1998 Vintage Report
Looking back at 1998 we can say it was a glorious vintage characterized by an extremely low crop and short hang-time on the vine. A hard rain during flowering and cool weather at bloom combined to destine this vintage to have really low yields that ultimately resulted in deeply extracted and highly structured wines. After the Spring rains, there was a short season but great weather post-flowering. Crop loads were even smaller than 1994 making the wines big and required time in the bottle that as it aged gained lushness and finesse.
Once again harvest got kicked off with 2 tons of Emilia Vineyard Estate Pinot Gris picked on September 23rd at 23.7° Brix. A ripe year for the estate Pinot Gris, the remaining fruit came off of Emilia between September 24th and September 29th at an average sugar content of 23.7° Brix. At that sugar content the Gris ended up more than 14% alcohol and typically like to see our Emilia Vineyard end up under 14%.
A ripe year in general, Germaine Vineyard Chardonnay also helped to start the year off with a pressload of Chard coming in on September 23rdfrom our Dijon 76 clone on 3309 rootstock picked at 23.8° Brix. Germaine Chardonnay continued to roll in on September 28th and 29th picking a total of 5.2 tons at an average of 23.6° Brix and pH 3.31.
The first Pinot Noir Fruit came into the building was our Louise Vineyard Pommard harvested at a ripe 26.2° Brix. A growing Louise Vineyard, the Dijon clone 114 on 101-14 rootstock first came in on September 30th at 24.9° Brix.
The next estate Vineyard to bring in fruit came off of the young Jessie Vineyard from the Dijon 115 block on October 1st. The Jessie 115 was harvested at 24.7° Brix and was fermented with more than 30% whole clusters. 1998 marked the innaugeral Jessie Vineyard single vineyard wine. Never released, the 1998 remains a mythical beginning to the now recognized Jessie Vineyard.
An exciting year for Cristom, we continued a long relationship with the winemaking team at Archery Summit and began trading for Arcus Vineyard Pinot Noir. We traded roughly one ton of estate Marjorie for the Arcus that came tto us on September 29th harvested at 24.4° Brix and 3.27 pH. The Arcus had a relatively high pH and so like many of the 1998 fermentations we added tartaric acid, and used relatively low percentage of whole cluster, 22%, to bring the wine into better balance. The 1998 Arcus was an exciting wine that proved to produce some very special barrels.
1998 was the first year we started a grower relationship with Lowell and Brad Ford when we bought some of their Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. We still are buying fruit from them 14 years later in 2012. They now have their own brand Illahe Vineyard and are producing excellent wines of their own.
“It was a difficult decision that year. It was a very low yield year, with low moisture, and pretty warm, and it didn’t have a lot of hang time. So, I wanted to leave the fruit out longer. We had 85 days that year, and normally we have 115, 125. It was a hard decision to pick, but we had to before the sugars got to high.
“In the cellar normally we don’t get a lot of sulfites, but in 1998 we were plagued with it. When that happened, I figured if we have this thing, I’m going to try to learn from it. So I dealt with it in a bunch of different ways. I racked some barrels. I sulfured some. I added silver to some, which is illegal but I tried it not to sell but to see the effect. I did nothing to some. It turned out that the sulfites, it resolved itself and no method did any better than any other. So, that reaffirmed the philosophy of my not doing anything.
It was a vintage where I was not happy with the hang time, but I was pleased with how the wine finally turned out. But, originally, I didn’t have high hopes for it. Sometimes wines surprise you. It can be the other way too. Wines you think you did a good job on can turn out not great in the long run.” –Steve Doerner