2020 Harvest Update
Grape Creek Estate, Texas Hill Country AVA
This year’s growing season was near picture perfect for us. We had plenty of winter and early spring rainfall that led to great fruit set in all varieties. Sporadic later spring rain events were all followed by sunny, windy days coupled with active canopy management which helped reduce any disease pressure. We have discovered after 10 years of harvests that keeping our canopies hedged and the fruit zone opened up through leaf pulling make a tremendous difference in controlling vigor and other challenges. We also aggressively shoot-thin early, followed by cluster thinning a few weeks later. While this approach decreases our total crop, the ripening energy of the vine is directed to the remaining fruit, creating richer and more robust color and flavors. The summer growing conditions were arid and hot, but most nights dropped into the low 70’s helping us maintain good acid levels and slowed maturity. We had no late season rains, and our harvests came earlier than last year, but more in line with our typical historical timing. All varieties bore beautiful fruit and were handpicked at the peak of maturity. Of specific note, we hand-harvested over 30 tons this year, which will produce over 2000 cases of estate wine. We enjoyed our first full-production harvest of 7.5 and 6.7 tons, respectively, from our Tannat and Petite Sirah hilltop block. The color and depth were stunning. We look forward to releasing the 2020 Joyist (Albarino) in 2021 and the reds in late 2022.
Our new Bordeaux block of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec is rooting in well. And, we are further expanding our Bordeaux varietals with a 3-acre Spring 2021 planting of Petit Verdot. We hope to have our first wine from these blocks with the 2022 harvest.
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Texas High Plains AVA
Texas is a big state and proved once again that all things are not equal everywhere. While the Texas Hill Country experienced near-perfect conditions the High Plains did not. While the actual growing season was quite good, the area was subjected to an early Fall frost in October of 2019. Typically, Fall/Winter freezes are not a big issue; however, the vines hadn’t completely entered dormancy so the cold created damage. The damage varied somewhat by vineyard location but even more so by varietal. Viognier was non-existent with a zero harvest from virtually all High Plains growers. Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Tannat and Touriga Nacional all struggled. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Riesling and Cinsault had reasonably solid production years. Grape varieties tend to bud at different times, as well as, moving through veraison and maturing at different times, and apparently experienced the Fall freeze differently. Our grower partners in West Texas are working hard to help the vines prepare for 2021.
One big plus of this strained vintage is we saw small berries and looser clusters, both of which are desirable traits that typically lead to bigger and better wines due to skin to pulp ratio of the grape. The reds are showing excellent opacity and viscosity, even prior to barrel aging.
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Heath Vineyards, Paso Robles Willow Creek District
This year started with a little lower rainfall amounts than last year. The weather has been fairly cool from bud break to ripening of the grapes. After veraison, we had a couple of heat spikes that accelerated the ripening and caused the vines to stress during this period. The crop load has a good balance and excellent quality. The Monterey/Santa Cruz fires resulted in smoke drift to Paso Robles; however, it does not appear to have had any significant impact on our vineyard.
We had some challenges with the Sauvignon Blanc vines, so we removed them and mid-season we planted Cabernet Franc and Malbec instead. In the future, we will include these new plantings with our existing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot to complete our Absolution blend with all five Bordeaux red varietals. 2018 is the last vintage of our Captivating wine that features the Sauvignon Blanc.
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All in all, we think this growing season should make for a great 2020 vintage.