I recently saw a tweet from Jeb Dunnuck that referenced the 2017 vintage as being a tough year for Zinfandel. I’m mostly predisposed to disagree with these generalizations when it comes to grapes like Zinfandel or Pinot Noir because they can be grown so far afield. How is it possible that growing conditions were difficult in Sonoma, Napa, Contra Costa, Paso Robles, Amador/El Dorado and Lodi? I tend to put more credence in a comment like Jeb made when it comes to a single region and a specific grape. Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for instance.
With that in mind I decided to do a little homework on how each of the aforementioned regions fared in 2017. I exchanged emails with Mike Officer of Carlisle, Morgan Twain Peterson of Bedrock, Erich Russell of Rabbit Ridge in Paso Robles and Jonathan Lachs of Cedarville in El Dorado County.
Mike Officer referenced a heat spike in the Russian River Valley (RRV) on September 1st and 2nd that saw temperatures over 110 degrees. Morgan spoke of the heat as well but thought it was more detrimental in the RRV than places like Contra Costa, Dry Creek and Alexander Valley. Erich Russell wrote about 19 straight days over 100 degrees in Paso Robles with temps topping out near 115. Jonathan Lachs also mentioned 100 degree weather in both August and September in Fair Play.
So as it turns out Jeb’s comment that 2017 was a tough vintage for Zinfandel is pretty much spot on. With that in mind though I would caution my readers not to dismiss the vintage entirely. I’ve tasted some tremendous 17’s that have and will most certainly find a spot in my cellar. Last Fall I tried over a half dozen of the 17’s from Carlisle and am confident in saying they are some of the finest Zins Mike has ever made. Please see An Afternoon at Carlisle Winery. Just last week I sampled the 17 Pagani from Ridge Vineyards. Please see New Releases from Ridge Vineyards. Without question the best young Zin I have ever tried from Ridge.
For me the takeaway is to try the wines, if the opportunity presents, in advance of buying. Short of that, I have little doubt that exceptional winemakers like Mike Officer, Morgan Twain Peterson and Tegan Passalacqua to name a few, made Zins that will reward those of us who purchased them.
In closing, it is worth noting that several of the winemakers I spoke to in researching this blog post, were almost giddy about how close to perfect the 2018 vintage was. Keep some power dry!