This weather is crazy. We have had way too many nice spring-like days to only be in the middle of February. In fact, January only had 13 nights at freezing or below, and only one night in single digit temperatures [degrees F]. This winter has had a similar feel to the winter and spring of 2012, where we had a couple of weeks of truly 'winter' weather, with the rest of the time spent in nice, mild southern California like weather. And while I love that kind of weather, it tricks the vines into thinking cold weather is past us, and they start to do what they are supposed to do: Grow.
In 2012, we had 100% bud break by 26 March at Addison Farms Vineyard, and then on 12 and 13 April, we had frost. The Sangiovese had 6" shoots, and the Cabernet Franc had shoots 1-3" long. It caused significant damage in the Sangiovese, and slightly less damage in the Cabernet Franc. It should have been the first year of fruit from both varieties, but the Sangiovese did not produce appreciable fruit that year; it was almost entirely secondary buds and they were all but fruitless. We picked so little Sangiovese that we just added the fruit to the 2012 Chambourcin, which is the fruit that became our current-release Gratitude. From the Cabernet Franc, we picked just shy of 1200 pounds, and that is right at the average production for those vines 2012-2016. Our 2016 Cabernet Franc yielded exactly one pound more than 2012.
We have delayed the start of winter pruning, and it is not laziness that is the driver behind that. Because it has been so warm, we are seeing some bud swell in the very distal portions of the vines, especially the Sangiovese. By delaying pruning, I am hopeful that we will delay bud break in the portion of the vine that we intend to keep. When we leave the vine unpruned, we are sending most of the energy to the most distal parts of the vine, the parts that we are going to cut away, and delaying growth in the more basal buds. That is the theory, at least. Keep your fingers crossed for us.
If you missed the 2017 perfect pairings at Addison Farms Vineyard, you really might want to consider keeping your eyes open for next year's event. We have worked with the incredibly talented Chef Corey Marino of Catering by Corey for four years now. Her food is amazing, and her personality is just as wonderful. Each year I think it can't get any better, and each year, she raises the bar.
We have a bit of exciting news to share about our wines. We entered the 2017 NC Fine Wines competition with our 2013 Mischief [Tempranillo] and our 2014 Five Twenty-Nine. Both showed very well, with the Mischief bringing home a bronze medal and the Five Twenty-Nine being selected to be part of the inaugural NC Fine Wines case. Five Twenty-Nine did not win the red vinifera category, but it was one of the next six highest-scoring wines submitted to the competition. Out of 145 wines that were entered, it made the cut for one of the top 12, and we are very excited about being one of the top 8%.
Back in December, the French Broad Vignerons did a Benchmark event where they took four gold medal winning wines from the 2016 Asheville Wine and Food Festival and compared them to 'benchmark' wines from the west coast and Europe. Our 2013 Structure, 100% Cabernet Franc, faced off in a double-blind comparison with Wine Spectator rated 90 point wines selected by the good folks at Toast, with the judging being done by AWS-certified wine judges. And we showed well in that event, outscoring both of the benchmark wines. To say we are excited by results like that is a serious understatement. Now all we have to do is continue to do that year after year, wine after wine, but we are going to enjoy this moment for just a little longer.