2011 Vintage Report from Kinkead Ridge Estate Winery
Every vintage is different. Every winegrowing region has its variable challenges and certainly many growers in California, Oregon and the East Coast were devastated by the weather in 2011. While it was no picnic here, at least we dodged many of the bullets.
For us, the 2011 vintage started out wet, continued wet and stayed relatively cool throughout. As such, we were delayed in ripening, but this is not necessarily bad for early varieties. The cooler temperatures preserve white wine aromas and protect color pigment development in red varieties. Crop load was adequate and was successfully balanced by shoot/cluster thinning in the vineyard. Given dry weather, we were poised for a substantial, moderate alcohol, nuanced vintage. Well, the rain moderated but did not end and cooling temperatures at the end of October limited maturities in late varieties.
So where did we end up? We dropped substantial crop due to rot and ended up with some very well balanced, complex white wines. I actually prefer them to the 2010s. Except for Traminette, all will be Kinkead Ridge (first label).
Probably due to having thicker skins, red wines show deeper initial color than they did in the hot 2010 vintage. Alcohols are more restrained and the flavors more complex and subtle. It's a long road to bottling and release, but I'm confident that both the 2010 and the 2011 vintages will yield some remarkably good Kinkead Ridge wines.
In summary, we have some interesting wine in the pipeline and though I am somewhat disappointed by the quantity, overall the quality of the 2011 vintage may surprise you.
Vintage Report 2010
The 2010 vintage was unusual in that weather was characterized in the Ohio River Valley by localized persistent patterns and storm tracks which varied dramatically over distances of 100 miles or less. More typically in mid/late summer we get sporadic and erratic rain events accompanied by temperate swings in temperature. We started the vintage with warm and wet weather which accelerated bud break and bloom which in turn made for an early vintage. Then came incessant heat, humidity and rain throughout August which increased vegetative vigor while diminishing the energy level and enthusiasm of grapegrower and crew. Then the weather pattern shifted, and while the heat remained, rainfall became almost non-existent through October.
Abrupt changes like this drive grapevines (and the people who tend them) semi-crazy. As a result, I am only semi-confident of the quality of the wines from this vintage. Because of high sugar levels and low acidity most wineries picked early. We didn't, but even with extended hang times, flavors never really fully developed. Red wines are alcoholic and light in color due to lighter colored berries and thinner skins. White wines are perhaps more interesting due to their substantial heft, alcoholic and otherwise.
Overall though there should be some excellent wines from this vintage. By barrel tasting time (Thanksgiving), at least some of the red wines should prove interesting. Whites are on track to show well on release (Memorial Day weekend). There could be some stunners. Quantity however will be very limited, particularly for whites. Due to lingering effects from the abysmal 2009 season and some adverse spring weather, crop levels were only about half of what might be considered “normal”.
If I were a politician, I would use the words “cautiously optimistic” to describe my attitude toward this vintage.
Vintage Report 2009
We ended up with about 35% of a full crop and will likely have no first-label wines. All the wines are clean and sound. The whites in particular are coming around and should be a good fit for our value-driven second-label River Village Cellars. As always with a tough vintage, it's too soon to tell for the reds. Confronted by the realities of the 2009 vintage, a professional wine spinner might be tempted to represent this vintage as a difficult one, but nonetheless with some "great wines produced". Unfortunately said spinner (typically a marketing person for a winery or a spokesperson for a wine trade organization) would be well advised to take early retirement! 2009 was quite simply the worst vintage I have ever witnessed or experienced as a grower. It is on a par with the dismal 1977 and 1984 vintages in Oregon. We did have a promising start to the vintage with moderate weather and we missed the spring frost which decimated vineyards in northern Ohio. Then in July, the weather turned cold and wet and stayed that way through October. Our crew did the best job of canopy management ever, but to no avail. Enormous disease pressure combined with the need for extended hang time meant that we ended up selectively picking everything to avoid rot. It some cases, picking cost more than the fruit was worth.
Vintage Report 2008
As I write this in late February, the wines from 2008 have been cleaned up and are showing very well. After a cool spring which delayed bloom, the weather turned generally warm and dry until late October. Harvest dates were later than usual due to the late bloom, but full maturity was obtained on all varieties save for Petit Verdot. Brix levels were mid-20s on some varietals. Despite extensive shoot and crop thinning, yields were high, and in some cases higher than desired. Overall, in this winegrower's opinion, 2008 might be the best vintage yet for Kinkead Ridge. Stars for 2008 include the White Revelation (to be released Memorial Day weekend 2009) and the Cabernet Sauvignon (to be released Labor Day 2010). See http://www.KinkeadRidge.com/htm/wines.htm for a description of the past vintages.
Vintage Report 2007
An early bud break meant an early harvest; we were finished by mid-October. Sadly, it also meant several days of 80 degree weather, shoots four inches long, and then an Easter freeze which plunged the vineyard to 28 degrees. All the white wine was affected, to a tragic degree. There will be very little Viognier/Roussanne, little Riesling, and it may not even be worth bottling the Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend. Syrah was also heavily affected. The good news is the long dry ripening season was outstanding for Cabernet; small berries, high sugars. These wines will be reminiscent of Calistoga, higher in alcohol than our general practice.
Vintage Report 2006
As this is written (January 2007), I've had the opportunity to both reflect on the vintage past and taste the wines as they have begun to develop. Going into harvest season, the vineyard was in excellent condition. Crop load and canopy management was on target. Weather deteriorated in mid-September and some of the harvest conditions were as difficult as I've ever experienced. October in particular was troublesome as cold temperatures and excessive rainfall limited maturities.
Despite the above, white wines are turning out surprisingly well. Red wines, however, are questionable and many may end up as second label when released in 2008. So far we have had a mild winter and I look forward to a spring with little winter damage and overall good growing conditions in 2007.
Vintage Report 2005
2005 in the vineyard was a vintage of extremes. Unlike 2004 where moisture, heat and humidity were well distributed, it seemed like the heat and humidity would never end. Rainfall came either not at all or in a deluge. Fortunately, harvest turned out mostly dry with only the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot caught by rain at the end of October. In the winery, most of the fruit came in low in acid and high in sugar. Adjustments were made and fermentations, though quirky, finished well. Overall, the wines show good promise, and for some, 2005 may prove to be the best vintage yet.