Last Saturday I noticed the first veraison (glossary) in our Cabernet Sauvignon, that is to say, the first sign of color. This is always a major signpost of the vintage because it is comparable to other vintages on a reliable basis and can be used for fairly reliable timing decisions. It's always a little odd to me that Cabernet seems to go through veraison earlier than Merlot, yet we normally harvest Cabernet after Merlot. it probably says something about why Cabernet is king (like there's more tannin, smaller berries, more concentration, etc).
Once I made the observation, I noted last year's data and saw that we are tracking about 2 weeks LATER than last year (2005) which was one of the latest harvests anyone could remember. It's also interesting that 2004 was one of the earliest harvests on record. What's up with that? It's not difficult to see why most of us laugh when anyone mentions a "normal" year.
So, am I worried that we will have a hopelessly late vintage this year or that there won't be enough precious "hang-time" for the grapes to ripen properly? Not really. I love how the old timers say "it always evens out in the end" and, I have to say, that has been my observation. At this point I won't plan on a working Labor Day but maybe a working Halloween. Let the real excitement begin!