March 13, 2012 § 4 Comments
Sunset Hills Vineyard 2011 Viognier
Two-thousand and eleven was an exciting year for our viognier plantings. Not only was our initial planting in Vineyard #1 finally reaching a nice level of maturity, but our Vineyard #3 block was on its third leaf, and looking very healthy. So we were excited to learn more about each block of vines and their resulting wines in addition to the fruit we bring in from Maggie’s Vineyard, in Purcellville, VA, which has been a nice building block for our viognier blend since 2008.
Full ripeness was difficult in 2011 with viognier. Due to the rains, the fruit was left hanging nearly 1 month longer than in 2010 (26 days on average), and roughly 5-10% of clusters were dropped to the vineyard floor to avoid any unripe and/or rotten fruit. We took extra care in picking the fruit, in sorting the wine before it hit the press, and in settling out all solids before fermentation began. The resulting wine – a blend of four different vineyards, all picked at different times, half fermented in neutral oak and half in stainless steel – shows a wide range of varietal characteristics, ranging from green melon and lime down to ripe melon, apricot, and a hint of white flower.
A bonus we’ve been seeing with most of the 2011 whites is the length of acidity. The wines are lean and delicate with an acidic structure that was certainly missing in our 2010s, and that should help the wines sit at a table with a wider array of foods. The 2011 Viognier is tasting nicely now and will most likely round out a bit over the next year. It is a long-awaited addition to our tasting menu.
Blend: 96% Viognier, 4% Petit Manseng
Sunset Hills Vineyard 2010 Merlot
I’ve been excited about this wine since before we even picked the fruit. 2010 was an über-ripe year for our Merlot blocks – all picked somewhere between 24.6 and 26.4 brix; all picked with very clean fruit, great skin pigmentation, ripe seeds, dense, concentrated flavor. We were given an endless string of days on which to pick, and thus were better able to focus on the day-to-day ripening of small, individual vineyard blocks, and pick when flavors were really bursting. Not a worry in the world.
To emphasize the potentially lush, jammy, hedonistic qualities of this wine, we performed an obsessively-thorough post-destemmer sorting to rid the fermentation of all things green and non-grape, and allowed the grapes an extended cold soak as well as a longer post-fermentation maceration. The wine was then aged for 14 months in oak, mostly French, about 15% of which was new, after which it was blended together with a bit of Cab Franc and Petit Verdot to help lift aromatics and tannic structure. No fining was performed. The wine was bottled in January 2011 and will be released through this shipment in April 2012.
Blend: 82% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 9% Petit Verdot