Archive for the 'Les Tasting Notes' Category

Improved vintage chart goodness

Check out our much-spiffier vintage note page, which not only features better lozenge-icons, but on click of same, recent tasting notes by card-carrying Garagistes to better guide the opening or holding of our wines.

Hope you like it!

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Two down, five or so to go

As of last night around 10pm, Merlot and Viognier are bank yo.

The Merlot was amiable and lush, but surprisingly, not as overripe as I’d feared. We’re at about 26 brix (which is a measure of the sugar in the grapes), which in turn translates into about 15.5% alcohol. That’s a little rocket-fuel-y for genteel palates such as ours, so we’ll be adding some water, as well as acid, to bring this cuddly critter of a wine back into balance.

From the numbers and how it tasted, I think we ended up picking the Viognier at the perfect time. The sugar’s at 26 also (so as you might guess from the Merlot’s numbers, we’ll be watering back a bit), but the pH is at 3.45, which is phenomenal. So we’ve got a wine that, right off the vine, is already pretty balanced. Can’t wait to smell it fermenting… mmmmmm …

From the numbers I’ve seen from the vineyard, next up will either be the Cabernet Sauvignon or the Syrah, and very possibly in the next 5 days or so. So keep an eye on this space …

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Let 2012 begin!

Today’s the first crush of 2012! Quarter-ton dollops of Merlot and Viognier will get us started – not a tsunami of fruit, but enough to get us warmed up before the larger harvests downstream.

What a difference a year makes: last year, we brought in Merlot (an early-ripening varietal that’s always the first to come in for us) on October 8, nine days later. The Viognier is even more striking: we picked that on the 15th of October. Practically winter!

So yes, the weather this year has been much more accommodating, though the cool weather and long hang times of last year did get us acid profiles that made for naturally beautiful and lively wines. This year will be more typical: more lush, but as always, we’ll need to keep a gimlet eye on acidity and alcohol.

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Two to go and 2011’s done

Pressing the 2011 Garagistes mourvedre
A couple of days ago, we pressed off the Mourvedre (in our fancy new balloon press, pictured above!) and tucked it safely away in a variable. That means there are only two grapes left to finish fermenting before vintage 2011 is behind us: the Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc.

The Sauv is the closest at 1.002 specific gravity (about 1/2 brix). Officially, all the sugar is gone at a reading of 1.000, but because we’re not working with totally clean liquid (sediment, yeast and MOG still swirling about, albeit listlessly), we’ll still see evidence of fermentation at .997 — what would be about -1 brix if you could have negative sugar. (Hmm: maybe this is how they make Aspartame …)

So I think I’ll hold my breath for another day or so and press it Monday. After last year’s minor epidemic of ethyl-acetate (apparently not unique to our winery), I’m leery of letting it sit too long without the protective layer of CO2 that an active ferment generates. Still, the Sauv is the one we’d like most to have a tannic backbone, so I’ll watch it like a hawk and perhaps try to wrap and gas it tomorrow night if the ferment’s too anemic.

That would leave the Franc, which is only just entering the earth’s atmosphere at about 3.5 brix. And slowing down — so much, in fact, that I’m nervous about it getting stuck before it’s done. We’ve never been fermenting this late into the fall — I mean, holy crap, there’s a chance we may press this wine after Thanksgiving! — which is fine except that as fall wanes, so do yeast-friendly temperatures. So as a precaution, I swaddled the Franc back into an electric blanket this morning, nice and low but enough to keep the yeasties awake enough to finish their epic sugar binge.

All in all, though, it’s getting a little lonely downstairs. After the explosive beginning of crush and a house full of friends and fragrance for a month and a half, the end of harvest ends up being a little like that Haydn symphony, during the course of which the musicians, one by one, gradually pack up their instruments and leave the stage. Just two lonely violins left at this point, and then too soon, silence.

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Dare I say it out loud?

Syrah to quench the thirsts of the godsOkay, I will, but sotto voce: so far, so good.

2011 is shaping up to be a tough vintage for everyone in the Northwest, but you wouldn’t know it from the two grapes we picked up over the weekend. Last Saturday, James and I had an extremely pleasant — and more importantly, rain-free — road trip out to Elephant Mountain to pick up Syrah and Merlot. Denis, the vineyard manager, had been gently lowering expectations leading up to harvest, but the fruit we tasted as we walked through the vineyard with him was supreme.

And back in the winery, the numbers matched: 25.5 brix and 3.43 pH for the Syrah, and 25/3.39 for the Merlot. Great depth of flavor, nice acidity (reflected in the lower pH), ripe but not jammy. Considering the tales we’ve been hearing from our winemaking brothers and sisters in the Willamette Valley — nightmarish tales of grapes stalled a few brix short of the finish line of pickability — we’re incredibly lucky.

Back at the winery, a small but experienced crew gathered and we took care of the fruit in short order. We’d done a little R&D on the crusher/destemmer to adjust its rollers (the part that should crack the berries, but not smash them), and I think we found a setting that, at least for these two grapes, gave us mostly happy, rolling grapes out the other end.

Next weekend, it’ll be Viognier and perhaps Tempranillo and Grenache. Here’s hoping for a copy/paste of this past weekend…

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Bottling the 2010s tomorrow

2010 Elephant Mountain Mourvedre
… including our first Mourvèdre (and Grenache, come to think of it)!

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2010 Peugeot Blending Trials: the components

The perfect blend: the 2010 Peugeot
After a disciplined night of ascetic, scientific rigor (and, uh, drinking), we have an official blend for our 2010 Peugeot. Here’s the thrill-packed, edge-of-your-seats story of how it all went down, in the two phases we went through it: assess the components, then concoct the blend.

Boy, does that sound like exciting reading or what?! Yeah? Okay, then: life insurance paid up? Great. Grab your micrometer and follow me…

The Components

As always, we began by tasting the components, beginning with the Cab Sauv. Still very young — definitely in need of one more racking — but firm and substantial. As I’ve noted before, this vintage gave us a huge gift of higher acidity, in this case putting all the complex flavors (black raspberry, dark cherries, even a hint of peach) into high-def.

From the first taste, it was clear the Merlot — never a huge component of the Peugeot — was destined for an even smaller role than normal. While the basic outlines of its Merlot-ness were fine, leaving it too long in new half barrel had rendered it way too woody to use in any quantity. Again, I think a hard racking will help, but this probably won’t be Merlot’s year to snatch the Oscar, that’s for sure.

Then the Franc. Always the defining cornerstone of the Peugeot, and this year, it’s absolutely fantastic. A lovely, floral (from stem to blossom) nose, beautiful and elegant in the mouth, lingering lovingly over a long finish. Again, the acidity of the vintage plays right into the Franc’s hand, balancing the depth of fruit we get from Elephant Mountain Vineyard with a vividness that takes you out of your glass and into a summer field in the Loire.

Lastly, the Syrah. We discovered that some of the ethyl acetate that’s apparently plagued a lot of winemakers this year (think fingernail polish) had snuck back into the Syrah, so we’ll be carpet bombing this sucker with sulfite, and stat. But after the EA blew off, the wine’s true nature unfurled, with lovely deep fruit and a hint of licorice. Last year was the first time we added Syrah into the Peug, so provided we can 86 the EA, it’ll definitely have a cameo this year, too.

Next, the scintillating blending trials themselves…

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