2020 + 2021 rough west coast vintages

Not sure how much more crappy news can come from the West Coast. Maybe there should be “bad news” thread… Between smoke taint and now massive drought issues.

-No 2020 cabs from Shrader (who is next to announce?)
-Willamette Valley 2020 Pinots questionable
-No Griffin’s Lair harvest - my personal fav Bedrock Syrah (Severe drought forces one of Sonoma's foremost Syrah vineyards to make no wine this year)

Only one vineyard dropped all their fruit. I wouldn’t read too deep into that. Sangiacomo Vyd next to Griffin’s didn’t drop their Syrah.

Ken Wright told me he thought that lots of winemakers panicked about 2020 and that the vintage should actually be pretty good with little actual damage from smoke. I’m a bit worried about this weekend’s heatwave but the June one didn’t worry me. I think yields will be low so hopefully even an early harvest would still yield some good, albeit short-lived wines.

All of the 2020’s I’ve had from CA and WA have been excellent! As for vintage 2021, I’ve heard that there will be small yields and I’ve seen the small clusters from friends. Both of these together usually lead to excellent wines!!

The next 2020 Pinot from Oregon I taste with fruit picked after about 9/10-9/12 that is not smoke damaged in some manner (from minor and drinkable to complete refuse) will be the first.


I think it’s too early to tell the quality of these vintages from just a few select examples, and the 2021 is still happening as we speak.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to extrapolate a vintage’s characteristics from a few early on examples. The West Coast has very varied wine regions, even just within each individual state, thse vintages affected AVAs different. The 2020 vintage in Napa is different from say, Santa Ynez Valley’s. So we really ought to be more specific when discussing vintage characteristics.

We’re fortunate to have several winemakers active on this forum, and it’d be interesting to hear their thoughts on how the 2020 and 2021 vintages relate to some earlier vintages like 2018, 2018, and 2019.

i would, and am, putting my money on 18 and 19 over 20. Doesnt mean there wont be some great Napa wines, but it is hard to argue there wont be less of them given the number of high quality producers that are not releasing or radically reducing their 2020 production. If Roy Piper or similar produce a 2020 i would buy confidence but i will be more circumspect broadly, both because of temps and smoke. I would say the same about Travis Allen and similar in Washington.

Good vintage down here in Santa Barbara County in 2020 in case anyone cares. . .


Same here - 2020 in Lodi and Santa Ynez were both good. I think 2021 will be very much lower yielding (which sucks for farmers), but that normally means nice concentrated flavors. I start my harvest end of next week already, which is early. Due to the extreme heat, my strategy is to pick even earlier than last year to keep acid levels in good range.

from what i can tell from podcasts and the like it seems like it was really hard to escape smoke taint in oregon on reds anywhere you look in 2020, but that it was just hard work to avoid it in CA. oregon the fires were just so close to the valley that the large particles were too close, CA being spread out a little more seems to have helped (with some major exceptions in pockets of course). not to downplay the problem in CA by any means because obviously there are a ton of devastating examples though.

2021 i am nervous about, but we will see. harvest is just getting under way in CA and the bedrock posts so far have looked promising-although its sure an early harvest! mostly what i think we all need to be praying for is a lot of rain this winter.

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Harvest certainly has kicked in, and many of the picks are from warmer climate dry farmed vineyards that are just ripening really early. I just walked a few vineyards in SB County over the past two days and we still have a ways to go with most stuff - though I’m sure Sauv Blanc will begin rolling in soon as it always does and I know there’s been at least one pick of Pinot for sparkling . . .


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It’s been very cool and foggy on the coast in Santa Barbara County for the last month. I wonder what that means for harvest in Santa Ynez and Santa Rita Hills.

It’s actually been a heat wave and fire-free year on the Central Coast, which bodes well. Though also it’s another drought year. If the vines can handle the water deficit, it seems like there should be ample opportunity for flavor development without raisining or runaway sugars.

According to this report 2021 is looking very good or better in CA.


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We all know the story of 2020 so we will see as the wines are released.

Hopefully winemakers, growers and industry people will chime in but the weather in all of Sonoma County and I would assume Napa County has been very good. Warm spells but not overly hot. A couple of heat spells but they have not lasted long unlike other years (2017 and 2019) Also no fire or smoke damage here. This is a broad assessment and as I mentioned in an earlier thread the drought conditions are a bit of a wild card.

I am a buyer when the 2021’s are released unless something crazy happens in the next couple weeks. Actually most of the producers I enjoy have their fruit already picked.


Yup, pretty much what I said. One word of caution. Micro Climates out here are real. Weather in Sonoma-Napa has been great, less than 50 miles north around Ukiah has been HOT for much of the summer. It’s normally hot there but more so this year.


The vintage has gotten off to a relatively slow start here in Santa Barbara County. Most of the Sauvignon has been picked and all of the grapes for sparkling have. Folks are beginning to bring in pinot and chardonnay at this point, and the weather has been pretty darned nice - 80’s during the day dropping down to the low 50s at night, allowing the grapes to hold on to their natural acidity nicely.

At this point, I’ve only picked Gewurztraminer and my first Malvasia Bianca, but anticipate bringing in my first of my pinot picks by the end of the week, followed most likely by Clairette Blanche and Grenache Blanc not that long after. My rose picks - Cinsault and Mourvedre - are probably still 10-14 days off.



2021 for Napa is both cooler than average and extremely dry (until the last week.) It is drizzling and just 65F today but we will be 85-95F most of the next ten days. The dryness of this vintage has sent brix higher than usual for this time of harvest but the pH is normal for this time and this is causing some people to pick. Oakville and Rutherford vineyards I tested today with my refrac were 25-26 brix but probably no more than 3.45pH. If we can avoid fires for 14 days we will be home free with a very good vintage. Not at 2018/2019 level most likely but very good. All of us in Napa are living with PTSD and I have to keep telling myself not to pick because for my tastes it’s just not ready and is in fact ten days out. But every time I hear a siren in the distance I flinch.

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The question is whether or not TA’s are aligning with pH’s. We all know that there is ‘usually’ an inverse relationship, but in ‘abnormal’ years like this year, I’ve found that even though pH’s are remained relatively ‘normal’, acid levels are lower than what one may think.

Curious as to whether you are seeing the same phenomenon up there.


2020 was a very good vintage in OR and WA! Every single barrel of Pinot was excellent. Biggest problem was
de-selecting barrels for the less expensive blends. Smoke taint? Ha!

Paul Champoux’s Lady Hawk Vyd. Cab, dynamite.
Old Vine Zin, one of the great vintages.
Phinny Hill Merlot and Cab, excellent.
Gruner Veltliner, very good (this one does have a faint smokiness)

2021 is shaping up very nicely, though it’s fair to wait until it’s all in. So far, so good. Old Vine Zin came in gorgeous this week.

Peter Rosback