This year began like any other year, except that January found us busier than ever after deciding to let our Syrah Tous les Jours rest an extra 6 months in barrel before bottling in order to allow the wine a bit more time to come around before committing it to bottle. (The 2018 Syrah Tous les Jours was recently awarded the highest trio of scores ever – so it was worth the wait!) I was filled with as much hope as ever since we had just completed our largest harvest ever and heck, it was 2020. Just saying 2020 sounded cool. It brought up evocative memories of my youth about what the future might look like (remember the classic film Blade Runner – it was set in 2019/2020). 2020 is how one describes perfect vision. I was focused and ready for an amazing 2020 – or so I thought. In reality, I was only ready for the 2020 of my vivid imagination and dreams. I do not think any of us were ready for the 2020 that we actually got. By all accounts it has been a terrible year, certainly one of the worst ever for me. I have already written about this, so I am not going into it again here. Rather, I want to focus on the 2020 harvest that we are in currently in the middle of. Every harvest is a bit nutty and unpredictable, but for some unknown and very cruel reason, the 2020 vintage has been nearly unbearable. Despite the challenges of a global pandemic, we were looking at a picture perfect harvest. We had enough rain to saturate and cleanse our soils in the winter. Yields looked fairly normal. Budbreak was slightly delayed so it looked like another later vintage (we prefer later vintages). By most accounts, again in spite of all the bad news, most of us growers were still maintaining a positive attitude. I wanted (I always want) to craft our best wines ever this year as a giant middle finger to Covid. I wanted to win, even as our world was losing. Well, mother nature had an entirely different plan for us. She threw 3 devasting heat waves at us. We clocked 112 on the now infamous Sunday in early September (9/6/20). This record high literally scorched the south-facing side of several of our prized blocks. Just as temps returned towards normal, we had 2 more heat spikes in early October that reached into the low 100s. We are a famously cool climate, one of the coolest in California, but this year was not a “cool” vintage by any stretch of the imagination. The heat has reduced yields and increased concentration, so 2020 will be a smaller vintage of impressively dark wines for us. Despite all of this troubling news, we are the lucky ones this year. Other parts of the west not only suffered through Covid and heat – they had the added devastation of another harvest marred by fires. Our hearts break for our friends and neighbors north of us that found themselves in a waking and recurring nightmare of out of control fires. Their resiliency and tenacity are daily inspiration for me to keep moving forward, when in reality, I just want to stay in bed for the rest of the year. I am reminded of a book that I read about Churchill this summer, called The Splendid and the Vile. The name comes from John Coville’s contemporaneous diaries of life alongside Churchill, as his private secretary. Coville described the sight of bombs falling on London as both Splendid and Vile – strangely beautiful and absolutely horrific. Churchill famously ran up to the rooftops (sometime with a glass of wine) to watch the bombing raids on his beloved city. Though sheltered and sequestered, he wanted to be as close to the devastation as possible. He leaned way into the war and it reminded him daily of what was at stake. 2020 is not even close to what the world faced or witnessed during WWII, but there is some inspiring fortitude to be found in learning how the world kept putting one foot in front of the other. The 2020 vintage is both a masterpiece and a horrific sight. It is both Splendid and Vile. Just the opportunity to grow and harvest grapes this year has been a beautiful miracle. It has kept me moving forward and thinking ahead. It has been a real gift, despite the challenges. Though I cannot imagine life without wine, it is very much a luxury, conceived and crafted through the millennia to bring traditions and joy into our lives. I raise a glass to all of you and your loved ones and neighbors and friends in hopes of a better tomorrow. All of us at AMV hope that our wines bring some joy into your lives. We can and will get through this and more than ever, WINE is the answer! Thank you very much for your continued support of our family farm and winery,
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