2018 started with bud break a week or so late in mid-April, but then took off like a rocket, driven by a very warm May and June. Even with the slightly delayed bud break, the vines were ahead of any other year heading into the middle of June. Heat units were tracking ahead of 2015, and even though the month of July was warm (just shy of record-setting), it wasn’t quite enough to keep pace. With the early warmth of the growing season and the very fast early development of the vines, we were starting to plan for harvest potentially starting as early as mid-August.
For the third time in the past seven years we had forest fires throughout the west coast from British Columbia down to California. These fires sent enough smoke over a long enough duration of time into eastern Washington to impact harvest. Smoke taint produces flavors that are typically described as “cigarette ash tray,” so not exactly something that you want getting in your wine aroma. As in 2012 and 2017, the smoke density in 2018, while really annoying for humans to breath, was luckily far below the density to be of concern for smoke taint on the grapes at Red Mountain.
The thick veil of smoke was very effective at blocking the sunlight, impairing the photosynthesis of the grape plants, and thereby delaying the ripening. These smoke-induced “cloudy” days in late summer (the middle of the ripening period for the grapes) delayed what we had projected to be a very early start to harvest. In the end we were left with a slightly late start to harvest in the second week of September (as opposed to mid-August). Harvest was completed in the third week of October, resulting in a slightly more compacted harvest season, with the reds all harvested within a five-week window. We love the resulting wines in barrels from 2018 and are very excited to see these wines develop during the aging process. All of the reds from 2018 show the rich mid-palate that is more typical in the warmer years, coupled with the huge structure, balance and depth that we typically associate with cooler years.