2014 Albariño — Riverbench Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
2014 was our fourth vintage producing Albariño from the Riverbench Vineyard, which is located just a quick trip from KVV, across the bridge on Tepusquet Road.
The Albariño at Riverbench is the only planting of the variety in the Santa Maria Valley AVA. The cool climate of the Santa Maria Valley and the well-drained soils help in producing excellent Albariño.
This delicious wine was recently awarded a Best of Class and gold medal at the Sunset International Wine Competition.
Albariño is the most well-known white grape of the Galicia region of northern Spain. South in Portugal, the grape is called “Alvarinho” where it is used extensively in blends, as well as in single varietal wines in the Vinho Verde region.
Albariño can produce extremely fruity and aromatic wines with aromas of apricot, white peach, nectarine, honeysuckle and citrus flowers.
The origin of Albariño is not certain but it has been grown on the Iberian Peninsula for centuries. DNA analysis has been vague in determining its parentage. It does have some similarities to the grape Petit Manseng, which is grown on both sides of the Pyrenees Mountains, separating Spain and France.
Albariño berries have thick skins that contain many seeds which contribute to phenolic bitterness in wines unless the fruit is handled with care while processing.
The KVV Albariño was hand-picked and whole-cluster pressed and the juice cold-settled for several days. Fermentation commenced in stainless steel with an inoculation of non-saccharomyces yeast for the first 5° brix. A series of aroma-enhancing saccharomyces yeast stains were then introduced to complete primary fermentation.
The combination of these yeast strains helped to produce a clean, highly aromatic wine with bright acidity and flavors of nectarine and Granny Smith apple. Try our 2014 Albariño with this recipe for Gingered Toro Tuna with Quinoa Amontillado.
2012 Blaufränkisch — Pomar Junction Vineyard, Paso Robles
Blaufränkisch is a red wine grape that originated in France. It was disseminated throughout much of central and northern Europe. “Blaufränkisch” is the Austrian name for the grape, which has nearly as many different names as countries where it is cultivated.
In Germany it is called “Limberger” and “Lemberger”, in Hungary it is called “Kékfrankos”, and in northern Italy it is called “Francoia Nera”. Many of these names translate as “blue Frankish”.
In warmer climates, Blaufränkisch produces wines with blackberry flavor. In cooler areas the flavors are more of cherry and currant. Typically, the wines are high in acid with substantial tannins.
Ken first experienced the variety when he was up in Washington State in 1987 where it was grown as Lemberger. Ken says, “I found many of the wines produced from it charming and flavorful. In 1991 I was fortunate enough to make a trip to Hungary to visit Budapest Kadar, a fifth generation Cooperage Company, as well as the wine growing regions. I found many delicious wines being produced from Kékfrankos particularly in the southern part of the country, near the village of Villany. It was here where I got the bug to plant some in Paso Robles at Wild Horse.”
In 1994 Ken planted two acres of Blaufränkisch, the first planting in Paso Robles. Not wanting the consumer to associate the wine with stinky cheese, Ken successfully petitioned the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to recognize Blaufränkisch as a synonym for Lemburger in America.
In doing further research on the variety, it turns out that Blaufränkisch is one of the coldest, winter tolerant, 100% Vitis Vinifera wine grapes when the vines are well-hardened off prior to winter. It will tolerate temperatures as low as 10° while dormant.
This cold winter tolerance, no doubt, led to its plantings in some of the coldest parts of continental Europe as well as North America.
Blaufränkisch is a decedent of Gouais Blanc. Gouais Blanc produces rather unremarkable wines and is a mother vine to many of the world's finest wine grapes including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Melon de Bourgogne and Gamay Noir.
Try our 2012 Blaufränkisch with this wonderful recipe for lamb Hungarian-style.
2012 Negrette — Calleri Vineyard, San Benito County
Negrette (pronounced neh-gret) is a grape that has been cultivated in continental southwestern France since the late Middle Ages.
Negrette was reputably brought to France by the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem (Knights Templar), who were returning from the first crusade via the Island of Cyprus. The knights, according to legend, were gifted Negrette vines by Cypriot Christians who believed drinking Negrette instilled valor during battle.
There is a grape on the Island of Cyprus named Mavro, which in Greek translates to “black”. Some authors had made the assumption that Negrette, which translate to “little black”, was the same grape. However, according to the DNA testing of Mavro and other grapes on the Island Of Cyprus, no close relationship is shown to Negrette.
The propensity for Negrette to rot under humid conditions would not make it a good candidate to grow on a Mediterranean island.
Extensive genetic testing at both the National Germplasm Repository at UC Davis and the INRA grape collection at Montpellier, France has not found a direct parent/sibling relationship for Negrette. Negrette, however, does share portions of genetic code of the grape varieties Jurancon Noir, Malbec, Peloursin and Durif. All of these varieties are believed to have originated in southern France.
Before 1997, Negrette was known as Pinot St. George in California. The Negrette at the Calleri Vineyard is the largest remaining planting of Negrette in California, with seven acres planted. Ken Volk made his first Negrette at Wild Horse Winery from the original El Gavilan Vineyard in 1991. The Calleri Vineyard was planted with budwood from the El Gavilan Vineyard that was established in 1853 by Theophile Vache.
When asked why and what got him interested in Negrette Ken replied, “I was intrigued by the colorful folklore about the variety. When I had an opportunity to work with it I gave it a chance. It is a tough grape to grow but I do find it has some uniquely savory character with old world charm. Its characteristics are greatly influenced by the temperature of the vintage. In cool years it is earthy and more Pinot Noir-like in flavor and texture and in warm years, like 2012, it comes across more rustic and Côtes du Rhône-like in character.”
Prior to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives legislation increasing the minimum varietal content of wine from 55% to 85%, much of the Pinot St. George/Negrette in California was used to darken up other red wines, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel in particular. It certainly has its place as a coloring agent, but in dry growing seasons it can produce delicious wines by itself.
Our 2012 Negrette has aromas of anise, licorice, baking spice and black cherry. On the palate, the wine is full and rich with flavors of Damson plum and bramble fruits with lingering tannins. Try it with this recipe for Teriyaki Steak Kebobs.
Blended Wines at Kenneth Volk Vineyards
People often ask why KVV doesn’t make red and white wine blends. The answer to that question is that we do our two flagship wines: our Santa Maria Cuvée Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which are blends of different vineyards and numerous sublots from each vineyard. Our Paso Robles appellation Bordeaux varietal bottlings are typically a complimentary of Bordeaux varieties with 85% of the labeled variety. Even our single vineyard bottlings are often produced from multiple cellar lots with different winemaking and harvest dates employed to create more complexity and texture to the resulting wine.
2012 Lusitania — Paso Robles
Our Lusitania is our most ambitious red wine blend to date in attempt to produce a modern-style Iberian blend from Paso Robles fruit. Lusitania is a 2012 vintage red wine composed of Mediterranean wine grapes most of which are indigenous to the western Iberian Peninsula.
The name Lusitania was the Roman name for the most western province of the Roman Empire. The native people of the region were known as the “Lustani”, a diverse population of unrelated tribes. The Lusitani were fierce fighters who had more success in holding back the Roman occupation than any other area in Europe.
Historical 1849 map of Roman Hispania showing Lusitania in green on the left. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Map courtesy of Wolpertinger Art Production Service
Lusitania was also the name given to the ill-fated luxury liner that at the time was the world’s largest ship that was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915.
The sinking of the Lusitania killed 1,191 civilians, of which 128 were Americans that ultimately led to the United States entry into World War I.
Our Lusitania wine is a tribute to Iberian wine culture and to the lost souls of the Lusitania, this year marking the 100th Anniversary. This delicious wine is a blend of 36% Souzão, 36% Syrah, 18% Tempranillo and 9% Touriga Nacional from Paso Robles. With exception of the Tempranillo, all this fruit came from the Cira Vineyard in Paso Robles.
The Cira Vineyard is located off Adobe Road near the J. Lohr and Via Vega Vineyard. The property is farmed organically by the father and son team of Fred and Paul Esposito. The name “Cira” comes from Fred’s grandmother.
The soils of the property are sandy loam in the upper three feet, overlaying rocky clay loam subsoil. The vines are cordon spur pruned.
This vineyard has some of the only Souzão planted in Paso Robles. Souzão has been grown in Portugal’s Mino region for over five centuries where it is called “Vinhao”.
In the Douro Valley it is a permitted grape for Port and table wine production. A semi-teinturier (red grape varieties with red colored juice). Souzão has very thin skins and when ripe, the juice in the berry is a light purple color. Its thin skins allow for easy extraction of color and phenolic compounds. The wine typically has high color acidity and griping tannins. Despite its immense structure, it has lovely aromas of berries and violets.
As a single varietal, Souzão wine requires a conditioned palate for appreciation, however, as a blending component it brings a lot to the party for hot climate red wine blends. In this blend it serves to provide gripping tannin while balancing the lower acidity of the other varieties.
The Syrah grown at the Cira Vineyard is the Estrella clone and it provides the deep base notes of black and blue fruit aromas and flavors to our Lusitania.
Syrah is not considered an indigenous grape of the Iberian Peninsula, according to observations by Pliny the Elder, who wrote of dark colored grapes and wine of Vienne in the area modern Côte-Rôtie. In Pliny’s time this grape was known as "Allobroges" which he reported and cataloged in his text Naturalis Historia in 77 AD.
DNA simple sequence analysis has proven Syrah is a natural hybrid of the Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche, both native grapes of Southwestern France.
Syrah may have traveled south over the Pyrenees with the Roman legions, but like California, modern plantings did not take place in significant acreage until the early 1970’s.
The Tempranillo used in this blend is from fruit grown at the Bella Collina Vineyard. The Tempranillo provides mid-palate roundness and supports the baking spice and blackberry aromas of Lusitania.
Touriga Nacional is also from the Cira Vineyard. The Touriga brings complimentary sweet berry and floral aromas to this wine.
Our Lusitania is a huge wine with excellent aging potential. This wine will benefit from aerated decanting prior to any near term consumption. Try it with this recipe for Portuguese Rabbit.