The 1998 vintage was a difficult year for growers, who had to contend with the machinations of an El Niño weather pattern that brought unusually cool weather and rain, both early in the spring and sporadically later in the season. The resulting fruit set was small and late. Temperatures in the summer ranged significantly from cooler than normal, to a few periods of heat where growers were concerned with sunburn. The result was uneven ripeness, irregular-sized berries, and an overall sluggish ripening.
Once again, hard work in the vineyard would be critical to getting the vines balanced and removing any unripe berries and bunches. A period of fine, dry, and warm weather finally arrived in late September, and the stubbornly late harvest got under way and continued into late October, with some wineries finishing as late as November. Notably, this was something that would not occur again until 2011.