Tag Archives: Wine

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.

 

 

Harvest 2014: Week 2- How to Decide When to Pick Pinot Noir

Up until late last week Brix were climbing rapidly. Then in the middle of the week we had some showers come through which has slowed the progression. We’ve now had foggy mornings and cool nights returning, finally! While at the beginning of last week it seemed certain that Pinot Noir would come in late this week, the game has changed, which it always does with Pinot. So how does one go about deciding to pick Pinot Noir?

1) Observe the Cluster and Pick a Berry

20140811-083927-31167250.jpg

Try to pick from different spots from each cluster you sample including the front, back, top, and bottom.

2) Chew the Berry, separating the seeds and the skin from the pulp.

20140811-084117-31277780.jpg

Spit out the seeds in your hand to observe how brown they are. These are getting close to ripe. I’m not a huge proponent that Pinot seeds need to be brown but it helps in determining where the grapes are in development.

3) Chew the skins to macerate them to determine color development and extract-ability.

20140811-084400-31440739.jpg
I normally just spit out the juice and observe the color before it hits the ground but since this takes considerable practice the easier method (although slower) is to squeeze the skins in your fingers until the juice runs out. Observe the color in the juice.

20140811-084555-31555003.jpg

20140811-084611-31571284.jpg

This is fairly dark for Pinot so it looks like it will be a good color year for this variety.

4) Taste the flavors and acid balance. No pictures to assist here. Just make sure the balance is good, the acid is fresh, and the flavors are coming around. Pinot is deceiving because often flavors exist at lower Brix that are not readily apparent in the berries. Often, if you wait for fully developed flavors you’ve missed your ideal acid so I tend to rank acid development higher in Pinot than any other sign of ripeness.

That all being said, if the mornings continue to stay cool then our first Pinot will come in next Monday. However, if we lose the fog and it really starts to heat up it may still be this Friday.

Six California’s and What that Would Mean to Wine

There is a movement currently to break the state of California into six separate states. Read more about the plan here. I could see some positives to the plan such as bringing law creation to a smaller group of people. Let’s face it what works for Napa doesn’t always work for San Diego and bringing this hugely fragmented demographic into agreement takes equally huge amounts of negotiation.  I highly doubt that this will get much farther than it already has but it definitely got my wheels turning thinking about the consequences of such a movement on our industry.  If one only considers the ramifications to the wine industry one quickly realizes the impossibility of this plan.

1) Say goodbye to “California” Appellated wine. This is by far and away the most important issue that this plan will bring up.  Political AVAs are defined by political boundaries therefore anything grown in the Central Valley would have to be listed as “Central California”. You also can not blend wines from multiple states without losing all appellations and just calling it American. Gone would be the days of mixing Central Valley and Central Coast wines (split into two states, Silicon Valley and West California) and it probably would drive further industry out of the Central Valley.

2) What happens to regional AVAs that span multiple states? Under this plan, both the North Coast and the Central Coast will be spread over two states.  Will they end up like Carneros and be defined as the AVA only or will you have to say North Coast – Jefferson or North Coast – North California, which in a way kind of defeats the purpose of the North Coast appellation.

3) Water. Some of the most populated proposed states don’t have their own water sources. Water has already become a huge issue between counties. What would the motivation be for states with water to share it if their own people needed it?

4) Distribution. With six states brings opportunity for six new different distribution laws. Maybe one of the states decides to go to a control state like Pennsylvania.

On the positive side, maybe we can petition to change the name of the state currently suggested to be called Northern California into Wineland? It might be more appropriate considering Silicon Valley gets to keep its pop culture name.

Seriously, this is a crazy plan. Hopefully calmer heads prevail.