california cabernet society

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage Report

The 2012 California Cabernet Sauvignon growing season was ideal by most standards, as it was back to a normal harvest picking timeline, with an abundance of sunshine, yielding generous amounts of high quality fruit, and vintners and growers throughout the state are praising this year's Cabernet Sauvignon harvest. Moderate weather throughout the growing season put little pressure on the vines, and provided well-balanced grapes at harvest. The 2012 harvest is making up for the low yielding 2011 crush, with harvesting at above average yields and the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon harvest is shaping up to be one that will become known for its abundance of fruit and quality of wine from grapes that were ripe and concentrated.

Although there were late rains in October, the slight rain didn't do too much, as 85-95 percent of the Cabernet Sauvignon crop had already been harvested and the weather cleared out and warmed up quickly. The fairly mild weather allowed vintners and growers to wait for fruit maturity in order to harvest mature grapes with balanced flavors, producing Cabernet Sauvignon clusters packed with tiny bluish black flavorful berries. As the flavors continue to mature, it's looking like this could be one of the better vintages we've had in the last 10 years. Enjoy!

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage Report

The stage was set for the 2008 growing season by less than normal rainfall in the winter of 2007/ 2008. Lack of precipitation created drought conditions for the spring, summer and early winter of 2008. Diminished late winter rains further reduced field moisture levels at the beginning of the growing season in the first three months of 2008.

Bud-break started somewhat early in mid-March in much of Napa Valley. It proceeded, thereafter, in the mountains and generally cooler locations. The three weeks following bud-break is a critical time in the vineyards, described as the frost season. The 2008 frost season will long be remembered by growers as one of the worst in perhaps 35 years. Starting in mid-March and continuing until late April, twenty-two days of frost warnings were experienced. Typically, seven to eight days are considered a high number, so this was a seriously high incidence of freezing temperatures. The coldest evening was late in this period, with temperatures getting down into the high teens in some of the higher elevations and as low as 26 degrees in many parts of the valley. This was the event during which most of the serious frost damage occurred. Some vineyards in frost prone locations lost over 50% of their crop, and some growers lost the entire crop.

Ironically, just as the vines were recovering from the shock of the frost season, we experienced a heat spike of over 100 degrees in late May. This further stunned the vines, as they were early in their growth cycle. Then came wind, up to 50 mph in some places, followed by rain! It seemed as though Mother Nature was determined to do everything she could to annoy her farmers.

The balance of the growing season progressed along in a typical fashion, with mostly moderate temperatures. There were two other heat spikes, extending for a couple of days each, as we moved through verasion onto the beginning of the 2008 harvest. The only aspect that seemed unusual was the lack of any water storage capacity in the soils, requiring close monitoring of irrigation requirements. In essence, the dry season stated two months early.

Those vineyards that had made it through the frosts in relatively good conditions carried crop sets that indicated an 85% to 90% of projected production for the vintage. We soon learned that that was not going to happen. The combination of latent shock from the frosts and drought conditions of the soil took their toll on grape yields. We discovered early in the picking process that bunch weights were way off. A completely filled half-ton bin weighed only about seven hundred pounds. The general impression, across the Napa Valley, is that crop yields were 33% to 35% down from winery projections.

While we lost quantity, we were rewarded in quality. Having grapes that weighed so little was an indication that there was less juice in the individual berries. The plus side of that situation is that the juice that was there was highly concentrated. The flavors were, also, well developed and balanced.

It was, in summary, a tough year for vineyards and wineries. However, the reward is that we will be able to offer wine lovers an exceptional vintage and that is, after all, our primary goal. Enjoy!

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage Report

The 2007 California Cabernet Sauvignon growing season was ideal by most standards. The winter was relatively dry with cold evening temperatures dipping into high twenties around the New Year and the growing season began with a mid-March budbreak for many areas, late March for cooler climate areas.

California experienced an early spring, with low precipitation, drying the soils and stopping canopy production early in the season. Vineyard workers were able to focus on fruit refinement in their thinning practices more than canopy management. Mild weather prevailed throughout much of the summer, reaching above ninety degree temperatures only occasionally until mid-August. This steady, even, weather pattern, allowed the grapes to mature evenly over a long period of time. Veraison was reported in mid-July for most areas and many vintners noted the maturity of their grapes and developing flavors to be ahead of the accumulation of sugar. A mini-heat wave just before Labor Day gave us a few days of over one hundred degree temperatures in many locations. The heat did tend to accelerate sugar accumulation levels but left many areas below twenty-four Brix. The heat spike at the end of August was replaced by cool afternoon breezes and fog, leveling off sugar accumulation. Grapes were afforded a steady maturity process throughout September and the beginning of October.

Some areas were able to bring in their Cabernet Sauvignon by the end of September, but the cooler weather and rain in mid October stalled harvest in many locations. It rained sporadically for ten days, with warm sunshine between each shower, slowing sugar accumulation in mountain areas especially. What was shaping up to be an early harvest, balanced itself back to a more traditional time frame. Growers needed patience toward the end of October and in some areas, through most of November to finish out the 2007 harvest. Early reports from winemakers show much promise for the 2007 vintage. The wines are showing.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage Report

The 2006 California growing season has been characterized by winemakers statewide as a classic vintage, as long as they were patient and used their instincts in the vineyards, first and foremost. The early growing season of 2006 began with isolated flooding in California, especially Napa and Sonoma counties. The flooding did very little damage to dormant vines, but made for sensational television footage across the United States.

Later than normal rainfall and cool spring weather delayed bud break in many areas up to two weeks and very mild spring frosts kept vineyards out of frost danger until early summer warming temperatures turned very hot. California experienced a ten day heat wave in mid-July, but with crops behind in their growing cycle, very little heat damage was reported. Any clusters that may have been sunburned were removed during normal post-veraison thinning (veraison, remember is when grapes start to color). Many winemakers were actually happy for the heat (after the fact), as vines were able to catch up to a more typical growing season timeline without a lot of extra work. The largest impact of the heat wave seemed to be the small berries with huge extraction this weather pattern created, something most desired in quality winemaking to begin with.

The remainder of July and August had very mild weather patterns inmost areas and set the stage for a smooth harvest. Patience was a virtue for most growers in 2006. Mild weather led to evenly ripened fruit with wonderful, vibrant flavor profiles. Cabernet Sauvignon harvest took place mainly in the last week of September and all of October with the coolest regions finishing harvest the first week of November.

For many wineries it was a very compressed harvest, with typically early ripening varietals coming into the winery at the same time as the later ripening ones. In mid to late October a lot of wineries were jammed, with juice/wine in every available fermenting vessel.

The overall Cabernet Sauvignon crop was average in size and sugars were similar to the 2005 vintage. Colors are deep hued with rich, concentrated fruit flavors. The high acids growers were seeing earlier in the season came into balance and tight tannins will add longevity to this vintage into the next decade. Early indications – a thrilling vintage.

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage Report

Using information gathered from winemakers statewide, the general consensus of the 2005 vintage is that vineyard management decisions, for the most part, made the wines. The growing season of 2005 started out with intermittent rain showers late into the spring. This put us all in attack mode against the possible outbreak of powdery mildew, even though access to the wet vineyards was limited. Along the way, vigor and flowering was quite generous as the vines had bounced back from the short crop of 2004. This setting for an abundant crop gave managers the luxury of being able to fine tune their crops with multiple passes of fruit selection as spring moved on into summer. The fact of the matter is that for most, an unusual amount of time and money was invested in canopy and fruit management in the vineyard. And, although it wasn’t universal, the next result was a crop 30% greater than average.

Many regions experienced cooler than normal temperatures for much of the typically hot summer months. With berry counts already high and cluster weights continuing to rise due to the lack of stressful conditions during this time, conscientious growers were able to make yet more fruit thinning passes and further achieve balance in the vineyards.

Some heat spikes occurred in late September, but otherwise harvest was drawn out into late October while the grapes slowly ripened. Sugars were generally lower than normal which made for lower alcohols and healthy fermentations. The color, flavor, and structure extraction was generous, and the concentration of vintage 2005 fruit will make cabernets and cabernet-blend wines age gracefully well into the next decade. As for comparisons, at this early stage, let’s say 1997 – wonderful, long-lasting wines and a most bountiful vintage.