I write a brief recap of the vintage in my holiday newsletter but some folks are interested in a more detailed report so that is what’s provided here.
The 2021 growing season started out extremely dry. In fact our region was classified as being under a moderate drought by the NOAA. Those conditions lasted through bloom and resulted in excellent fruit set for a good-sized crop. Had dry conditions continued it would have been very much like the stellar 2020 vintage. But that was not to be. By mid-June conditions had changed and the area received large amounts of rain. Dry conditions during phase-1 of berry growth, the cell-division phase, can lead to small berries and intense wines.
It was dry during early Phase-1 but then, with increased rainfall, we expected larger berries and that’s what happened.
The warm, wet conditions continued throughout most of summer, bringing increased disease pressure, vine growth and weed growth. In short it meant a lot more work to keep the vine canopies open, fruit sprayed for disease prevention and to keep weeds under control. Heroic efforts by our vineyard crew kept ahead of the conditions with a good crop of excellent quality fruit leading into veraison in late August. The extremely warm conditions of summer resulted in advanced crop development. Fruit samples in early September showed ripening at least 10 days ahead of an average year.
Severe thunderstorms after Labor Day weekend brought hail to our vineyard which is a growers worst fear at any time of year but especially once the fruit is ripening. Hail stones break open the grapes and can lead to bunch rots and crop failure. Fortunately the hail damage was light and quick application of disease control sprays kept the bunches sound. More heat continued and we harvested our first grapes, Pinot gris, on the 19th of September. Fruit quality was excellent and the wine is showing signs of greatness in the tank.
More rain towards the end of September pushed us to harvest Riesling a bit ahead of schedule to minimize damage. Late season reds – Cabernet franc and Merlot, required more disease control and sorting of damaged fruit in the vineyard. It was the warmest early October in this vintner’s memory of nearly 40 vintages. Warm nights and very warm, humid days in October are extremely unusual for Michigan, at least historically. Climate change is certainly noticeable in the vineyard and requires us to vigilant in our canopy management, disease control and vineyard floor management operations.
The upshot is that the fruit matured beautifully and, while we had to drop some bunches due to botrytis, the overall quality of the vintage was superb! I rate the 2020 vintage as a 100 point year. Conditions were perfect and that is reflected in the wines. The only downside of 2020 was the crop was reduced by frost in May. The 2021 vintage is docked a few points because of the rains but I still give it a 96. Warm conditions and periods of dry weather led to excellent fruit quality and a good sized crop. The reds are dark and intense while the whites are clean and fruit forward. The warm conditions did lead to the lowest acidity in white wines I have seen in Michigan. We can adjust that in the cellar, however.
Look for some early ’21 wines in the tasting room by April ’22. We will bottle our Lady Slipper Rose’, Muscat Ottonel and Pinot grigio early next year so you can try them for yourself!