The growing season had its ups and downs with both challenges and success stories. After several years of dry, mild winters, 2022 was a continuation into the third year of drought. This set the stage for strategic viticultural practices. Fortunately, cover crops were abundant, considering the dry conditions. This brought crucial nutrients and imparted greater health to the vines.
Bud break at Monte Bello was early due to mild temperatures. Flowering occurred in May for the whites and in June for the red varieties. This coincided with a cold spring with rains in April and May coupled with ideal warm summer weather.
Average summer temperatures and cool nights at Monte Bello brought balanced growth to the vines and a nice, even fruit set. Once veraison was complete, we were able to assess the crop and did some minor thinning in select parcels allowing the vines to be brought into balance for more uniform ripening. August’s warm weather advanced the ripening process.
Ripening in 2022 was gradual, with ideal conditions up until Labor Day weekend, when we had an unprecedented heat wave, which brought temperatures at Monte Bello upwards of 106 degrees Fahrenheit for three days straight. The temperatures remained high even throughout the nights. This prompted urgent picking strategies and the prioritization of lots by taste, visual analysis and laboratory analysis.
The first grapes arrived from Evangelho vineyard on August 19, followed by grenache blanc and zinfandel from Paso Robles. We then received the field blend parcels from Geyserville and shifted our full attention to the Monte Bello estate by the start of September. The first fruit from Monte Bello was Jimsomare Chardonnay on September 3rd. The intense heat during Labor Day weekend pushed the remaining zinfandel and chardonnay parcels to full ripeness. The following week was the busiest of harvest, with one-third of the total tonnage coming in.
Chardonnay was low yielding due to drought-related conditions. This stress caused lower than normal cluster counts. The chardonnay was picked between September 3 and September 11. Low yields produced intensely flavorful chardonnay juice.
After the heat wave passed, cooler temperatures were a welcome change and allowed the vines to come out of shock and begin nutrient flow once again. However, the challenges were not over yet, as a series of rainstorms moved into northern California the following week.
It was a vintage of many variables requiring constant sensory assessment and monitoring. Grape quality was surprisingly very good with great potential to make wines of stellar quality. 2022 was a very challenging vintage, which required careful attention to detail in the cellar to achieve balanced structure and the best quality possible.
In total, we fermented one hundred thirty five individual small lots from eighty-nine parcels at Monte Bello. Picking was strategic, making breaks within the blocks for water-stressed and green portions of the blocks. The lots ranged in size from two to twelve barrels. All four varieties fermented out with great extraction and quality. The petite verdot lots in particular produced the most complex wines of 2022. Some of the best lots of the vintage are those which were picked toward the end of the harvest. The vines took their time in recovering from the heat wave and then the water logging of the rains, which followed. This extra time allowed the vines to release their water and regain their balance of sugar, acid and tannins. Fortunately, the Bordeaux varieties were closer to normal for yields.
Now that most lots are dry, we have tasted through the cellar and concluded that the vintage looks promising. The vineyards produced some excellent wines, but careful and rigorous selection will be necessary during the assemblage. Tasting will begin for the first assemblage in just a few weeks. This is an important process in which we bring together the best vineyard parcels for each single-vineyard wine. We will examine thirty-four lots. This process will be done while tasting blind with varietals and parcels randomized in flights.
Quantities in 2022 will be less than normal due to below-average crop size and some grape loss due to shrivel from the heat. Despite the challenges of heat and rain, we are excited about the quality of the wines we have been able to make in 2022.
—Trester Goetting, Monte Bello Winemaker