2014 Malvasia Bianca — San Bernabe Vineyard, Monterey
In the confusing world of Vitis vinifera, Malvasia Bianca may be one of the biggest conundrums. The confusion stems from the use of the name “Malvasia” as a first name for over 50 genetically unrelated grape varieties.
The advent of simple sequence DNA analysis has helped to sort things out, but it still is very confusing. Master of Wine and prolific author Jancis Robinson, uses the term “Malvasia something” to refer to the confusing world of Malvasia prior to genetic technology.
“Malvasia something” seems appropriate because frequently the name Malvasia is often attached to a place name that is not necessarily the vine’s place of origin. It seems that almost any medium to large berried white grape in the southern Mediterranean basin was given the moniker “Malvasia” for a first name.
The Malvasia Bianca which Ken Volk has been producing from San Bernabe Vineyard would most correctly be called “Malvasia Moscato” by the Italian Government. This selection has Muscat Alexandria as a parent and is believed to have originated in Italy’s Piedmont Region. Malvasia Moscato is frequently called “Malvasia Bianca Di Piemonte” by nursery and viticulturists much to the consternation of the Italian Government.
Watch Ken discuss the Malvasia Bianca clusters from San Bernabe Vineyard.
The Italian ministry of agriculture does not allow the use of place names (winegrowing regions) to be used in names used for identifying grape varieties.
In March 2012, the Italian National Registry officially recognized Malvasia Moscato (registry code #462) as the grape variety that is used in the production of Kenneth Volk Vineyard’s Malvasia Bianca.
Whatever you may wish to call it, our Malvasia Bianca is refreshingly delicious.
Over the decades there have been many handles given to this wine by winery staff from “The official wine of summer” to the “Carmen Miranda wine” to the “Speedo and bikini wine.” This wine has the ability to be both a libation and aromatherapy in a glass. There are few things more refreshing than a cold glass of Malvasia Bianca during a warm summer’s twilight.
Our Malvasia Bianca can display some of the attributes of Alsatian Gewürztraminer. Its aromas give the impression of sweetness but it is refreshingly dry and slightly spicy. The ethereal aromas of citrus blossom, white flowers and ripe tropical fruits continue to flavors of pineapple, lychee, ginger and white peach. Balanced acidity and astringency make this a daring food wine. Try it with this recipe for Stir-fried chicken with holy basil.
Introducing the Steiner Creek Vineyard
Ken Volk has been working with the Steiner Creek Vineyard since the vineyard’s first production in 2010. However, this is the first year that we had enough wine from the Steiner Creek Vineyard to actually feature it as part of a Cellar Door Club shipment.
“I'm very excited to share the Steiner Creek Vineyard wines with the Cellar Door Club. I feel they are the best single-vineyard duet of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to be released to date from the winery” says Ken.
This small vineyard is the coldest growing site of any vineyards that KVV sources fruit from, primarily for its close proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The vineyard is located just three miles east of San Simeon State Beach, along Highway 1, on the north coast of San Luis Obispo County.
Steiner Creek is a seasonal, spring-fed creek that flows into the San Simeon Creek in route to the Pacific Ocean. This part of the California coast is the most recently formed land mass in California. This area of the coastline was under the ocean as recently as 80,000 years ago.
The geologic origin of the vineyard’s soil is extremely complex, having been influenced by the Farallon Plate subduction, as well as earthquake activity of the San Simeon, Cambria and San Andreas faults. Much of the ranch is an uplifted Quaternary marine terrace. The topsoil of the property is of the Marimel soil series, derived from alluvium of weathered sedimentary rock. The sub-soils consist of compacted river cobbles and fractured sandstone.
The property which the vineyard resides was originally homesteaded by the Steiner family in the 1840s.
In 1848, Jeffery Phelan left Ireland to look for a new life in America. He initially worked in east coast iron mines only to move west to work in the gold fields of Sutter Creek. Following modest success in the gold field, he traveled down the California coast looking for an area suitable for a cattle and dairy enterprise. Jeffery came to the settlement of Cambria and homesteaded a portion of what is now the east village of the city of Cambria.
The Steiner homestead was purchased in 1852 by Jeffery Phelan. In 1858, Jeffery returned to Ireland to marry his wife Alice and the couple returned to California via the Drake Passage at the southern end of South America.
Since then, six generations of the Phelan family have resided in San Luis Obispo County and farmed the property. In addition to the vineyard, the Phelan’s have rangeland cattle and avocado orchards.
The vineyard was planted in 2007 by Greg Phelan. Greg was the former PCA for Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills vineyards in Santa Maria and the Vineyard Manager for French Camp Vineyards in Paso Robles. Greg is a highly experienced viticulturist and polished professional, and a pleasure to work with.
2012 Pinot Noir — Steiner Creek Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County
In the Vineyard
The Steiner Creek Vineyard consists of three blocks of Pinot Noir, totaling 7.5 acres and a 1.6 acre block of Chardonnay. The Pinot Noir blocks are planted randomly with Dijon clones 667, 777, 115 as well Pommard clone 4. The Chardonnay is also planted to randomized plantings of Dijon clones 95, 96 and 72.
The randomized vine planting was done with the intention of getting a broad range of aromas and flavors that would showcase the vineyard site versus the clonal selection.
All vineyard blocks are planted to 8-foot rows, with vines planted 4-feet apart. The vines are pruned to a low bilateral cordon (24 inches above the ground), with shoots trained to a tall, vertical trellis system with three pairs of vertical lift wires.
This training system is a hybrid of New Zealand and Burgundian trellis systems - higher density vine plantings in combination with an extensive upright canopy to facilitate tractor traffic and to provide maximum solar exposure for the canopy and fruit zone.
Kenneth Volk and the Presqu'ile Winery share the Steiner Creek Vineyard as a fruit source. In an attempt to most equitably share the fruit, each winery receives every other row from the vineyard at harvest.
2012 was a considerably warmer year than 2011 and allowed for full maturity of the Pinot Noir fruit.
At the Winery
Harvest was conducted over two days. The fruit was de-stemmed and field-sorted upon arrival to the winery into 1.3 ton-open top bins, which were layered with dry ice. Following several days of cold soaking, a warm fermentation was encouraged. Fruit from the second day's harvest was fermented in a close-top temperature controlled tank.
Approximately one ton of hand-sorted glamour clusters were hand-placed in the bottom of the tank for a partial whole cluster component. The balance of the fruit was 100% destemmed and 50% crushed on top of the whole clusters. This tank underwent a long, cool fermentation.
Each harvest date was basket pressed and barreled into a combination of French and Hungarian oak cooperage.
The barrels were aged for 15 months and were racked twice during that time – once in May 2013 and just prior to bottling in March 2014.
In the Glass
Very different from our Santa Maria Pinot Noir vineyards, our Steiner Creek Pinot Noir has very intense fruit aromas of raspberry and boysenberry that continue onto the palate. This is a substantial Pinot Noir with apparent tannins and extract. Delicious now, this wine will improve over the next several years. Try it with this delicious recipe for barbequed/grilled baby back ribs.
The 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition recognized the 2012 Steiner Creek Pinot Noir as Gold Best of Class of the competition's “$60.00 and below” Pinot Noirs.
2013 Chardonnay — Steiner Creek Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County
At the Winery
The Chardonnay clones were picked together by hand. Upon arrival to the winery, the fruit was immediately whole cluster pressed. Following several days of cold settling at 45°, the juice was racked off its solids prior to transferring to our OXO barrel system.
The cooperage was divided into four separate lots to be fermented with different yeast strains to create a wine with more aromas, flavor and texture than any single yeast strain.
We employed the Burgundy strain CY3079, Australian strain T–306 from Tyrell Winery, the Rhône Valley isolate D-–254 and the Portuguese yeast selection BA-11.
Barrel fermentation took several months to complete after which the barrels were rolled in place to keep the lees in suspension. The turbidity of the lees moderated rapid extraction of oak flavors and helped in creating a supple mouthfeel.
In the Glass
The finished wine has lovely aromatics of white peach, Granny Smith apple and toasted cereal grains. Balanced acidity keeps the wine lively on the palate without being too buttery. This wine pairs perfectly with this recipe for Fettuccini with scallops and peas in a saffron butter sauce.
2012 Tannat — Bella Collina Vineyards, Paso Robles
The Bella Collina Tannat has become an extremely popular variety at Kenneth Volk Vineyards, with the past two vintages selling out in a matter of days after release.
Still relatively obscure in California, Tannat is a variety believed to have originated in the Basque region in Spain. Tannat is cultivated on both sides of the Pyrenees Mountains, separating Spain and France. The Mandarin wine area of southwest France is where the benchmark wines of Tannat are produced. These wines are frequently huge black wines with intense dark fruit flavors and mouth numbing tannins.
Tannat first came to the new world with Portuguese immigrants settling in Uruguay and Brazil and later to the Sacramento River Valley.
Tannat did not become popular in California until the Tablas Creek Nursery went through the slow, arduous task of importing superior clones via foundation plant material services in upstate New York. Nearly all Tannat vineyards in California have been planted with the Tablas Creek selections.
In the Vineyard
The Tannat at Bella Collina is planted on a steep, north-facing slope with the wines running up and down the slope. The Tannat is grafted onto 1103 Paulsen rootstock and the vines have bilateral cordons which are spur-pruned.
In 2012, the Tannat flowered and set a very big crop early in the season. A stringent shoot-thinning pass was made post fruit set to reduce the crop and to spread out the canopy to improve air circulation.
Mid-veraison, a manicuring pass was made to remove short shoots, green clusters and sunstruck berries.
Ken has only four vintages of producing Tannat and feels he has still a lot to learn about producing the variety. “I have tasted many Mandarin wines over the years and many were black, tannic monsters that reupholstered my palate. I was initially very concerned about over-extraction and I tried to handle the fruit in ways to reduce tannin and astringency” says Ken.
2012 was such a warm vintage that the skin and seed tannins were more ripe than previous vintages.
At the Winery
The fruit was hand-picked and delivered in a refrigerated truck trailer to the winery. The clusters were destemmed without crushing onto a vibratory sorting table to allow removal of the woody, hard, jack stems this variety is notorious for.
The juice was pumped to a jacketed stainless steel tank for fermentation and the tank was inoculated with Assmannshausen yeast and moderately cool fermentation was conducted.
Several screened rack and return pump-overs were conducted to remove seeds and pieces of jack stems and peduncles in an attempt to remove sources for green tannins.
The tank was drained of free run juice 12 hours before basket pressing. Press wine and free-run were combined and settled before going into French, American and Hungarian cooperage for cellaring.
In the Glass
Our 2012 Tannat is a big wine with jammy black fruit flavors and considerable structure. This wine should be bottle-aged for several years to allow the tannins to become more approachable. Try it with this recipe for broiled lamb chops with curried rice.