Jewell Box: August 2018 – Reflecting on the 2011 Vintage: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

Jewell Box: August 2018 – Reflecting on the 2011 Vintage: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

Jewell Box – August 2018
Reflecting on the 2011 Vintage: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

The 2011 vintage was seven years ago and while many harvests have come and gone since then, one thing stands true: farming grapes in 2011 had extreme challenges that we have not seen since. We had rain in late spring during bloom and in the early fall, during harvest. The summer heat was tempered, with very few heat spikes (that’s a good thing). With the exception of the rain in early Fall, the growing season was perfect for making beautiful wines that truly express the spirit of the vineyards. Here in California, when we get hot summers the wines tend to be much more full bodied and fruit forward. When we have cooler summers our wines tend to have more earthy components and they tend to be very elegant. While most winemakers in California favor the riper, warmer years–preferring to showcase a more boisterous, flashy wine–our house style at Joseph Jewell aligns best with these cooler vintages. Our aim as always is one of elegance and understated power bolstered by lively acidity and subtle nuance.

The Good 

The early rain in spring delayed bloom and caused some shatter which resulted in a smaller, more concentrated crop. A generally cool summer, like that of 2011,  with no real heat spikes to speak of is actually ideal for growing Pinot Noir. We had extended hang time and less sugar accumulation which leads to lower alcohol wines. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are harvested earlier in the year and those varietals saw far less rain than the later ripening varietals. We decided to harvest the majority of our grapes before the severe rains that happened in late September. We definitely spent hours upon hours at the sorting tables pulling out clusters that were not fit for winemaking and were able to keep the botrytis (rot) under control. Thankfully when you are small like us, you have the ability to lay your eyes on every cluster before it makes its way to the tank. Reflecting back on the 2011 vintage, our choices during harvest allowed us to create gorgeous wines that have legs for aging.

The Bad

The rain we got in 2011 really hit the later ripening varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel and caused botrytis to form on the clusters. Larger wineries do not have the ability to sort as intricately as we do, therefore rotten fruit can make its way into the wine which causes the wine to oxidize faster and allow bad bacteria to grow rapidly. I believe that because Cabernet Sauvignon and some of the other later ripening varietals had a less ripe vintage, we Pinot Noir producers were told we also had a bad vintage, which is not true! I can’t remember how many times I was asked when showing our 2011 wines to wine buyers, “When are the 2012’s coming out?”

The Beautiful

I recently tasted through all of our 2011 vintage wines and concluded that these wines are all exquisite and aging gracefully.  Below is a list of the wines we made in 2011. We are going to dig into our library and make these wines available to you for the month of August. We will also be offering a special horizontal flight in the tasting room for the month of August to give you the opportunity to taste these wines and experience their unexpected beauty for yourself.
Join us on Saturday, August 18th at 5:30pm for a special seated tasting of the entire 2011 Vintage as we enjoy the beauty of the vintage, paired with small bites from one of our local restaurants. To reserve your spot follow this link.