Tag Archives: Harvest 2014

Harvest 2014: Week 7- Bring on the Bordeaux

This past week’s heat wave has really kicked things off in the Bordeaux world. We started bringing in a significant quantity of Merlot and some Cabernet Franc last Thursday and it will only continue through the next few weeks. So far we are seeing good quality but very high Malic acids. At harvest the pHs and TA’s look great until you factor in the loss from the ML conversion. That reveals a different story. We had a similar problem last year resulting in higher than normal pHs. Our average was around 3.8 which probably seems normal for many Napa winemakers but is a bit high for our house average which tends to be lower. We are true to the vintages however, and both 2013 and 2014 have very clear personalities. Overall extractability seems lower this year than last year and the colors don’t seem as dense although I have no color numbers to back that up this year. It’s more gut feeling based on what I’m seeing in the fermentations. What does that mean for winemaking? We are having to work the skins harder to get the same amount of material (color and tannins) out of them than we did last year when the skins just threw color at you. That means cap management is critical this year and controlling the rate of the fermentation is important. The faster the fermentation, the less time you have to extract positive attributes. So far the yeast seem very happy and willing to ferment quickly. Even a few tanks of Pinot Noir wanted to go native so we allowed them if the fruit was clean.

The whites have seen similar good fermentations with speedy drops and healthy yeast. Chardonnay is about 1/2 finished and we brought our last Sauvignon Blanc in this past week. We have also picked our first Muscat from Wappo Hill for the Mocasto d’Oro.

I’ll start sleeping better once all the Pinot Noir is dry but so far so good. It’s too early to tell if the Bordeaux varieties will be as nice to us.

Harvest 2014: Week 3 – To Kalon I Block

I was walking vineyards this morning but it was a little like walking into a time machine.  Instead of highly manicured, neat rows, I was trudging through a jungle-like atmosphere.  The vines surrounding me are grisly and ancient with long twisting arms swirling like frozen maelstroms.  The fruit is hidden beneath umbrella-like canopies, some green, some golden, all delicious.

20140814-142722-52042383.jpg

I have great respect for living things.  I have even greater respect for living things that have survived on this earth for longer than I have.  I’m referring to the grizzled, time tested vines of To Kalon’s I Block.  Planted in 1945, this may be the oldest planting of Sauvignon Blanc in North America.  They are head trained, dry farmed (non-irrigated) behemoths with crusty, cracking trunks and erratically shifting arms.  This morning I had the distinct pleasure of walking through I Block with fellow winemaker, Rich Arnold.  California is in a drought; a REALLY BAD drought.  None of the vines in I Block have seemed to notice very much.  There are a few yellowing basal (leaves at the base of the canes down near the fruit) leaves here and there but for the most part this block looks completely unaware, as if to say “Drought? What drought?”  The leaves are green and happy, facing the sun this morning since the fog has cleared early today.  The fruit is unbelievably concentrated and complex with flavors of melons, spices, flowers, and fresh herbs.  That is even before more complex aromas will be unlocked and unleashed during the fermentation process.

20140814-143332-52412151.jpg

I Block will be picked this week.  The flavors and the acids are approaching the right balance and the sugar is along for the ride in this block.  It is usually a very restrained Brix level, generally under 23 Brix.  This year looks no different.  It seems to have escaped the stresses that the irrigated Sauvignon Blanc are showing this year lending credence to the theory that dry farmed vines are not as affected by vintage variation as irrigated ones.  I’m looking forward to working with this fruit in the winery and understanding more about how the team here brings out the amazing characters that are already clearly apparent in the fruit.

Robert Mondavi Winery 2011 To Kalon I Block Fume Blanc* 

Personality: Unbelievably Unique

Aromas of ginger, white flowers, chalk, and dry herbs. Bright acid, dry palate with full body and intense flavors of lime zest, melons, fresh peach, spices, and minerals with a long finish.  Amazing wine!

* Disclosure: For those of you who don’t know, I am one of the winemakers for Robert Mondavi Winery and generally avoid posting tasting notes for wineries that I work for however this is a very special wine and posting the note tied in with the harvest blog this week so I chose to do so.