Remembering the 2014 Vintage
by Andrew Berge
The 2014 growing season in Northern California was unique, but you could say that about each and every vintage. We were in the third year of a drought and our vineyards received 50 – 75% of their annual amount of rainfall from July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2014. The majority of that rain fell in late February and early April. The timing of these rains created conditions similar to what is defined as normal; irrigation pond levels and soil moistures were typical for that time of year.
The mild winter temps and low soil moistures earlier in the year kick-started vine growth in mid-February. Fortunately, March and April were warm and mild and we saw no frost damage in any of our vineyards. May and June were slightly warmer than average. With record setting highs in early June the vines could not have been happier during the first growth stages.
Flowering and set occurred under ideal conditions and we had very little shatter, if any. Cluster counts were similar to 2012 and 2013 and it looked like we were on track to have a third consecutive harvest of above average yields. Due to the prolonged bud break, it took almost 3 weeks for set to complete and the potential existed for drastically varying levels of ripeness within the vineyard at harvest. Because of this, we dropped more fruit than usual during our thinning passes to remove any fruit that was lagging behind to ensure only perfectly ripe fruit was harvested.
Veraison started around the middle of July and finished at lower Brix levels than in 2013. This increased the anthocyanin content of the grapes at harvest, which equated to darker wines with rich flavors, when compared to 2013. The cooler temperatures and cloudiness associated with the monsoonal moisture pattern we experienced in July and August thankfully slowed the rate of ripening. At the beginning of the year we figured we would be harvesting our first grapes by early August, but with the cooler, cloudy weather we started harvest on August 26th. With no real heat waves or rain scenarios, the fruit ripened evenly and slowly over the following weeks and our final pick was on September 23rd.
The 2014 wines present exceptional purity and balance that is unmatched by any vintage of recent memory. At this point in time, the wines will benefit from 6 to 12 additional months in the cellar, and should drink exceptionally well over the next 5 to 10 years.