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Les Vignes de Marcoux

Year in Review at Red Willow Vineyard

The anxieties of a cool late 2010 vintage was but a prelude to what 2011 would bring. The coolest year on record since our beginning heat unit charts in 1998. The year began late and stayed cool throughout much of the season. I have heard Mike comment that often vintages in our state begin not at bud break but during the winter months. This vintage began in late November of 2010 when a devastatingly cold freeze hit part of the state. Our lowest (coldest) area recorded a -5 degrees F that night. Normally we would not have been concerned about such a temperature, however coming so early in the year vines were still hardening off following a late harvest 2010. Much of the winter was spent looking at buds and assessing injury. We determined that some varietals were harder hit and some areas as well. After making an assessment during pruning we would leave additional buds where needed. Thus began the season.

A cool wet spring lead to a late bud break once again. The slow awakening of the plants I believe was helpful in the healing process. A Barbara block which was our most damaged with winter injury, one which we had all but written off for the year, suddenly looked like it had an abundance of clusters. Somewhat to our disbelief, fruit set came and went and sure enough it was loaded. We were now faced with the good problem of fruit thinning. Everything was abundantly fruitful! Looking back we wouldn’t have left so many buds because we were now trying to bring the crop load back into target levels. It was during the spring that we were saddened by the loss of “Clean-up” our faithful canine friend of many years that once got his name by cleaning up a barbeque party when backs were turned.
Our high desert climate during a typical summer will routinely reach temperatures of 85 -100 degrees routinely while remaining quite dry which is a growers dream in regard to mildew pressure. This year was anything but typical. Things never seemed to warm-up or dry out. It was a scramble especially mid-season to keep on top of everything. Eventually it all worked out but as I heard a winemaker describe,” it was a white knuckle ride of a season”. During late summer we were broadsided with the news of the death of Glen Coogan (president of Columbia Winery). We were very shocked and saddened by the loss of a friend, much too young and active. He is missed.
This year we removed a one acre 1977 Lemberger block to plant some new clones of Cabernet Sauvignon. One day I believe this will be an incredible block but like everything in this industry it’s going to take awhile. Over the years, we have felt extremely honored by the fact that wineries have been so kind to vineyard designate us on their labels. This year we witnessed a barrage of new vineyard designates hit the market with either Red Willow or Les Vignes de Marcoux . Wines such as Andrew Rich’s RW Syrah coming from the 86 block. Effeste’s Eleni, also from the original block. Eight Bells RW Syrah, Fall Line’s Bordeaux blend, and Mark Ryan’s (Lost Soul) Syrah. Delille, made an amazing Merlot from our 85 block and JVC cellars is now out with a Marcoux Syrah. Hope that I didn’t miss anyone.
I’ve heard it said that some of the greatest wines are made at the absolute fringes of being able to ripen the fruit. For us this was such a year, a test of grower and winemaker skills and patience. It was the longest hang-time we have ever seen. Though we will have to wait a bit longer to truly know the outcome, I believe that some great wines will have been made. Wines of terroir that encompass not only that place of uniqueness but the distinction of season as well. But for now we will enjoy past vintages and look for 2010 releases just around the corner. Cheers!

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