I have not missed a harvest since 1974, this being my 45th harvest. I’m wondering how many more I have in me? Especially after this 2018 harvest. Some harvests come and go quickly and are over before you know it. This was not one of those. It was one of those long drawn out harvests that just seemed to go on and on… Fortunately, the long drawn out ones tend to produce the best most flavorful and extractive wines. Harvests like 1974, 1979, 1986, 1991, 1997, 2016 and now 2018.
Harvest started for us on September 6 with Muscat Canelli off our estate vineyard. The grapes are in frozen storage waiting to be pulled out to produce Ice Wine. So, technically harvest is still not over until we process the Muscat Canelli Eis Wine.
We finished harvesting grapes on November 6 and 7 with both the Portuguese varieties for our Forte and Concord for the Tickle Me Pink.
As in most late harvest years, the yields were a little above average in size. We had a wonderful spring with a good healthy flowering for all varieties except the Tempranillo. Our neighbors in Amador County had the same complaint about their Tempranillo.
The growing season was dry and with periods of cool weather and some long hot spells. The hot spells were early enough in the growing season that they did not negatively affect the grapes with excessive sun burning. Harvest began later than normal and went on and on with no rain until early October. I say the best Zinfandels in Amador are made after the first rain. So, it was welcome. After the rain, it dried out quickly with a North wind, so we escaped any molding in the Zinfandel.
Resulting wines are full and extractive with good acidity and lots of regional and varietal character. Wines that were similar to the great 1991 wines I produced at Santino/Renwood.
I’m convinced, and it is rapidly becoming known, that Amador County is the best wine growing region in the world for Barbera – and the proof is in the high-quality wine that flows out of here season after season.
When you look at the natural origins of Barbera, it hails from a region in Italy called the Piedmont or Piedmonte, which translates to “foothill” in Italian. And much like the Alps above Italy, the Sierra Nevada flanking Amador are huge granite, monolithic uplifts born from continental drift. These foothill regions are full of decomposed granite soils coming off the sides of the mountain range. Amador’s terrain is like a home away from home for Barbera.
The biggest difference between the two winegrowing regions is that Piedmont is very close to a marine influence – the Mediterranean Sea. During the growing season, Piedmont receives a nourishing fog from the Mediterranean, creating the best varietal known as Nebbiolo (named after the fog). The most expensive wines, Barolo and Barbaresco, come from this region. And while Nebbiolo is a fog-loving variety perfect for the misty Piedmont region, Barbera is a sun-loving variety that is dealt the second-best vineyard sites in Piedmont.
Now, take it around the world to right here in Amador County, a very similar foothill region up against a very similar fast-growing, granitic mountain range. The Sierra Nevada’s marine influence, the Pacific, is too far away for the fog to roll in during the growing season, making this a more suitable territory than the Italian Piedmont. Barbera thrives in Amador like no other place on earth.
My favorite red wine to make is Barbera. I first cut my teeth making Barbera at Montevina Winery in 1974, and it struck a passion in me that’s never faltered. I’ve been producing Amador County Barbera ever since, under our own Scott Harvey label. It’s my favorite because it makes, undoubtedly, the best wine in the region.
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