2014 Melon de Bourgogne, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
As previously stated, this variety was misidentified when it was brought to the Los Carneros region of Napa Valley by Russian born vintner André Tchelistcheff as “Pinot Blanc.” Andre is considered to be among one of the most influential winemakers in helping elevate California’s wine status as a world-class contender.
The University of California took cuttings of these vines and placed them in their varietal mother blocks. The domino impact of this misidentification continued for decades, for cuttings from these vines were used to plant many of California’s “thought to be” vineyards.
Pinot Blanc does look very similar to Melon de Bourgogne and this is no doubt due to Pinot Blanc being one of the parents to Melon de Bourgogne in addition to Gouais Blanc.
Virtually all of the great Pinot Blanc’s in California (pre 1997: Chalone Vineyard, Wild Horse Winery, Arrowood) were produced from Melon de Bourgogne, not Pinot Blanc.
Following the BATF ruling, wineries were then faced with the challenge to introduce a new varietal name for a wine already known under a different name. To name the wine “Melon” certainly would lead to some confusion and the name “Melon de Bourgogne” would lead to some blow back from the French industry.
An ironic side note is the French Dukes of Burgundy held Melon de Bourgogne in such distain that they outlawed future plantings of the variety in Burgundy in the 17th century in favor of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Compared to many of its Pinot family relatives, Melon de Bourgogne has fruitful secondary buds following a frost and good sub-freezing tolerance during winter dormancy.
In the winter of 1708 and 1709, temperatures across much of Europe reached the lowest ever recorded. Le Grand Hiver or “The Great Winter” killed many people from exposure and literally froze the ocean in coastal port waters. The extreme cold winter in Nantes killed many grape varieties but not Melon de Bourgogne. This led to a massive planting of Melon de Bourgogne in the western Loire Valley for still wine and brandy production.
Melon de Bourgogne is one of Ken’s favorite varieties when grown in a cool climate. Crop loads are reasonable and it is barrel fermented.
Our 2014 was hand-harvested, whole-cluster pressed and fermented in French oak cooperage and aged Sur lie. Partial malolactic fermentation gives this wine a rich mouthfeel but still has plenty of refreshing acidity. Aromas of sliced pear and apple are complimented by barrel spice and honey accents. This wine can be enjoyed on its own or compliment fish and shellfish courses, scallops and flatfish in particular. Try our Melon de Bourgogne with this delicious recipe for Pastel de Pescado.
2014 La Rosa Loca, Central Coast
La Rosa Loca (the crazy rosé) is a delicious Rosé wine that is a complex blend of grapes predominantly indigenous to the Iberian Peninsula.
In 2014, the final blend ended up being 32% Tempranillo, 27.5% Grenache, 17.7% Mourvédre (Monastrell), 7.2% Syrah, 5.6% Tannat, 5.8% Albariño and 4.2% Souzão.
Most of the juice used for this bottling came via the Saignée method (when juice is drawn from fermenters immediately after de-stemming or crushing the fruit for red wine production).
From that point forward, the juice and young wine is handled as a pressed white wine. The juice was allowed to cold settle for several days, then the clarified juice was racked off its solids. The clarified juice was cold fermented in stainless steel tanks. Several sub-lots were created over the length of the harvest season.
Not all lots made the quality cut to be included in the initial blend. We like the flavors of the wine, however, the aromatic fruit seemed a bit shy. Keeping with our Iberian theme, we used 5.8% Albariño from the Riverbench Vineyard for an aromatic lift.
Dry Rosé wines have always had a strong following in Europe and as a category globally. Rosé wines have been one the fastest growing categories in wine consumption and sales. Dry Rosé and pink wine sales in general took a hit in the USA with the advent of sweet white Zinfandel. White Zinfandel can be viewed as both a blessing and a curse. A blessing for it saved many old vine Zinfandel vineyards from the possibility of being bulldozed and it introduced many Americans to the first wine they ever tasted. It was a curse for it led to the presumption that all Rosé or pink wines were sweet and insipid.
Many men feel uncomfortable about ordering Rosé. Somehow they have a notion it challenges their sexuality or the equivalent to ordering a tropical drinks with an umbrella. The reality is real men and women drink Rosé!
Three good reasons men should drink La Rosa Loca:
- Women love it.
- It tastes great.
- You can buy a case of La Rosa Loca for far less than a bottle of the latest unknown flavor of the week cult Napa Cabernet.
Our Loca Rosa displays aromas and flavors of strawberry, watermelon, pomegranate and peach. This refreshing wine can be used as an aperitif or as a first course wine with summer salads but it is not too light in body to be enjoyed with grilled and lightly seasoned barbequed foods.
One of our Cellar Door Club members described this wine as her favorite “summer porch pounder” when the warm weather comes. Our La Rosa Loca is delicious with this recipe for Asparagus-Cheese Tartines.
2011 Cabernet Pfeffer, San Benito County
There continues to be a great deal of unnecessary confusion over exactly what Cabernet Pfeffer is. Much of this confusion is due to lazy wine writers that do not perform field research or consult existing universities or research stations involved in grape genetics or peruse relative research publications.
One of the most popular stories about Cabernet Pfeffer is that it was bred by William Pfeffer, a homesteading orchardist and plant breeder who resided in the Las Gatos Hills. William did breed several direct producing grape varieties. Statistically, the probability of William Pfeffer breeding Cabernet Pfeffer is in excess of 1 to 100,000,000,000.
It has been ten years since Ken Volk published his initial genetic match of three Cabernet Pfeffer vines in three separate vineyards in San Benito that came back as perfect matches for the Gros Verdot grape variety. Since then, subsequent tip tissue samples on different vines in the vineyards have shown the same genetic results.
If Cabernet Pfeffer is Gros Verdot, then what is Gros Verdot?
Its name would lead one to assume it was related to Petite Verdot but it is not closely related genetically. If they were, someone got it mixed up, for Petite Verdot have larger berries and heavier clusters than Gros Verdot.
Gros Verdot could be described as an obscure or lost Bordeaux grape variety. It was much more commonly planted prior to the Phylloxera root louse which killed most of the vines of Bordeaux. Gros Verdot appears to carry to this day the Rupestris Stem Pitting Virus that made it incompatible with the first American rootstocks brought to France. Following Phylloxera, Merlot became the most planted red grape due to its early ripening, higher yields an ease of propagation.
Ken says, “Strangely the TTB recognized Gros Verdot as a variety last year. I had not been actively petitioning for this recognition, for as incorrect as it is I like the charm of marketing the name Cabernet Pfeffer.”
Our 2011 Cabernet Pfeffer is a blend of fruit from the Calleri Vineyard in San Benito and the Enz Vineyard of Lime Kiln Valley. Our 2011 Cabernet Pfeffer has aromas of cranberry, plum and soft white pepper. On the palate, this wine has a nice balance of fruit, acidity and oak with a finish of soft, velvety tannins. Try it with this recipe for pork tenderloin with a Burgundy peppercorn sauce.
2010 Merlot, Paso Robles
The fruit from this bottling came from two excellent vineyards: The Pomar Junction Vineyard of east Templeton and the Carmody McKnight Vineyard of western Paso Robles. Pomar Junction is 18 miles east of Morro and Estero Bays. This property is cooled by maritime winds that travel the riparian passages of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
The soils of the property consist of well-drained loam subsoils with a topsoil of the calcareous Linne Calodo series. The Merlot vines are planted on 1103P rootstock with INTAV clonal selection 181. The vineyard is planted on a ten foot row, six foot vine spacing. The vines are cordon spur pruned and trained to a modified Smart Dyson System and the vineyard can be drip irrigated.
The Carmody McKnight Vineyard of west side Paso Robles is the fence line neighbor to the Justin Vineyard and Winery on Chimney Rock Road. Despite being eight miles from the ocean, the height of the Santa Lucia Mountains and the lack of riparian passages can make the box canyon of the vineyard a very warm growing site. Vines are planted on their own roots on a 12 by six foot row vine grid. All blocks are head cane spur pruned. The soils of the vineyard are very unique with a topsoil of red iron oxide of volcanic origin overlaying calcareous montmorillonite clay subsoil.
2010 was a truly a challenging vintage in Paso Robles due to cold weather and changing climate conditions. 2010 was a cool growing season particularly in comparison to recent vintages. The cool conditions were due in part to the exceptionally cold ocean temperatures along the Central Coast and a seemingly unending upwelling season. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) meteorologists believe the cold water was due to the peaking of a cold period Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) cycle. During the spring and summer of 2010, the Humboldt (California) cold ocean current stalled on its southern journey and piled up cool water along the coastline.
The strong northwesterly winds that are generated by the North Pacific High (NPH) pressure ridge typically sets up in late April and breaks down in summer. In 2010, the NPH set up in late February and did not break down until late September. The NPH creates winds that blow across the ocean water causing deep water upwelling and cooling the coastal valleys of the Central Coast.
The cool conditions during bloom did not allow for a large crop set. The spur positions were shoot thinned of congested growth and short shoots to allow for more direct sunlight to the fruit zone. Fortunately, clear skies and warmer temperatures in June and August allowed for the vines to make up some ground.
Midway through veraison, green and less colored clusters were dropped to even up the range of fruit maturity and to hasten ripening. Merlot is an early, mid-season ripening variety and harvest started in late September.
It was apparent in the first week of October from weather satellite images and NOA pressure charts that a significant storm was coming to the Central Coast. The question was not if it was, but how much and where? “Most of our Merlot was harvested prior to the torrential rains of October and I was thankful we were done with Pinot Noir and Negrette,” Ken comments.
Between October 7 and 9th, much of Paso Robles received nearly a normal year’s worth of precipitation in three days. Eight inches fell on the Pomar Junction Vineyard and the Carmody McKnight Vineyard received over 13 inches of rain. This was more rain than what fell in 2014 and 2015 rain years in Paso Robles!
Following hand harvesting, the fruit was field sorted and at the winery de-stemmed without crushing into either 3-ton open-top tanks or 6-ton insulated fermenters. Cap management was all by pumping over and several rack and returns were completed to remove seeds. All lots were basket pressed prior to dryness and gross settled and barreled in to a mixture of French and Hungarian oak cooperage for aging. This wine was racked twice during its three years of barrel aging.
Our 2010 Merlot is a slight departure from traditional Bordeaux blends with a cépage of 87% Merlot, 9.2% Cabernet Franc, 2.8%, Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Aglianico. Our 2010 Merlot is a dark, garnet-colored wine with aromas of red fruits, cigar box and Paso Robles dust. On the palate, this wine displays flavors of Santa Rosa Plum, red currant and cranberry that is complimented by balanced acidity and firm tannins. This wine can be enjoyed with grilled and barbequed foods particularly when fished off with a spicy sweet glaze. Try our Merlot with your favorite cut of meat cooked to your liking and marinated with this quick and simple recipe.