We are pleased to report that after one of the hottest and driest years on record, we completed our earliest harvest ever at Lawrence Vineyards on October 13. Our first pick was on August 21 — roughly a month earlier than last year and our only harvest in August ever. What happened in between the early start and finish kept us on our toes, though!

With this immense heat we had some interesting phenomena, most notable of which was the amount of time the vines were actually “shut down” during the day. Grapevines don’t care for temperatures exceeding 95 degrees, and when this happens they go into energy-saving mode, much like humans. Therefore, even though we had the hottest year on record, it didn’t really shorten the growing season as much as you might expect because we had concern about maturities being out of balance. When the vines shut down in the heat, it means less growing time during daylight hours which reduces sugar accumulation, and warmer evenings affect the preservation of acid (i.e., the pH might rise and the acidity might drop without reaching optimal brix levels).

As it turned out, Mother Nature came to our rescue, possibly the only time this year, to provide us with a very pleasant fall with warm days and cool nights. This is unlike last year where we had very hot days and warm nights throughout September. Long story short, this vintage has the potential to be remarkable!

When we see this level of quality we are very thankful for our location, as well as our diligence in the vineyard. Our vineyard practices were unique this year. When we would typically be leafing, we chose not to for sun protection. This remained common practice the entire season until harvest. We were also very careful in thinning fruit on the west side of the plant, as well, for that same reason. What we saved by not making those passes we spent on countless passes through the vineyard cleaning up any sunburned or sun-damaged fruit. In fact, we witnessed levels of heat damage on all the fruit we grow (apples, cherries and wine grapes) that we have never seen before. All of this effort results in a very consistent and high-quality vintage, though; without the extra work I think the quality could be completely on the other end of the spectrum. Here’s to next year being a bit less extreme!

The other great advantage we had this year was our new state-of-the-art production facility working at an optimum level. We were thrilled to move into our new Walla Walla facility last year, but it was a rush to get it done in time for the 2014 harvest, and after having one year under our belt things are running very smoothly. This, along with continually improved vineyard practices, will help us maintain our upward momentum in quality. Plus, due to the increased flexibility at our new facility, we are able to do some new, exciting and limited wines exclusively for our wine club members to show our appreciation. This is the part our winemaker, Aryn Morell, and I particularly enjoy: selecting a special barrel or section of the vineyard and crafting something very distinctive, or making a varietal that we don’t typically produce just for our club members, so keep your eyes out for these special club-only offerings from Gard in the future.

Thank you for your continued support,

Josh Lawrence

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