2011 Touriga Nacional — Pomar Junction Vineyard, Paso Robles
Many sommeliers consider Touriga National the finest red wine grape indigenous to Portugal. Touriga Nacional has traditionally been grown in the Douro and Dao river valleys and is used to produce both table wines and Port wines. Touriga Nacional has particularly large amounts of terpene compounds in the skins that help create the potential for extremely fruity and floral aromatic wines.
Touriga Nacional is a moderately vigorous growing variety and is best suited to low vigor rootstocks when planted on fertile soils. Recent, improved clonal selections are fairly fruitful and the variety performs well on cordon spur-pruned vines.
Ken has been working with Touriga Nacional for six vintages and has two acres of the variety planted at Pomar Junction Vineyard in Paso Robles. The hard April freeze of 2011 greatly reduced the primary crop at Pomar Junction. Fortunately, Touriga does have relatively fruitful secondary buds; these secondary buds produced the majority of the fruit in 2011. The challenge in this vintage was the overall cool temperatures across the growing season and having the vines begin new growth all over again in time to get the secondary crop ripe in a condensed growing period before the first fall frosts.
In the Vineyard
Fortunately, because the regrowth began in April, bloom occurred in the warm conditions of mid-June versus the cooler conditions of late April. This allowed a good set to the secondary clusters. Cluster weights were well below average from the secondary crop. Instead of the normal 150-180 gram cluster weights typical from this vineyard, the clusters in 2011 rarely made it to 100 grams and averaged 78 grams a cluster. The smaller clusters and the reduced number of clusters greatly diminished our overall harvest and we only produced 168 cases of this wine.
At the Winery
The fruit was hand harvested and field sorted into macro harvest bins prior to delivery to our Tepusquet Canyon winery in a refrigerated truck trailer in order to deliver the fruit cold. The Touriga Nacional fruit was de-stemmed, sorted, and then crushed into 1.3-ton open top bins that were layered with dry ice. Following a two day cold soak, a warm fermentation was encouraged and the bins were punched down four times daily by hand.
Fermentation continued for 12 days until the contents in the fermenters were pressed in our Hypac basket press prior to complete cap fall. Free run and press wine were combined in stainless steel and settled down prior to barreling into a mixture of French and Hungarian oak cooperage. Of this cooperage, 20% was new, 60% was 1-3 years old, and the remainder was 4-6 year old neutral cooperage. Primary and malolactic fermentation completed in barrel and the wine was aged on its lees for 16 months until it was racked for blending and preparation for bottling.
In the Glass
This floral wine is light purple in color and has aromas of violets, red plum, and ripe berries. On the palate, this wine has flavors of cherry, plum, and Earl Grey tea and finishes with firm fine-grain tannins. This wine can be enjoyed with a variety of cuisines and shows well with grilled meats and light pasta dishes as well as soft ripened cheeses.
Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Ground Turkey Picada
2011 Chardonnay — Kenneth Volk Vineyards Estate, Santa Maria Valley
Our Estate Chardonnay was originally planted by Dale Hampton of Hampton Farming Company 33 years ago in 1981. Dale was an original partner along with John Donovan of what would become the original Byron Winery. Hampton Farming Company was managing the Sierra Madre Vineyard and had been involved in vineyard developments in the Santa Maria, Santa Ynez, and San Joaquin valleys.
In the early days of coastal winegrape growing during the time of the first wave of coastal vineyard developments in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey counties, there was a great deal to be learned. The prevailing winegrape growing knowledge (what little existed) was based on grape growing in Barbara Stanwyck’s Big Valley not the Santa Maria Valley. Our vineyard rows were spaced 12 feet apart to accommodate the tractors of the time because there were no narrow, compact wheel tractors being produced in those days. It did not make any sense to plant your rows any tighter than the width of your tractor and other farming implements that needed to go down the rows safely.
In the Vineyard
The vineyard was planted on 12-foot row spacing with vines spaced seven feet apart in each row. The vineyard was planted to own-rooted cuttings of a selection of Wente Chardonnay. The Wente selection planted at KVV is a virus-infected selection that produces small, distinctively-flavored berries borne on tiny clusters. The vineyard was trained to spur-pruned bilateral cordons that allowed shoot growth to sprawl. The vines are drip irrigated with no sprinklers for frost protection. Over the years, this four and a half-acre block of grapes has produced some wonderful Chardonnay for both Byron Winery and Kenneth Volk Vineyards.
After having purchased the property that is now Kenneth Volk Vineyards in beautiful Tepusquet Canyon, Ken added some additional trellis wires for shoot combing and positioning and started leaving an additional cane above the cordon for more crop potential. These vines have so much leaf roll virus that often many of the spur positions hardly set any fruit. Ken often jokes that this vineyard provides more landscape ambiance then fruit.
At the Winery
The 2011 growing season was cool and the fruit was late in ripening so we did not harvest our estate Chardonnay until October. The fruit was hand picked and field sorted in early morning and the bins of fruit loaded into our Puelo bladder press for whole cluster pressing. The juice from the press was transferred to a stainless steel tank and chilled to 38° and allowed to settle for three days. The settled juice was racked off its solids into French and Hungarian cooperage for barrel fermentation in our OXO barrel rack system in KVV’s 50° refrigerated cellar.
The barrels were divided into four separate yeast lots for barrel fermentation. The two cultured yeast strains used for producing this wine were the Burgundian yeast strain isolate UC522 and the Spanish yeast CY3079 to provide weight and mouthfeel texture to the finished wine. We used two other cultured yeast strains to enhance other qualities in the wine: the Portuguese yeast Ba11 was employed for its tendency to extenuate floral and tropical fruit aromas and the Australian yeast T 306 (isolated from the Tyrrell winery of the Hunter Valley) promotes the pear and white peach aromatics of our estate vineyard’s fruit. A slow, cool fermentation lasted several months and all lots were dry by the New Year. The barrels were topped in place and solid bungs replaced fermentation bungs. As the spent yeast cells began to settle, the barrels were rolled in place to keep the yeast cells in suspension in the young wine.
The OXO barrel rack system has wheels upon which each barrel is placed to facilitate rolling or spinning the barrel in place for lees stirring. This variation from traditional battonage barrel stirring allows for lees stirring without increased oxidation and the potential for cross contamination among barrels. The OXO barrel rack system provides an easy, safe way of stirring barrels and a good upper-body workout for cellar staff. This wine was left on its lees until preparation for bottling in July 2012.
In the Glass
After nearly two years of bottle aging, this Chardonnay has aromas of Babcock peach, Comice pear, caramel, and barrel spice. This wine is rich without being flabby with flavors of apple, vanilla, and mace. Enjoy the supple mouthfeel and balanced acidity of this Chardonnay. Attractive now, this wine will develop even greater complexity with further cellaring. The acidity and opulent fruit of this wine allows it to be enjoyed with a range of cuisine.
Fish Tacos with Creamy Lime Guacamole and Cabbage Slaw
2011 Negrette — Calleri Vineyard, San Benito County
One of the more obscure heirloom grape varieties of Southwestern France, Negrette has been grown in the Fronton region near the city of Toulouse for over 900 years. The Knights Templar had brought the vine from the island of Cyprus following the first Crusade. The Knights had been gifted the grape by Christians on the island of Cyprus who believed that Negrette instilled valor during battle. The Templars planted Negrette extensively in their vast land holdings in the parishes of Fronton and Vallaudric.
Exactly how and when Negrette came to California is hard to determine but the variety was cultivated from Mendocino to San Benito where it was called Pinot St. George. The variety experienced modest popularity in the 1960s in the Napa and Cienega valleys.
In the Vineyard
One of the challenges of growing Negrette are the fruit’s very thin skins which makes it rot prone in high humidity and rainy conditions prior to harvest. “Negrette is the most rot-prone grape I have ever worked with,” says Ken. “It makes Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Petite Sirah look like a walk in the park following late season rain-induced rot.” Its tendency to have problems with botrytis bunch rot no doubt curbed enthusiasm for more vineyard plantings.
The Calleri Vineyard is located south of Hollister, California, adjacent to the town of Tres Pinos. Ron Siletto planted the vineyard in 1992 with budwood from the original El Gavilan Vineyard in the Cienega Valley.
To minimize rot, the vines were trained to a modified spur-pruned quadrilateral trellis system to promote air circulation around the hanging clusters. In 2013, an additional one and a half acres of Negrette was grafted onto an adjacent block of Viognier to provide more fruit in future to KVV.
In the Glass
Negrette produces deeply pigmented rustic wines that are floral with warm vintages and more earth tone with cool vintages. Our 2011 Negrette has aromas and flavors of blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, and rhubarb with spice notes of anise and licorice. This medium-bodied wine can complement foods from grilled and barbecued meats to tomato and herbed pasta dishes.
Spring Lamb Chops Stuffed with Porcini and Sun-dried Tomatoes
2011 Pinot Noir — Garey Ranch Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
Located on Garey Orcutt Road, the Garey Ranch Vineyard is nine miles west of Kenneth Volk Vineyards. Mesa Vineyard Management developed this vineyard in the mid-1990s for Robert Mondavi. The property was planted to serve as a significant fruit source for Byron Winery, which at the time was part of the Mondavi portfolio of wineries.
In the Vineyard
Resulting from their close proximity to the Santa Maria River, the Garey Vineyard topsoils were derived from weathered sediment from the vast watershed of the San Rafael mountain range that feeds into the Santa Maria River. The subsoil of the ranch consists of coarse sand from former marine terraces. Well-drained and low in fertility, these soils are ideal for wine growing.
The 2011 growing season was very cool in the Santa Maria Valley with few days over 85° until September. The rainfall in 2011 was ample, particularly when compared to the drought conditions in the 2013 and 2014 growing seasons. Oddly, much of the rain occurred after February. The late rains combined with the cool weather made for a late start of harvest in 2011.
At the Winery
Our Garey Ranch Pinot Noir was produced from three different selections of Pinot Noir: Dijon clones 777, 115, and the Joseph Swan clone. Each clone was hand harvested, field sorted, and fermented as a separate lot following arrival at the winery. The 115 and Swan lots were de-stemmed with no crushing into 1.3-ton open top bins. Dry ice was liberally applied to chill the fruit for a three day cold soak prior to starting fermentation. The fermentation bins were punched down by hand for cap management and a warm fermentation ensued. Following 12-14 days on the skins, the bins were drained and pressed in our basket press. The young wine settled for several days prior to barreling down.
The 777 fruit was the last to be harvested. Following de-stemming with partial crushing, it was fermented in a temperature-controlled tank. Following several days of cold maceration, the temperature was allowed to rise and the cap was pumped over with a pinwheel must irrigator two to four times daily to encourage uniform extraction. Following pressing and settling, the young wine was transferred to barrel. All the Garey Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir lots were aged in French and Hungarian oak cooperage (20% new, 40% 1-3 year old barrels, and 40% 4-6 year old cooperage) for sixteen months of barrel aging.
In the Glass
Following two years of bottle aging, this wine has wonderful aromas of blue and black fruits and nuances of sandalwood and Asian spice. On the palate, this wine presents flavors of blueberry, blackberry, and cherry that are supported by bright acidity and moderate tannins.
A versatile food wine, our Garey Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir can be enjoyed with salmon, beef tenderloin, and duck particularly when accompanied by root vegetables and mushrooms.
Grilled Salmon with Leeks and Pinot Noir Butter