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Vintage Notes

Our winemaking team tastes historical vintages periodically to see how our wines are developing over time. It’s an important part of learning more about our vineyard, the effect of that year’s harvest conditions, and specific blocks so that we continue to craft wines of increasing quality, depth, and texture.

Please contact us at guestservices@medlockames.com if you have questions about a specific wine or vintage that you’d like to discuss with our Winemaker, Abby Watt, or Co-Founder, Ames Morison.





The 2023 vintage was exceptional in so many ways and is expected to stand out as one of the finest. Beginning with a much-needed abundance of rainfall, a welcome relief after three years of intense drought, the vineyard came back to life with vibrant soil and canopies. A cool spring and summer allowed for a prolonged and gradual ripening period, resulting in exceptional phenolic ripeness and abundant flavors without excessively high sugar levels. Harvest kicked off later than usual, progressing at a steady pace that required lots of patience. This promises to be a vintage worth remembering and one that will let Bell Mountain truly express itself. We can't wait to savor the fruits of this extraordinary season.


The 2022 vintage hit records in so many ways. We had several rounds of severe frost including in areas where we normally don’t see frost. We had our latest frost on record during the middle of May which caused a significant crop loss. Nevertheless, we had high hopes for the vintage as we got closer to fall. During September we endured a record heat wave in which we had more than 8 days above 100 degrees with one day topping out at 119 degrees. Thankfully our canopies faired this weather well. 2022 is overdelivering on aromatic intensity, full flavor, and gentle tannins. Everything ripened a little earlier and we finished off the season with the smallest and earliest harvest on record, though we think perhaps some of the tastiest.


2021 vintage is one to remember. Vines enjoyed mild and ideal ripening weather throughout the summer and fall with very few days of intense heat spikes. This allowed us to pick at the ideal time for each variety and block at Bell Mountain Vineyard. The acidity held up as the flavor and fruit development continued with ample ripening time for an abundance of aromatic qualities and elegant fruit flavors to develop. Drought conditions for the 3rd consecutive year impacted vine vigor and crop potential. Berry and cluster sizes were on the smaller side but yielded a high concentration of flavor with increased skin to juice ratio. 2021 has some of the lowest yields since we’ve been farming Bell Mountain Vineyard, but this was surpassed with the exceptional quality of the wines.


With half the average rainfall during the winter and spring, there was very minimal vegetative growth. Cooler spring temperatures and a spurt of heavy rain during flowering led to a very light crop. The combination of these both created concentration, depth, and substantial density in the fruit. Several short heat spikes and a smaller crop load created optimal conditions for early ripening. We were fortunate to pick everything early, escaping any smoke damage from the devastating wildfires throughout California.


2019 offered nearly ideal growing conditions: a warm spring with some later rainfall set us up for good early season growth which was followed by a moderately warm summer that lasted well into October without any severe temperatures of untimely rainfall. These conditions allowed for a classic vintage.


The winter gave us less rainfall than normal. Almost all of the precipitation came in the early spring so the vineyard had a full profile of water to start the growing season. We saw good early growth, a few warm periods, but no severe heat spikes. The key ripening period in late summer and early fall was cool and sunny, delaying harvest by a week but allowing full flavor development. We were blessed with a vintage we always dream about: abundant fruit of excellent quality.


2017 was a year of extremes. The winter gave us twice our normal rainfall ending a five-year drought. The summer gave us more scorchers than we care to count! The season ended with the most devastating fire in California’s history. We hope to never see a year like this again. Despite the challenging growing conditions, we made some amazing wines – bright and aromatic Whites and Rosé plus supple, concentrated Reds. As with everything in winemaking, and farming in general, timing was key. Picking at the right moment made all the difference.


2016 was cool and overcast in May influencing the vines to set less fruit than normal. Fortunately the temperature rebounded and gave us one of our warmest years on record, but without the excessive temperature spikes we often see during warmer vintages. We also harvested earlier than in previous vintage. The result of these conditions was a lighter than expected crop (off by a third!), but with more intense aromatics and increased concentration, and generally lower alcohol.


Cool, overcast conditions in May influenced the vines to set less fruit than normal. Temperatures rebounded but without the excessive spikes we often see during warmer vintages. We harvested earlier than in past years. The result of these conditions was a lighter than expected crop with more intense aromatics, increased concentration, and generally lower alcohol.


Sunshine was the dominant theme with little rain throughout the growing season. The warm temperatures allowed for budbreak to occur in a timely fashion and worked nicely through veraison. A bit of rain in September suspended harvest momentarily giving just the extra time on the vine that is perfect on the Ranch. Harvest flew by and was completed on October 21st. Gorgeous color, concentrated flavors, and nice range of acidity.


A dry spring provided consistent, moderate temperatures that allowed grapes to slowly progress to optimal ripeness. A long period for veraison that was accelerated by warm weather in late August and September lead to harvest completing about three weeks earlier than usual. Grapes expressed true varietal character with balanced acidity.


Consistently warm, stable weather patterns throughout growing season with no spikes or heavy rains. Warm temperatures through September allowed grapes to ripen slowly and evenly. Near-perfect fruit with beautiful color and intense aromatics.


Cold, wet conditions in winter and spring led to delayed budbreak. Bloom was in late June while there was still rain so clusters and berries were smaller. The cooler weather allowed the grapes to hang on the vines longer without over-ripening, a nice bonus. Vintage produced wines with lower alcohol and nuanced flavors.


Most likely the most challenging year we’ve experienced, viticulturally speaking. A cold spring, late summer heat spikes, and early fall rains forced us to work hard this year to coax the best out of our vines. Not an easy one.


Rains came a little too soon for our liking and growers faced difficult decisions to pick early (when flavors are not ripe) or gamble and leave fruit hanging in the hope that it would mature after the rains but before the vines sensed winter and lay dormant. We braved the rains and are glad that we did.


A year with the right components but difficult timing...late frosts, high winds, and high temperatures all conspired to produce challenges.


In stark contrast to the challenging prior year, this delightful vintage was dry and consistently cool. The longer season allowed more refined, longer flavors and aromas to develop in tandem with even ripening and focused fruit. Often regarded as finest recent vintage in CA.


2006 was not the easiest vintage but some ruthless fruit thinning and careful babysitting helped get the vines closer to the point of optimal ripeness and balance.


The 2005 vintage offered us the perfect conditions for the style of wine we strive to make. The long, cool season allowed us to ripen our fruit without excessive sugar, which allowed us to keep our final alcohol below 14%.


A warmer than usual vintage resulted in a slightly earlier harvest. The year started off well with a warm and dry spring which helped promote even flowering and set. This even and balanced growth resulted in balanced ripening later in the season, though as temperatures increased late in the season our crew worked very hard to harvest at peak flavor.


Close to an ideal vintage for us. Consistent temperatures allowed for very even ripening with balanced fruit and spice at lower sugars and therefore alcohol levels.


A severe heat wave hit us on Labor Day and all of our vines began maturing very quickly. This presented a challenge to many growers but we worked hard to select the best clusters and remove the dehydration and sunburn that marked this vintage. Some higher than usual sugars.


A vintage that offered us nearly ideal growing conditions: a warm spring and cool summer, followed by a dry September. This is what we hope for every year. The cool summer, in particular allowed the flavors to develop slowly and completely, without raising sugar levels (and alcohol) too high.

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