The 2020 harvest officially began for B Cellars on Friday, August 28. This is one of the earliest harvest dates in our history. Through the first half of August, it had been a picture perfect growing season, with a wet spring and well-spaced heat spikes followed by long periods of moderate temperatures. The vines are healthy, and the clusters look, and taste beautiful.
Beginning last week, wildfires in our area added a new challenge to an otherwise perfect growing season, and we are working diligently to understand what impact, if any, smoke in the atmosphere may have on our vines. Mind you, the appearance of smoke does not guarantee that the grapes will be smoke tainted. It is a complex equation with a myriad of little-understood variables. However, in the end, we are well-equipped to identify flavor markers and reject any grapes or wines which do not meet our exacting quality standards.
In any given year, we work closely with our growers to help produce some of the finest wine making grapes in the world, and this year is no different. We are testing grapes from off of the vine, looking for particular chemical markers which indicate potential problems. In addition, we are running our own series of micro-fermentations prior to harvest, The compounds which can produce off-flavors in a smoke-tainted wine are hard to detect with the nose and palate until after fermentation unleashes them from chemical bonds.
Finally, every single barrel of our wine is tasted, over and over, again and again, by our blending team, led by master winemaker Kirk Venge. We are quick to reject anything that is not clearly unmarked by any flaw, however minor. In fact, we “declassified” over 88 barrels of wine in 2017. That means that we marked them as flawed and sold them on the bulk wine market rather than allow them to become a part of any B Cellars wine. That was the equivalent of over 2200 cases of potential B Cellars wine, sold, at a loss, in order to protect our number one objective: to create the finest wines we know how from some of the finest vineyards on the planet.