Archive for the '2009 Garagistes' Category

Bottling the first 2009s

A fermenter full of Peug
It was long day, but the magnificent 2009 Peugeot blend (one discerning wine critic’s opinion of which is pictured above) is now officially concocted and resting calmly. We’ll let it reflect on its nature through the winter and bottle it next April, but in the meantime, everything that didn’t go into that blend got socked away under lock and cork.

Well, almost everything. Cabernet Franc (which we goosed with a wee dram of Syrah – 5%), Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon got stowed, but we ran out of time to bottle our 09 Pinot Noir and extended maceration (or “Ex Machina”) Cabernet Sauvignon. Those laggards will reach their final resting place this weekend, just hours before our first fruit of 2010 hurtles down the chute.

But as exhausting as it was, we got a lot done and the wines will more than make up for our labors, I think. Not to put too fine a point on it, but they’re friggin’ fantastic — made so in great measure by excellent fruit sources. Of course, the lovely lamb stew waiting for us after bottling didn’t hurt, either…

More pics after the jump…
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Blending trials anything but

Blending notes from the 2009 vintageLast Saturday night, an elite and thirsty crew gathered at the house to taste through our four Eastern Washington wines, and thus inspired, construct the perfect blend that is the Peugeot. We’ve been doing this for the last 5 years right about now, approximately a month before we need to begin bottling to free up space for the next vintage. But while the timing was the same, the results were anything but.

In all our blends up until now, three things have been constants: three grapes (Merlot and the Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon); a stellar Cabernet Franc to work with; and one less-than-stellar wine to work around. Usually the under-performer is Merlot, but sometimes the Sauv stumbles along in the rear. In either case, it meant we couldn’t simply blend for optimum taste — we had to fill the holes that the laggard wine left gaping, too.

But not this time. All the individual 2009 wines are rock solid, and in one or two cases even magnificent. So we found ourselves in unfamiliar territory: with nothing flat-lining, our usual triage methodology was useless. Or to put it another way, we realized all the wines were good enough that any blend that didn’t transcend the quality of its components was probably not worth going to the trouble to build.

I know, I know: we think our own wines are objectively “magnificent”? There’s a surprise! All I can say is that we loved the components to a degree we’ve never before, which made hitting the perfect blend especially challenging. But at the eleventh hour (as we were getting hungry — hmmm…), we think we did just that.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 Peugeot blend:

  • 42.5% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 10% Merlot
  • 42.5% Cabernet Franc
  • 5% Syrah

Oh yes, my friend: fractions. Why, it’s almost as if our blending trials were scientific! Are we winemakers now or what?

Okay, maybe it’s a stretch to characterize so precisely what was really a shaky eyeballing of pours into a crude 100ml graduated cylinder. But that doesn’t mean proportions that minute don’t affect the blend. In fact, we noticed substantial differences across even small variations as we zeroed in on the final. It was kind of like picking a lock: a few tumblers would align, but not others; then others would align, but not ones that aligned before. Then, magically, all the tumblers clicked into place and the vault opened up before our palettes. Man.

So if our live blend is anything like our 100ml approximation, I think in a couple of years we’ll be drinking one of the best Peugeots we’ve ever made.

Pics after the jump …

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A taste of 2009 — in 2009

Peugeot Nouveau 2009 labelOutside of Georges DuBoeuf’s Beaujolais Nouveau marketing scam, it’s unheard of: releasing a wine in its vintage year. But here in our basement lair, we’re always hearing the unheard (dear Santa: tinfoil hat patch kit, please), so we thought we’d try it, too. The result: last Thursday night, a small group of us got together to bottle the first expression of the 2009 vintage — a “second wine” (or “piquette”) of Cabernet Sauvignon — which we’ve pithily christened “Peugeot Nouveau.”

A second wine is kind of like “small beer”: you take the leftovers from the first round of winemaking (in this case, the cake left over after pressing), and reconstitute it with water, sugar, and sometimes tartaric acid. Since the yeast still lurk within, nursing hangovers from their first binge, the party starts again within a few hours.

Unfortunately for them, there’s a catch: the good times may be rolling again, but the bar’s now only pouring well drinks. Because the vast majority of a red wine’s flavor comes from, essentially, an infusion of juice with grape skins, the first press has carried away the bulk of the good stuff — or so you hope. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some oomph left in the skins, especially in our case, since our press isn’t pro enough to squeeze the daylights out of them. So for us, a second wine is aptly named: a second chance to capture all the flavor packed into the grapes we bring in.

Still, what you get isn’t exactly a Robert Parker, stand-a-spoon-in-it wine (“I had to use a knife and spread it on pain grillé — 100 points!”), so we decided to embrace its essential, uncomplicated nature. Like Beaujolais Nouveau, it’s fruity and easy drinkin’, but with enough verve and flavor to brighten a dark winter night.

We’ll be “releasing” it New Year’s Eve, just under the wire to taste 2009 in 2009. Happy new year, everyone!

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08 Syrah and port slip into bottle

2008 Les Garagistes Syrah gurgles joyously into the bottlerSomehow amidst the frenzy of crush, we managed to bottle last year’s Syrah and Port. Actually, “managed” isn’t quite the right word; “had to or else” is closer to the truth. I’d been thinking we’d try aging both wines for another few months, but we simply needed to free up some space for the 2009s heading pell mell toward the end of fermentation all around us.

Luckily, we had enough people to make it go smoothly, and for our trouble, walked away with a surprisingly luscious Syrah — pure and rich but rewardingly complex. I’d think this one will unclench from its traumatic journey into bottle sometime around the new year, but that said, I won’t do any significant dipping into my stash until late spring at the earliest.

More pics and a bit on the port after the jump…
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I’m blown away

Pinot Noir fermenting. Go ahead, scratch the screen: it smells incredible
That’s right, go ahead. No one’s looking: scratch the screen. Doesn’t that Pinot Noir smell incredible? Good god!

For those of you with older monitors, let me try to describe what it smells like. First, I should say I’ve made Pinot Noir before, and I’ve loved the wine for years. I was even on the Board of the International Pinot Noir Celebration for a while. So I understand why people like it, and I’ve smelled my share of it, during and well after fermentation.

But I don’t think I really understood how it can become an addiction, something winemakers throw their entire lives into, until this began to overwhelm my senses. Holy shit: this is ambrosial.

Some of it is surely how much is packed into this fragrance: ripe cherries, but not just cherries; their delicate stems, the branches holding them, a light breeze gently riffling them on a warm fall afternoon, coaxing out the fragrance of the entire orchard you kick up a little earth walking beneath. There’s tea, maybe a pekoe; and roses, a mixed garden of them, and along with a nearby raspberry bramble, warmed by the sun and transported on the air. And there’s something darker, richer, more earthy, maybe some tobacco, and a whiff of lavender bees are happily hovering through.

But what really takes it past a mere perfume counter it is the balance of all these fragrances, which play in and out of one another like the honey bees I just mentioned, their gentle buzzing, like the CO2 wafting above the cap, adding yet another sensory layer and sharpening the whole experience just so.

Incredible. Think there’s any way we can bottle this? Oh… right!

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One down, six to go

Precious drops of 2009 syrah dribble toward destinyLast night we pressed the Syrah, sending it barreling toward French oak and malolactic fermentation. It was the first red to finish this year, and the first real test of our reconditioned wine press, so we weren’t totally sure what would come out the other end.

Luckily, what emerged was an inky purple blacksmith of a wine, burly but agile, if not kryptonite for any white garments or pearly teeth nearby. As we loaded it into the press, it filled the basement with an enthralling animal, dark-berry fragrance, and as it cascaded off the trough into the bucket, it tasted full and juicy through the mid and beyond. Wow.

(All images for this post courtesy of our guest photographer, Layla Grice) Read more

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ga-Gris-gistes

Freshly-settled pinot gris brightens one corner of the basementFor the first time in a dozen years, a white wine is brightening the basement: Pinot Gris from Oracle Vineyard in the Dundee Hills. After pressing and letting it settle for a day, I took a halogen shop light and lit the side of the fermenter to see where the lees-line was (“lees” being the skunge the precipitates out of a wine after fermentation). Man, bask in that warm, golden color: I plan to bring this photo up every time I need a hit of vitamin D through the long, dark Oregon winter.

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