The winter months are generally a slower time for us, but this year has been different. In our vineyards we are continuing tremendous efforts to increase vine health and fruit quality. It truly is a year-round operation and our highest priority. Every day we are doing something in our Ranch to make our vineyards some of the most pristine and well tended, at a world-class level. This includes many things such as choosing the correct cover crop to keep weeds down and implementing cutting-edge pruning techniques.
Often I am asked, “How long do you use your barrels?” The short answer is we follow a strict five-year barrel plan and are ever aware of each of our 3,000 barrels' status and situation. We track them using a sophisticated barcode system that helps monitor exactly what wine is in them, for how long, and when it is time for the barrel to “reinvent itself” as a chair or table.
Every year around this time, Moises and I begin the task of blending. There are days that we taste 40-60 different wines, selecting the best of the best for each individual wine we make. Hey, someone has to do it, right?! Our approach is simple, but thoughtful. Throughout the course of a specific wine lot’s aging, we taste it a minimum of 50 times so we know exactly what each can bring to the table when blended, most years we have at least 60 different lots in the cellar. We conceptualize our cellar as a spice rack…there are endless options. This makes it easy sometimes, and other times you have to walk away and try again tomorrow. There’s never a dull moment.
Needless to say, we love it, and are again very excited to share our newest vintages with you as they release throughout the year.
Harvest of 2014 will go down in the record books here in Amador County! It was the fastest harvest I’ve seen in 16 years. A few early season heat spikes set the vines into action and with the weather pattern settling into a near perfect ebb and flow of temperatures of 93° during the day and 55º at night, the vines wasted no time ripening the fruit.
Our harvest started on August 11th and we finished on September 26th, almost 30 days earlier than a “normal” year. Yields averaged between 20%-40% lower than the past several years but the quality looks outstanding! Moises, my Assistant Winemaker, and I are very excited to see how the new wines will develop in the coming months.
We’ve employed the help of some fun new "toys" (read: geeky Winemaker stuff). We have a new 800 gallon French oak tank that we are aging our Barbera in….this is going to be awesome! Also, we are moving towards the use of larger format barrels, about twice the size of a standard 60 gallon barrel and the results are amazing. We are seeing ultra-concentrated and smooth wines, oozing with delicious fresh fruit. They are definitely going to be something to talk about.
We only have a few more tanks to press out in the next week or so and then we will focus on bringing the new wines into all the new barrels and then, once again, begin the task of putting the 2013 blends together for bottling next Spring.
Until next time,