2010 Touriga Nacional, Pomar Junction Vineyard — Paso Robles
Touriga Nacional is the most important grape for the production of the fortified wine Port in Portugal’s Douro River Valley. Touriga Nacional also produces delicious table wines in the Dau, Bairrada, Tejo and Alentejo regions of Portugal. The variety produces deeply pigmented wines with moderate tannins and good acidity with flavors of red and black fruits as well as aromas of sage, rosemary, lavender, and violets. The floral aromas and acidity of this variety are what make it distinct whether it’s being used for a table wine or Port.
Touriga Nacional is believed to have originated in the Dau River where it was the most planted grape of the region prior to devastation to the phyloxera in the 1870s. Touriga Nacional was introduced to the Douro region at the end of the 19th century and by the mid-20th century it had established itself as a prominent Port variety. The enormous population of different wine grape varieties in Portugal is staggering and the application of DNA fingerprinting of grape vines has led many viticulture geneticists to consider it one of the world’s most prominent epicenters of Vitis Vinifera.
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In the Vineyard
Our 2010 vintage is our fourth bottling of Touriga Nacional from the Pomar Junction Vineyard of Paso Robles and it is the first bottling to bear the full name “Touriga Nacional” on its label.
The 2010 growing season was the coolest growing season on record in Paso Robles. While much of America experienced record high temperatures that year, the Central Coast had a foggy, cool summer. The primary reason for the cool weather was the incredibly cold Pacific Ocean temperatures. On the fourth of July, for example, the water temperature at the Cayucos pier was a brisk 49°.
An unyielding high pressure ridge off the California coast created persistent on-shore winds which caused extended deep ocean upwelling against the shore line. The upwelling continued from March through August rather than slowing down and ending in June as it usually does.
The extended upwelling caused a huge bloom of zooplankton and phytoplankton along the coastline which fed the entire cold water food chain and attracted the rare visit of blue whales to Estero Bay. Degree day temperature summations for 2010 were the lowest in recorded history. It was apparent that this was not a normal growing season.
There comes a certain point in the season when it is apparent that you have to adjust your crop load if you are going to properly ripen late season varieties. The cool weather and lack of any significant heat led Ken and Pomar Junction’s viticulturist to take a very conservative position on how much fruit to leave on the vines. The Touriga had set a big crop and we dropped 40% of the clusters prior to the start of veraison. Following color change, we made another thinning pass and dropped all the less-colored fruit.
At the Winery
The fruit was hand-harvested and field-sorted prior to delivery to the winery in Santa Maria. The fruit was handled and fermented in two manners: open-top bins and closed-top stainless steel tanks. The bins were filled with de-stemmed fruit that was 50% crushed and the tank lot was de-stemmed with no crushing. A warm fermentation was encouraged in the bin ferments and the cap was punched down by hand. The tank lot was fermented at cooler temperatures and the cap managed by pump overs. Both lots were basket pressed at cap fall and aged in a combination of French and Hungarian oak cooperage for 18 months until prepared for bottling.
The finished wine has aromas of olallieberry, violets, and ginger and, on the palate, it has a supple quality with flavors of blueberry, cherry, and white pepper.
Roasted Chicken with Roasted Pepper, Olive & Thyme Sauce
2008 Merlot — Paso Robles
Ken Volk has had a long successful career in producing world-class Merlot. In his first commercial vintage in 1983, Ken crushed Merlot from the Rest and Be Thankful Vineyard in Templeton and the Rancho Sisquoc Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley. Ken’s early bottlings created a buzz for Merlot from Paso Robles when they were recognized as “Best in America” and “Best Merlot in the State” at the California State Fair.
When Ken bottled his first Merlot, Wild Horse was the ninth winery in California to bottle this grape varietal. Ken laughs, “Given its current well-known status, it’s kind of funny to think of Merlot as a rare variety to be growing in California just a few short decades ago.” He says, “I think the success I had with rare-at-the-time Merlot in my early years of winemaking kindled my interest in working with lesser known grape varieties.”
Merlot is the second-most planted red wine grape in the world with major plantings in France, Italy, Chile, America, Spain, Australia, and South Africa. Merlot’s rise to a dominant global wine grape has progressed over the last 150 years.
This grape varietal is the result of a random cross of Cabernet Franc and the obscure, nearly extinct Magdeleine Noire des Charentes grape vine. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc are the dominant red wine grapes of France’s Bordeaux Region of France. It is a bit of an incestuous family of grapes with Cabernet Franc being a parent to both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot’s popularity is no doubt due to its ability to produce rich, complex, red wines on its own or to contribute richness and length when blended with other grape varieties. Merlot is both a blender and a contender on its own in some of the top wines of Bordeaux, Tuscany, and Ribera del Duero.
Merlot remains popular for other reasons, too, including its several useful viticulture characteristics:
- Its bud break occurs in mid-spring so it’s not vulnerable to early season frost damage.
- Merlot grape skins are thick and the berries are borne on loose set clusters that make it less susceptible to bunch rot.
- It produces a vigorous yet productive vine capable of setting large crops.
- Merlot ripens mid-season and can reach a higher level of maturity than other Bordeaux varieties prior to fall rains.
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In the Vineyard
The 2008 growing season was a drought vintage and a particularly cool growing season, at that. Our 2008 Paso Robles Merlot is a blend of fruit from the Pomar Junction Vineyard of east Templeton and the Carmody McKnight Vineyard of west Paso Robles. Both of these vineyards have a great track record for producing delicious Merlot. Each vineyard was picked by hand and different fermentations were used to help craft a multi-dimensional wine with rich texture and aromas.
The Carmody McKnight Vineyard fruit was harvested on two different dates and was handled in two different manners. One lot was de-stemmed and partially crushed into 1.5-ton open-top bins. The second harvested lot was de-stemmed with no crushing into a closed-top stainless steel tank.
The Pomar Junction fruit was handpicked, field sorted, de-stemmed, and 50% crushed into 1.3-ton open-top fermenting bins which were layered with dry ice. Following a cold soak of two days, a warm fermentation was encouraged and the bins punched down by hand four times daily.
At the Winery
All lots were basket pressed. The bin lots were pressed when the fermentation cap started to sink while the Carmody McKnight tank lot was allowed a two week extended maceration following dryness and prior to basket pressing.
The cool growing season produced fairly hard tannins which required a longer aging regime than is typically used for Merlot to soften the wine’s astringency. These lots were aged in predominately thin-staved French Bordeaux cooperage for 36 months prior to preparation for bottling.
Our 2008 Merlot has aromas of red plum, mocha, cigar box, and barrel spice. This wine has flavors of ripe berry, black fig, star anise, and mocha. This Merlot can be enjoyed with rich pasta dishes and grilled meats.
Marinated Rib Eye with Gorgonzola Sauce
2009 Zinfandel, Enz Vineyard “Terraces” — Lime Kiln Valley
In 2009 we produced two Zinfandels from the Enz Vineyard in Lime Kiln Valley. Planted in 2002, the Terraces block is the youngest planting of the five blocks of Zinfandel at the Enz Vineyard. The Terraces are also the highest elevation of all of the Enz Vineyard plantings.
The hillside vineyard consists of 15 rows of vines that are planted in the cut of the bulldozed terraces. The terraces were carved out of the hillside above the main young vine Zinfandel block. True to its name, the terraces consist of 15 rows of vines that wrap around the mountainside at the highest elevation of the Enz Vineyard. Previously oak and pine scrub, each terrace has one row of vines planted to the inside edge of the bulldozed slope.
In comparison to the Zinfandel blocks planted at lower elevations, the terraced vines have more surface area for each vine to access clean water and nutrients due to the greater distance between each row of vines. Initially drip irrigated, the terraced vines have been dry farmed since 2008. The terraces are planted with Zinfandel cuttings taken from the original four acre, 1895 Zinfandel block of the Enz Vineyard. No records exist that tell the source of the bud wood that was used to establish the first Zinfandel block at the Enz Vineyard. However, it is a productive, virus-free selection.
These juvenile vines are surprisingly vigorous vines that always seem to try to carry enormous crops. Left on their own, these vines would attempt to carry 10-ton crops which would never ripen properly. One of the challenges with the terraces is to get the vigorous vines in check so that the vines will transition from producing canopy to sinking carbohydrates into the grape clusters instead.
We have tried to de-vigor these vines with competitive cover crops, no irrigation, and waiting to thin until 50% verasion when 70% of the crop load is dropped. Earlier fruit thinning on this block is counterproductive for wine quality for it stimulates larger sized berries and more canopy. The heat of August 2009 helped to stress the vines and encouraged cane wood ripening prior to the rapid onset of the fruit coloring.
At the Winery
The “Terraces” Zinfandel was the last Zinfandel to be picked in 2009. The fruit averaged 26 brix with eight grams of acid at harvest. The fruit was de-stemmed with minimal crushing into 1.3-ton open-top fermenting bins which were layered with dry ice to encourage several days of cold soaking before active fermentation started.
Bins were punched down four to six times daily to liberate fermentation heat and alcohol vapors; the fruit was basket-pressed prior to cap fall.
Aging in 2-5 year old French and Hungarian oak for 18 months helped to round out this wine and preserve and develop the fresh ripe fruit flavors and perfumed, floral aromas of this Zinfandel.
Lighter in color than our primary bottling of Zinfandel from the Enz Vineyard, our Terraces bottling has intense fruit aromas of ripe blackberry, cherry, and baking spices with flavors of raspberry and plum followed by soft tannins and bright acidity. This delicious wine will be great with summertime barbecues.
Spicy Honey-Glazed Baby Pork Ribs
2011 Chardonnay, “Jaybird” — Santa Maria Valley
The benchmark for Chardonnay produced without the use of oak comes from France’s most northerly district of Burgundy, Chablis. Not all Chablis wines are un-oaked, but a large portion of the wines produced in the area are fermented in stainless steel or neutral oak. Most Chablis wines have bright acidity with aromas of green apple and citrus fruits with a flinty, mineral finish.
“Jaybird” is Kenneth Volk Vineyard’s proprietary name for our un-oaked “naked” Chardonnay. Our Jaybird Chardonnay seeks to showcase the vibrant fruit flavors and purest expression of Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay. The Santa Maria Valley is one of the rare transverse valleys in California. Its east-west orientation allows marine air flows to moderate the daily temperatures which makes it one of the coolest and longest growing seasons of any California wine region.
Our 2011 bottling is from fruit grown on the Sierra Madre Vineyard Block 228 in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Maria Valley appellation. This hillside block is planted to the Robert Young selection and UC-Davis clone #4 Chardonnay vines.
We are offering our Chardonnay, “Jaybird” to our club members at a special discounted price — just $15.00/bottle! From now until June 18th, take advantage of over 30% savings on this delicious, refreshing Chardonnay.
The 2011 growing season was a year with above average rainfall in the Santa Maria Valley but what made it unusual was the large amount of rain that came after February. The 2011 vintage sustained an extremely high acid level; the challenge was to not make sugary wine but, rather, to wait for the acidity to come down.
Sugar accumulation stayed ahead of flavor development with this wine; since the KVV winemaking team sought to avoid too high of potential alcohol in the resulting wine, the fruit was split harvested at different levels of maturity for flavor and alcohol management.
At the Winery
The fruit was hand harvested and field sorted into half-ton macro bins in the early morning and promptly delivered to the winery. The grapes were pressed as whole clusters in our bladder press and only free run and low pressure press juice was used for producing this wine.
The juice was cold settled for 72 hours at 38° prior to racking off its juice lees to start fermentation in another tank. The cooling jackets were set at 50° and it took several days for fermentation to slowly begin.
Our Jaybird Chardonnay was fermented with indigenous yeasts from the vineyard as well as inoculations of Saccharomyces cerevisiae as well as non-Saccharomyces yeast strains. The yeast strain Torulaspora Delbrueckii that is often associated with fine wheat beer production was used to start fermentation. This yeast strain tends to produce floral and fruity aromas and has low alcoholic conversion efficiency. After a drop of 5 brix, the tank was inoculated with Zyma Flore VL1 Saccharomyces cerevisiae. VL1 is a slow but steady yeast strain that helps to release aromas from terepenes and tends to emphasize fruit aromas and length to the resulting wines. Fermentation continued very slowly over the course of 5 weeks and when 2° of sugar remained, the cooling jackets were turned off to promote complete fermentation.
The high acidity of the wine led us to promoting partial malolactic fermentation (10%) with low diacetal (buttery aroma) producing bacteria culture to soften the finish of this wine. The wine remained on its fermentation lees which were periodically stirred to keep the yeast cells in suspension.
In the Glass
Our 2011 Jaybird Chardonnay has aromas of ripe Granny Smith apple and citrus zest. On the palate, flavors of pear, apple, and papaya lead to a flinty finish held up by bright acidity. This bottling was awarded a gold “Best of Class” at the 2012 Sunset International Wine Competition as well as the 2012 Central Coast Wine Competition; it recently rated 90 points by Wine Enthusiast magazine.
This cool-climate steel-fermented and aged Chardonnay is rich and refreshing. This wine can be enjoyed with just about anything you would squeeze a lime or a lemon over. This wine is a perfect foil to rich, crème-sauced seafood, poultry, and pasta dishes.
Santa Barbara Shrimp with Polenta, Pancetta & Asparagus