Notes on the 2019 Vintage
By Winemaker, Jordan Fiorentini

 

Overall, 2019 was a mild, long, even, and cool vintage – my favorite type! We had significant (above average) rainfall and late budbreak (about two weeks later than normal). Nice and easy was the name of the game for the rest of the year with plenty of available water during much of the growing season and no crazy heat waves. As a result, these wines are balanced with lots of freshness.

 

2019 was a later, milder, and more even-tempered vintage than 2018. Yields were up in 2019 due to the nice rainfall we had that winter which lasted through March 2019. Canopies were green, healthy, and very happy too. A little nerdy side note: the diurnal temperature swings were less extreme in 2019 (meaning the nighttime lows weren’t as low in 2019 as 2018), leading to less acid in the wines, higher PHs, and more ease on the palate. Cool weather in the spring led to some issues with flowering for Grenache, however, this decrease in crop meant we didn’t have to do as many crop adjustments in the vineyard.

 

We actually started picking grapes only a day later in 2019 than in 2018, but 2018 had greater diurnal temperature swings and many more days over 100 than 2019. That being said, 2018 wasn’t a crazy hot year for us either, but it was drier with more see-sawing temperatures.

 

The last pick in 2018 was 10/17 vs. 10/24 in 2019 – so pretty close. Tannins had ample time to get really ripe and supple in 2019, and since the spring was cool, we believe that also led to lower overall tannin development in the wines than in 2018. All this leads to wines from 2019 that are pure, elegant, and very balanced. The acids are a touch lower than “classic” and pHs a bit higher, which make for a more approachable and supple vintage.

 

We also enjoyed reading what friend and wine critic, Jeb Dunnuck, had to say about the 2019 vintage in Paso:

 

The result of a long, even, cooler growing season, the wines show remarkable purity of fruit and complexity while possessing slightly more rounded, supple, seamless profiles on the palate. In general, the wines have a good sense of freshness without the more tannic style of the 2018s.

 

Looking at the growing season, this was a departure from the drought years of 2016, 2017, and 2018, and the region received a welcome cooler, wetter winter and spring. The growing season can be broken up into two parts, the cool, wet weather up through the early parts of June, which helped saturate the water table and delayed flowering and bud break, followed by a warmer, dry period in July, August, September, and October. Vine health was outstanding throughout the year and yields (aside from Grenache, which shattered due to cool weather at flowering) are close to average. One notable point on the vintage was the lack of heat spikes, and while most growing seasons see 10-12 days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, 2019 saw only 6 days.

 

This all shows in the wines. They have a smooth, supple, easygoing feel that mirrors the even growing season, and the warmth at the end of the year resulted in ample ripeness and richness while still not blowing out the aromatics. The 2019s have plenty of up-front appeal and, in general, are more approachable than the more tannic, structured 2018s. The important difference between 2018 and 2019 is the lack of hydric stress and warmer later season weather as well as fewer diurnal swings in 2019, which resulted in slightly softer, more rounded wines. While I think 2019 slots in just behind 2018, both vintages have their own style and are loaded with brilliant wines.

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.

The 2017 Vintage

 

So many thoughts float through my head about the 2017 vintage: the rain that broke the drought (with a whopping 60 inches on York Mountain!), what that rain meant for the vines and resulting wines, the 2017 Labor Day massive heat wave that hit all of California, and Epoch’s largest harvest to date. Some vintages are more textbook than 2017, but as I sit here with 2017 Veracity in my glass, I can honestly tell you that the wines are delicious, approachable, plush, and layered.

 

To me, the 2017 vintage seems to land style-wise between the 2014 and 2016 vintages, with the lush fruit readily available like the ‘14s but with a bit more refinement and elegance like the ‘16s. For those of you who like ripe, velvety tannins (who doesn’t?), this is a great vintage for you.

 

You will not have to wait too long to enjoy these reds, but with age, I foresee the 2017s becoming more elegant, more nuanced, and a little less flamboyant.

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