This is our eleventh vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon from Berry Vineyards; it also the first time that all the Cabernet grapes from this vineyard were harvested and delivered to Navarro in mid-September rather than in early October. Their 2015 harvest was even a couple of days earlier than this 2014; these ever-earlier harvests seem to be a continuing trend. The growing season also seems to be starting a little earlier with warmer spring and summer daytime temperatures. For the grower, this earlier budbreak exposes the vines to early spring frosts and possible losses. For the winemaker, the shorter season and faster ripening means that the window to pick grapes at their peak is narrower and the sugars may be a little higher for the same level of flavor-ripeness.
The photo above illustrates the steepness of the hillside. The vines are trained into a goblet and long-pruned; each arm has been pruned to a six-bud spur. The buds that open first are the furthest away from the trunk and when they are in leaf and the inner buds are still dormant, the six-bud spur is pruned to the two innermost unopened buds giving the grower another week or two before frosts become a problem.
Ed Berry and Jim Klein taking a break while climbing to the top of Navarro's favorite Cabernet vineyard:
In spite of climate change, we remain enthusiastic about this vineyard from a wine-quality standpoint. Navarro's section of the vineyard is a steep hillside named Rattlesnake Canyon with well-drained volcanic soils and great sun exposure which faces into cooling summer breezes. The name of the canyon is nerve-rackingly apt. Goblet-trained, without a trellis, these vines feature limited production which pleases the winemaker. The harvested 2014 grapes were destemmed into open-top fermenters where we punched down by hand twice daily to keep the tannins suave. Near the end of primary fermentation the juice was then racked into sixty-gallon oak barrels to complete malolactic fermentation and age for twenty-two months before bottling in August 2016. This is our first unfiltered Cab, so it may throw some light sediment with time. Gold Medal winner.