After a series of early harvests, 2018 began on 4 September, a more typical start-date for Sonoma County. We picked our first grapes from a small block of zinfandel at Lytton West. Natural yeast fermentation was slow to kick in so we heated the tanks to “wake up” the yeast. By the second week of September, more zinfandel from two of our outside ranches, Boatman and Buchignani, were ready. Color and tannin came early and was plentiful after only two-to-three days of maceration. Weather conditions were ideal over the course of harvest. Specifically, warm but not excessively hot days, helped to extend the ripening window, allowing more time to pick at a less hectic pace than usual.
In fact, at over seven weeks total, the 2018 harvest turned out to be the most drawn out harvest ever at Lytton Springs. While this resulted in a more relaxed rhythm, as October approached, the possibility of rain increased as well. The possibility became reality during the first weekend of October when an inch and a half of rain fell over Sonoma County. Fortunately, over 75% of our vineyards were already picked. For the remaining grapes, a crew went through block by block to cut out any fruit damaged by the rain.
In 2015 we replanted a number of parcels at Lytton west. 2018 was therefore the first year these young vines produced a small crop. Among these, an experimental block of tribidrag and crljenak kastelanski, close relatives of zinfandel, are particularly promising, exhibiting focused red fruit and refreshing acidity.
In many ways, 2018 is the Goldilocks year—harvest began not too early, not too late. Yields were not too little, not too much; weather was not too cool, not too hot. Overall quality is very promising and there is much to look forward to year from this vintage in the years to come.
—John Olney, COO & Lytton Springs Winemaker