The Home Stretch for the 2014 Vintage!

On my visits to Hong Kong some of my fondness memories have come at the fantastic race courses of Happy Valley and Sha-Tin where I have experienced some very good luck. That luck was in the winning of a few Trifectas, a wager where you have to pick the first 3 horses in the exact order of finish. Exotic wagers like this are fun and can pay off very well but the reality is that the odds of winning are very long and the chances of winning are not good; but when you do cash one in, it is a lot of fun!

Baring any freakish late season storms, which is extremely unlikely at this point we are experiencing Mothers Natures Wine Trifecta here in California with 2014 shaping up to be another great vintage following 2013 and 2012. All three vintages are abundant and outstanding so we at PrimeCellar, our estates and winemakers are very excited!

The 2014 crop is about two weeks ahead of normal with grapes for sparkling wine production starting to be picked in the last days of July. In the next week or so the harvest will start for Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, Chardonnay and even Pinot Noir which is also early this year.

Here are some up to the minute updates from our winemakers and growers. Erik Miller of Kokomo Winery in Sonoma relates his thoughts so far… The 2014 growing season started off fast and furious, with early bud break, which led to early bloom that put us two weeks ahead of schedule of a normal year. But what truly is normal anymore? I personally feel like the month of August is one of the most important months as it pertains to the quality of the vintage. If there is a large crop or a small crop, early or late year, I feel that the most important factor is that when the grapes are hanging and in their final stretch of maturity, this is when flavors and hang time really matter the most. For instance, if we have a very hot month of August, the grapes start to ripen quickly, primarily due to dehydration. What we are looking for, as winemakers, is a slow ripening season where we attain physiological ripeness as opposed to ripeness through dehydration.

I’ve been referring to the month of August as the month of “Fogust.” We have been experiencing cooler than normal temperatures, and every morning we have a blanket of fog that doesn’t burn off until midday. Although this brings more moisture to the grapes that could lead to mold or botrytis, it also gives these grapes a chance to slowly build flavors and become physiologically ripe. We are seeing stems and seeds starting to lignify and sugars staying flat, which is allowing these grapes to continue their journey into becoming what this vintage will be known for. Happy Harvest!

Mike Lamborn on Howell Mountain in Napa is getting ready to pick his Zinfandel and Cabernet and say’s… “We’ve got Happy Grapes! The crop looks very good. The Zinfandel is slightly smaller than average (not a surprise), and the Cab looks average. Like everyone, we are a good two weeks ahead of schedule, so I anticipate picking Zinfandel around September 5th. We have been putting out some water to slow down the ripening process, trying to get some additional "hang time ".

So I am betting on some very exciting wines from 2014 as well as the first release of Kelleher 2014 Napa Valley Chardonnay made by talented winemaker Craig Becker. I cannot wait to taste this wine as Craig’s Sauvignon Blancs are some of the finest in the wine business, so I’m sure that Chardonnay will be stunning!

I hope to see you in the winner’s circle! Cheers!

Ralph Sands

PrimeCellar Consultant

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Mr. Ralph Sands

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