season, abundant winter rain was followed by a very early start
to spring. That warmth gave way to a cool June and then the usual
seesaw of temperatures which generally kept vine activity at a
brisk pace. An early August heat spike brought some of our Chardonnay
to full ripeness in a hurry so we started picking on Friday, the
13th of August, our earliest ever start to harvest. Although considered
an inauspicious date, we felt lucky that we were ready in time.
The fruit looks very good.
Our 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon is now
available, but without the usual year younger Pinot Noir to accompany
it. The phylloxera root pest decimated our Pinot Noir vine blocks
in the late 1990's. We are hoping to have some production back
this year, since we replanted the vineyard right away. But until
that wine is aged in oak, and then further matured in the bottle,
there will be no Mayacamas Pinot Noir.
That is a sad story but the 1999 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon
is a subject we much enjoy. A highly regarded vintage early on,
many 1999 wines are generously fulfilling their promise. The growing
season of 1999 was cool and the Cabernet picking didn't start
here until October 5th. Several rain storms intervened and our
last Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were not harvested until November
2nd, very late indeed. Cabernet is the hardiest of the great wine
grapes and it withstood the repeated cold, wet weather a lot better
that we grape pickers and stompers. The resulting wine is rich
and concentrated with the deep aromas and flavors of our dark
mountain fruit. It is also layered with the typically earthy,
brambly notes of our terroir. In the traditional Mayacamas style,
the wine has the balance and structure to last and improve for
a long time, at least another decade. As usual, we have blended
a little Cabernet Franc and Merlot into the 1999, about 2% of
each this vintage. For the next five years, we suggest aerating
this wine for at least an hour before serving in order to develop
its full flavor and texture.
The 1993 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon
is our library re-release selection this year. It is coming together
beautifully and shows many of the characteristics of classic Bordeaux.
Velvety on the tongue with clear hints of oak, it has depth, complexity
and power plus a suggestion of raspberry in the finish. The blend
here is 11% Cabernet Franc and 4% Merlot. Highly enjoyable now,
it will live and develop further for at least 5 or 6 more years
and probably longer.
We have a lot of wildlife in this area, and it adds to the fun
of rural living. Much of our mountain property is very rugged
and thus not planted to vineyard, so there is lots of natural
habitat. Frequent sightings of deer and coyotes occur, with bobcats
seen only occasionally. Even less often are the incursions of
cougars and black bears. Red and grey foxes roam the territory
and our bird life is very abundant. Turkey vultures, very nearly
as big as the fabled condor, are numerous as are hawks (mostly
the red tailed variety), crows, jays, woodpeckers and a multitude
of smaller birds. An occasional eagle passes by, and wild turkeys
have been introduced by Fish and Game in recent years; we see
them with great regularity. Many grey squirrels inhabit the trees
and two types of rattlesnakes keep us on our toes. King snakes
and gopher snakes also abound and our field mice, gophers and
moles make great snake food, I guess. Our raccoons love grapes,
as do many of the birds and the deer. We fence the deer out and
cover the vines near trees with netting to discourage the birds.
The raccoons pretty much help themselves. All said and done, however,
the wildest of our critters are still the wingless, two-legged
variety, particularly on Saturday nights. Some say they are the
fly in the ointment, but I think they are just the ointment.