2014 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Central Coast
Vin Gris translates in French as “grey wine”. The name sounds more enticing in the French dialect. The term is similar to the term “Blanc de Noirs” that is used for Champaign or sparkling wines produced from red grapes. Like so many things in the wine world, there is no universal definition to the term or the means by which the wine is produced or the color of the wine.
Vin Gris wines can range in color from what would appear to be white, grey, pink or orange to moderately red colored wines. There are many techniques for producing Vin Gris. One method is the traditional Saignée method where juice is drawn (bled) off of red grapes shortly after crushing. The juice that is bled can be handled as a white wine from that point forward in the cellar. The red wine lot from which the juice was drawn, benefits from a higher skin-to-juice ratio that will contribute to a more concentrated red wine.
Another popular means of producing Vin Gris is to pick red grapes specifically for Vin Gris production and either whole-cluster press the grapes or crush and press the grapes and handle the juice as a white wine.
Again, there is no uniformity in the wine world to how the wine is produced. In general, the longer the juice is in contact with the skins, the darker the resulting wine will be and conversely the quicker the juice gets off the skins, the less color the wine will have.
The KVV 2014 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir was produced by a modified Saignée method. We collected the juice off our Pinot Noir lots from the juice collection trays of our post de-stemming whole berry sorting table.
This juice was settled several days to allow gross solid settling and then racked off its juice lees to be fermented at cool temperatures in stainless steel. Following completion of fermentation, the wine was aged in neutral French oak until preparation for bottling.
One of the challenges facing Vin Gris and rosé wines is that much of the American population associates pink wines with the San Joaquin Valley Vin Rosés of their grandparents or the sweet white Zinfandels of the 1980’s. Vin Gris and dry rosé wines can be very delicious and great table wines.
Our 2014 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir has aromas and flavors of Alpine strawberry, pear, Mandarin orange and watermelon. This full-bodied Vin Gris has bright acidity and a subtle mouthfeel. It can be enjoyed with seafood pastas, salads, fish tacos or roasted chicken. It is also a great wine to pair with your Thanksgiving turkey and associated dishes. Try it with this recipe for Classic Red Mole with Turkey.
2011 Aglianico, Pomar Junction Vineyard, Paso Robles
Aglianico is definitely not the easiest name to pronounce and regional Italian dialects make for even more confusion. The following link provides a short course on the correct pronunciation - Aglianico: Grape Name Pronunciation Project | Do Bianchi.
One of the oldest cultivated grapes in Southern Italy, Aglianico is best known from the regions of Campania, in appellations such as Taurasi, Aglianico del Taburno and Irpinia. In the neighboring region of Basilicata, ancient extinct volcanoes dominate the landscape, and the vines of the Aglianico del Vulture appellation produce concentrated Aglianico in the volcanic soils at high altitudes. Aglianico can be found in other areas of Southern Italy but the above regions consistently produce some of the finest in the world.
Aglianico is considered by many Masters of Wine and sommeliers to be one of Italy’s greatest varieties. Considering Italy is home to Nebbiolo and Sangiovese and a plethora of wonderful grape vines, this is truly a high praise.
There has been much speculation as to the origin of the variety. There appears to be a good deal of polymorphism in the variety in various parts of Southern Italy. Due to linguistic similarities, many authors believe it originally was of Greek origin. Master of Wine and prolific author Jancis Robinson sums it up succinctly in the following link 'Greek' grape varieties in Italy not Greek? - Jancis Robinson.
More recent genetic research has led to the opinion that Aglianico shares a parent offspring relationship with the Syrah vine of the Rhone Valley. This opinion is based on an extensive DNA sequence analysis published in The Journal of Molecular Biotechnology September 2013. This research is undergoing peer review at several viticultural research stations. Ken says, “I always felt that Aglianico shared some similarities to Syrah and Petite Sirah, both morphologically as well as wine attributes. It is very easy for me to believe this hypothesis of a genetic relationship with Syrah is true but I will wait for confirming laboratory work to be completed.” If this is true, Syrah may have actually originated in Italy and migrated to the Rhone Valley.
Ken was first introduced to the variety in 1986 at Anthony’s Pier 4 Restaurant in Boston when Ken and some of his wholesale representatives hosted a group of Italian winemakers for a dinner following a long trade tasting. Ken says, “Fortunately the Italians’ spoke much better English than I did Italian.” The Italians were anxious to enjoy the fabled seafood of the cold northeastern waters. Anthony Athanas, the founder of Anthony's Pier 4 Restaurants, had a reputation for serving excellent seafood and one of the most extensive wine lists in America at the time.
Ken says, “We started off drinking Champaign and sparkling wines from Northern Italy with oysters and progressed to Arneis, Avellino and white Burgundy with lobster salad and steamed clams in cream sauce. The restaurant sommelier realized we were out for a good time and brought the chef to the table to review possible entre options. Fresh Swordfish steaks and New Zealand spring lamb were being featured. While reviewing the wine list, one of our Italian guests became excited that the wine list had a 1968 Riserva Taurasi from Mastroberardino. I was dumfounded. I had never heard or tried the variety before. We ordered a bottle that was quickly followed by another. The wine was black with a deep purple robe, with aromas of plum and leather. On the palate, the wine was dense with griping tannins, incredible minerality and lively acidity. I really had not tasted anything like it. It was sort of like fine Côte-Rôtie but with much more acid.”
Our Aglianico comes from at the Pomar Junction Vineyard in Paso Robles. This is our first bottling since 2009. The 2010 vintage was washed out by the torrential rains of October 7th and 8th in 2010. Unfortunately, it never made the grade for a KVV bottling despite the best efforts of the winemaking team. In comparison to 2010, 2011 had warmer and rainless conditions during September and October.
Aglianico is an extremely late ripening variety and the Pomar Junction Vineyard can be almost too cool for this variety. The vineyard is located 18 miles east off Morro Bay where cool ocean winds and marine fog visit the vineyard from Estero and Morro Bays, along the riparian passes of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
When working with any new grape variety it takes a few vintages to understand the best viticultural practices and cellar protocols for winemaking. Ken says, “I have to say, Aglianico has been a difficult grape to get my arms around. Not having consistent weather patterns have not helped.”
Aglianico has the strange combination of being an early variety to leaf out in the spring and one of last grapes to be harvested in the fall, which makes it susceptible to frost at both ends of the growing season.
Aglianico is known for its high acidity and tannin that can make for awkward wines if the vines are out of balance and the fruit not completely ripe. The selection we have at Pomar Junction is vigorous and fruitful and most primary spur buds will try to produce three clusters that contribute to a late harvest date.
Through trial and error observations, what has proven to work well is to handle the fruit as if it was a premium table grape. By removing prominent shoulder wings off of the clusters or by cutting the conical shaped clusters in half during the first leaf pulling pass post fruit-set. We will also make another fruit thinning pass at veraison (change of the color of grape berries) of the least colored clusters. This reduces the potential overall crop size and concentrates carbohydrates and in the smaller crop accelerates the ripening.
The Aglianico at Pomar Junction does not always set well if cool weather prevails during bloom. This can lead to irregular shaped cluster and hard green shot berries remaining on the clusters. Shot berries contribute nothing positive to wines so we go to great lengths to remove shot berries manually and mechanically on our vibratory inspection table following de-stemming.
Following the vibratory sorting, the fruit was split into two production lots, two thirds of the fruit as ferment in a closed top temperature controlled stainless steel tank. The balance of the fruit was crushed into 1.3-ton bins that were initially layered with dry ice for field heat removal and Cryogenic Extraction. The bins reach a max temperature of 90 degrees at peak fermentation and the fermentation caps were punched down by hand two to four times daily. The stainless steel fermented lot was fermented at a cool 75 degrees. The tank lot received traditional pump overs and sprinkler irrigation pump overs with screened juice to homogenize tank temperatures and extraction. Each lot was basket pressed prior to complete cap drop.
After a brief settling, the young wine was barreled into French and Hungarian cooperage. The cooperage age ratio was 20% new, 20% 2-3 years old and the balance 4-6 year old neutral cooperage. Each lot was kept separate during their cellaring of 28 months prior to bottling.
The finished wine is deeply pigmented with aromas of black plums, berries, cured tobacco and new leather. This big wine has significant structure with firm tannins and bright acidity that will reward mid to long term cellaring. The depth of fruit and structure of this wine makes it a good foil to rich cuts of meat and hearty pastas. Try it with this recipe for Rosemary Lamb.
2012 Tempranillo, Bella Collina Vineyard, Paso Robles
Tempranillo is considered by many to be the greatest indigenous grape of Spain and is certainly the most well-known and commercially successful grape associated with the country. It is most well-known for the delicious red wines of Rioja and the Ribera del Duero and is known as many other synonyms in other regions of the country.
Genetic testing has revealed conclusively that the variety is the offspring of a natural cross of Albillo Mayor, a white grape of Ribera del Duero and the nearly extinct rare grape variety Benedicto. For more information on this subject, here is a link to an abstract published in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture called Genetic Origin of the Grapevine Cultivar Tempranillo.
Tempranillo has been transported to nearly every major grape growing region in the world - France, Italy, South Africa, Australia, South America, New Zealand and the United States.
There were several recorded imports of the variety to the new world - the first being by Dominican Priests in 1843 to the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Mission in the Guadalupe Valley in Baja California, east of the city Ensenada. The Guadalupe Valley has consistently proved itself to be one of Mexico’s finest winegrowing regions.
Dr. Frederic Bioletti was the first Professor of Viticulture (1904) at the University of California, and the Chairman of the Department of Enology and Viticulture when it was based at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Bioletti had a great interest in grape vine cultivars and made many trips to Europe to obtain vinifera cultivars for trials in California. He brought to California Tempranillo under the Spanish language synonym of “Valdepeñas” in 1908. “Valdepeñas” was the primary name for the variety by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF) and other government agencies until the early 1990’s. Valdepeñas was not commonly planted in California with the largest fan base being immigrant Basque dairy farmers in the Sacramento Delta region.
The Bella Collina Vineyard of Western Paso Robles has consistently produced very good Tempranillo for Kenneth Volk Vineyards. The vineyard’s southern exposure, well-drained calcium-rich soils and excellent viticulture come together for superior Tempranillo fruit.
2012 was the warmest growing season since 2009. Record high temperatures and the second year of drought resulted in a small production of highly concentrated wine. The Bella Collina Tempranillo was the second red grape harvested by KVV in 2012.
Following hand harvesting, the fruit was stored and transported in a refrigerated truck van to the winery to minimize field heat. After scaling the fruit, the fruit was de-stemmed and the berries inspected and culled for any material other than sound grapes.
Approximately 60% of the fruit was fermented in a closed-top, temperature-controlled stainless steel tank while the balance was fermented in a three-ton temperature controlled open-top stainless steel tank. Following several days of cold soaking, the tanks were inoculated with Castilian yeast strain isolates after which a moderately cool fermentation was conducted.
Like many red grapes in 2012, sugar accumulation preceded the ripening of seed tannins and the reduction of acidity. We tried to reduce the over extraction of seed tannins by performing several screened pump overs to allow for the collection of seeds from out of the tanks prior to a third of the way through fermentation.
Basket pressing was conducted at 1-2 brix and the young wine completed primary and secondary fermentation in a mixture of American, Hungarian and French oak cooperage.
The wine was aged on its pressing lees for nine months prior to its first racking. The extended lees contact help to create more mid-palate mouthfeel and to help soften the astringency and tannin of the young wine.
Another dark wine from 2012 vintage, the Bella Collina Tempranillo has aromas of ripe black and red fruits, wet slate, with nuances of licorice and anise. On the palate, the wine is balanced by a creamy mouthfeel and fine grain tannin with a distinctive mineral finish. Tempranillo food pairings include beef, especially when braised or stewed, grilled lamb chops, grilled pork and roasted poultry. Try our Tempranillo with this recipe for Tenderloin Brochettes.
2012 Touriga Nacional, Pomar Junction Vineyard, Paso Robles
Touriga Nacional is arguably the greatest red grape of Portugal that frequently plays a leading role in port wine and still wine blends. Only during the past twenty years has it gained wide acceptance as a single varietal wine. Touriga Nacional brings a lot to the blending party whether it is for still or port wine production. The grape has a broad range of fruit flavors in addition to tannin structure and intriguing floral aromatics to complement other varieties.
Part of the confusion with Touriga Nacional is that the name “Touriga” is also used as a first name for several distinct and genetically different grape vines - Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Touriga Fina.
In the United States, it was only legal to use the generic term “Touriga” for all of these great varieties until 2010, when the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) accepted the petitions of Ken and other winemakers that Touriga Nacional was its own distinct variety. Despite overwhelming evidence on genetics, what seemed to strike home with the bureaucrats was Ken’s presentation of Portuguese wines that list Touriga Nacional prominently on their face labels that the TTB had approved for import into the United States. Ken argued this was a double standard and an unfair trade practice putting domestic producers at a marketing disadvantage to foreign producers.
“I was first attracted to Touriga Nacional by its distinctly floral aromatics, firm structure and deep fruit flavors,” comments Ken. Touriga Nacional has large amounts of monoterpene compounds in its skins and pulp. These compounds are more frequently associated with white wines and can be manipulated by viticultural and wine making protocols to extenuate the floral aromas of the wine.
Touriga Nacional also produces a very high number of seeds to pulp in comparison to most grapes which can contribute to wines with high tannin content. 2012 was a very warm growing season that was punctuated by some extreme heat waves in July, August and September. Fortunately, bloom occurred in mid-May under near perfect temperatures, which allowed for our Touriga Nacional to set a big crop.
Having had excessive sunburn on the afternoon-side of the vine canopy in prior vintages, we initially took the crop off short shoots of the spur positions and allowed a catch wire to drape over the canes on the afternoon exposed side of the vine. This allowed high noon sunlight exposure to the clusters while shading the fruit zone from the late afternoon sun. On the morning sun side of the vine, we pulled leaves from below and above the fruit zone and short shoots with clusters were completely removed. Mid-veraison, a thinning pass was made to remove green hardball clusters and less colored fruit to even up the uniformity in ripeness of the vintage.
After hand harvesting and delivery to the winery, the fruit was divided into three different lots for fermentation. The high temperatures of 2012, particularly right before harvest, had a tendency to dumb down some of the floral character of cooler vintages.
Ken says, “Based on tasting fruit samples, I was concerned the fruit may have more of a baked fruit flavor than I like, so I took steps to play up more of the fruit character of the wine by more whole berry fermentation, longer cold soaking and a majority of the fruit fermented at cool temperatures.”
All lots were de-stemmed and sorted, open top lots were 50% crushed and 50% whole berry fermented. One lot was crushed into 1.3-ton open-top bins that were layered with dry ice. Following a cold soak, a warm fermentation progressed. Another lot was fermented in a 5-ton temperature controlled stainless steel open-top tank at cold temperatures. The third lot was fermented in a closed top stainless steel insulated tank. Approximately two tons of whole clusters were hand placed in the bottom of the tank and covered with dry ice. Next, de-stemmed whole berries were pumped on top of the whole clusters and dry ice. This third lot was encouraged to undergo carbonic maceration for a week prior to yeast inoculation and a cool, conventional end fermentation.
All lots were drained prior to basket pressing and gross fermentation lees settling. The young wine was racked to French and Hungarian cooperage for aging and completed Malolactic fermentation in barrel. The barrels were topped in place and received two rackings - one in March 2013 and another prior to preparation for bottling.
Our 2012 Touriga Nacional is a ripe and structured wine with flavors of mulberry, blueberry and black currant, along with nuances of violets and confectionary spice. This wine has plenty of structure to stand up to rich cuts of roasted or seared meats yet balanced enough to pair with less fatty foods. Try it with this delicious recipe for Halibut with White Beans.