February 2012 Estate Club Shipment

January 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

The February 2012 shipment includes our first released 2010 red, and our first released 2011 white.  Some very interesting wines showcasing some very interesting years!

Sunset Hills Vineyard 2011 Chardonnay

Our 2011 Chardonnay comes from the oldest estate vineyard, in Purcellville, VA.  Due to the inclement weather (an understatement) of the 2011 harvest, fruit was first sorted in the vineyard, then sorted as it was picked, then chilled and, when we were satisfied that no rot was present, pressed.  Winemaking followed much the same style that we’ve utilized in the past, with a few small changes: the wine was fermented cold in stainless steel (and a few barrels), then racked from its lees and left to settle out naturally.  Our standard Chardonnay is meant to be a reflection of the vineyard, and so we try not to intervene in the cellar unless absolutely necessary.

With regard to the 2011 season (a difficult year to say the least) I feel we’re putting a very strong foot forward with this Chardonnay.  The wine is highly aromatic, with the usual banana, pear, and peach qualities we’ve come to expect from these vines.  What’s great about the 2011 whites is their acidity and length.  Relative to the previous two years, these wines have more texture and staying power, more of a depth than the broad palate we saw in some of the 2010 whites.  This wine is 100% single vineyard, 100% Chardonnay.


Sunset Hills Vineyard Estate Club Select 2010 Syrah

 Our first Syrah!  You don’t encounter many Virginia Syrahs, which is a bummer, because many of the wines are quite wonderful.  I became interested in doing a Syrah here after having a number of good Virginia examples that illustrated a number of different ways the wine could be made here: Horton, Tarara, Delaplane, and Doukenie all make wonderful Syrahs, as do many others. 

 The 2010 season was a red wine paradise all throughout Virginia.  It was as close to an ideal year for red wines as we can hope to have.  The Syrah fruit came from Berry Hill Vineyard, in Orange, VA, which is one of the older Virginia vineyards and certainly one of the oldest Syrah vineyards in the state.  We’ve used fruit from this vineyard as blending components of many of our wines, and I was very excited to have the opportunity to use their Syrah.  The vineyard produces consistently pretty fruit with a nice granular tannin quality, and very strong aromatics – some very unique wines within Virginia.


This Syrah also includes a bit of Merlot, from our vineyards, to round out the tannins and add depth.  The blend saw about 20% new French oak for 12 months.  This is not an Aussie Shiraz – it’s brightly fruity, warm, open, delicate, very pretty, and very unique in comparison to many of our other red wines.  The 2011 Syrah will be an Estate Club only wine, and will not be available publicly after this shipment.

The Rough Prune

January 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

A few days ago when I arrived at work the vineyards were at 11 degrees, with a wind so powerful it was audibly loud from inside the winery.  We figured this was an ideal day to start rough pruning, a practice used to get the bulk of last year’s shoot wood out of the vineyard, so that during the actual fine pruning we can focus more on the pruning decisions and less on what to do with all the wood.

Unpruned Chardonnay

Unpruned Chardonnay - side view

Rough pruned Chard – side view

The idea is to cut out about two-thirds of the shoot wood, and remove it from the vineyard.  Often, we will leave what we call ‘options’ – shoots that may make better cordons than the cordons currently being used.  A vine may have no good ‘options,’ or it may have three or four.  Then, when we come through for the final pruning, a decision is made whether to continue with the same cordon or to utilize a new one.  This seems to be especially important with the older vines, and in our chardonnay, where some of the old wood has the potential to be housing diseases over the winter.  Best of all, with a large portion of the shoots already removed, it makes the final pruning much more peaceful – there’s no yanking shoots from the catch wires, trying to separate where the tendrils have clasped to each other or the wires.

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