June 10, 2016 | by Rob Davis

With El Niño now behind us, you wouldn’t know by the green-carpeted rows of vineyards and emerald hills that Sonoma County has been experiencing a drought for the last four years. After ample rainfall of 32 inches in the area (29 inches is average for the first half of a year) that continued into mid-May, the 2016 growing season is off to a promising start. This blog post offers a preliminary 2016 vintage report for northern California wines.

2016 Munselle Cabernet Merlot Bud Break Vineyards Spring Blog 4916
Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon buds on March 31.
2016 CalPlans Wood Chardonnay Flowering Spring BLOG IMG_5495
Jordan Chardonnay grapes on May 4.

After a very uniform 2016 vintage bud break in March (see previous blog post), flowering commenced in early May (typical timing), and despite some rainy days and a little wind, the flowers on our earlier-ripening vineyards pollinated well. The beginning of fruit set revealed an average-sized crop for all of our Chardonnay and Merlot growers, as well as some hillside and benchland Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards and our Estate Petit Verdot. This is welcome after the smaller 2015 vintage (about 20-30% less fruit than a typical year), but unfortunately, farmers didn’t make it through the entire month unscathed. Mother Nature threw us a curve ball in mid-May through Memorial Day weekend, with a few rain showers punctuated by two heat spikes. This disrupted the bloom of some later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards, which will affect quantity (not quality) of clusters. I think the crop overall will be somewhere between last year and a normal year. In other words, we won’t be 30% down like 2015 for Cabernet Sauvignon; maybe closer to 15%. Back-to-back smaller vintages is concerning for other wineries trying to increase their production. I’m happy not to be walking in their boots.

Jordan Petit Verdot on May 6.
Jordan Petit Verdot grapes on May 6.

The good news is that many of Jordan’s Cabernet Sauvignon grower vineyards had bloomed about 75-100% before the inclement weather. Another positive outcome this spring is that Jordan Russian River Chardonnay and Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon grapes bloomed at different times—almost two weeks apart. In recent years, all of the fruit has been flowering, setting and ripening at the same time, which makes harvest time very hectic. We should get a little breathing room between white and red grape crush this year.

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on May 18.
Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on May 18.

Now, it’s time to start counting clusters.

View more Jordan 2016 grapevine flowering photographs on Flickr.

Read our 2016 vintage report on pre-harvest weather and our 2016 vintage report for California Chardonnay.