Well, the 2013 grapes are all in, the smell of fermentations is just a memory, and the wine is resting comfortably in oak and stainless vessels. Outside of that, things are not quite returned to normal in the Canyon, or the entire Front Range, for that matter. Road construction crews continue trying to beat the snow season for establishing plowable roads, people are trying to salvage what they can from homes now that the waters have retreated, and the newly established path of all creeks and rivers feels like we live in a place never seen before. It was a September none will likely forget.
In California, the grapes all decided to ripen at the same time, causing winemakers and growers to scramble for the same two things, space and help. When all varietals are ready in the same few weeks, it causes a bit of a backlog in the winery, and definitely a shortage of picking crews. The weather for the 2013 growing season was early, warm, and very dry. The grapes were anywhere from 2-6 weeks earlier than they had been in the last few vintages. It looked like things were cooling down in August, but then a heat spike of 100+ temperatures for multiple days pushed the sugars right into the harvest zone. And harvest they did.
This year, we are working with fruit from a few new growers and some of our favorites from before as well.
New to the lineup is a Carneros Pinot Gris. Pinot Gris (also identical to Pinot Grigio) is an incredibly food-friendly wine. It has a very full, luscious palate weight, but fermentation and aging in stainless steel keep the flavors crisp and the acidity bright. Typical flavors include melon and pear, with a citrus and smoky mineral notes. Interestingly, this grape can be any color from bluish-silver to mauve-pink to ashen-yellow. Which means the resulting wines can vary in hue. It is a natural mutation of the Pinot Noir grape.
Our fruit was beautiful, coming from the family vineyard for Clarbec wines outside of the town of Sonoma. This wine was whole cluster pressed, cold-settled in tank for 2 days, and then racked to a clean tank for fermentation. After fermentation, the wine is racked again and left for clearing. This can take months, and this wine will be closely monitored, as it is goes into bottle young, preserving its delicate aromatics.
Also from Carneros this year, a single vineyard Chardonnay. Positioned just north of the San Pablo bay, grapes grown in this region benefit from the cooling Maritime breezes and fog layer at night. Chardonnay from Carneros typically shows layers of tropical fruit, melon, banana, honey and apple. The fruit was beautiful, our favorite new partner in Sonoma made sure of that, thank you Isaac Jenkins of Madrone Vineyard Management and Clarbec Wines (also responsible for the stellar Pinot Gris).
Unfortunately our Chardonnay arrived on Friday, September 13, which just happened to coincide with the timing of Boulder’s “biblical” flooding. Unable to retrieve our fruit from Boulder for many days, and then having a security checkpoint that most of our usual crush crew could not penetrate, along with no power, phones, water, internet, groceries, or sanity, I was pretty much ready to declare this shipment a total loss. But, as usual, Don wouldn’t have it. Never one to back down from a challenge (or let me just lick my wounds) he organized help, gave us a plan, and pushed us through to the bitter end. And end it did. Now, 6 weeks later, the Chardonnay is happily ensconced in some gorgeous french oak, smoothly sailing through the ML fermentation, and already showing us its pedigree.
A very big THANK YOU owed to all of you who not only helped with each crush chore, but especially toughed it out through the Chardonnay with me. I was at the end of my proverbial rope, and you brought food, optimism, camaraderie, and eventually the news of power and phones with you. I will make this wine great for and because of you.
We also received on that very same biblical day our Pinot Noir from the beautiful Ketcham Estates in the Russian River Valley. Mark Ketcham is a wonderful friend and grower and all around good guy. This is our third vintage from his property, and his vineyard manager Roberto knows these grapes inside and out, and he’s a maestro with the vines. We use three of their Dijon clones, the 777, 667, and the 115. Blended before bottling, we love the complexity these three clones give us.
A little easier on the crush day, we had a generator to power the destemmer, and I found myself able to boil water for building our specialized yeast culture on the wood stove (thankfully we had a closet full of dry wood from last year, or we wouldn’t have been able to do even that). We harvest all three clones at the same time, but each is in a different stage of ripeness. I love the contributions that the levels of ripeness give this wine, making it much more intriguing than if each were in the same place. This year, we’ve taken our oak program to the next level. Since we have two years of pinot behind us and the new vintage, we can have barrels in different stages of evolution. I like the oak to be about 1/3. We use 1/3 new, 1/3 2nd year, and 1/3 3rd year barrels. It gives us great structure from the new wood, and the softness and femininity from the 2nd and 3rd year barrels, not overpowering the delicate nuances so important to the Russian River fruit. This wine is generally in barrel for 16-18 months and then another 6 in bottle before release.
Just as we had phone service restored at the winery (that fateful night of Chardonnay pressing), I received news from our new Zinfandel grower, Nick at Green Pastures Vineyards in Dry Creek. The Zin was ready. Of course it was. The Zin didn’t know we had no roads or adrenaline left, it didn’t care. So, onto the truck it went. Things had settled down a bit by its arrival, and we had our usual fantastic crush crew, and I think Don and I had showered by then in running water, and not a bucket, and the military rescue helicopters flying up the canyon had gotten so used to seeing our blue tarp “big top”, that they had stopped taking pictures. Although the bees, wasps, yellow jackets, black hornets and all manner of flying, stinging insect had set up camp and were not easily deter, I think we all became experts at mixing the baking soda formula for stings without measuring. The most spectacular looking fruit of the harvest. Long, gorgeous, perfectly ripe clusters, no rot, mold, MOG (all right, some earwigs for flavor), or any other setbacks. The crew was so well-skilled by this last load that I was not even needed. They tackled the fruit like they had somewhere better to be. Typical Dry Creek Zin, loads of jam, berry, pepper, spice and a searing acid backbone make this such a great wine. We love a little American Oak on our Zinfandel. It tends to give a little sweeter finish with a softer tannin structure. We like to use barrels from Appalachia, mixed with some gorgeous French cooperages as well for the most intriguing, complex Zins.
This wine is destemmed without rollers, leaving as many whole berries intact as possible. Two specialized yeast cultures are used for another layer of intricacy to the finished wine. This wine will also rest peacefully for the next 14-16 months before bottling. I’ve heard that patience is a virtue, but I just don’t believe it.
Wrapping up the narrative on our latest harvest, all I can say is... WHEW! And thank you. Thank you to everyone taking the time to read this, and everyone who gave us their time and support and trekked up to the winery, and to all family and friends who continue to nurture Viewpoint as we try and grow a brand, and certainly to the man who continues to believe in me even when I don’t want to or can’t believe in myself. Who won’t let me not do the job, who stands by me covered in wasps and grapes and tears and smiles. Who never backs down from a challenge and has the heart of a lion and the skills of MacGyver. Who means the very world to me. Thank you Don. Also, a very big thank you to our trucking company that ran my fruit for me this year, West Coast Carriers. These guys and ladies were such a pleasure to work with, and even when they couldn’t contact me (which was often), they just plowed ahead and got the job done. I appreciate the effort and the new friendship you guys have given me.
This vintage will never be forgotten and we hope to have a special series for it, the “high ground” wines, and I hope to be able to use proceeds from sales of this vintage to help people who are flood victims and neighborhoods that were destroyed help rebuild. We’ll keep you posted on their progress, and a very Happy Holiday season to all.Molly
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