1996 Vintage Report
1996 was a relatively cool vintage overall that started off very cold in May but warmed up to a blisteringly hot July. The year finished with 2,360 GDD, slightly cooler than our twenty year average of 2,450 GDD but a good portion of the heat units came in the hottest July we have seen at Cristom.
For the second harvest in a row, rain came in the middle of picking grinding the vintage to a halt until we could return to the vineyard. Our latest starting date since we began in 1992, the first fruit was harvested from our estate Chardonnay vineyard on October 1st at 24.0° Brix.
1996 was the very first vintage that any fruit was picked off of our estate Jessie Vineyard. The three year old baby vines produced just 1.25 tons of Pinot Noir picked at 25.3° Brix on October 2nd.
The first Louise Vineyard grapes of the year came into the building from fourth leaf Dijon clone 115 Pinot Noir on October 3rd and 4th at 24.2° Brix and 23.6° Brix respectively. Then the first of two rain breaks came with 0.35” of rain stopping picking until October 9th when Marjorie Vineyard Wadenswil clone Pinot Noir was picked at 24.4° Brix.
Yields were below average in 1996, not quite as low as 1994, but the Marjorie Vineyard Pinot came in at between 1 – 1.5 tons per acre in 1996.
It was after the first rain hiatus that Steve made the decision to pick the majority of the fruit between October 10th and October 12th. The rest of the estate fruit was picked in those three days harvested between 22.6° Brix and 24.1° Brix. Harvest concluded on October 28th with the last of the purchased fruit brought into the building at 21.8° Brix.
We continued to work with many of the same vineyards we had purchased fruit from since 1992. Familiar vineyard sites included Canary Hill Vineyard, Temperance Hill Vineyard, Freedom Hill Vineyard, Archery Summit’s Arcus Vineyard and Seven Springs Vineyard. We also continued relationships we began in 1995 with Chapelton Hill Vineyard, Zena Vineyards and Winter’s Hill Vineyard. And always looking for good fruit sources we began working with a new winegrower in McMinnville called Coleman Vineyard located in Coast Range foothills originally planted in 1991.
A great year for white wines, the 1996 Chardonnay was and is one of the best Chardonnay’s Cristom has ever produced. The Chardonnay was the first and last fruit brought into the winery harvested between October 1stand October 28th between 24.0° Brix and 22.2° Brix from six different vineyard sites. The wines in barrel were so unique from one another we decided to bottle three separate Chardonnay’s in 1996 including an estate single vineyard made up of Louise Vineyard Dijon clones 76 and 96.
There is a richness and intensity to the 1996 wines that helped them to be considered the best of the rain years by critics but maybe not built to age such as the 1993 vintage. This is also marked the year that the first Louise Vineyard single vineyard estate Pinot Noir was produced. If they’re in your cellar (as of 2011) drink them up.