It’s hard to believe, but we are just a few days from bottling the 2017 Pinots, with the 2018 harvest hot on its heels. I haven’t said a lot about 2017 - it’s a vintage that has really stayed with me in terms of processing the lessons Nature provided, and I think I’ve been thinking about it a lot more than talking about it. But with bottling around the corner, it is an apropos time to do so.
In late August, we experienced a heat wave that was unlike anything I’ve ever seen here. It was like working with a blast furnace in a steel mill on a very hot day; just an unbelievably oppressive and relentless level of heat. It continued unabated- with no respite from the fog. As a result, we didn’t ease into harvest - it was dropped on us like a ton of bricks. I saw a few winemaking buddies around town in the middle of it; each time nobody said anything - we just shook our heads and never broke our 1000 yard stares.
Of course, the weather always changes - and when the break came it came in the form of a couple cold rainy days. I was driving home one of those mornings after checking a vineyard (which I had decided to pick), and as I rounded a curve on Westside road, I was hit with an amazing view of the rain as it was crossing the valley, coupled with a realization that made me pull off the road just to think about it.
I called Carri, and told her that over the years, I’ve come to fully embrace my role as being more of a custodian than a winemaker. As I’ve learned these lessons over the years, I’ve become very comfortable with that role- which emanates from truly understanding that wine is made by Nature- not winemakers. In fact, my role has largely been reduced to one critical decision- calling the pick. It’s not that I don’t work- I work like crazy - it’s simply that the work I do is undertaken from the standpoint of letting the wines define themselves. But the picking decision is the one moment where I am not a custodian - it’s the moment where I get to shape the wine.
And I told her that I loved that I was so comfortable with the fact that I had this one job, this one thing I do, that in many ways defines the ending quality of the wine. But I had just realized that to that point in harvest 2017, I hadn’t called a single pick, not one. Nature had called them all for m e- every time I said it was time to pick, it was because Nature had already decided it, and made it crystal clear to me. As I thought about it, I realized that perhaps it was always so, I just hadn’t really grasped it.
I think the wines reflected that pedigree- from the onset they were very strong willed, with a lot of personality. It’s said that there are three questions all humans ask: who am I, where am I from, and where am I going? In a way, I think the personality of the 2017 vintage is a certainty and self-assuredness – as though these wines know the answers to those very questions; and they carry themselves with the certainty one might expect from that knowledge.
Some of the 2017s were sampled by the public during the barrel weekends- and it was surprising how evenly the love was spread among them, which I suppose is a very good sign. And yet, their direction remained elusive to me in many ways - as though they were making me wait to find out who they were determined to be. Which is a lot like raising kids I suppose. The wait has been more than worthwhile; Nature left a huge imprint on this vintage- and fans of elegant, rich, red fruit driven Pinot will be very happy.
We’ll be turning our attention to the 2018 harvest soon enough, for now, we keep tasting through the 11 pinots we are bottling, all of which are in tanks for bottling, and we keep fine tuning things. Bottling is a crazy time for us, but it’s the home stretch for what I believe are some very delicious wines. I can’t wait to share them with you.
John & Carri Holdredge