Each year brings with it a unique vintage, and vintners and growers often reflect back on those vintages that leave behind a story to tell. With most of Anderson Valley fruit picked before October 1st, 2021, buzz is building and we are expecting a great vintage!
Many things kept farmers focused throughout the year, and 2021 has been one of the earlier harvests on record. The season was somewhat mild, beginning with cooler temperatures and progressively warming into the late summer. A few heat spikes in the last few weeks of August encouraged harvest to commence ripening, and many winemakers rushed to call picks. Harvest crews are limited, so the competition is fierce!
Brix (°Bx) Measurement
Harvest for sparkling wine producers begins roughly one month before everyone else when sugars reach around 18-20 Brix (°Bx). Still wine producers aim to harvest between 22-25 °Bx, and often this happens early to mid-September in the warmer areas of the Valley. This year many valley floor vineyards in Boonville were entirely harvested by mid-September.
Low Crop Yields
Farmers are reporting that crop yields were lower than average due to a few factors:
In November 2020, a few days of below-freezing temperatures shocked some vines that had yet to go into dormancy.
Spring frost in 2020 had some lingering impact on bud break this spring, followed by several days of rain in May 2021 that disrupted flowering and fruit set.
Water has been the hot topic of the year; the lack of winter rain means that the soil profile did not fully recharge leaving less water available to the grapes. Making the situation worse, the lack of rainfall also meant that water storage ponds often used for spring frost protection and in season irrigation were far from full.
Apart from the winter freeze that may have damaged some young or unhealthy vines (and may require replanting), lower yields can potentially benefit winemakers. When water is scarce, the vines dig deep in search of it, this journey develops character along the way. Striking a balance at time of harvest is always difficult, and the conditions of the year lead to a concentration of flavor, sugar, and acid. The early reports from winemakers are that they are excited about what the vintage has yielded.
The 2021 vintage is expected to be one of high quality and producers are excited to debut white wines beginning in the spring of 2022, and Pinot Noir one year later. Often, the first chance to taste the vintage is at the annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, which occurs the third weekend of May.
~ Courtney DeGraff, Executive Director of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers
Phone: (707) 895-WINE