2020 – A Year to Remember

One of the most exciting truths about wine is that each year shapes it in an entirely new way. In the vineyard, as the vines draw on the resources of soil and sun, nuances of moisture and warmth create flavors and textures in the wine unique to that vintage. Ideally, the environment supports balanced ripening: sugars rise to optimum levels, flavors develop layers of complexity, and tannins reach perfect maturity simultaneously. Acidity levels should remain high and bright throughout. But it’s a rare growing season that passes without challenges.

The 2020 vintage will be remembered by all of us at Quintessa for extremes. But it also affirmed our holistic, biodynamic approach to nurturing the organism of our estate. The resilience of our vines yielded a distinctive wine under exceptional conditions.

Low rainfalls in the winter launched a drought year. But observing and listening to the vines, we anticipated the reduced resources they would have to draw on and pruned for slightly lower yields. A reduction in the vines’ workload helped bring the fruit to balanced ripeness. The upside to sacrificing quantity is concentration of phenolics and flavors, and with moderate, even temperatures, the quality of the fruit through the arc of the growing season was encouraging.

Of course, 2020 will be remembered by all for the global pandemic. Even as bud break, flowering, and canopy growth moved on a vibrant trajectory across the estate, time stood still in other ways. There were no visitors in our pavilions. We were masked and distanced. But our connection with the land only deepened. We walked the vineyard blocks more often, observing the nuances of soils and vine growth. The life around the vines revealed itself, with coyotes coming closer through our old-growth oak forests, even river otters taking their turn. While everything else went very quiet, Quintessa was very much alive.

Then, in mid-August, just as veraison tipped the season toward harvest, dry lightning storms set off fires throughout the broader region, throwing a high smoke screen into the air. In September, the threat grew closer as the Glass Fire encroached on the area. But our commitment to the estate compels us to make the most of the fruit. We had learned enough through the years from the vines and their ecosystem to trust that they would produce a transparent wine of place even then.

Trust but verify, rather. Lot by lot we picked, fermented, and tasted scrupulously. And our final 2020 blend validated our intuition. The estate gave us a wine of great character, precise and expressive of an unusual year.

In the end, the vintage came with blessings, too. Our team bonded in crisis, and together, we’re fortified with invaluable knowledge to face future contingencies.