California 2008: quality over quantity

The 2008 California growing season had it all: frost, wind, drought, heat and smoke from massive wildfires. With more adversity than vintners are accustomed to in this typically easy-peasy region, winemakers delivered what appear to be high-quality wines, though with 15% to 40% less wine to sell, depending on location and producer.

The roller-coaster ride began in spring, when frost throughout the state hit at bud break, damaging tender buds that didn’t have sprinkler and/or wind-machine protection. Growers were on frost alert for as many as 35 consecutive nights – unheard of in California – as temperatures dipped below 30...