A relatively cool spring and summer in 2003 had many vineyards running behind schedule. However, heat storms in September really stressed the grapes at our young Butterdragon Hill vineyard. It became obvious that the choice was either harvest a particularly hard hit section early, or lose that crop totally. We brought in a few tons at less than optimum ripeness from that part of the vineyard: the only time in our 10 vintages that we've needed to make more than one harvest pass through the vineyard. Fortunately, the heat abated and we were able to give the remainder of the vineyard some additional hang time. The wines from these two harvest dates were vastly different in the barrel. We made the difficult financial decision that the first lot was not the quality we were striving for with our young brand. We "bulked off" that wine, selling it to another winery.
It would be nice if every vintage's story was all good news but that's not the way it is. It certainly isn't the case with the 2003 vintage. Even the wine that we retained for bottling gave us pause for concern. It was good, but it was very different than the big, bold, preceding 2002 vintage. The 2003 was less weighty and both aromas and flavors were more reticent in the barrel and right after bottling. We, the owners, were new at this and we had yet to learn that the only thing normal in in growing and making wine is that things are rarely "normal".
The 2003 Butterdragon took some time to come in to its own. For several years after release, it continued to gain weight and complexity, becoming a remarkably sophisticated and cultured wine. Looking back, it was an excellent learning lesson that our commitment to single vineyard designate Cabs would mean that we were going to have different wines each and every vintage. A "house style" is not something that we can grow or blend for. Right now, the 2003 Butterdragon Hill, while not a giant, ripe styled Napa Cabernet, may be our best drinking wine for your dinner table.