I started the blending process for four of 2007 vintage wines: Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Roaring Red, Dry Creek Valley Syrah and Santa Barbara Sangiovese.
We have three distinct Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Vineyard X vineyard, hot fermentation Young-Inglewood vineyard, and a cool fermented Young-Inglewood vineyard. The Vineyard X wine is tremendous wine — the Transault barrel has provided a pronounced aromas of freshly made fine Italian espresso, black currants and red currants; the mouthfeel is great from front to back with the standard dip in the mid-palate associated with Cabernet Sauvignon. The two Young-Inglewood fermentations were done to provide good blending components for the Vineyard X fruit. The cool fermentation provides good fruitiness aromas and flavors with lower tannin extraction while the hot fermentation provides a structure and color component at the expense of very little aromatics. While evaluating the separate wines, I noticed that the cool fermented Young-Inglewood wine had noticably different (more reddish with some purple) and better color than the hot fermented Young-Inglewood which did not make sense initially. The cool fermented wine was in a neutral barrel to preserve the fruit purity while the hot fermented wine was in a new barrel to provide ample oak tannins for oak flavor and color fixation. The hot fermented wine was brighter and clearer than the cool fermented wine. The new barrel seems to have worked as expected with brighter and more stable color and good structure/oak flavoring. I was hoping to work out the first or gross blend of the Cabernet Sauvigons to get the blend done and allow time for it to stablize. However, after evaluating the wines, I have decided to combine the two Young-Inglewood lots into a single lot, do 5% concentration to get the body and mouthfeel to be on par with the Vineyard X wine. return the wine to neutral barrels and reevaluate the wines in January for the next blending step. The next steps are to determine if the Vineyard X lot should be combined with the Young-Inglewood for a single Cabernet Sauvignon lot or do fractional blending of the Young-Inglewood lot with the Vineyard X lot and try for highly rated “Parker” style wine. It is a very difficult choice given that in order to sell more wine, I need to get highly-rated wines given my price point or make a better wine in the Lionheart Wines Style. My initial thoughts are to make a wine more in the Lionheart Wines style — bold, approachable, some agability and fantastic with food. If we end up with the Lionheart Wine style, there may not be a Roaring Red in 2007 as all of the Cabernet Sauvignon will be used for the flagship Cabernet Sauvignon.
The White Hawk vineyard Sangiovese from Santa Barbara tasted great and has great chemistry numbers (14.47% abv, 3.42 PH, 7.9 grams/liter TA and a low VA). The acidity is a bit higher than will be in the final wine but it is much better for the wine to have higher acidity at the point than the reverse. The high acidity provides good protection to the wine by helping the effectiveness of SO2 in solution as an anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial agent. A potassium carbonate (e.g. potcarb) trial will be done to determine the final bottling acidity in January. My initial guess is that we will end up lowering the TA by 0.5 to 0.7 grams/liter. A sample blend of 5% Vineyard X Cabernet Sauvignon was done with the Sangiovese post postcab adjustment resulting in a very exciting wine — you are going to love it! The final blend will be done in done in late December or mid-January.
The Dry Creek Valley Syrah from Ray Teldeschi vineyard has been a bit of mystery on where to take it since it was fermenting in 2007. The wine has been very tight since it was put in barrel. After 11 months, the wine started to open up and show classic Syrah characteristics of ground pepper, red fruit, black olive, earth and some smoke. I have been aging the wine in two lots — 1 new Hermitage barrel to add oak structure in the classic French Syrah style, 1 neutral barrel to preserve the fruit characteristic unmasked by oak and the balance of the wine in a stainless steel topping tank. The Hermitage barrel has provided an abundance of oak with some similar characteristics to American oak — slight coconut and a far amount of Vanillin plus the more standard French spices (warm) and cracker pepper. After tastings both lots, it is clear that the wine needs to be racked together into neutral barrels to avoid anymore oak flavor pick up. The oak flavor is good but anymore would be distracting.
A key goal of this blending / tasting session was to see what the gross blend for the syrah would be to enhance the aromatics, provide a layer flavor/aroma profile and make sure to have a long balanced finished. The initial thoughts were to use the traditional blenders with the syrah: Tempranillo (Spanish style), Grenache (French) and Viognier (Australia and some French). I would like to try Mouvedre but I do not access to any. The Tempranillo was very interesting by itself but when combined with the Syrah it highlights the worst of each wine — so the Tempranillo was ruled out. The Eaglepoint Ranch Vineyard Grenache is a great blending component; it has bold and pleasant aromas of ripe pumpkin, cracked pepper (white and black), strawberry, cranberry and rhubbarb. The Broken Leg Vineyard Viognier from Anderson Valley is also a good blending component by providing a nice aromatic lift of apricot, orange blossom and tangerines. After several blends being tried, the target blend of 6% Eaglepoint Ranch Vineyard Grenache provides a good complexity of aromas and flavors that compliments the base Syrah. The Grenache will be blending in during the rack and return to neutral barrels for the Syrah. The Viognier provides a good lift to the aromatics and enhances the mouthfeel and finish of the syrah. The Viognier will be blended in January after the Grenache has had time to integrate into the syrah. It is best to take the blending in stages to make sure the blend in your glass works in the barrel.
Overall, I am quite happy with the wines. I would have liked to get all the gross blends done in December but the wine indicates patience and several steps are going to be required to produce the best wine possible. Naturally, I am going to listen to what the wines are indicating not my will.