It may already be the 5th of February...but we never really took the time to reflect on the conclusion of the 2012 harvest. Much has already been said or written about it. But none of that can compare to seeing the harvest through the eyes of a vintner.
The 2012 Vintage year can be described as a blessing from Mother Nature.
With the harvest completed and the early maturing varietals such as Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir already young wines, the later maturing varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel just finishing fermentation, and the frenzied rhythm of grape picking and crush completed, there is quiet time to analyze and reflect. It’s in that time you realize just how apparent it was that the 2012 vintage in Sonoma Valley at Gundlach Bundschu, from a quality and quantity perspective, will go down as a record year. If we were producing wines in France, we might even say, "It is the vintage of the century," a phrase they seem to express twice a decade.
In Sonoma and Napa counties it may well be the vintage of this century. Those who have been around the wine business for a while liken 2012 to 1997, the last time a vintage was superb in both quality and quantity. During Gundlach Bundschu’s annual end of harvest feast prepared for the cellar staff and winemakers by their co-workers from other departments to recognize and give thanks for the long hours crush requires, a man stood up from the table, lifted a glass full of wine and directed a toast to the production crew. As he stood, he could not help but notice they wore the badge of enduring the hard work of crush—cracked, raw hands, stained red from two months of handling red grapes, the look of exhaustion on their faces. The speaker himself had just experienced his fortieth consecutive harvest at Gundlach Bundschu.
"Enjoy the moment and the gift you have just received from Mother Nature. She has just given you the opportunity to make great wines. I predict none of you will ever forget 2012. The best vintages and the worst vintages have a way of sticking with you. They become benchmarks in your life. In the future, each time you enjoy a bottle of 2012 or even hear or read about it, you will recall you were there, you helped produce it and you will remember the details unique to the year. Congratulations and thank you for all of your hard work."
He sat down and finished off his wine in silence as his mind drifted back to 1972, his first and worst vintage—where he protected his young vines from spring frost for seventeen straight nights, yet still lost most of his crop and the years from 1976-1977, the drought years, and of course 1985 the perfect growing season and the best vintage of the 80’s. He refilled his glass with a 1985 GunBun Cabernet Sauvignon and wondered what Mother Nature would do in 2013.