It is early August and the grapes have now started turning color, so seemed like a good time to catch up and reflect on the season thus far. April saw us planting more Cabernet Sauvignon vines, new clones and root-stocks to increase diversity and total potential yield, with ultimate tonnage capacity up by 40%. We extended our rows into some of our rockiest soils, and are super excited to see what they might yield. Bud break occurred in the 3rd week of April, 2 weeks later than 2017. The non-stop rains in late May and early June finally gave way to an extraordinarily dry July. The challenges of a wet spring were many: outrageous canopy growth, disease pressure, worries about rain-compromised pollination, and the need to work around the weather. All told, we weathered each of these challenges well, and we entered July with a well managed canopy, and a healthy (albeit modest) crop of grapes for vintage 2018.
When we are deep in the thick of sun-up to sun-down canopy management in the dog-days of June, it is hard to think that it will ever settle down. But the relentless hours spent shoot-thinning in June result in a July that is tranquilo, and allows us time for house-keeping. The June to July shift in vineyard intensity is abrupt -- we find ourselves looking beyond the rows as if emerging from a fog. We mowed the grounds, prepared our electric fence to keep raccoons from ripening berries, hung bird netting, did tractor maintenance, and finally, we were able to take a moment to taste the previous vintage that has been evolving in the winery.
The 2017 vintage is our first wine, and while it is hard to be objective at this stage, we can say that the results are not only encouraging, but honestly, quite exciting. Winter and early spring tastings saw a wine that was very shy, defying any categorization, but the wine that greeted us in early July was much more forthcoming with firm tannin structure, a lively assortment of flavors and aromas of ripe berries. When it first hit my palate, hidden amongst the red berry, I noted a hint of cinnamon -- surprising, but when I reviewed tasting notes of other red wines grown in schist soils across the world, I found that cinnamon spice flavors are commonly mentioned. Is this the first inkling of a common, terroir-driven thread in our wines grown on a hillside of schist and quartz soils? It's probably too soon to tell, as our wine growing mentors remind us that well-crafted wines will continually evolve and surprise during their first 36 months or so.
We can't wait to follow the 2017 vintages progress, and will bide our time stewarding the 2018 vintage through veraison and harvest.
The Mount Alto Crew