So you want to make a Reserve wine?

Over the past week we’ve been finalizing our reserve blends at Souverain both for the Cabernet and the Chardonnay. I’ve more than once found myself staring at 6-9 different lots thinking “anyway we put these together is going to taste awesome because they all taste awesome on their own!” However let’s review how we got to these 6-9 awesome lots.

At harvest, during the vintage these wines were picked (2008 for the Cabs and 2009 for the Chards) we made a decision to ferment all our lots separately.  The Chardonnay gets barrel fermented and the best historical lots go into new French oak for primary.  Just like kids at a Canadian Hockey camp the most promising ones get the extra treatment.  (At this point if you haven’t read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell I highly recommend it!) Same goes for the Cabernet after primary is finished; the best lots get the best oak.  This further differentiates them from their other “older oak” lots.  Then after a long time of topping and lees stirring for the whites and Malolactic fermentation for the reds the time comes to start looking at what is going to make the cut for the brand.  We pull together all the lots and look at them from the perspective of is this good enough for the Alexander Valley Tier.  This is our largest distribution of wines consisting of Chardonnay (Buttery Beauties), Sauvignon Blanc (Zesty and Fruity), Merlot (Spicy and Smoky), and Cabernet Sauvignon (Power Punches).  If the wine isn’t good enough to make these blends it’s not going to get Souverain put on the label.  This is the first cut and most wines are good enough to stay in once they were planned to be in.

The second cut comes a few months later after the wines have had a chance to settle in to their environments (be it oak or otherwise).  We then take a look at the entire harvest to determine our best lots and these get a “place holder” put on them to denote that they should be looked at again for possible inclusion into the Reserve tier.  We make several Reserves including Chardonnay, Merlot, and of course Cabernet Sauvignon.  When it comes time to make the AV tier we go back to these “best” lots and pick out the best of the best.  These are the 6-9 really great lots that we’d like to include in the reserve.

At this point we start trial blending on a counter top to see what the best mix would be.  We’re trying to maximize the quality and enhance the complexity through blending really good lots together to make really great lots!  Any one of these I would have been more than happy to drink by itself but together they turn into something fantastic.  Once the blend is finalized we decide how many barrels of each lot we need to set aside and then go and check each individual barrel to make sure it is typical of the quality of the lot.  When dealing with only 10-15 barrels in a reserve lot even one bad barrel can cause the entire lot to be less than it should have been.

Once separated these barrels are set aside and babied over an extended aging period beyond what the AV tier saw which can be up to 1 year more in the case of the reds.  Once final blending has taken place before bottling, we’ve created our reserve wine!  There’s a lot of winemaking power put towards these small blends but it shows in the final product!

They all ended up to be Power Punches!

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