The 2018 Vintage: A Few Months In

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With the new year in full swing it is time for us to dive back into the cellar to start seeing how everything in barrel is shaping up, particularly with the newest batches from the 2018 harvest.

As is tradition we start the racking process in late December and early January for some of our lots and hold off on others as they go through their secondary fermentation. Next week we will be racking the last couple of barrels that will eventually be candidates for our Single Barrel program. After that we will be onto bottling plans for the year!

As the latest vintage settles down we do take a day to go through all of our new lots to see how they are shaping up. Even though we are just a few short months into the process, you can still begin to see where the newest lots are headed. Thus far the 2018 vintage is off to a very solid start.

So let's take it from the top!

This year's dry Riesling is arguably the best we have ever made. Last year we were able to track an awesome new vineyard site and it has been showing immensely well since the harvest season. We did make a slight change to our production process by utilizing a small amount of oak aging to add a bit of body and extra texture to the final blend. The remaining four barrels have all been fermented and aged in stainless steel to keep the wine as fresh and bright as possible. We are still a few months away from bottling which will help balance out the characteristics before we are ready to release it late this spring. The 2018 release is going to have some awesome depth and is going to be PERFECT to sip on as the summer heats up.

The 2018 Pinot Noir is, as usual, the edgiest of our wines early on though surprisingly enough the 2018 seems to be a bit more approachable. Between the three different clones that we are now utilizing it takes a full 18 months for them to really come together. We have stuck with the tried and true 115, 667 and Pommard clones all from the Black Knight Vineyard in Bennett Valley. After the first racking in December the different lots have settled into a pretty good groove. We have dialed back the new oak aging on the Pinot a bit over the last two vintages which has been extremely beneficial. Not only has it let the fruit and structure shine a bit more but it also seems to allow for better integration for all those toasty, delicious oak characteristics.

Our Cabernet Sauvignon has been elusive since the 2015 Block #2 release but as the next few vintages go on we will have it readily available more often (I promise!). We have found a couple of awesome sites to work with but the bulk of our Cabernet will be hailing from the Mt. Veeder appellation in Southwest Napa. With that cool climate influence it makes the perfect partner for a dash of Merlot for blending purposes. This year's harvest also called for a co-ferment with the Cabernet and Merlot to help them integrate and find more balance sooner rather than later. We also plan on continuing the tradition of bottling in large formats only so be prepared to go big or go home!

Last but certainly not we have our flagship, the MTGA Merlot. Thus far into the process, excluding the barrel that has be set aside for the Single Barrel, is OUTSTANDING. This was probably the toughest year to cut the Single Barrel from the herd because nearly every barrel was lights out very early on. Each lot has come together so well it is going to feel like a really long wait until it is officially bottled in 2020 (oh man we are planning for the 2020s already...).  The 2018 Merlot, and 2017 for that matter, have a great richness and intensity to them along with that mouth-watering backbone. Ugh it is so good!

There is a glorious cliche for us winemakers that our favorite vintage is always the newest one and to a certain extent that is correct. Each year we find ourselves striving to improve, and outside of any extreme circumstances we are able to do just that. Since 2012 we have had incredible consistency and it feels like the vintages have only gotten better. Even though we are a few months to a few years out from sharing the 2018s with you we are pure excited for this round of MTGA Wines to come!

-Manderson