Viticultural Record2021 Farming Practices
2021 This year will be remembered for the remarkable resiliency of the estate vineyard, the wonderfully temperate summer growing season, and the absence of wildfire in the region—all of which resulted in a beautifully balanced crop at Vine Hill Ranch.
2021 was the second in a series of deficient rainy seasons in the Napa Valley, with only about 35% of the average annual rainfall at Vine Hill Ranch over the two seasons. The low soil moisture prompted an early budbreak in the vineyard. Relatively warm spring conditions through early March, however, mitigated the risk of damaging frost in the vineyard, allowing the canopy to begin its development nicely across the vineyard.
Sunny days and warm temperatures allowed for clusters with loose architecture and small berries that set uniformly and balanced within the vineyard canopies. Canopies were smaller due to the lack of soil moisture. The crop was thinned to bring it into proportion with the canopies, and we adjusted positioning to provide shading to the clusters, efforts which resulted in fruit noted for the purity of varietal character and well-developed tannic structures.
The months of June and July presented two brief periods of temperatures above 100o F. However, neither of these events lasted long enough to be detrimental to the vineyard. The remainder of the growing season provided temperate growing conditions.
Harvest at Vine Hill Ranch finished on September 24, completing a four-week harvest season under mild conditions. Despite fires in the northeast part of the state and in Oregon and Washington, prevailing winds kept damaging smoke away from the Napa Valley and allowed for the delivery of a remarkable crop, though yields were roughly 25% below average for the season.
Prompted by ongoing wildfire threats, we continued to address forestry management throughout an additional 30 acres of the woodlands that surround the estate vineyard, eliminating competition from crowded understory growth to the established old-growth madrone and oak woodlands that rise to the tops of the Mayacamas range.
We established a variety of clonal selections of Cabernet Sauvignon on Vine Hill Ranch’s 6.5-acre hillside Block 5, and look forward to exploring the nuances of this special site in the coming years. Additionally, portions of benchland Block 3 were redeveloped to a variety of Petit Verdot selections in order to address the presence of virus in portions of the vineyard. Continued roguing of virus-affected vines throughout the vineyard maintains a virus-affected rate of less than 0.5% throughout the 70-acre estate vineyard, ensuring long-term sustainability in the interest of heightened wine quality. Composting throughout the vineyard continues to ensure the vibrancy of the rich gravel loam soils at Vine Hill Ranch, while select cover crops provide both needed tillage and stability from erosion through the coming rainy season.