“2018, I’ll take that every year,” says Vine Hill Ranch vineyard manager Mike Wolf. “It’s always one thing or another. Too much canopy, short shoots, whatever. But in 2018 it really was a perfect growing season. At Vine Hill Ranch we wound up being 30 percent over our historical average in terms of yield. But with the mild autumn we had time to pick. If we didn’t have that I’m not sure where people would’ve put all the fruit. But even with all the fruit, there wasn’t any pressure to get it picked.”
I have a feeling that any winemakers looking for fruit in 2018 would’ve found tank space for grapes from Vine Hill Ranch, even if there had been a compressed harvest window. Once primarily planted to Chardonnay, Vine Hill now supplies Cabernet to an elite roster of Napa wineries, thanks to a late 1980s replanting by Bruce Phillips (with an assist from Tony Soter). Add in an ideal season such as 2018 and “high-water mark” winemaking, according to Phillips, and it’s a recipe for benchmark wines.