2009 was the type of year in which when you say “This is not normal weather” really holds true. It started last winter when we had a three foot snow storm, the worst in over 40 years. The winter rainy season continued to be cooler than normal, but with a little less than normal precipitation. That means we went into the growing season late and dry. However, our aquifer (subsoil moisture) was still pretty saturated, so for those of us who do not irrigate, we were not quite as concerned about the lack of rainfall.
Budbreak was about three weeks later than usual, which meant that the weather was better if a little cool. Temperatures continued cool through bloom and fruit set. While these events continued to occur three weeks late, the weather was moderate so bloom was even and complete, leading to excellent fruit set. Through June, temperatures continued to be cool and we did not make up any time. We were looking at a similar situation to 2008. Then July hit and then August and then September. Those months were unusual in that there were extreme peaks and valleys in terms of temperatures. Overall temperatures were slightly above norm, but not as hot as 2003 or 2004. But we did have higher peaks that fortunately did not last long.
What did that mean for the grapes? The fruit started to catch up to a normal timeline. The vines were not too stressed for water and the clusters were big and heavy, and there were so many of them, that we cropped three times. By mid-August we were close to normal timing and veraison had started. Veraison was relatively fast, even and complete, leaving us with beautiful fruit clusters. By the completion of veraison we were probably less than a week behind a normal growing season and in better position to ripen fruit than we were in 2008.
September weather was uneventful (a good thing) and we began to see flavors come in evenly with sugars and acids. By October, we were fairly on track, if the rains held off. They did. The first 12 days of October were cool (keeping brix down) and sunny (aiding the fruit to ripen). We harvested the Natasha Block on October 10th and the Jordan on the 11th, unusual only in that there is typically more time between harvesting the two blocks. But they were ready and rains were coming.
While the 2008 vintage seems to be shaping up in the barrel to possibly be the best ever, 2009 is not far behind and maybe only less outstanding by virtue of more variability amongst vineyards.