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You never hear predictions about a harvest, or a vintage, five months before a grape is picked (because anything could happen in the meantime). But thanks to winemaker Scott McLeod of Rubicon Estate in Napa Valley, we have something to ponder between now and harvest. If he’s correct, we’ll also have something to look forward to with great anticipation.
Last week McLeod was in my Napa office taping a video on Zinfandel and talking about the Rutherford-grown Zinfandel, Edizione Pennino, he makes for Francis Ford Coppola, owner of Rubicon. McLeod calmly offered this nugget: “2007 will be the best vintage since 1997.”
“Because a vine is like a lion," he said. "You can’t train a lion if it isn’t hungry and you can’t train a vine if it isn’t thirsty.”
His reasoning is not without foundation. The 1997 vintage was sensational for many wines. The growing season was long and dry. A bountiful crop of red grapes was picked into October, which is the preferred month to harvest Cabernet in Napa.
Like 1997, 2007 has been an unusually dry season. Winter rain was adequate, but it’s been arid ever since. When it’s this dry, vineyard teams have greater control over their vineyards, explained McLeod. They can shape and train their vines for optimal quality.
Dry weather leads to shorter leaf canopies and invariably less shade, said McLeod. Under these conditions, the vines tend to produce grape clusters with smaller berries, which means greater concentration, ideal ripeness and less herbal character.
Moreover, it should be a banner year for hillside and mountain-grown wines. With mild weather and a long growing season ahead, McLeod thinks the mountain Cabernets should be phenomenal.
It stands to reason that the same scenario should apply to other grapes and other regions as well (since it's been dry all over the state), which is food for thought for the months and years ahead.
Paul Clary — Petaluma — April 30, 2007 5:56pm ET
Arshavir Kouladjian — Los Angeles, California — May 1, 2007 3:27pm ET
John W Graham Iii — Richmond VA — May 1, 2007 7:46pm ET
Totv — La Quinta, CA — May 1, 2007 10:02pm ET
J E Shuey — Dallas, TX — May 2, 2007 10:38am ET
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