September 4, 2015 | POSTED IN

A Look Back at Vintage 2012


An opinion commonly held by wine writers is that vintage doesn’t matter in California. This may be true for mass-produced wines, but vintage has always mattered to the small producer. Take 2008, the year when fire smoke impacted wine production in the Russian River, or the cool rainy weather in 2010 and 2011, years written off by most. Yet many small producers, by accepting and working within the constraints of these difficult vintages, were able to craft wines of extraordinary balance and purity.

In a few days, I am releasing two of our flagship wines from the 2012 vintage, our Heritage Cabernet Sauvignon and our Founder’s Collection Merlot. Therefore, I think this is an appropriate time to look back at 2012, and reflect on how the weather affected the final wines. It is through this process that I develop my winemaking style, each year seeking to improve upon the past.

Following the wet and cold fall of 2011, winegrowers hoped for a return to normal weather patterns for 2012. We were concerned with the cold, rainy weather in March that delayed bud break, but became more optimistic when warmer spring days followed in April. The rest of the growing season was ideal, with moderate temperatures in the 80s and few temperature spikes. As we approached harvest, nighttime temperatures dropped, often into the 40s, preserving the natural acidity while the skins continued to ripen.

Where our 2011 wines were lean and tight, our vintage 2012 wines display wildly complex flavors and floral aromas. As well, the acidity is bright, a result of the cold nighttime temperatures near harvest; there is a dusty mineral verve to many of our wines as a result.

Reviews are beginning to come in for our 2012 wines. Our 2012 Founder’s Cabernet Sauvignon, released last winter, was awarded 90 points in Wine Enthusiast Magazine and selected as the Editor’s Choice in this August’s issue. Editor Jim Gordon writes, “Full bodied, this [wine is] saturated with color and tannins, ripe and generous in flavor. Aromas resemble dark chocolate, blueberries and cedar shavings, while flavors run to fresh blackberry, cinnamon and clove.”

Our 2012 Merlot, from Thatcher Bay Vineyard, received a Gold Medal at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest competition of American wines.

Each year, Nature gives us a new landscape from which we craft our wines. This year is no exception. The craft winemaker embraces these vintage differences.