Our luscious, ripened fruit is officially on its way to its destiny of becoming fine wine. 2020 has been a year full of uncertainty and has thrown all of us some major curveballs. Sonoma County’s wine harvest this year was no exception to this due to several wildfires complicating an already delicate and time-sensitive process. Our Russian River Valley Chardonnay was picked on September 11th, and our estate-grown Sierra Foothills Zinfandel came in shortly before that on September 8th.
There are many variables with smoke taint and the influence it will have on the wine. Proximity to fresh smoke, what was burning in the area (homes, propane tanks, redwoods, etc.), and how long the exposure all played a role in the severity of smoke taint. Different varietals are affected disproportionately as well. Pinot Noir for example is particularly affected by smoke taint because of its extremely thin skin.
Fortunately, the Chardonnay fruit was the only varietal exposed to smoke due to the Walbridge fire. To mitigate the effects of smoke taint, Bowman Cellars did an extremely light press (130 gallons per ton) in order to extract as little out of the skins as possible. The winemaker chose to reduce the amount of oak influence by eliminating new barrels and opting for neutral ones to ensure the least amount of “toast” as possible. The samples so far are promising and it should be another award-winning Chardonnay.
Rest assured, winemakers will bottle only their best, and now is a better time than ever to show support for Sonoma and Napa County wineries. Visit any tasting room and they’ll be sure to have some interesting stories to tell from 2020’s harvest.