Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cerro Prieto...the Long, Thin, Green Lines

First off, for those of you that prayed for your dousing rains in to be sent here, thank you. We sincerely appreciate your good thoughts and prayers. We finally got a heavy London mist, in mid March, followed by a 2" downpour that lasted 5 minutes. The earth had gotten good and damp from the several days of London fog, so the 2" mostly went into the ground. Two days later, more blowing London fog, and another 4", this time in 20 minutes. The 4" in 20 minutes business, cut huge ruts in our roads, down steep vineyard rows, and vastly widened the runoff areas at the sides of roads. Since then we have had another 1" and that is it for this yr...7" grand total. Wow! Three droughts in a row, and the last two were 6" and 7". The local papers noted this to be the driest winter ever, yet across most of the U.S., most folks got drenched. Go figure. I know the scientific explanation: high pressure area sits over California most of winter, keeping the wet low pressure areas away from us. In all, it was dry, here...bone dry.

Now as to the Long Thin Green Lines: In a typical year we have rain in Jan, Feb, March, and that is it. This year we just had 7" of late rains, and the rows and hillsides were all brown. When the bud break finally occurred, neither the grass nor weeds were up and the vines had just sprouted their tiny shoots. When one looked at the vineyard, all that was noticeable were the long winding thin green lines, straight up and straight down, growing in a semi-circular pattern in our Syrah terraces, and forming line after line of thin green, no matter where one looked. The pictures below tell the story, but truly, it was a spectacular sight I have not seen before.
Note the thin slivers of green in the semi-circular Syrah terraces, and at top, the thin slivers of newly sprouted Cabernet disappearing down a steep dropoff. Also, you can see why in a regular rainfall year, that everything would have been green, all the soil, what little there is in a solid limestone mountain. There are other long thin green lines, most just linear in the Pinot Noir, the Merlot and the Sauv Blanc. Several examples will be in the text below.

First thing folks ask is, "What does this mean to your harvest?" Well, quite simply, this will be a banner year here for anything that survives the late spring into early June frosts. Virtually all mountain varietals (Cab, Syrah, Merlot) will make it through the late frosts, but the Pinot and Sauv Blanc will be dicey. As to quality, well, mark it down now. On top of two drought years we now have a more severe third...and that means lower yields, but out of sight superior flavors. Basically less fruit, smaller fruit, and wholesale fantastic flavors. This is a year to load up on. 2014 will be as memorable as any to date. As an aside, the weather forecast for this coming winter is for an el Nino, or most likely, very heavy rains. Already, the currents that begin down in Chile are headed up this way and are way warmer than usual, at least 4 degrees in some samplings. Doesn't sound like much, but to a farmer, that is water heaven.
 For those of you who have been here, you know that our vineyard has some blocs at right angles to another, and in between is a higher bloc at a 45 degree angle to both of the above. It makes for some spectacular geometric designs, long thin green lines running diagonal to one another, straight up a 250 foot mountain/hill. And then to see two blocs of rows, again running not parallel, but at 90 degrees to one another...well, it is quite a sight. It occurs every year, but with the early and heavier rains, one cannot actually see the long thin green lines because of the verdant green background. It took a series of droughts to get these pictures, but this is a rare phenomenon, and if you don't see the beauty in it, it is gone quickly once the rains bring out the grasses, weeds, and flowers.

Just a note on last year, 2013 vintages have now been in the barrel for 5 months, going on 6. The wines at this early stage are pretty rough to drink, but the smell of the fermentation in our vats early on told us what our 2013s would taste like. Heaven. Just pure heaven. So now you know that 2012, 2013, and now 2014 will all be vintages you will want to acquire. Note: this is vineyard specific, and low yield vineyards, grown out of limestone will be the best ones of the bunch. Most of you all know I just described Cerro Prieto to a tee. Our wines the last two years plus this one will be stellar.

Most already know that in late February we found out about our 3 entries into the SF Chronicle Wine Competition. Our 2010 Syrahs won the Gold and Silver and the 2009 Cabernet (Paso Bordo) won the Silver medal. We will have all three available thruout the year, and about the time they are gone, our 2012 Syrah and Cab will be ready. Ah, almost forgot the 2011 Pinot Noir from the cold, dark , wet year, and we bottle that within the month. By bottling time, it will be 2 1/2 yrs old, and then will lay down another 6 months. After that, it will be ready, about 7 months from now.
 In closing is a picture well after harvest last year, of my lovely wife, Teresa, without whom, nothing works, nor ever gets done. Many of you have met her, and those of you haven't...well, you have missed out. Be sure to meet her next time here. These leaves were the last of the Mohicans, and Teresa was out to enjoy them with me. I couldn't pass up this photo, however, as she is indispensable in both the vineyard and winery. That's it from here, and we hope you enjoy the wines you received recently.  

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