All or Nothing

Sunrise in Else's Vineyard

This is the story of a wine that doesn’t exist.

Wait…what? Why?!

Because the 2010 Vintage was a challenge. It was cold, which makes grapes ripen late. By mid-October (later than harvest would usually be over), we had finally picked everything on the ranch, except for Else’s Vineyard. The quality of what we had was very good, but the Cabernet Sauvignon that was left on the vines, (the main component of Else’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon), was in danger of frost.

Else’s Vineyard, named so after my mother, was the first planting at the ranch in 2001. The vineyard plot includes two acres on a steep slope, nestled between oak trees near the tasting room.  A north-facing aspect combined with cold-air influence from the floor of Asbill Valley below means we often pick Else’s Vineyard weeks after the rest is safely at the winery. And for 2010, that was more true than ever.

After a few days of October rain, the forecast showed a day of sunshine with a risk of frost. Cabernet can handle a day or two of rain near harvest because the loose clusters and thick skins resist mold, but several rainy days in a row can compromise the quality of the crop.

So, we had a choice. Do we let the one sunny day dry the grapes, and risk frost, or do we soak the grapes with frost-protection sprinklers in exchange for a decrease in the quality of Else’s Vineyard Reserve for the vintage 2010?

We didn’t like the idea of compromised quality, so we went for it. We left the sprinklers off, and let the grapes dry. In short, we went for “all or nothing.”

Well, we got nothing. The frost scorched the leaves, leaving grapes on the vines that were two weeks from ripe. We picked them, and fermented them at the winery. The wine tasted green. It wasn’t the Cabernet Sauvignon you trust us to make for you. So we sold it as bulk to a larger winery, and thus you won’t find a 2010 Else’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon as an option in our offerings for Christmas 2016.

But you will find the lovely 2011, another cool vintage that lived to tell the tale, and the extraordinary newly-released 2012 that critics have hailed as one of the finest years for Cabernet Sauvignon in California.

Both will serve you well as you stock your cellar for gift-giving and holiday celebrations.

Christian Ahlmann

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