Scant rain during the 2022 growing year left the vines looking for a water source after several years of drought conditions. While some stress is good for the vines, too much stress can lead to diminished yields. We saw that as a reality in the 2022 crop, although the reduced fruit set resulted in grapes that were particularly concentrated in flavor and acidity.
The lack of water would have been a problem if we had seen scorching weather during the summer months, but mother nature participated in this delicate dance and gave us very mild weather during spring and summer growing months. May-August 2022 showed ideal weather in the 70’s and 80’s rarely tiptoeing into the 90’s. The diurnal swing was on our side too, cooling the vines by 40 degrees on average at night. The huge benefit there is prolonged maturation, hence the concentration in the fruit and retained acidity as an added bonus.
We began harvest on August 17, 2022, out at the Sandy Lane vineyard in Contra Costa County. Contra Costa has always been first to ripen. The 130-year-old vines are own-rooted, head trained, dry farmed. The unique soils made up of pure sand reflect heat and light under the canopy, encouraging quick but even ripening.
The next day, August 18, we kicked off our Sonoma harvest at Boatman Vineyard, where we carefully selected parcel by parcel to pick over a four-day period. The mild weather helped the “low and slow” style of ripening that also allowed us to be extremely strategic about when a vineyard is picked. We could also choose to pick half a block one day, and another half the following day. Younger zinfandel was the first variety to ripen at Lytton West followed by old-vine zinfandel and grenache on Hill 2A at Lytton East. This relaxed pace for the first few weeks of harvest set a good rhythm for the rest of the season.
By the time we saw high heat in the forecast we had picked nearly half our fruit, but this impending heat spike warned of 115 for a week straight. September 5 was 115 degrees Fahrenheit, and the rest of the week followed suit. We started crushing at 5am that week to avoid the midday heat. We quickened our pace to process as much beautiful fruit as possible. That week, we crushed over 300 tons. The following week called for rain on September 13. Luckily the rain was scant, and we were able to pick the rest of our fruit before more impactful rainstorms approached, which they did, by the third week in September. We completed our harvest on September 21, with a total of 872 tons in 32 days.
Primary and malolactic fermentations were carried out by healthy populations of indigenous yeast. Given the nature of the concentrated fruit, our fermentations extracted quickly, so monitoring the time on skins was crucial this year. We usually do two pump overs daily, but in certain cases, we limit this protocol to one pump over per day, to not over-extract tannins. This was particularly important in the petite sirah and teinturier lots which carry a lot of tannin and color.
Overall, the conditions were quite favorable. The weather was courteous, the fruit was balanced, the fermentations thrived, and the resulting wine is resting in barrel. We look forward to sharing this excellent vintage with you.
—Shauna Rosenblum, Lytton Springs Winemaker