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.
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.
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.