Special Reserve Wines
Anyone who has engaged me on the topic knows I have special contempt for the word "Reserve" applied to wines. The term has been so over-used and abused that it has completely lost its essential meaning.
That said, I can't resist the draw of producing some really limited-production special bottlings that actually fit the true meaning of "reserve" wines.
This is a picture of the head of a very special barrel, one of just two that Tonnellerie Dargaud et Jaegle raised from a 300+ year-old "heritage" tree harvested from the Bertranges forest. This may be the most beautiful barrel I have ever seen, and the aroma of the wood is just sublime. It is amazingly complex and restrained compared to the other Bertranges barrels I received this year -- which are pretty spectacular in their own rights.
So here I go making another "RESERVE" wine. Since 2006 was our last harvest of old-vine Pinot Noir from the Haynes Vineyard, I decided to put some of the wine in this very special barrel to celebrate the final vintage of Westwood's 22-year run from this unique parcel.
If the wine turns out as well as I have every reason to expect it will, I intend to bottle it separately and package it appropriately -- definitely in a special bottle and perhaps only in magnums. And then we will see when I release it, and who has access to any of it. Heck, I may keep it all for myself.
Florida Loves Westwood
This past August a really fun group visited the Tasting Salon. They all looked so young they got carded (a gentleman should never ask, but a bartender must) and all were legal. Which was a good thing, as they had the chance to fall in love with the pre-release 1999 Sunny Oak Syrah.
I was finally able to ship some wine off to them this month. They sent me this picture of several from the group, showing their team spirit. Does my little winemaker's heart good...
One of the realities of harvest is that I have to get up before dawn a lot. You might think this would suck, and it often does. But sometimes in the quiet of the early morning, when I am setting up for pressing or barrel work, I get a reminder of why I love living in Sonoma. I caught this sunrise on the drive to the winery this morning.
2006 Harvest Debrief
Well, first of all it was BIG. After 2005 which was a huge
harvest for California we were justified in expecting the vines to be a little tired this year, and to set smaller crops. Maybe it was the warm (but not hot) Spring weather and the very heavy late rains
we had over 50" of rain this year (nearly 200% of normal), most of it came in March-April, and we got jungle vines
as a result but whatever the cause we were all surprised by how heavy
the crop ended up being in 2006.
In most cases, we would expect a heavy crop especially the second consecutive year of heavy crop to give us wines that (ahem!) lack concentration, or at least that certain je ne sais quoi
. This is not the case at all. On the contrary, I think the wines we have made this year
may turn out to have more stuffing than the 2005's
indeed they seem at this point to be somewhere between where the 2003's and 2004's were at this early stage in their developments. (EDIT: by harvest 2007 it is clear the 2006 wines are forward and pretty like 2004, not massive and closed like 2005 and 2007.)
I will freely own up that I screwed the pooch this year when it came to crop estimation. I knew
that my vineyard crew had not thinned as heavily as I had wanted, and I knew
that the crop was heavier than I was predicting, and I knew
that the error was probably 10-15%.
Doh! What do I
know!? Man, it is humbling to be off by 50% to 150% in your estimates. What's worse, this underestimating created more than one serious logistical headache not enough tanks, not enough barrels, not enough market to absorb the inventory. Call the "waaa"mbulance.
On the up side I got to do some really cool things this year. First, the new wood fermenters were a hit. They wanted to get too hot, but I was ready for this eventuality and avoided most of the potential problems that could arise from an overheated ferment. I absolutely love what the new wood contributed to the aromas and textures of the wines fermented in these tanks.
Second, after observing something interesting happening outside our neighbor Kamen Estate
winery last year, and talking with their consultant (and my long-time friend) Mark Herold about it this year, I dried stems
collected from the crush and returned them to the fermenter for a Syrah lot, our Tannat and our Mourvedre. I will have a lot more to say about this in a future post.
Third, I made a bunch of pink wine
this year. After the phenomenal reception we had for the one barrel of pink Grenache that I made last year I went ahead and made seven barrels
this year same quality, same "barrel-fermented-white-wine" approach to the process, but in 2006 we will have a blend of Grenache with Syrah, Mourvedre and Counoise. I'm excited about it.
Finally mostly, the facilities-sharing went well this vintage. I think everyone felt a real sense of camaraderie that was lacking last year. I'm happier that we are in our current location than I expected to be, and I think that the end of the vintage and the coming year shape up to be even more collaborative than has been the case to date. This is a good thing, and bodes well for enhancing the quality of our wines.
All In The Barn
I finally have all the grapes off. Yesterday we picked the last of the Syrah, and today it started raining -- hard.
A bunch of folks still have grapes hanging. Most area wineries are FULL -- over capacity -- and there is no place to put the fruit that now has to come off in the next couple of days to avoid being destroyed by rot. A friend came by yesterday begging T-bins and 48's to ferment in because all his own were full. I had nothing to offer but was able to hook him up with someone who had finished most of his ferments and had a few extra fermenters.
At first I thought I was experiencing a keen sense of schadenfreude
over having my stuff done while others are struggling. I've considered this, and determined that I am not taking joy in the miseries of others, so much as simply experiencing a keen sense of relief -- more like "there but for the grace of God go I" -- and happiness at my own good fortune. I don't know if there is a pretentious German word for this feeling.
It is too early for me to have much good to say about the vintage. Too many of the wines are not yet pressed, and I am physically exhausted and punchy from lack of sleep. And I have at least another month of fermentation and pressing before everything is safe in barrels. If I can even find enough barrels to put it all in. The bulk market is going to be flooded again.
Next missive -- some perspectives on the vintage.