The 2022 harvest was a double humped camel (an indication of too much Dr. Seuss on the bedtime reading list?).
The first hump: August and early September were marked by hot temperatures and the third year of severe drought. Extreme weather is merciless, but the fruit that does make it through can make never-seen-again expressions. Years like this emphasize the reasoning behind my decision to work with varieties naturally high in acidity—the wines need this tension and balance to match their opulence.
Generally, our dry-farmed vines tend to withstand drought and heat better than other vineyards I’ve seen. But with five consecutive days at or above 110°F in early September, the heat proved too much for some of our younger dry-farmed vines. Where our older, canopy-dense vines hunkered down like big trees, closing their stomata and shading their fruit with expansive leaves until the heat wave passed, our younger vines couldn’t keep water in their leaves, and once canopies crisped, their clusters did too. Ricetti Vineyard Zinfandel, the only young vines at Ricetti, was harvested, but we removed many clusters with raisined berries in the field, fermenting the fruit we kept with a light extraction.
The second hump: Following the extreme heat came mid-September rain, dumping two inches that the vines happily gulped down. Later ripening varieties, like Ricetti Vineyard’s Carignan, were still going through veraison during the heatwave, and their metabolism slowed considerably after the rains. When we picked this fruit it was delicate, red- fruited, and crunchy. Some of our old vine Ricetti fruit made its way into a co-fermentation of Carignan, Colombard, and Valdiguié, which became part of our 2022 Benchlands and is the perfect counterpoint to the Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Nero d’Avola that ripened during the heat.
Even with the dynamic weather, the 2022 vintage was one of the more spacious harvests we’ve had in the last few years, and I walked into winter with rest on the mind. The slower season is about rekindling relationships that were put on hold during harvest and regaining intimacy with my family, especially my young son. It’s also a creative time, where the joys and challenges of getting wine into bottle are front and center. Come spring and summer, it’s time to recharge the creative well. As you get to know these wines in the pages ahead, consider them testaments to the resilience of living things and seasonal cycles. I hope you find them fortifying—as I know I will—for the harvest to come.
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(Header image by Andrew Thomas Lee)