Tag-Archive for ◊ Blending ◊

19 May 2009 Spring Blending Update

Spring blending is underway at Lionheart Wines!  I have been working on blending the following wines:

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2007 Roaring Red, California
2008 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
2008 white Rhone blend (we can not use ‘The Angel’s Share’ anymore due to a trademark issue…if you have a suggestion for what to call the wine, please let me know)

The blending has gone very well.  I really enjoy working on blending the wines as you get to “fine tune” the work started way back at harvest of the grapes.   I have a wine style in mind which I try to reach in the final blend but do not artificially impose my will on what the wines are showing as their best qualities.  I want to make the best possible wine given the base blending components.

The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is looking to be a different style than then 2006; the 2007 has more ripe cherry / plum fruit which the blending will need to tone down.  I am going to be doing blend tests with Petite Verdot (to add spicyness and warm baking spices), Cabernet Franc (to add some floral aromas and more velvety tannins) and a bit of Malbec (make the wine more interesting, more layered in aromas and flavors).  The exact blend has not been worked out yet; the primary blend should be done by the first week in June.  The primary blend will then be put back in barrel to let it integrate before any final adjustments and bottling later this year.

The 2007 Roaring Red has been a bit of challenge this year.  I had to do a fining trial to get the tannin profile in line with the target wine.  The fining trial was done by taking equal volume samples of the current blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley and Kiona, Washington) and Dry Creek Syrah and adding 1 egg white worth to one sample, 2 egg white worth to another sample, etc and then left in a refrigerate to cold stablize it for a week.  The results from the fining trial indicated that about 1.25 egg whites per barrel seemed to get the proper tannin softness and structure for the wine.   After the actual fining is completed, the last part of the primary blend will be done.  The blending wines to be tested are Eaglepoint Grenache (for spiceyness and addition of light red fruits (currants, strawberry, etc) ), Contra Costa Mourvedre (for aromas and flavor complexity) and Petite Verdot ( for spiceyness and warm baking spices).

The 2008 Pinot Noir primary blending was very easy — equal parts of the Bohemian Vineyard and Gap’s Crown vineyard.  The blend was really nice and very similar to the 2007 Pinot Noir.   The blend will be topped with some of the Bohemian 777 clone from the second pick to add a bit more concentration to the wine as it integrates.   I am very happy with the base wines from these two vineyards!

The 2008 Saralee’s Vineyard, White Rhone Blend (formerly ‘The Angel’s Share’) blending was a several hour and over 15 blends tested for the primary blend to be determined.  The blend components all look very good by themselves but when properly combined you get a really lovely wine.   The final blend should be very similar to the 2007 White Rhone blend.   The 2008 primary blend is going to be 48% Roussanne / 50% Marsanne / 2% Viognier.    It was very cool to  be able to tell how the wine was going to evolve given this would be the third vintage — remember what the wines were like when initially blended versus the current state of each vintage.   I really enjoy working with the white Rhone varietals as the flavors and aromas are very complex and beguiling.  The white Rhone wine maybe bottled near the end of June depending on how the primary blend stablizes in tank.

09 Feb 2009 Spring work in the cellar

You might not realize it but Spring is a busy time in the cellar.   The winter is when malolactic fermentation typically happens assuming the wines have not been sulphured and the temperature does not dip too low.  In Bordeaux, the temperature in the cellars typically does too low and malolactic fermentation shut downs but will complete in Spring.   The wines I wanted to go through malolactic fermentation are innoculated with a malolactic bacteria culture to make sure the malolactic fermentation completes in a timely fashion — it simplifies work in the cellar later.  All of the 2008 wines that are supposed to go through malolactic fermentation have completed.

Racking is the next big task usually done in the Spring.  The red wine is racked off the gross lees to avoid any autolytic flavors from developing.  White wine make be aged on lees to add creaminess to the texture and slight autolytic notes.  My white wines (Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier) are all still on their lees and a stirring program has been started to enhance the body / palate weight and give a bit of creaminess to the wines. 

Blending is the next large task in the cellar.  I have been doing blending work on three wines: 07 White Hawk Vineyard, Sangiovese, Santa Barbara; 08 Santa Barbara Rose, and 07 Syrah, Dry Creek Valley. 

Sangiovese: The Sangiovese has turned out really well!  I am very happy with the wine.  A small amount of 08 White Hawk vineyard Sangiovese (5%) and a small amount of 07 Young-Inglewood Cabernet Sauvignon was blended into the 07 Sangiovese.  The 08 was added to freshen up the flavors/aromas and give a bit more power to the wine.  The Cabernet Sauvignon has added a nice element in the entry and the finish.  The wine is currently being cold stabilized in the cold room and should be bottled in the next couple of weeks. 

Rose: I have been doing blending / fining work on my 08 Rose (Syrah / Sangiovese) getting it ready for bottling soon.  I had to adjust the sweetness level a bit with the addition of some sucrose solution to give it a hint of sweetness.  Also, the rose has a slight bit of bitterness and a deep violet color (due to bleeding 24 hours after crushing instead of 6 to 12 as should have been done).  So, I am fining the rose with a combination of PVPP and Bentonite.  PVPP will strip out the bitterness and lighten up the wine.  The Bentonite is added to clarify the wine and compress the PVPP mixture that settles out of the wine (less wasted wine).  The process is to dissolve the PVPP in 1 liter of wine, mix the PVPP mixture into the wine, soak the Bentonite in a 1 liter of water for 3 to 4 hours, mix the rehydrated bentonite into the wine, move the wine into the cold room and leave the wine in the cold room for 4 to 6 days depending on the temperature of the cold room.  The clean rose will then be racked off the PVPP and Bentonite mixture on the bottom of the tank.  The clean rose will then be sulphur adjusted for bottling and bottled.

Syrah: The Syrah is a work in progress — a few adjustments at a time to get a good/great final product.  The wine is being blended with some Eaglepoint Vineyard Grenache to add complexity and aromatic lift (warm spice, black pepper and strawberry) along with some Catie’s Corner Vineyard viognier to further enhance the aromatics.  After the results of the blending have had time to stablize, I will be looking at possibly making further adjustments but the wine needs time to stablize.

Note: I am still working on typing up the South America trip.  Hopefully, I will have that available in a week or so.

06 Dec 2008 Adventures in blending — 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Sangiovese

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.