2012: An Impeccable Growing Season Produces Exceptional Wines

With the 2012 reds resting comfortable in barrel; a steady cellar program underway to care for the barrel-fermented Chardonnays and  Sauvignon Blanc; the fruitier white wines, including a new Januik Muscat Canelli, finished with their long, cool fermentation; and the frenetic pace of harvest behind us, we have a moment to reflect on the 2012 Columbia Valley vintage.

Those of you who know Mike Januik are aware he is not prone to superlatives, but even he couldn’t resist tagging the 2012 harvest “perfect.”  The weather was simply amazing.  Temperatures were warm and consistent all summer and into the early fall, with none of the pesky heat spikes or atypical rain that kept winemakers on their toes in 2010 and 2011.  As winemaker Scott Moeller noted, “The 2012 harvest instilled a renewed sense of normalcy to the crew.  Given the erratic picking schedule of the last two vintages, it was refreshing – not to mention less stressful – to harvest grapes on a more traditional schedule.”

Across the Columbia Valley, crop loads were well-balanced.   Small berries packed with intense flavor matured beautifully, and the resulting flavor profiles and tannin development were spot-on.  The wines have terrific natural acidity as well, in part due to the Columbia Valley’s warm fall days and cool nights.  The 2012 whites show great depth of flavor and wonderful aromatics.  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are rich and complex, with integrated tannins.

At Novelty Hill’s estate vineyard, Stillwater Creek, weather conditions largely mirrored the Columbia Valley.  April was warm, May and June were cooler than usual, but summer temperatures warmed and stayed that way through harvest.  Veraison began August 8th and was complete in all varietals by August 29th with wonderful color development in the reds.  Grapes ripened quickly, and by mid-September, harvest was underway.  Hand-picked, like the Merlot shown in the photo above, arrived at the winery with terrific flavor and uncommon richness.

Now begins the waiting game.  Look for the first of the 2012 white wines next spring, with barrel fermented whites to follow later in the year.  Expect to get a first taste of this year’s red wines in 2014.  We’re betting the wait will be worth it.

Columbia Valley Harvest 2012: Midway Report

Oct. 5, 2012  ̶  Harvest is here and how!  We picked our first grapes on September 6th and are now at the halfway point, with an estimated three weeks to the finish line.   The weather has been picture perfect over the last month, allowing the grapes to mature beautifully and the flavor profile and tannin development is spot on.  Winemakers never like to predict a vintage too early, but so far there are plenty of smiles around the cellar.

The sunny skies and warm daytime temperatures we’ve enjoyed at the winery in Western Washington have ruled the day in Eastern Washington as well this fall.  Both here and there, nighttime temperatures have been cool, and that’s one of the great secrets to the quality of Columbia Valley wine grapes.  The warm days and cool nights this time of year allow the fruit to ripen completely, producing striking flavors and juicy acidity in the finished wine.

All our whites have now been picked and are fermenting in tank or barrel.  This weekend, we will be crushing Syrah and a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon.  If you’d like to see crush in action for yourself, Novelty Hill Januik is the place to come for a bird’s eye view.   Visitors are welcome to watch grapes move through the crusher-destemmer from the observation deck on the top floor of the winery.  The fermentation room (shown in the picture) is visible from the glass-enclosed hallway.  Watch red wine pumpovers or barrels being filled here before they are moved to the aging room.  When we have grapes to share, the cellar crew will bring up samples to the tasting bar, always a fun experience to taste just-picked fruit followed by a sip (or two) of a finished wine.