For our September 2012 featured wine club shipment, we are proud to offer the following wines:
2011 Torrontes — Silvaspoons Vineyards, Alta Mesa
Double Gold and Best White Wine of Show, 2012 California State Fair
Ken has been on a Touriga Nacional kick lately and in 2011 he went looking for other sources of Touriga Nacional grapes to work with. Having tasted a superb Touriga Nacional from the Silvaspoons Vineyards located in the Alta Mesa appellation (within California’s delta region of Lodi) and produced by Jeff Runquist, Ken decided to check out this vineyard. In the course of his research, he kept finding positive reviews of the wines produced from Silvaspoons Vineyards as well as its owner and operator, Ron Silva. It became apparent to Ken that he and Ron shared a kindred spirit of the appreciation of rare grape varieties from the Iberian Peninsula. In addition to more common grapes, Ron also has plantings of Alvarelhão, Souzão, Tinto Cão, Touriga Francesa, Trincadiera and Verdelho.
Ken called Ron, introduced himself and made an appointment to visit the vineyard. Ken and his son Kenny visited the vineyard and were given a great tour of the vineyard blocks. And when Ron showed Ken his recently grafted vines of Torrontes and asked him if he wanted to try making some, our adventurous winemaker said “Yes.” Aware that Torrontes shares some of the characteristics of Malvasia Bianca (both having Muscat Alexandria as one of their parents), Ken was anxious to work with the variety. Ken had tried Torrontes from Argentina and enjoyed the attractive aromatics and high fruit-toned wines but was unaware until now of any growing in California.
In the Vineyard
Torrontes is a rare Vitis vinifera grape variety which may have developed in the New World. The crisp, fragrant white wines produced from Torrontes in Argentina have gained international popularity. There remains much confusion as to the origin of Torrontes because the grape called Torrontes in Spain is not the same as the grape grown in South America. Making matters more confusing, there are three related but different grapes known as Torrontes grown in Argentina.
The precise origin of the Torrontes grape may not ever be proven, but genetic research indicates Torrontes is the result of a chance crossing of two traditional old world grape varieties. Laboratory simple sequence DNA testing indicates Torrontes is a cross of Criolla Chica (also referred to as “Mission grape” in California) and Muscat Alexandria. These varieties were often transported by Catholic missionaries to the New World and were frequently planted in church vineyards. Jesuit missionaries were the first to plant commercial vineyards in Santiago del Estreno in Argentina in 1557; however, it is not known definitively when and where this grape variety originated.
Ron Silva, owner and operator of Silvaspoons Vineyards, is a progressive winegrower and takes pride in his extensive plantings of rare grape varieties. The fruit was hand-harvested and field-sorted into half-ton macro bins in the early morning on September 16th. The bins were then transported to the winery in a refrigerated, insulated truck trailer.
At the Winery
Upon arrival at the winery, the fruit was whole-cluster pressed in our Puleo bladder press. A modified Champagne press cycle technique was utilized for pressing the Torrontes during which the press cage is seldom rotated and the bladder inflation pressures are kept low. This technique does not provide for high yields but it does minimize the extraction of bitter compounds from the grapes’ skins, stems and seeds as well as keep the solids low in the resulting juice. The juice was cold-settled at 35° for 60 hours. Following cold settling, the juice was racked off the solids to start fermentation at 52°. A combination of aroma-enhancing yeast strains was utilized to inoculate the cold juice. The juice slowly but steadily fermented over the course of four weeks. The wine was kept on its fermentation lees through its cellar life to keep it fresh and increase its mouth feel and texture.
In the Glass
When judges at the 2012 California State Fair had a chance to try and compare this wine with other top white wines, our 2011 Torrontes from Silvaspoons Vineyards was awarded both a Double Gold and Best White Wine of Show.
The bottled wine displays delicate fragrances of jasmine, sweet grapes, and ripe peach. The floral and fruity aromas of this wine are balanced by flavors of white nectarine, citrus fruits and honeydew melon. This wine is a delicious aperitif and it beautifully complements seafood dishes, herbed, white-sauced pastas and chicken dishes.
Grilled Fish Tacos with Mango and Avocado Salsa
2009 Mourvèdre — Enz Vineyard, Lime Kiln Valley
Mourvèdre is the French name for the Spanish grape Monastrell or Mataro, the dominant grape of Spain’s Jumilla and Yelca regions. Grown for centuries on the Iberian Peninsula, it was not until the 1700s that the grape crossed over the Pyrenees Mountains to be cultivated in southern France. Mourvèdre is the principal red grape of the Bandol region of France and is quite often the largest percentage of many prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape red wines. Mourvèdre is also the “M” of the Australian Rhône blend GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre). The variety is often considered an important blending grape but,
when dry farmed for quality, it is capable of producing remarkable wines as a single varietal.
Our 2009 Mourvèdre comes from the Enz Vineyard in Lime Kiln Valley, San Benito County. Lime Kiln Valley is one of the oldest American Viticultural Areas in California, but remains one of the least known. This small AVA is located in the Gavilan Mountains 24 miles east of Marina State Beach and Monterey Bay. The Enz Vineyard receives marine airflow from the Bay and from the Pajaro River Gap as well as Chualar Canyon, which moderates the temperature of the entire Lime Kiln Valley.
In the late 1800s, Lime Kiln Valley supported a population of several hundred people involved in the mining of limestone and wood-fired kilning of limestone; much of the mortar and plaster for the construction of Santa Clara and San Francisco originated from Lime Kiln Valley. Several large rock lime kilns remain standing as sentries in this remote valley.
In the Vineyard
The unique geology of Lime Kiln Valley is a result of its close proximity to the Calaveras and San Andreas faults. The Enz Vineyard is located on a tapering slope of sandy gravel loam of decomposed granite overlaying calcareous sub-soils. Weathered outcrops of limestone and marble protrude from the mountainous terrain surrounding the vineyard. The Enz Vineyard Mourvèdre was planted in 1922 and is the oldest Mourvèdre on the Central Coast. This seven-acre block of vines is head-cane trained and dry-farmed. During dormant pruning, canes are tied together over the top of the vines to a training stake forming a crown or corona. The vines were under less drought stress in 2009, a wetter and warmer growing season in comparison to 2008. Following fruit set, a shoot thinning pass was made to remove short shoots and to open up the canopy to more wind and sun. At the start of color change and berry softening, a green fruit drop was made to even up the range of maturity and concentrate the vines’ energies to the remaining fruit.
At the Winery
The fruit was hand-harvested over four separate picking dates and fermented in several different ways: in whole-cluster carbonic macerations, in 1.3-ton open top macro bins and in closed-top tank fermentors. The lack of any rot allowed for more whole cluster and whole berry fermentation. Following fermentation and basket pressing, the wine was aged in French and Hungarian oak cooperage for 18 months prior to preparation for bottling.
In the Glass
This wine has aromas of mulberry, blackberry, anise, humus and spice. On the palate, it presents flavors of bramble fruits, thyme, black licorice and white pepper. This medium bodied wine’s spicy edge makes it a perfect match for rustic, savory cuisine such as herbed meatballs with spaghetti.
Savory Herb Meatballs with Spaghetti
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon — Paso Robles
The 2008 growing season was extremely cold and appeared to be the start of a multi-year cooling trend in Paso Robles. The driver of this cooling trend has been the cold ocean temperature caused by La Niña conditions and an extended upwelling season which has kept ocean temperatures 4-6 degrees below normal in Estero Bay, which lies due west of Paso Robles. The cool growing season delayed every aspect of vine development from bud break through harvest.
In the Vineyard
The cold conditions stretched out bloom time and resulted in irregular fruit set on Cabernet Sauvignon vines throughout the Paso Robles AVA. This bottling is a blend of fruit from three vineyard sites. The Starr Ranch Vineyard and the Carmody McKnight Vineyard lie on the west side of Paso Robles while the Vista Creek Vineyard is located on the Estrella Bench to the east. Each vineyard was hand-harvested into half-ton bins and delivered to the winery in Santa Maria via refrigerated truck trailer.
At the Winery
Several different fermentation techniques were used in the production of this wine. The Starr Ranch and Vista Creek fruit was 100% de-stemmed and 50% crushed into 1.3-ton, open-top almond bin fermentors, which were layered with dry ice during filling. The dry ice removed field heat and allowed several days of cold soaking prior to active fermentation. These open-top lots had their caps punched down by hand 3-6 times daily and pressing occurred at cap fall. The Carmody McKnight fruit was fermented in insulated, closed-top tanks equipped with glycol cooling jackets, which allowed for precise temperature control. These tank-fermented lots were 100% crushed and de-stemmed. Tank lots had their caps sprinkler-irrigated and received several rack and returns through a screened sump to remove jack stems and seeds prior to an extended post-fermentation maceration.
Regardless of fermentation regime, each lot was basket-pressed prior to barreling down into French, Hungarian and American oak cooperage. The cool 2008 growing season had a tendency to produce more green, less ripe tannins than is typical of Paso Robles Cabernet, which led Ken to alter his winemaking protocols for this vintage. He felt that the vintage required more frequent aerated rackings and more time in barrel as well as potentially a higher percentage of other Bordeaux varieties added during blending. This Cabernet Sauvignon was aged for 33 months in barrel and was racked four times during its cellar life. After numerous blending trials, 12% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc from the Carmody McKnight Vineyard were used to support the mid-palate and to lift the aromatics in the base Cabernet blend.
In the Glass
This medium-bodied, Bordeaux-style blend is a ruby-colored wine with aromas of ripe plum, Mission fig, cedar and Paso Robles dust. On the palate, this wine is soft with flavors of blueberry, cocoa and plum; it finishes with a creamy, lactic quality from the cool vintage. This wine pairs well with slow-roasted meats and vegetables, spice-rubbed, grilled cuts of pork and beef, or rustic herbed Italian pastas.
Spring Lamb Chops Stuffed with Porcini Mushrooms & Sun-dried Tomatoes
2009 Petite Sirah — French Camp Vineyards, Paso Robles
Our 2009 Petite Sirah comes from French Camp Vineyards in the extreme south-western portion of the Paso Robles appellation, an area Ken affectionately calls “West Bakersfield.” French Camp Vineyards lie north of the Caliente and Temblor mountain ranges and the Carrizo Plain National Monument. The soils of the property are the result of several geologic forces including the sedimentation of an ancient fresh water inland sea, the alluvium from the San Juan River, and the proximity to the San Andreas Fault.
French Camp Vineyards averages eleven inches of rainfall annually and has a Mediterranean climate with large daily temperature swings. A 40-60 degree swing between daytime high and morning low temperatures occurs on a regular basis during the wine growing season. This large temperature variation has a profound impact on vine physiology and the metabolites produced in the ripening grapes. The bright warm days allow for efficient photosynthesis and carbohydrate development while the cold nights retard the metabolism of organic acids. In comparison to wine growing regions where hot days are followed by warm night temperatures, the grapes respire much of the malic acid during warm evenings.
A number of grape varieties have been called “Petite Sirah” in California; however, what constitutes 95% of Petite Sirah acreage in California is actually the grape Durif. In 1880, French botanist Francois Durif discovered a unique vine growing in a vineyard of Peloursin grapes and propagated the vine which would be called by his family name Durif. The Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB), which regulates the United States wine industry, considers Durif to be synonymous with Petite Sirah: either name is allowed to be used on the labels of bottlings of either varietal. Genetic research indicates that Petite Sirah resulted from a cross of Syrah and Peloursin grapes.
In the Vineyard
Petite Sirah is a vigorous, productive vine that produces large, tight clusters of small, thin-skinned berries in long, pyramid-shaped clusters with winged shoulders clusters. Petite Sirah’s Achilles Heel viticulturally is that it is highly susceptible to Botrytis bunch rot, particularly in humid conditions or following rainfall. The thin-skinned berries on the interior of the cluster can burst resulting in clusters that rot from the inside out, making it very difficult to sort out during harvest. During a dry harvest like 2009, however, Petite Sirah thrives and can produce inky dark wines with a distinct purple hue. The wines can have a firm texture and frequently present black and blue fruit flavors with spicy, herbal aromatics.
At the Winery
Our 2009 French Camp Petite Sirah was handpicked and fermented in 1.3-ton open-top macro bin fermentors. After several days of dry ice-induced cold soaking, a warm fermentation was encouraged. The bins were punched down by hand 2-4 times daily and the bins were drained and pressed prior to cap fall in our Hypac basket press. The free run and press juice was settled for five days in stainless steel prior to barreling down.
A combination of 20% new American oak barrels produced by Australian cooperage company AP John and 10% new Hungarian oak from Trust International were used to age this wine. The balance of the cooperage was 2-4 year-old French oak Burgundy barrels.
This wine was racked once during its eighteen months of cellaring and bottled in April 2011.
In the Glass
After 14 months of bottle aging, this wine is displaying some great aromas and flavors. This wine has aromas of ripe blackberry, dark chocolate with spicy nuances of black pepper, nutmeg and vanilla bean. On the palate this wine has flavors of raspberry, plum, mocha, licorice with a dusty fine-grained tannin finish.
Smothered Filet Mignon