November 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
We’ve recently been focusing more on which of our wines are ageing well, or not well, or in any way different or unique from what we’d been expecting, in an effort to understand the vineyards a bit more, and move toward bottling longer lasting wines. A good quote I’ve heard of winemakers is that if you’re not concerned with how your wines are ageing, then you’re not taking your job seriously.
The 2010 Petit Manseng was the first wine we made exclusively for the Wine Club, and is the only Estate Club Select wine we’ve made consistently every vintage since its inception. We’ve been thrilled to see the many incarnations of Petit Manseng as it reflects the recent Virginia vintages. It’s a wine that can be made into numerous styles here, and we like to base this on what Mother Nature gives us. We often say we’re going to wait to see what the Petit Manseng “wants” to be before we pick and begin our winemaking.
The 2010 Petit Manseng – Harvested September 6th at 26.2 brix, 3.27ph. We didn’t want to let the yeast go to dryness here (and could they have?), so we allowed fermentation to swallow about 24 of the brix, leaving a nice round RS on the body and finish. Entirely barrel fermented, with 33% new French Oak. Overall the wine is a high alcohol, off dry white, maybe (hopefully?) in the style of some of the bigger whites from Alsace. At bottling, great nutty aromatics, wild fruits, and a nice bold structure.
The 2011 Petit Manseng – Harvested September 20th, at 22.7 brix, 3.05ph. More of an austere style, due to slowness in ripening. Very high acid, and almost no RS on the finished wine. Again, all oak, all French, 25% new. This wine is still not at its peak, but the acid and strong varietal aromatics make it better for food than most of the other whites we bottle. Drastically different style than the 2010.
The 2012 Petit Manseng – Harvested September 11th, at 26.4 brix, 3.09ph. Still in barrel, still undergoing our battonage program, not to be bottled for five or six more months, this is my favorite PM we’ve made. Very stunning, clean, almost pinpoint specific aromatics of nutmeg, stone fruit, thai spice, and honey. Great depth from these vines. We played with the idea of letting it hang for a late harvest, but backed away when things were tasting so great, and I’m happy with our decision.
The Sunset Hills Vineyard 2010 Estate Club Select Petit Manseng – Really coming into its own in terms of varietal characteristics – honey, papaya, ginger, clove, and that distinct smooth cheese rind tangy quality we often see in Virginia Petit Mansengs. The oak impact has lightened over the past year, so there’s more integration, a better whole. Lightly sweet, very broad and open in the palate – lots of open space, lots of room to breath. Wonderful lingering spice. Lively, energetic, still quite youthful. Will this be the best ageing white wine that we produce? What’ll it taste like in another year?
November 14, 2012 § Leave a comment
“Seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing Sun.” – John Keats
The Harvest Itself
We couldn’t be happier. Virginia was dealing with a lot of curveballs in 2012 – radically early budbreak, major frost concerns, a pattern of hot, wet, cold, hot, wet, cold (which kept us on our toes for the entiretly of the growing season), an extended vegetative growth period, uneven ripening, the usual storm concerns in late summer / early fall. The dice all landed our way, though, and we were able to see nearly all our blocks through to full ripeness, making picking decisions based entirely on winemaking, never picking simply because we had to.
The wines seem to have potential for a refined, focused quality, with some varietals being bigger and more full-fleshed. Alcohols will be in the mid-range – 13% for Chardonnays, 13.5% for Viogniers, maybe a tad higher for some of the reds. Extraction is good, as fruit quality was high and fermentations were quite clean. As we stand, everything is in barrel or tank, and the reds are undergoing malolactic fermentation. We’re performing battonage on whites and reds this year, aiming for the depth and sappy quality of our 2009 reds.
Our New Vineyards
This harvest was the first harvest for us from both the Catesby Springs vineyard and the Shenandoah Springs vineyard, both of which Sunset Hills purchased in the 2011 / 2012 winter. From these vineyards we made an array of wines – Chardonnay, Viognier, Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Tannat, Petit Verdot, and both a Chambourcin port, and a rosé of Chambourcin.
Shenandoah Springs proved to be a powerhouse this year, allowing ample hangtime for healthy, slow-ripening fruit. The Chardonnays made from this vineyard are exemplary for us. We have two blocks of Cabernet Franc, as well as one of Petit Verdot and Tannat. It’s a little early to say anything definitive about these reds, but based on fruit quality the Tannat looks like an Estate Club bottling, and the Cabernet Francs should be strong. As a whole the vineyard perfomed excellently.
Catesby Vineyard proved more difficult for us, but ultimately very rewarding. Vegetative growth here continued for weeks after veraison, due to July and August jumps between hot and cold, as well as rainfall in late summer. Fruit ripening was delayed. We held off on picking with some varietals till the very end – just a week or so before the heavy fall storms in late October. We have a perfumed, expressive Traminette, a delicate Viognier, a hearty Petit Verdot, and a lush, open, ripe Vidal Blanc from this vineyard.