When it comes to vintages, vintners usually love the one they're with.
"It's the best wine I've ever made," a winemaker told me yesterday, while pouring his 2008 Cabernets. A year ago, 2007 was his best, and before that, 2006.
It stands to reason that with any new vintage, say 2010, for example, a winemaker has spent a year grooming his vines for harvest. And then when the grapes are picked and crushed, particularly if it's under adverse conditions, it's no wonder most marvel at what they've accomplished.
It's no different, really, than when new parents set their eyes on a newborn. For a long time, when moms and dads peek into the crib to see their infant, well, they have to pinch themselves. They can hardly believe that this miracle happened. (If you think I'm kidding, don't forget how many vintners refer to their wines as their children, irrespective of the number or their age.)
Just before a harvest, though, many winemakers bottle an earlier vintage, let's say 2008, for reds. Often for days and weeks they taste the wines over and over again, and they become intimately familiar with the wine's traits.
The same is true right after bottling those 2008s or before the wines are shipped to market or shown to customers. Once a winemaker believes his wine is good to go, he will have tried it on numerous occasions, and under varying circumstances.
Of course, vintners have the most on the line with the wine they are selling, or still have to sell. So right now you'll hear vintners saying their 2007, or 2008, or perhaps 2009, is the best wine they've made—depending on which vintage is for sale. It's only later, when the "kids" are up to teenage highjinks that vintners might allow this year or that had been difficult from early adolescence on.
This summer, as I finalized our coverage of the 2007 Cabernet vintage, and I interviewed winemakers about recent years, I received a mixed, or staggered, response. Many admitted 2007 was a great year for Cabernet (and just about any other wine in California). But some, who had long since sold out of '07, said that clearly, their 2008s were superior, this coming at a time when they had either just bottled the wines or were getting ready to.
As an aside, I've noticed too that once a vintage, say 2007, is sold out, winemakers rarely pay as much attention to it (i.e. drinking it); they have younger wines to taste and sell.
A few others said 2009 would be the best. I expect that many winemakers can improve the quality of their wines each year, provided the harvest isn't a nightmare.
The just-finished 2010 vintage in California should be mixed, as it was one of the most trying years in memory, particularly for late-ripening reds. Most red wines are being pressed and fermented, and it's one stage where a winemaker can begin to assess quality.
Amid the talk about 2010, there are those who say the wines will be lower in alcohol because of the cool growing season; a few have told me the 2010 Cabernets will be "blockbusters." Most, though, are clearly happy with what they have; most winemakers aiming for great wines only pick the grapes they think they can turn into beauties. So they're tasting the cream of the crop.
I'm starting to hear more enthusiastic endorsements from vintners about 2010, and I'm thrilled. They've just peeked into the crib and are amazed by what they've found.
Mike Officer — Santa Rosa, CA — December 9, 2010 8:11pm ET
Adam Lee — Santa Rosa, CA — December 9, 2010 10:31pm ET
David Dickson — Sacramento, CA — December 10, 2010 1:31am ET
David Rossi — Napa, CA, USA — December 10, 2010 8:12am ET
Mace D Howell Iii — fremont,ca,usa — December 10, 2010 9:56am ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — December 10, 2010 10:20am ET
Mike Officer — Santa Rosa, CA — December 10, 2010 10:27am ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — December 10, 2010 12:44pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — December 10, 2010 2:25pm ET
Lorenzo Erlic — victoria canada — December 10, 2010 7:46pm ET
Mace D Howell Iii — fremont,ca,usa — December 11, 2010 3:46pm ET
Jonathan Lawrence — somewhere in the world — December 11, 2010 5:36pm ET
Merrill Lindquist — Calistoga, CA — December 12, 2010 3:58pm ET
John Jorgenson — Seattle, — December 13, 2010 8:04pm ET
Philip A Chauche — Germantown, MD — December 14, 2010 12:26pm ET
Nile Zacherle — Calistoga CA — December 15, 2010 6:44pm ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions