2019 - A Cooler Vintage
Earlier this year, the winter dragged on, shadowing a shy spring and delaying bud break in April. After a cooler and wet spring, the nice days showed up mid-summer, leading the grapes into veraison, which is when the berries change from green to red. It was the perfect kick we needed to boost the grape maturation. Unfortunately, the cool and wet weather made its way back sooner than expected in late September followed by a hard frost on October 9th. The damage to the canopy occurs when ice crystals develop within the plant tissue. The leaves then wilt and die stopping abruptly the photosynthesis and therefore the maturation process.
Such a difficult vintage reminded me why winemaking should not be considered a recipe. If we have acreage contracts in place to insure some consistency on the grape sourcing and style of the wine, Mother Nature has her own way to influence the growing season. Even in a place like Eastern Washington that dependably has ideal weather to grow world class wine grapes, different patterns of precipitation and heat units will change the chemistry and flavor profile of the grapes.
The expertise of the growers and winemakers play a crucial part in the quality of the end product. And in the case of a cool, wet vintage causing unevenness of growth and ripening in the vineyard, the bond and relationship between both parties can be the determining factor whether the quality will be up to expectations or not.
Since the season had a slow start, I initiated the forefront work with the viticulturists by asking them early on to remove leaves, green shoots and clusters, to encourage the sunlight to penetrate deeper into the canopy. We followed with a green thinning at veraison to remove any clusters lacking behind, keeping only the clusters that had already turned color. These viticulture practices do lower the yield and remove any congestion, focusing the photosynthesis energy toward the physiological maturation of the remaining crop. Being very aggressive in the vineyards from the get go was a major and decisive factor toward making great wines in a cool and shorter growing season.
To further insure the creation of high-end wines in these conditions, I asked for selective picking at harvest by differentiating vines within blocks and even rows when I noticed fluctuation of vigor or aspect. This allowed us to treat differently each lot coming into the winery. We can then optimize the extraction of the color, flavors and texture by using different yeasts, temperature of fermentation, pump-over techniques, maceration time, oak use and more.
A Noble Rot
This growing season was also conducive to the development of botrytis cinerea fungus in the vineyard (as seen in the image above). The French like to give romantic names to some wine terms like wine diamonds, angel shares, and also noble rot (pourriture noble). The botrytis cinerea fungus affects the grapes when the climatic conditions are ideal. This is why it took ten years to experience the ideal conditions necessary to elaborate a botrytized Riesling since last time we made one. The mold pulls the moisture off the berries without changing the chemistry of the juice therefore concentrating the flavors, sugar and acids while keeping its bright apricot and honey flavors. Fermenting as we speak, we're very optimistic, but to be continued...
A new wine release! 2017 FULL DISCLOSURE "Grenache"
During the fantastic vintage of 2017, I fell in love with a planting of Grenache in Mill Creek, Walla Walla Valley AVA. A jaw dropping low yield with a perfectly even fruit zone well balanced with the foliage got my heart to skip a beat. Passion kicked in, neurons heated to the inner source of inspiration, leading the impulse to create a life changing Full Disclosure... Stars lined up and this 2017 Grenache was crafted.
Traditionally blended in Côté Nicault GSM (Grenache/ Mourvèdre/Syrah), Grenache is shown here in its most raw and true form. Hence the name "Full Disclosure", revealing Grenache in its glory. This wine shows sophisticated notes of perfume, intertwined with a delicate balance of juiciness, minerality and a backbone with a vibrant and voluptuous texture. Previously only a piece of the puzzle, this Grenache lingers gracefully on the palate and demonstrates why it can be enjoyed on its own.