Vintages

Every year Mother Nature brings Paso Robles Wine Country different growing conditions based on temparature and rainfall which greatly influences the wine. Take a look back into past harvest years.

2016

Following the uneventful El Nino of 2015/16, which did provide better rainfall than the previous four years, proved to be a let down from what was anticipated. The winter cold also did not dip down into consistently low conditions to provide for a true hard frost, which helps vines remain in dormancy longer. Early bud break, at about mid-April, was recorded across the AVA. A relatively cool spring led to some very consistent and warm spikes in early June, then consistently warm July and August. Harvest for white varieties began mid-August. Warm temperatures through September kept harvest at a heightened pace until it concluded in early October. This was one of the earliest harvests on record, at least since 2013. The 2016 vintage is the warmest year since 2014, with every month of the growing season, except May, skewing warmer than average.

2015

The 2015 vintage began with early bud break yet again, calling into question what a new norm may be in this fourth year of drought. Cold spring temperatures and intermittent wet weather, coupled with a wind event in May caused fruit set issues during flowering for many vineyards around the AVA. Varieties mostly affected were Cabernet Sauvignon, which is the most planted in the region, and Syrah. Ultimately this led to a reduced yield throughout the AVA. The rest of the growing season was moderate and uneven. An unusual rain event in July provided moisture and caused some runoff issues. Mid to late August heat helped jumpstart most vineyards into harvest. September cooled, slowing most harvest activities which ended in late October. The anticipated El Nino cycle for winter 2015/16 started off well with showers through November, but in the end did not produce the anticipated rainfall nor normal rainfall for the region.

2014

The 2014 vintage can be characterized as early. Early bud break in mid to late March, followed by an early pattern of flowering, set, veraison and harvest. The dry, mild winter was evidence of a third year of drought conditions and led to the early start to the 2014 vintage. Warm weather throughout the growing season did not have large swings in temperature; however, some late summer heat was cause for a fast harvest, which began in mid-August. Vintners reported slightly lower yields than normal, with small clusters and berries.

2013

The 2013 vintage marked the second consecutive drought year for Paso Robles. Considered a “classic” by many, 2013 began with bud break in April, a consistently warm summer without heat spikes or abnormally cool stretches. Veraison reportedly began a couple weeks ahead of schedule, which brought on some sugar spikes. Late summer cooled appropriately to allow for best maturity, then early fall warmth accelerated harvest to end early. The outcome of these ideal weather conditions was early brix accumulation with high acidities. Yields were reportedly 20% down from an average year.

2012

An above average winter rainfall coupled with vines that were not stressed from the previous vintage lead to textbook bud break and fruit set. The canopy was strong and healthy region-wide and moderate summer temperatures led to even veraison and great maturity. The fall provided perfect weather for a smooth harvest. The color and texture of the fruit was outstanding, giving winemakers an excellent product for an excellent vintage.

2011

The 2011 vintage is one of historical proportions in Paso Robles. After a winter of slightly less than average rainfall, a devastating frost event occurred in early April. Many growers estimated losses of between 20 – 60 percent of total crop. This frost event was unusual because it was a cold, and atmospherically deep, air mass that settled over the region for a prolonged period of time. Frost prone locations as well as vineyard locations that were not prone to frost suffered damage. The vintage was also challenged by early season rainfall which proved to be more damaging to northern California regions. Paso Robles benefitted from warm temperatures and moderate wind that followed three different rain events during harvest. Ultimately the frost event of April 7 – 10 was nature’s way of lowering yields but ensuring quality as the growing season was a balance of warm day time and cool evening temperatures. Reports from winemakers are that the fruit from the 2011 vintage was intense yet balanced, with good acids, thick skins, and dark color.

2010

Beginning with a winter of average rainfall (a welcome return after three dry winters), spring conditions were excellent for bud break with a larger than expected cluster counts and weights. A moderate summer of warm temperatures with spikes of over 100 degree days did not carry beyond one week at a time. A couple rain events during harvest stretched the timing of crush. Late season warmth helped ripen all later ripening varieties. In all, 2010 proved to provide a slightly higher than average yield with excellent quality.

2009

After coming out of a fairly dry winter (third in a row), this vintage began with a number of short period frost events in April that proved to lower yields at the end of the season. This vintage was also complicated by an abnormal, and strong, rain event on October 13 which dropped as much as 10 inches in some parts of the AVA and produced winds of up to 25 mph. This weather event temporarily halted harvest activities as the region dried out. In all the quality of fruit was excellent and considered a great Paso Robles vintage.

2008

2008 was a challenging vintage for most of California, with a very cold April resulting in widespread frost damage, wind during flowering causing uneven fruit set, a heat spike in August, and an unusual freeze in early October.  Gorgeous weather in late October saved the vintage for many producers. Results will vary depending on varieties planted, with Bordeaux varieties particularly affected by shatter and very low yields, and early-ripening varieties impacted by the August heat spike.  Overall, yields were below the low levels of 2007 (as much as 50 percent less than normal), but the wines, particularly later-ripening varieties, proving to be generous in flavor and beautifully balanced.

2007

The 2007 vintage was dominated by the cold, dry winter that preceded it. Temperatures dropped into single digits in January, which delayed the onset of flowering and reduced the vigor of the vines. Rainfall levels just 40 percent of normal further stressed the vines.  The summer was moderate in temperature, producing a long, slow harvest with yields down 15 to 30 percent from 2005 and 2006.  The wines were intensely flavored, dark in color, with surprisingly gentle tannins for such a powerful vintage.  Winemakers report that the 2007 vintage has the potential to be a classic one for the Paso Robles region.

2006

Above average winter rains and a cool spring got 2006 vineyards off to a wet and late start.  After an unusual heat wave In late July/early August, cooler than normal summer weather (high 80s to low 90s) returned until September when a cooling trend and cloudy skies delayed the last stage of grape maturity by at least 10 days.  Mid-September warmed again and the resulting harvest was delayed but unhurried with beautiful weather persisting into November.  Winemakers reported a higher than normal crop (perhaps a shade below 2005’s levels) with notable elegance, pure flavors, medium body and comparatively lower alcohol levels.

2005

2005’s rainfall ranks as the eighth wettest year since 1869-1870 when official records began to be published in Paso Robles. The cool, wet spring was followed by a sunny and dry but relatively cool early summer, until July, when daytime highs reached 100 degrees and stayed there for a period of two weeks. Harvest began around the beginning of September and ended the first week in November. Although this harvest resulted in the largest crush on record in the state, winemakers were thrilled with the consistent high quality of wine grapes received.

2004

2004 was looking to be an ideal season with a warm spring and subsequent very early flowering unmarred by frost. A fairly mild summer followed until the end of August and beginning of September, when periods of temperatures in the high 90s caused rapid sugar jumps in the grapes. After September, cooler weather allowed fruit to hang and develop flavor, and the accelerated harvest provided protection against the earliest onset (mid-October) of the rainy season in years. Many varieties reached maturity in mid-August, one of the earliest harvests on record.

2003

The winter months of the 2003 growing season were warm and dry. This mild winter transformed into a warm spring, which brought bud break in March. Normal hot summer temperatures held throughout fruit sizing, veraison and maturation. By harvest in late fall, fruit ripened into a perfect balance of Brix and pH.

2002

The 2002 growing season began with a warm, dry winter that yielded the lowest rainfall in five years. Bud break occurred in March with naturally reduced bud count in the grapevines. Spring remained dry and cool. June, July and August were the warmest summer months in five years. The combination of low rainfall and a very warm summer resulted in unusually small berries and clusters. Veraison came early, and the months following consisted of moderate temperatures ideal for maturing grapes over a long growing season.

2001

The 2001 growing season started with a cold winter with less than average rainfall that led to bud break in late March and a late frost that lowered yields. Bloom occurred under warm conditions followed by very warm winds that caused cluster damage in some microclimates. A protracted heat wave in the early summer kept vines under extreme stress, resulting in a smaller crop size. Summer and fall temperatures remained consistently warm, providing an optimal growing season, though yields were down 50 percent below normal for some vineyards.

2000

2000 was a slightly below average rain season, with the majority of rain coming in December and January.  Early springtime weather warmed quickly with average highs near 80 degrees. Bud break was about two weeks earlier than most years, but the month of May cooled significantly, stalling bloom and berry set for a few weeks. Summer daytime temperatures returned to normal while cooler than average summer nights helped maintain good acidity in the grape. In the end, harvest was just about two weeks later than in most years.