The 2023 vintage has been an interesting one in Paso Robles. The season started off with a bang. With such little rainfall the previous vintages, the winter brought much needed water to the vineyards.  I believe we received somewhere in the vicinity of 200% of our typical rainfall by the end of February. This historical amount of water made for a magnificent Spring. We had beautiful wildlfowers in an array of spectacular colors. But then Spring came.

wildflowers in bloom
wildflowers blooming

Spring brought an unusual cool front that delayed bud break and flowering. Flowering is the period when the vine is in its most vulnerable state. The slightest poor weather such as wind or rain can decimate the tiny flowers and prevent them from being able to fertilize, which will lower the overall yield. But more importantly, the cool Spring and Summer has pushed harvest back to what is being said is the latest since the 2011 vintage. 

temperature in April showing cool weather

While the lower yield is a negative, the opposite side of the coin is that the grapes were able to remain on the vine longer. This allowed for more gradual and longer ripening period which benefits the grapes by allowing them to retain their acid. Acid in the grapes leads to more complex flavors in the wine. So although it may sound cliché, the fruit that was harvested will be exceptional. 

While everyone was was expecting the harvest to be delayed, no one was able to foresee that a two week period of high temperatures would then push many of the varietals to become ripe all at the same time. This poses a two-fold concern. First, manpower in order to physically harvest all the fruit, but more importantly, space! Wineries do not have an unlimited amount of fermentation vessels and if all the fruit is brought in at the same time it is a chess game to maneuver what goes where. 

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This leads to decision making as to when is the best time to harvest varieties. Deciding which varieties can stay on the vine longer with the least amount of loss of quality.  Once that decision is made, most wineries choose to pick in the early morning. This is a vital part of maintaining the wine’s all important acidity. The cooler temperatures help to concentrate the flavors and aromas while aiding to stabilize the sugars within the grapes. Additionally, the cooler temperatures prevent the natural yeast growing on the grapes to start fermenting before the fruit makes it to the winery. Another benefit is an environmental factor. If the outside temperatures are cooler, it takes less energy to keep the grapes cool during cold maceration. Finally, warmer temperatures also will increase the chances of oxidation, which can destroy complex flavors and mute aromatics. 

Here’s to tasting these exceptional wines in a couple of years!

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