Between the time that I wrote this column and the time you read it, the 2010 harvest will have shaped up to be a triumph or a disaster for Northern California winegrowers. Few analysts predict anything in between.
For all its electrostatic sprayers, rising-star winemaker dinners and other modern gloss, we forget that wine is essentially farming.
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This big sister of Asti's Spumante is low in alcohol (5 percent), delicate in fizz and loaded with the charm of freshly sliced peaches, pineapple and citrus. Sweeter for your sweets, the creamy texture of Ceretto's northern Italian bubbly partners with creamy dolce creme caramel, rice pudding, tiramisu then dances flavors across your palate and straight up to heaven.
Mother Nature brought us down to earth in 2010, and even the old-timers are scratching their heads as they watch the skies.
First came the cold. Throughout spring, record lows in temperature and highs in rain stalled grape development but spurred growth in vines, thirsty from last year's drought.
Mildew and rot followed, so growers dropped fruit and thinned the leafy vine canopy for maximum airflow and sun.
Only then came the sun, and with it, record-breaking heat. With vineyard temperatures reaching 120 degrees in August, the underdeveloped, overexposed grapes burned on the vine.
Now, growers are lavishing attention on their reduced crop, while they watch for cold autumn rain.
In Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley growers are combing vineyards berry-by-berry, leaving only the best fruit for harvest, according to Wine Growers of Dry Creek Valley President Glenn Proctor. "There's potential for another great Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel vintage."
So, in the 2010 harvest, the silver lining among all the clouds belongs to the wine drinker, if not the wine grower.
If the vintage can extend into November, grapes will reach ample maturity. While production will be small, it may be exceptional.
In other times, this would mean skyrocketing retail prices. These days, wineries are dropping prices as they work through previous vintages. To this wine shopper, the forecast says discount prices on fine wines waiting for me at my retailer, with another delicious vintage on the way.
Today's Napa Valley weather report calls for warm temperatures and scattered drizzles, pushing grape development into high gear.
But as we well know in Chicago, what happens next is up to Mother Nature.
• Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross writes Good Wine. Contact her at email@example.com.