These late season conditions affect the latest ripening regions and grapes disproportionately. While 2011 might turn out to be a great vintage for a very light crop of California Sauvignon Blanc, varieties such as Syrah and Cabernet and crops from cooler regions such as the Russian River Valley face the full brunt of rot, dampness and humidity that marked the end of the 2011 growing season.
Patient growers were rewarded with warm, dry weather after the late rains, so work in the vines to eliminate the rot should be rewarded with rather balanced, ripe and complex wines. From the Central Coast to Mendocino, growers seem happy with the last grapes to be harvested. In Washington State as well, the harvest was late but by all accounts successful, if small. And somehow, Oregon is managing to produce one of the biggest harvests ever, and the quality seems to have many growers and winemakers very excited.
One of the factors that may ultimately determine how any particular producer did in 2011 is the size of operation. Those who were able to quickly react to the conditions in the vineyards, making all the necessary course corrections along the tumultuous way, will probably end up with some exceptional fruit.
At the same time, winemakers must understand what nature has given them. They must be careful to treat this year’s harvest gently in order to get the maximum expression. This promises to be not only one of the most exciting growing seasons on record, but also one of the most interesting in terms of the potential of the wines that can be made.
We’ll have to wait and see of course, but I for one am anxious to sample the results and decide for myself.
Remember to check out our Harvest Infographic for more details about the harvest cycle.