One of the more remarkable and romantic aspects of wine will always be its unbreakable connection with time. Most winemakers get one and only one opportunity each year to make wine from a given plot of grapes. The moment of harvest goes by in a flash, with the snip of the shears and the gentle plunk of grapes into a bin. But a vintage of wine grapes both represents and embodies an entire year’s worth of time—four seasons of weather and countless factors that can mean the difference between not being able to make a bottle of wine at all and crafting one that makes us swoon.
Napa Valley’s reputation as a world-class wine region derives, at least in part, from the fact that we do not suffer the kind of disastrous weather events that sometimes result in the loss of an entire vintage elsewhere in the world. Our weather is a bit like that old saying about pizza: Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. The exceptions, perhaps, are increasingly frequent wildfires, but more on those later.
Many consumers barely notice the four numbers representing the year on a wine label, but even without extremities of weather, the particulars of a given vintage play a strong role in the character of the wine. Every vintage expresses its unique personality in the bottle for those willing to pay attention to the subtle ways that weather, water and the winemaker’s touch manifest in a wine’s character.
This is an article I wrote for Napa Magazine that appeared in the printed Fall 2020 issue and which was recently published online.