Bilo Zarif, founder of Summerland Winery just south of Santa Barbara, focuses on mostly Pinot Noir produced from vineyards in the southern Central Coast, centered around Santa Barbara County. Chatting with him, we found his comment about vintages very interesting: “Throughout our 12 years at Summerland, we are really getting the experience we need, a feel of different years, what each year gives us,” said Bilo. “We used to think that in California, because it is sunny, every year will be the same for the wine. That has not been the case. There is a lot of variation from year to year.”
It has often been said that because California has ample sunshine, there won’t be significant changes in the character of a wine from year to year. The thinking goes that unlike Bordeaux, where cold weather and rain can often challenge ripening, in California we don’t have that problem.
Bilo has focused on single vineyard bottlings and has had a front row seat to watch how the wine differs from year to year. A hot year, a cooler year, early budbreak, later budbreak, Indian summer, no Indian summer … all of these factors combine to shape the growing season and influence the wine. The results can yield more or less fruit, changes in color, differences in texture, aroma and flavor. Pinot Noir is especially willing to show these changes. Winemakers call it a “transparent” grape because it reveals its varietal character very readily, especially with non-interventionist winemaking techniques.
So…enjoy a vintage year!