Tag Archives: Souverain

A Reserve Tasting and Answering the Old Sulfite Question…

These past few weeks seem like they are anything but calm.  They’ve been packed with pre-harvest meetings and get togethers with friends that I’m not likely to see until harvest is over.  One of the highlights was a tasting class I taught down at Cellar 360 in San Francisco.  We had a great turn out and tasted through some fantastic wines.

Cellar No. 8 Sonoma County Chardonnay (Black Label)

Buttery Beauty

See post here for tasting notes.  http://www.novacadamatre.com/?p=98

Souverain 1997 Stulmuller Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Elegant and Floral

Souverain 2006 Stulmuller Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Power Punch

Both of these wines were holding up very well.  The 05 was much more forward fresh fruit of raspberry and boysenberry while the ’97 as would be expected was more dried cherries and currants with silky soft tannins.

Souverain 2001 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Power Punch

Souverain 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Power Punch

These wines were both powerful with chalky ripe tannins and intense blackberry notes.  The 2001 showed a bit of dried sage on the nose while the 05 was almost all blackberries and spice.

Souverain 1997 Winemaker’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Spicy and Smokey

Souverain 2006 Winemaker’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Power Punch

The older vintage of this wine is so wonderful right now.  It has velvety soft tannins, spicy notes, and lush fruits with charming hints of chocolate and coffee.  The ’05 was much more intense with dark chocolate tannins, blue and black berries, fresh oregano, and baking spices.

It just goes to show what a little patience can do when aging a wine.

The discussions of the night ranged from how to tell how long a wine would age to the old stand-by “Why does wine give me headaches? Is it the sulfites?”

So…Why does wine give you headaches? Is it the sulfites???

First ask yourself do you generally get headaches more with red or white wines?

If you answered red then the answer to the sulfite question is No!  Sulfites are typically higher in white wines so if you answered whites you may have a low level sulfite reaction.  High level sulfite reactions are very similar to reactions to bee-stings with a wide range of unpleasant symptoms so you absolutely would know if this is the problem.  Only about .5% of the entire population actually has a sulfite reaction so this is unlikely to be the culprit.

So the question then becomes why do red wines give you headaches???  This is because of the Malo-lactic (ML) fermentation that most red wines and some whites (mainly Chardonnay) goes through to develop softer mouthfeel and the buttery character in Chardonnay that is so popular.  The bacteria that complete the fermentation give off biogenic amines, a type of histamine, which your body reacts to similar to hay fever or other allergies.  Most of the time, the results are mild and go away quite quickly.  If it becomes problematic but you still want to enjoy wines, seek out wines that have not gone through ML.  This would be most whites and early released red wines like Beaujolais Nouveau.

Quick Harvest Update…

Well it looks like grapes will begin arriving in about 2 weeks to Asti.  The cool weather has been very aggravating and has delayed the fruit quite a bit.  I’ve seen trees beginning their fall color change as well as geese beginning to flock for their annual migration, all signs of an early winter.  That is very bad.  The only saving grace we may have would come from an Indian summer.  Let’s hope it warms up soon.

It’s a tough job but someone has to do it… :)

Every now and then there are days where I get frustrated at the world in general but those are fairly rare.  There are also days where I have to pinch myself that I get paid to make wine.  I had one of those days this week where the other winemakers and I were able to sit down, open a couple of bottles of wine, and pitch around tasting notes for marketing.  First I love writing tasting notes and it’s not often when you get a couple of people in the same room just discussing the wine for the sake of writing a single note.  It’s fun.  The power of suggestion definitely comes into play as distinctive descriptors are thrown around and mulled over by everyone else.  The wines are already in the bottle so we’re not trying to decide if we need to blend something in or make another addition.  It’s purely the winemakers trying to pull out the best ideas as to how to describe our wine now.  The four wines’ notes are listed below.

Souverain 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, Alexander Valley

Zesty and Fruity

A clear lemon core with moderately intense aromas of key lime, passion fruit, mango, and wet chalk introduces this wine.  A dry palate with moderately high acid, Med + alcohol, and a tiny bit of oak tannins for texture finishes with flavors of lime zest, guava, wet chalk, and passion fruit with a moderate and clean length. Pair with fresh salads, herb crusted salmon, or roast chicken with tarragon sauce.

Souverain 2008 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay, Russian River

Buttery Beauty

A medium-gold core and intense aromas of pineapple, honey, and caramel are accented by a wisp of smoke on the nose.  A dry, creamy palate filled with poached pears, cardamom, caramel, and honeycomb balances a toasted French oak backdrop. Drink now or hold for more development of honeyed notes on the palate. Enjoy with blue cheese, creamy sun-dried tomato sauce over pasta, or cinnamon poached pears.

Souverain 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley

Power Punch

A deep ruby core is highlighted by intense aromas of blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, chocolate, cedar, and baking spices.  The dry palate and moderate acid are perfectly balanced by velvet textured tannins.  Flavors of chocolate, cloves, black cherry, ginger, cigar box, and lavender tease the senses leading to a long luxurious finish.  This wine will shine for years either by itself or paired with juicy steaks or Black forest cake.

Souverain 2006 Winemaker’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Power Punch

An amazing nose filled with black cherry, wild blackberries, cloves, and pomegranates highlighted by a deep ruby color is the introduction for this lovely wine.  Dry with dusty, fine grained tannins that mesh with baking spices, black fruits, and Tahitian vanilla for a long, lively finish is just the beginning of this wine’s life.  With the capacity to age over 15 years while developing richer notes of black mission fig and dates, this wine is a collector’s dream. When paired with the finest cuts of pepper crusted, aged beef this wine truly shines.

I love my job!!! 🙂

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!