2009 Tempranillo, John Smith Vineyard — San Benito
Ken Volk has long harbored a fascination with Tempranillo and was one of the first winemakers to produce this varietal in Paso Robles. Tempranillo is probably best known by the wonderful red wines of Spain’s Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions. Grown in virtually every part of the Iberian Peninsula under many colorful regional handles, Tempranillo also grows in France, Italy, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Mexico, and the United States.
Likely brought to California’s Sacramento Valley in the 1800s by Portuguese dairy farmers, Tempranillo was known in this region by the Spanish synonym “Valepeñas.” The exact genetic origin of Tempranillo remains uncertain. Albillo Mayor, a grape of the Ribera del Duero region, shares genetic markers with Tempranillo but it remains unclear at this time whether this is an offspring or a parental relationship.
Tempranillo is one of the earliest large-clustered red grapes harvested in late summer: some believe its name to be derived from the Spanish word for early, “temprano.” A vigorous, adaptable variety capable of producing deep, rich red wines in both hot and cool climates, Tempranillo enjoys significant popularity around the world. Generally, warmer-climate Tempranillo tends to produce wines with lower acidity, higher tannins, and riper black fruits. Cooler-climate fruit tends to produce softer wines with more elegant tannins, higher acidity, and a greater intensity of floral character and red-fruit flavors.
British wine master Oz Clarke describes Tempranillo as having some of the attributes of both Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon depending on the growing location. Indeed, Tempranillo can be tannic and hard from warm climates as well as lush and voluptuous from cooler locations. The varietal is variable character depending on terroir.
In the Vineyard
Our 2009 Tempranillo from John Smith Vineyard represents a cool-climate, elegant style of the variety. One of the few vineyards that KVV works with sited east of the San Andreas Fault on the North American plate, John Smith Vineyard is located in the San Juan Valley of San Benito, east of the town of Hollister. Although the vineyard lies nearly 30 miles distant from the ocean, it’s a comparatively cool grape-growing site due to its location directly east of Monterey Bay and the Pajaro River’s Chittenden Pass, which allows maritime air to penetrate unabated into inland areas.
The soils at the vineyard site are derived from a large Pleistocene-era lake that covered much of the lower elevations of northern San Benito County over 50,000 years ago. The topsoils of the vineyard are a gravelly loam with rocky clay sub-soils.
Planted on their own roots, the vines are trained to vertically shoot-positioned bilateral cordons. The cool climate of the vineyard site produces grapes with high amounts of malic acid which, following malolactic fermentation, produces wines with high lactic acid content. This gives the wine a distinctive creamy mouthfeel.
At the Winery
The fruit was hand-harvested and delivered to the winery via a refrigerated truck trailer. Upon arrival at the winery, the fruit was de-stemmed without crushing into both 1.5-ton open-top bins and 4-ton closed-top stainless steel tanks. They were layered with dry ice to promote several days of cold maceration prior to the start of fermentation following inoculation with the Spanish yeast strain T-83 and the Germanic yeast Assmannshausen.
Open-top fermenters were punched down by hand 2 to 4 times daily, while the closed-top fermenter was sprinkler-irrigated 3 times daily for cap management. Primary fermentation lasted 10 to 14 days after which the respective lot was basket pressed. Free run and press wine were combined in stainless steel for several days of settling prior to barreling down.
A combination of new Hungarian, neutral American, and adolescent French oak barrels were used to age this wine for 28 months. During its cellar life, this wine was racked twice: in the spring of 2010 and once more in preparation for bottling.
This wine received Double Gold and Best of Class at the 2013 Sunset International Wine Competition. In Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar “Focus on the Central Coast” report, wine writer Josh Reynolds describes the wine as a “pretty suave style for the variety” that “becomes sweeter with air and finishes on a gently tannic note with lingering floral and spice-cake nuances.”
This wine may be enjoyed with a variety of cuisine from herbed pastas with carbonara or marinara sauces, egg-based dishes such as quiche or frittatas, or hearty meals of lamb, rabbit, duck confit, or osso buco. Try pairing it with this recipe for Roasted Lamb Meatballs with Red Sauce and Polenta.
Roasted Lamb Meatballs with Red Sauce and Polenta
Blaufränkisch, Pomar Junction Vineyard — Paso Robles
Blaufränkisch translates as “blue Frankish,” no doubt for the rich blue color of the grape’s skin and its French origin. Known as “Blaufränkisch” in Austria, it has been given numerous names across many different European countries since medieval times. In Hungary, Blaufränkisch is known as “Kékfrankos,” “Lemberger” in Germany, “Game” in Bulgaria, “Francoia Nera” in Italy, “Frankova Modria” in Slovakia, and “Frankova” in the Czech Republic and Croatia.
In Europe under the rule of France’s King Charlemagne, the variety was widely disseminated to what would become the majority of modern central Europe. Blaufränkisch was considered central Europe’s greatest red wine by both Napoleon Bonaparte and Otto von Bismarck each of whom ruled the greater Austrian Hungarian Empire. Genetic studies have revealed that Blaufränkisch stems from Gauis Blanc which is also a parent of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, and other grape varieties.
Not widely grown in the New World, Blaufränkisch is currently only cultivated in California, Washington, British Columbia, upstate New York, and Michigan. Ken became interested in growing Blaufränkisch after visiting Hungary and tasting some spectacular Kékfrankos wines particularly near the city of Villany. Ken recalls, “I was attracted to the variety for its elegantly ethereal fruit, bright acidity, and delicate spice.”
Blaufränkisch is lighter and leaner than many red wine varieties. It shares some of the characteristics of both cool-climate Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo, and also Gamay Noir’s bright acidity, moderate tannina, and blue and red fruit flavors.
In the Vineyard
Blaufränkisch breaks bud early and, in Paso Robles, ripens early- to mid-season. It produces large, thin-skinned berries borne on loosely-packed clusters. A sturdy grapevine, Blaufränkisch can be plagued by high vigor if not carefully managed. Furthermore, Blaufränkisch can survive extremely cold temperatures better than other Vitis vinifera varieties. This attribute likely led to its cultivation in the coldest areas of continental Europe.
One challenge that Blaufränkisch faced in America? The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives only recognized the variety under its German name “Lemburger.” Marketing a wine whose name sounds similar to that of the stinky cheese Limburger seemed daunting to Ken Volk and, of course, Blaufränkisch is so much more fun to say. In 1997, Ken successfully petitioned the BATF to allow the name Blaufränkisch for wines produced in America.
In the Glass
Our second release of Blaufränkisch is a multi-vintage blend of fruit from the 2010 and 2011 vintages via our plantings at Pomar Junction Vineyard in Paso Robles. Both the 2010 and 2011 vintages were small crops especially the 2011, which was devastated by the big freeze in April of that year. Instead of bottling two small vintages, Ken felt the best wine would result from a blend of the two vintages with a dollop from the 2012 harvest.
Our Blaufränkisch has a beautiful purple-crimson color and aromas of ripe blueberry and plum with hints of mace and white pepper on the palate. The wine has flavors of cherry, blackberry, and mocha that are supported by bright acidity and moderate tannins. This wine will show well with duck, lamb, veal, and venison particularly when accompanied with a black cherry sauce.
Duck Breast with Fresh Cherry Sauce and Grilled Apricots
2012 Verdelho, Pomar Junction Vineyard — Paso Robles
Verdelho is a semi-aromatic white grape variety that has historically been grown on the Portuguese island of Madeira as well as the mainland of Portugal and Spain under the name “Gouveio.” The largest plantings of Verdelho in the world are in Australia with small plantings in France, Italy, Argentina, and New Zealand.
Ken’s interest in Verdelho began with a chance visit to Australia’s Hunter Valley in 1981. Ken was in Australia to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef when foul weather in Cairns was going to keep the dive boat at the dock for a week. He decided to make the thousand-mile drive south to explore the Hunter Valley wine region. “I had the good fortune to visit many wineries,” he says, “and most of them produced a delicious Verdelho, be it a sparkling, still, or port-style wine. I was captivated by Verdelho’s incredible fragrance of tropical fruits, flowers, and richness.”
Years later, Ken was the first to plant Verdelho in Paso Robles at Wild Horse Vineyard in 1994. In 2004, Ken was able to have a block of Verdelho planted for Kenneth Volk Vineyards at Pomar Junction Vineyard, which is the vineyard source for this bottling. Relatively few acres of California’s wine country are planted to Verdelho: the 2012 California Grape Acreage Report lists just 92 acres planted in the state.
Our 2012 Verdelho from Pomar Junction experienced a frost-free spring and a warm summer, which helped produce a crop of clusters with small berries. The fruit was hand harvested in the vineyard, whole-cluster pressed at the winery, and fermented cold in stainless steel to emphasize the floral fragrance of this varietal.
Our 2012 Verdelho displays floral and citrus aromas and flavors of melon and tropical fruits. This delicious wine can be enjoyed on its own or paired with chicken, fish, and shellfish dishes. It’s the perfect wine to enjoy with seafood paella.
Verdelho’s Homeland: Portugal, Home of Giant Surf
Portugal’s extensive ocean shoreline has fostered a fabled history of seafarers among world exploration, sailing, fishing, and merchant marine journeys. Recently, Portugal’s Atlantic coastline near the city of Nazaré has also been recognized as the site of the world’s largest surfable waves.
The name Nazaré is a derivation of “Nazareth” and stems from a black wooden statue of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus believed to be carved by St. Joseph of Nazareth. This statue was brought by a monk in the seventh century to a seaside grotto where he became a hermit. The Black Madonna of Nazaré has been credited with saving the lives of knights, sailors, and surfers but most notably for the Legend of Nazaré.
Praia do Norte beach does not always have large waves; however, a number of unique geologic, bathymetric, and tidal conditions of the area can produce enormous waves during North Atlantic storms. Directly offshore of Nazaré is the Nazaré’s Submarine Canyon, which runs perpendicular to the coastline where the ocean floor rises from three miles deep to 200 feet deep in less than a half mile from shore. This underwater feature can result in enormous wave height during the right conditions.
Since November 2011, the record for the largest wave ever surfed has been achieved three times at the rocky shore line of Praia do Norte. Brazilian surfer Carlos Burle possibly surfed the world’s largest wave on October 28, 2013, a feat captured on video for the film Nazaré Blowup.
2008 Cabernet Franc — Paso Robles
Cabernet Franc originated from Spain’s Basque country. Like many wine grape varieties, Cabernet Franc is believed to have been disseminated by the Catholic Church to other parts of Europe. In the 17th century, Cardinal Richelieu had the vine sent to both the abbey of Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and Abbé Breton in the Loire Valley of France for the production of fine wine. Cabernet Franc is also called “Bourgueil” and “Breton” in the Loire Valley where it is known as the best red wine grape of the region.
An important component of Bordeaux red wine blends particularly in the Saint-Émillion appellation of France where it is the dominant grape in Château Cheval Blanc, Cabernet Franc is the sixth most planted red wine grape in the world with substantial plantings in France, Italy, Bulgaria, Chile, Argentina, Australia, and the United States.
DNA studies indicate Cabernet Franc has a parent or offspring relationship with the ancient Basque grape varieties Moreno and Hondarrabi Beltza. In many ways, Cabernet Franc should be considered the mother vine of modern Bordeaux red varietals because it is itself a parent to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carménère.
In comparison to its siblings, Cabernet Franc has more aromatic punch that can be either pleasant or unpleasant, depending on where and how the grapes are grown. Pleasant aromas of Cabernet Franc? Lovely perfumed red fruits, when grown well. If, however, the vines have too much vigor or are over-cropped, they can produce fruit with a repulsive green bell pepper aroma. Good Cabernet Franc requires a great growing site, balanced vines, good sunlight exposure to the fruit zone, and patience for full flavor development.
In the Vineyard
The 2008 growing season was a cool one which produced low-pH grapes with high tannin content. Fortunately, the heat of early September allowed the small crop to ripen completely by mid-October. A combination of traditional winemaking practices of open-top fermentation, basket pressing, and three years of aging in French and Hungarian cooperage helped produce this delicious wine.
In the Glass
The 2008 vintage produced an elegant, slow-to-open-up wine that is lovely now but will be an even more stellar wine with several more years of aging. Recently, our 2008 Cabernet Franc received high scores and praise by several prominent wine publications including Wine Enthusiast. Steve Heimoff describes our KVV 2008 Cabernet Franc as, “A lovely wine that’s gentle, feminine and dry—just what Cabernet Franc is supposed to be. Kudos to Kenneth Volk for holding it back this long. It’s still pretty tannic, but the cherry and currant flavors have a savory hint of green herbs that lend complexity and deliciousness. This may be the perfect steak wine.”
Our 2008 Cabernet Franc may be enjoyed with a variety of foods like beef, grilled duck, roasted chicken, pizza, and veal. Try it with this recipe for homemade pasta and red pancetta pan sauce.
Homemade Pasta and Red Pancetta Pan Sauce