In terms of grape quality, the Spottswoode Estate Vineyard again delivered us excellent fruit in 2015. Despite being a fairly challenging growing season, this high quality was achieved through thoughtful and meticulous viticulture, and by drawing from our many years of farming experience.
The season started with a dry winter, and mild weather in March and April. This temperate weather segued to one of the coolest Mays on record, which impacted bloom and fruit set, and contributed significantly to lower yields at the end of the season. The early summer months delivered warm, relatively temperate weather that moved ripening along at a moderate pace. This pace picked up significantly in late July and mid-August, when we experienced three separate heat events. During this period, we benefitted from the fact that we do little-to-no leafing of our canopy, which keeps natural shade on our grapes. To further protect the fruit during the hottest periods, we used shade cloth, overhead misting and carefully targeted irrigations, which resulted in the preservation of the freshness we so prize in our grapes and wines.
In September there was more heat, which caused our grapes to begin accumulating sugar very rapidly. However, we saw a noticeable decoupling between sugar accumulation and physiological ripeness. This brought about a situation where the grapes reached Brix levels near 24.0º to 25.0º (the level where we would normally begin picking) without the parallel physiological ripeness and flavor development we seek. We responded by trusting our vineyard, being patient, and allowing the grapes to continue developing until they reached Brix levels closer to 26.0º to 26.5º, at which point physiological ripeness was achieved. Although we typically like to pick at slightly lower Brix, we also believe in respecting the character of the growing season, to create wines that authentically tell the story of each vintage.
Our Cabernet Sauvignon harvest began on September 10th, and we finished picking on September 25th. Because the yields were low and harvest was spread out over two weeks, we were able to fine-tune our picking decisions. Our optical sorter again worked beautifully, ensuring that only perfectly ripened fruit made it into our wines. Overall our estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc yields were down by approximately 15-20%, which is fairly typical of this vintage.
Because of our proactive viticulture and qualities innate to our estate vineyard, our 2015 wines have beautiful freshness and complexity. At the same time, they also show the hallmarks of the warm, low-yielding vintage, balancing classic Spottswoode elegance with plush tannins and concentrated fruit.
—Aron Weinkauf, Winemaker