incredible journey this has been. I couldn’t be more proud of to have been a part of such an outstanding winemaking team.