We completed our final harvest of 2018 on September 29, capping what is likely to go down as an outstanding California vintage year. I know, I know: mathematically speaking, how can every year be above average? Really, we think this was may have been the finest vintage since the outstanding 2012. The weather for the 2018 vintage was marked by a cool, wet spring, followed by a hot, but not super hot, summer. There were no long stretches with highs over 100 F, and probably no days north of 105 F here in the Foothills. That is unusual. Even more unusual was the string of moderately warm days–upper 80’s and low 90’s for high–beginning in mid-August and extending through harvest. We really appreciate that at Shaker Ridge, where arid conditions, desiccating breezes, and hot temperatures sometimes outstrip our ability to irrigate heading into harvest, which can be very discouraging after a season’s effort.
We did get frequent visits from the local bear–we believe now bears–that we had never actually seen but had ample evidence of, this year. This season, we not only spotted bears in daylight on 2 occasions, observed the telltale bear poops, and saw the places where our vineyard fence was squished down, we actually caught the bears on our game cam more than once. Please check out our “Vineyard Gallery” posting which shows some shots from the middle of the night on September 10. It happened again repeatedly afterwards, despite efforts to discourage it. In the end, we probably only lost a few hundred pounds of harvest-able fruit, so it’s more the chance of a dangerous encounter that we worry about with these mostly nocturnal visitors.
Once again, we can’t say enough about how grateful we are for our loyal clients who we get to see only once or twice a year at harvest time. Without exception, you worked with us through the usual logistical challenges around harvest and picked up the grapes when they were ready, arriving at the appointed time, and being patient if we weren’t quite ready. We also appreciate the wine samples many generously provided from past Shaker Ridge vintages; both our commercial buyers and home winemakers make some stunning wines that are the ultimate “thank you” for us.
We had to raise prices again this past year to keep up with our rising labor costs and anticipated increased regulatory burden associated with irrigation, but we believe that our clients know that we strive for perfection and generally deliver an above-average product. Unfortunately, farming wine grapes is not quite like manufacturing widgets, and ultimately we can only control what we can control, but after our 15th vintage, we’ve seen a few things and, as in any endeavor, experience counts.
Though it remains Indian summer conditions here in mid-October, our favorite autumn season is upon us, bringing with it cooler temperatures and the promise of rain, wild mushrooms, abundant game, holidays with family, and time to relax and enjoy some wine.
“And what he’d left behind he hadn’t valued
Half as much as some things
He never knew.”
from “Call of the West”
by Wall of Voodoo