Calistoga’s 2018 is a ‘Goldilocks Vintage’, it’s just right

Winemakers expect great quality and abundant quantity this season

This year’s harvest is promising to be a fairytale vintage, Calistoga Winegrowers Association reports.

“I’m calling the 2018 season the ‘Goldilocks Vintage.’ The summer was not too hot and not too cool, but just right,” Justin Leigon, viticulturist with Pina Vineyard Management for Davis Estates said.

“This year’s crop looks fantastic.” The yields are “great” with “ideal grape chemistries. (It’s) a boon for growers and winemakers alike,” Leigon said.

Cool, but not cold, temperatures during the first week of October are producing acidity in the grapes that are developing into incredibly balanced juices that are wowing our winemakers.

“The quality is really outstanding. It’s the best sugar-and-acid ratios I’ve seen in 10 years,” said Tom Eddy, winemaker and proprietor of his eponymous winery Tom Eddy Winery.

Early this week the rain thwarted the plans of some to harvest and found winemakers crossing their fingers that Mother Nature would do just what she eventually did – give the vines just enough of a drink of water to make them happy, but not enough for the grapes to get to wet and moldy.

Here’s what some other Calistoga Winegrowers’ Association members are reporting:

Davis Estates:

About half of the fruit has been brought in, and the rest – mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, which “includes clones 7 and 47 plus heritage selections of Niebaum-Coppola and See,” plus Merlot, and Cabernet Franc should be finished in the next two to three weeks, he said.

Summers Estate Winery:

Summers Estate Winery started harvest on Sept. 14 picking 10 combined tons of Villa Andriana Estate Vineyard Zinfandel and Knights Valley Merlot and Shiraz. Ten days later they started up again picking another 50 tons for the week starting on Sept. 24.

They are about 35 percent complete in harvest at this point and “yields are coming in heavy from average years” at about 15 to 20 percent more, said winemaker and vineyard manager Ignacio Blancas.

The late rain and cold spring in March, April and May pushed ripening times back, he said, adding that he believes the whole valley is “no more than 30 percent harvested. The other 70 percent is close to be picked. The cold weather is slowing the ripeness.”

Likely the start of the week of Oct. 8, harvest will accelerate, he said.

“I’m predicting that Summers should be finished picking the week of Oct. 22,” Blancas said.

Bragg Vineyards:

Proprietor and winemaker Bob Bragg grows only Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on his Calistoga property so he has not harvested anything yet, he said. He’s expecting to leave the grapes hanging for maybe another week.

“This cooler weather actually has been good for the grapes. The brix (25) is where it should be but the acid and PH still need some time to mellow. If the weather doesn’t go crazy” with extreme heat or heavy rain “this could be an outstanding year for Cabernet. Fingers crossed,” Bragg said.

Baldacci Family Vineyards:

Like Bragg, nothing has been “picked yet at our vineyard in Calistoga,” said Michael Baldacci, director of operations and winemaking. “We may bring in some of our early blocks later this week, depending on the rain and weather toward Friday and Saturday. The canopy looks really good and healthy, so a bit more hang time seems to be in the cards, and that is exactly what we want to see. Crop looks heavy compared to years past,” Baldacci said.

Coquerel Family Estates:

The Sauvignon Blanc and Verdelho were harvested two weeks later than in 2017 starting on Labor Day this year and finishing up on Sept. 10.

“So far we harvested 37 tons of Sauvignon Blanc brix around 22.5; 3.5 tons of Verdelho with a brix of 22.5,” said Christine Barbe, winemaker.

Last week two tons of Temranillo (at 25 brix) was harvested and another four tons was picked early this week, Barbe said.

Coming in late compared to previous vintages but tasting really “good” is the winery’s Petite Sirah, and Barbe is hoping they will be picking about 10 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon next week or the following week.

Jericho Canyon:

A “small amount of Malbec and Merlot” has been harvested at Jericho Canyon, said Tara Katrina Hole, director of sales and marketing. “We will harvest the remainder in of the property in the coming weeks,” she said.

Tom Eddy Winery:

The rain on Monday and Tuesday put off harvest for Tom Eddy Winery, and they’ve “received two blocks of mountain Cabernet,” Eddy said.

He said he has his “fingers crossed” that the rain doesn’t mess up the 80 percent that is left to pick in what he is anticipating to be fabulous vintage.

Most Cabernet lots and one Pinot Noir lot are very close, he said, coming in at “23-24 brix, but just not quite ready. If weather holds, then we could blast through next week.”