Spring 2017 Releases
2016 Syrah Rosé-Trenton Estate Vineyard, Russian River Valley
This time of year I usually stock up on other wineries rosés. Unfortunately rosé has become the hot new in thing. Gone are the days when pink meant sweet and cloying. Today they are being made from top quality grapes and are generally dry, fun and refreshing. The bad news is that most of the ones I have been buying are made in very small quantities and generally sell out in a matter of weeks if not days. Even though it makes no economic sense to make rosé when red wine made from the same grapes sells for several times what a rosé will sell for, I can’t seem to help myself. This year’s rosé is made from our estate syrah. Part of it was fruit that we drop through thinning a couple of weeks prior to our usual harvest, part of it the entire production of several rows.
The grapes were whole cluster pressed (the most gentle way of making white wine), but, being syrah, it still has a beautiful dark pink color. The juice was fermented in stainless steel drums and bottled as soon as it had naturally clarified. 36 cases bottled in January.
Salmon pink. Richly aromatic with ripe watermelon and strawberry notes and the faintest hint of spice. In the mouth it is full yet tangy. A wonderful sip alone or serve with apps type of rosé. We held off until the first day of spring to start drinking it but move fast as we plan on opening a lot of corks on this one!
2015 Viognier-Catie’s Corner Vineyard, Russian River Valley
We seem to have entered into a golden era of sorts for viognier. When it was first introduced to the US, most of the wines ranged from mediocre to downright dreadful, but over the years it has followed a trajectory similar to that which pinot noir followed. The first vines were generally planted in the wrong places and the wines were made in an attempt to copy those from its ancestral home land of Condrieu in France’s northern Rhone Valley. Two big problems. Viognier grows best in relatively cool areas, and, in an attempt to mimic the wines of Condrieu; the grapes were often picked over ripe, with overbearing aromas of cooked fruit and dying flowers. Oak was often used in fermentation, as was skin contact with the juice. They were low in acid and just not enjoyable. Jump forward a couple of decades and suddenly there are quite a few wonderful viogniers being produced every year that pay homage to their French heritage but are true to their California roots.
Earlier this year we were honored to have two of our wines selected as among the 100 best wines of Sonoma County in a compilation put together by two well know writers. Sadly we were all but sold out of the 2014 at the time but the good news is that the 2015 is a shade better.
The fruit was harvested the last week of August with moderate sugar and excellent acidity. The fruit was gently whole cluster pressed, the juice settled overnight and the clean juice fermented in 55-gallon stainless steel drums. Fermentation was painfully slow with bottling delayed until last September. 85 cases bottled.
Honeysuckle, apricot, spring flowers and a hint of almost ripe pear. In the mouth it is light bodied but not lacking for richness. Bright acidity keeps it extra fresh and refreshing. Varietally correct, precise and very reflective of its terroir.
2015 Grenache Blanc-Catie’s Corner, Russian River Valley
The forth most widely planted white grape in France, it is still relatively scarce in the US. Genetically identical to the red version of grenache, it is, like pinot blanc and pinot gris, considered a pigment phenotype of the better-known red version.
Harvested the second week of September and treated identically to the viognier. 44 cases bottled in August 2015.
Floral, savory notes combine with white peach and white melon. In the mouth the white Japanese melon dominates. Rich but without any hint of sweetness. Bigger and richer than the Viognier, it is better suited to rich fish and poultry. Sadly, there was so little grenache blanc fruit in 2015 that we did not make an orange version of this wine.
2013 Pinot Noir-Saralee’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley
I have to admit that I was more than a little nervous as we headed into harvest. Saralee’s Vineyard was no longer under Saralee’s control, as Rich and Saralee had sold the vineyard to Jackson Family Farms. No knock on JFF but it was hard to imagine anyone following the Saralee act. Not only was she an amazing, wonderful person, she had a way with her grapes and made sure that all of the large number of winemakers who purchased her fruit got exactly what they wanted, when they wanted it. Despite my fears, the fruit we got in 2013 was as good as always! 216 cases 750’s, 2 cases magnums bottled in September 2014.
Light red color. Effusive notes of red berries, gentle spice and floral notes. Medium bodied, gentle tannins and moderate acidity. It might not last 30 years but it will provide great drinking over the next 5-6 years at least.
2014 Pinot Noir-Trenton Estate Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Joe Swan first planted grapes here in 1969. In the mid-90’s we replanted the two blocks closest to the winery, replacing mostly overly stressed chardonnay with more pinot noir. Over the years I have often said that the current wine was among the best yet. I have finally come to realize that this spot of ground is so special that each and every vintage yields pretty amazing wines. 2014 is no exception. I will try and refrain from ranking it! 213 cases 750’s, 1 cases magnums bottled.
Fairly dark color for pinot noir. Typical aromas of complex dark red fruit intermingled with oriental spice (cardamom, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg) with a bit of forest floor/underbrush/bramble. A big yet not overly extracted, over ripe wine. Bracing ripe smooth tannins and near perfect acidity argue for a long life.
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon-Trenton Estate Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Our two rarest wines each year are our Estate chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. I shouldn’t say each year because there have been years when we have not released one. Both were planted with the original vines in 1969. Both are just tiny lots with the cabernet planted on the south facing block along Laguna Road between the oldest pinot noir and the chardonnay below. Joe planted this way as he felt that the cabernet needed the maximum amount of sun to ripen and the chardonnay would do fine in the deeper soil at the bottom of the hill. He seems to have been right on both counts. The cabernet does ripen in our very cool site but needs every bit of sun to do so. Harvest is often into the first part of November but despite the cool nature of the site and the late ripening, green characteristics have never been a problem. The main problem is having enough fruit to make at least a barrel. When we do have enough, the results have been very special. Full maturity with bracing acidity makes for a distinctly old world style of cabernet sauvignon. 2013 was a relatively productive year for us. Winemaking was standard. Open top fermenter, feral yeast, pressing at dryness (just over 3 weeks) and then racking to barrel. Our friend Michael Mercer, from whom we source some of our French oak barrels, gifted us a new Bordeaux barrel in which to age part of the wine. The results were very special as the fruit seemed to be made even brighter by the use of about 2/3 new oak. 37 cases bottled in June of 2016.
Amazingly precise aromas of red currant cassis with hints of cedar and vanilla. In the mouth it is both full and bright with firm yet ripe tannins. Not a fruit bomb monster cabernet, this one stays true to its cool climate source but without any hint of green elements. The finish is long yet very bright due to great acidity. If it ages anywhere near as well as the early years, this one could easily see 30 years!