2013 Verdelho — Pomar Junction Vineyard, Paso Robles
Ken Volk has over three decades of experience growing Verdelho in Paso Robles and is considered by many wine journalists the "Dean of the variety in California." Ken says, "I have always loved the vibrancy of fruit and the minerality and mid-body richness that it can display." Verdelho was first known for producing the finest white ports in the world on the Atlantic island of Madeira from the 17th through 19th century. The variety has gone on to be used for delicious table wines in Spain, Portugal, Australia, islands of the Mediterranean Sea and the United States
In the Vineyard
Our Verdelho is grown at the Pomar Junction Vineyard, south of Templeton, in Paso Robles. The topsoils of this property consist of the calcareous Linne Callado soil series. The Verdelho was grafted to 1103 Paulsen rootstock and planted on a 10 foot row and 5 foot vine spacing. The Verdelho vines were cordon spur pruned and trained to bilateral cordons with vertical shoot positioning wires. View a video of our 2013 Verdelho in the vineyard.
2013 was a drought year with far below-normal rainfall that led to an early tilling of the down-the-row cover crop, an attempt to preserve soil moisture. A warm February led to an early bloom and a good fruit set on our Verdelho block. An early trunk suckering and shoot thinning pass was made to allow the vines to concentrate the vineyard's energy into the remaining shoots. 2013 was a very warm growing season resulting in an early vintage. Our Verdelho was the first fruit to be harvested on August 21st.
At the Winery
Following early morning hand-picking, the harvest bins were trucked to Tepusquet Canyon in a refrigerated van. The fruit was whole-cluster pressed and cold settled. Two thirds of the fruit was cold fermented with yeast strains that liberate bound aroma compounds, helping the development of floral and tropical fruit aromas in the resulting wines.
The balance of the juice was transferred to neutral French oak and was fermented in our refrigerated white barrel room. The barrels were topped in place and following fermentation, the barrels rolled on a weekly basis to keep yeast solids in suspension, imparting more mouthfeel and texture to the finished wine.
In the Glass
Our 2013 Verdelho is a complex wine with aromas of white flowers, citrus zest and ripe Casaba melon. On the palate, the wine is full with flavors of citrus, white stone fruits and lemongrass.
This wine can complement fish and poultry particularly when seasoned with thyme and lemongrass. It is also great with crustaceans, shellfish and seafood paella. Try it with this recipe for Ceviche.
2011 Malbec — Pinnacle Vineyards, San Benito County
Malbec is a very old red grape variety, believed to have originated in south-western France. The variety is known by nearly 1,000 different synonyms around the world. The most common synonyms being "Cot", "Auxerrois", "Pressac", "Medoc Noir" and "Plant du Lot".
Most likely, Malbec originated in what is today known as the Cahors region of France, where it is most commonly called "Cot Noir". One theory for the name "Malbec" is that the variety was introduced to many parts of Europe by a Hungarian nurseryman with the surname "Malbek". The variety may have been introduced into the Gironde region in Bordeaux in the 18th century. The variety was first known as "Estranger" (Stranger) in the Medoc and Graves Bordeaux regions, leading researchers to believe that it was introduced from another viticultural region.
Genetic research has revealed that Malbec is a natural cross of two ancient grape varieties, Magdeleine Noire des Charentes (one of the parents of Merlot) and the variety Prunelard, of the Tarn region.
Prunelard is an ancient grape that was on the verge of extinction; however, several Gallic winemakers have gone to great length to preserve the variety. Ken describes the wines of Prunelard to be "extremely plummy and rich with hard tannin." Ken says, "I would love to plant some Prunelard just for the name alone." Prunelard is a member of the Cotoide family of grapes and also shares a genetic relationship with Tannat, Negrette and Petite Manseng.
Malbec World Day – History of Malbec Article
Besides France, Malbec has been introduced into many other winegrowing regions of the world. Most often, Malbec was planted to be a component of Bordeaux-style red wine blends. Malbec has found great success in Argentina and has been embraced as the national red wine grape of the country.
Malbec was brought from France to Argentina in 1852 by Michel Pouget, an agronomist from the Horticulture Society of Paris, whom was hired by the Argentine government to introduce new crops to the country. With over 76,000 acres of Malbec, Argentina is the world's largest grower and producer of Malbec. Malbec is grown along the Andes Mountain range in Argentina, from Salta to Patagonia.
In comparison to the old world, the growing conditions for Argentine Malbec are extremely different. The vines are grown in the southern hemisphere with vineyards planted at very high altitudes on mineral soils derived from glacier activity. In addition, the majority of vineyards are not planted on rootstock, for Phylloxera has yet to become a major pest. Argentine Malbec is very fruit forward and juicy, medium-bodied, with a velvety texture. In the early 2000's, it became one of the most popular wines in the world. The success is understandable for the wines are deeply pigmented, fruit forward, spicy and delicious.
Malbec was one of the many varieties brought to California's Santa Clara Valley by Charles LeFranc in 1858.
In the Vineyard
Our 2011 Malbec was produced from fruit sourced from Pinnacle Vineyards in San Benito County, which is located in the Paicines AVA. The vineyard is located along Highway 25 and Panoche road, north of east Pinnacles National Park, 10 miles east of the Enz Vineyard and 8 miles south of the metropolis of Tres Pinos.
The soils are sandy loams, derived from alluvium of an ancient riverwash from the Gavilan Mountain Range and calcareous soil remints from the activities of the San Andreas Fault. The Malbec is planted along the base of a rolling hillside and the vines are cordon trained and spur pruned with vertical shoot positioning wires. The vineyard is out of the daily morning fog of Monterey Bay, but it has the influence of cooling northwesterly breezes from the bay in the afternoons.
2011 was a challenging vintage in California due to cooler coastal conditions, late spring rain and poor conditions during bloom and fruit set. Our Malbec vines had potential for a big crop based on flower counts, but the cool conditions at bloom caused a poor fruit set and an unusually large amount of green shot berries (grape berries that were not properly fertilized during pollination that remain small, hard and green). View a clip of Malbec clusters on the vine at Pinnacle Vineyards.
These green shot berries were very common in many vineyards in 2011 and caused Ken to purchase a Milani vibratory sorting table before vintage, to help reduce the amount of green, unripe berries that could have ended up in our fermentors. Ken says, "I hate the impact of anything green or non-grape in my ferments. Shot berries are very bitter and vegetal and can have negative impact on wine quality."
At the Winery
The Malbec had to be processed at a painfully slow speed to allow the four cellar staff members, who were all hand sorting, and the vibratory table to do the best job possible. The hand-harvested fruit was field-sorted and picked into half-ton macro bins. Upon arrival to the winery, the fruit was de-stemmed without crushing onto the vibratory sorting table.
Following the sorting table, the de-stemmed fruit was 50 % crushed and 50% left as berries and fermented in 1.3-ton open-top bins, which were layered with dry ice to instill a pre-fermentation cold soak. Following inoculation, a warm fermentation was encouraged and the fermentation cap was punched down by hand 2-5 times daily to ensure good extraction.
At dryness prior to cap fall, the bins were basket pressed and settled briefly in stainless steel prior to barreling into French oak cooperage. This wine was racked twice during its 28 months of cellaring, prior to preparation for bottling.
In the Bottle
This purple-tinged wine has aromas of black currant, blackberry, barrel spice and white pepper. On the palate, this wine is juicy with flavors of dark cherry, ripe fig, sarsaparilla, anise and licorice.
This medium-bodied wine can complement a variety of cuisines from simple Italian pasta dishes, southwestern food styling or grilled and roasted foods. Try it with this recipe for pork roast with pistachio filling.
Pork Roast with Pistachio Filling
2012 Petite Sirah — French Camp Vineyards, Paso Robles
Petite Sirah seems a bit of a sarcastic and comical name for this large-clustered red grape variety that can produce extremely structured wines. "If this is the Petite Sirah, what would the Gross Sirah be like?" wonders Ken. The "Petite" of Petite Sirah is mostly a reference to the small berries which are borne on large, tight, clusters of small, thin-skinned berries in long, winged conical-shaped clusters. Petite Sirah has been determined to be a natural cross of Syrah and Peloursin grapes. In 1868, French botanist Francois Durif discovered the unique vine growing in a vineyard of Peloursin grapes and propagated the vine which would be called by his family name Durif. It was imported to California as "Petite Sirah" by Charles McIver of Linda Vista Winery in Santa Clara in 1884. The variety found broad acceptance in California particularly in warmer, dryer regions of the state.
Petite Sirah proves to be able to make substantial standalone wine as well as an excellent blending grape for adding color and structure to other red wines. Petite Sirah has some natural resistance to downy mildew, but is highly susceptible to Eutypa (Dead-arm fungus), Botrytis bunch rot, sunburn, raisining, and if not properly hardened off in the fall, winter kill in cold regions. Petite Sirah is capable of hanging a large crop under good management and favorable growing conditions, which led to substantial plantings in the San Joaquin Valley. Our 2012 Petite Sirah comes from French Camp Vineyards of south-eastern Paso Robles. This wine has become a very popular wine in our tasting rooms over the past several years
In the Vineyard
2012 in comparison to the prior three vintages was warmer and a more typical growing season in Paso Robles. The 2011-2012 rain season at the Paso Robles airport was very generous with 22 inches of precipitation. In comparison, the 2012-2013 season brought in 7.18 inches of rain while the 2013-2014 season brought 6.13 inches. The above-average rainfall helped to fill the soil horizon with fresh water that promoted a vigorous growth cycle following bud break in early March. The French Camp Petite Sirah is cordon spur pruned with combing wires. The high rainfall promoted many latent buds to push and sprout, which required several shoot thinning passes, thinning the spurs to two primary shoots which would eventually become cane bearing clusters by early summer. Several heat waves in August and September caused significant sunburn and shriveling of clusters that were overly exposed to the sun. Harvest was on September 25th by hand.
At the Winery
The high brix of the fruit (27.5) before soak up could potentially result in very high-alcohol, so the decision was made to ferment all the fruit in open-top fermentors to allow as much alcohol to volatize during fermentation. The fruit was de-stemmed and sorted on our vibratory sorting table and delivered by a peristaltic pump to a 3-ton,
open-top stainless steel tank fermentor and several 1.3-ton open-top bins for fermentation. The fermentations proceeded well and due to the high tannin content of the fruit, the basket pressing was conducted prior to complete dryness to avoid over extraction of bitter seed tannin. Following several days of settling, the young wine was transferred to new American oak barrels produced by AP John Cooperage of Australia, for the first five months of cellar aging. The intent of the short stint in the American oak was to complete primary and malolactic fermentation in barrel and have the new oak set the color of this beautiful wine.
In February 2013, the barrels were racked off their lees barrel to barrel with a counter pressure nitrogen system, into a mixture of French, Hungarian and American oak. The cooperage was 20% new-two year old, 20% 3-4 year old, and the balance 4-6 year old. The wine was aged for an additional year prior to preparation for bottling.
In the Glass
Our French Camp Petite Sirah is a dark, deeply-pigmented wine with aromas of spice and ripe red and black fruits.
On the palate, this wine is rich and full with medium tannins and flavors of black raspberry (Chambord), blueberry, black Damson plum and mocha. This substantial wine is 15.4% Alcohol which Ken calls "a good first date wine." All kidding aside, this big wine is not over the top and fairly balanced in its overall extraction. Ken suggests drinking this wine within the next three years, while it displays its vibrant, opulent fruit. This rich wine can be enjoyed with simply prepared barbequed and roasted foods. It is a natural with spring lamb. Try it with this recipe for Chopped Lamb Steak au Poivre.
Chopped Lamb Steak au Poivre
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon — Paso Robles
The rain season of 2009-2010 was above normal. However, more than half the precipitation came in October 2009, which was the wettest October in the recorded history of Paso Robles. The October 2009 rainfall ranged from 3-9 inches in the north county of San Luis Obispo, bringing havoc and rot to un-harvested, rot-prone grape varieties.
Ken says, "I believed that climate change was a possibility, but after experiencing the erratic weather conditions of 2007-2010 and after reviewing global weather statistics I was convinced that we were living in a period of climate change."
The 2010 growing season was highly irregular with episodic heatwaves. However, it was generally a very cool growing season. The cool growing conditions on the Central Coast were in sharp contrast to the overall global climate warming. The colder than normal ocean water temperatures in Estero Bay, west of Paso Robles, was the result of an extended ocean upwelling season, buffering the temperatures of the inland growing areas.
Another source of cooling was the volcanic summer that was the result of eruptions of the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano in Iceland. From March to June 2010, this volcano put over 330,000,000 yards of dust and debris into the atmosphere. The volcanic plume rose to over 35,000 feet.
The polar jet stream, which was directly above the eruptions, moved this dust around the northern hemisphere in a matter of days. The fine volcanic dust forced the greatest disruption in air traffic ever experienced from a natural disaster. The fine, abrasive dust could not just clog a jet turbine it also absorbed or reflected solar rays from reaching the earth, causing regional cooling. Ken says, "The last volcanic summer I experienced was in 1991, which was the result of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. Fortunately, 2010 was less severe." The cooler than normal conditions did extend the growing season and caused us to be very conservative in the size of crop we hung.
Our 2010 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon is a Bordeaux-inspired blend. It features Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot from the Carmody McKnight Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon from the Starr Ranch Vineyard and Merlot from Pomar Junction Vineyard.
At the Winery
Each lot was hand-harvested and processed as a separate component through preparation for bottling. This wine was aged for three years in a mixture of French and Hungarian oak cooperage. It reflects the cooler growing season being more elegant than extractive in its fruit and flavor profile.
In the Glass
This dark wine has aromas of black and red fruits along with tobacco and barrel spice. On the palate, it is medium-bodied with flavors of cherry, blackberry and coca.
It is a very approachable Cabernet Sauvignon, which can be paired with Ratatouille, grilled portabella, rich pasta dishes and barbequed or roasted foods. Try it with this recipe for Rigatoni alla Carbonara.
Rigatoni alla Carbonara