The 2018 Vintage
2018 was a low rainfall year – below average for Paso Robles and our three vineyards. Almost all of the rain we did see fell during the month of March and beginning of April (80% of the year’s rainfall in fact), so the water was really usable during the beginning of the 2018 growing season. This vintage had light fruit set and small crop in some varieties. Overall, Epoch’s ton/acre average in 2018 was 2.5 tons/acre – a light crop but also a sweet-spot for overall flavor concentration.
Budbreak was pretty textbook timing-wise (middle to late March) but actually later than bud break in 2015 – 2017. Couple that with a cooler growing season overall than in the previous years and we were able to start harvest of whites on September 4th and reds on September 7th (meaning we made it over the Labor Day hump – see note below). Harvest spanned six weeks, which was pretty spread out for us. We had time in the vineyard and time in the winery – a winemaker’s dream!
2018 allowed for more “hang time” of the grapes. There were no major climactic events that forced us to pick, allowing us to leave fruit on the vine until we felt it reached optimum ripeness. Increased hang time in a vintage usually equates to weather allowing the sugars to ripen alongside the tannins and acids to not fall out too quickly; this translates to a lot of balance in the resulting wines. We always hope that we can let the early ripening red varieties hang past Labor Day. If that happens, it is usually a calmer, more even-keeled harvest with lots of great hang time.
The wines from 2018 echo what is written above. They have great freshness, long & chewy tannins, and they are very balanced (chemistry-wise). These wines are beautifully structured and impress now with a healthy decant. They are sure to be exceptional with some age and will have drinking windows in the 8-10+ year range.