Archive for the '2007 Garagistes' Category

07 Peugeot sighting

Just for the heck of it, way too early, I opened an ’07 Peugeot tonight.

A little closed in the nose, but already some Cab Franc joi de vivremach zehnder modulator wafting out. Almost a hint of mint or high-toned grass – maybe the cabernet mumbling in the background? In the mouth, still very unsophisticated, eager to please but without a the language to back it up. Again, the Franc is the melody, and as a wine that peaks in youth, it’s already warming up and playing. It’s a reverse Mullet with class: party in the front, business in the back.

So for now, it’s Franc Plus, though with air, the merlot is already beginning to weave some resonant bass into the background. A lot better than I expected. Sure, it’d be nice to taste the entire concert now, but the Franc has chops, so I’m happy to hear it riff.

My guess is that as the Franc gets a little gray at the temples and embraces wisdom over exuberance, it’ll slow its pace as the other two grapes (Cab and Merlot) pick up theirs. Try it again in early spring ’10. Anyone else?

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Tucking in the 07 Peugeot

A blur of labeling
600 bottles and corks. 1200 labels. Just short of 3 hours. As James pointed out, that’s about a case every 3 minutes. That much throughput in that little time is unprecedented, and nothing short of amazing. When the last bottle went into the last case, I don’t think anyone truly believed it.

Now, we did get a running start. James, and a little later, Whit came over early to begin setting things up, so between the three of us, we had the bottler set up (an art in and of itself) and the settling tank filled by the time most of the crew arrived.

But that’s not to take away from how much this crew got done and how quickly. Indeed, that prep stage of bottling is in fact hindered by a lot of people, who really have little to do until the bottling armada cranks up. So when a great crowd showed up at 3, it was the appropriate force at the right time, and off we flew. Incredible.

More pics and a play-by-play after the link. Read more


Fall Bottling

It was a bit of a slog, but 6 hours and hundreds of bottles later, the second expression of 2007 was safely under cork (the first being the tiny Rosé bottling back in the spring).

The afternoon and evening were particularly long in the tooth because we concocted the Peugeot blend and put it back in neutral barrels first. That meant measuring out the right percentage from each of the three constituent barrels (Cab, Merlot, Franc) into a holding tank, one after the other — and let me assure you, with precision down to the milliliter (which is about a gallon, ain’t it?). A quick stir, a dash of sulfite (about 25 ppm), and back it went into neutral barrels for 6 more months of solitary until final bottling in April 2009.

Now it was time to bottle the remainders. For the first time, we’d decided not to blend away all the Cabernet, reserving a bit to bottle by itself to see how it ages (especially since it turned out pretty nicely this year due in part to crop thinning). The lovely Franc (growing more lovely by the moment as the acid and sulfite we administered continue to integrate) and underappreciated Merlot (curse you, Miles!) were next.

Our crew is getting pretty deft with the bottling line, both in process and in technique. Man, those guys are fast — the blur you see in the image above isn’t just because of a slow shutter speed. But as usual, the kink in the hose was at the end, in labeling, a painfully manual process that now involves two labels, one on the body and one over the top. Because our workforce had dwindled by then, we put most of our firepower downstairs on the bottling line, so it was just two of us glue-stained wretches, watching the unlabeled cases pile up as we pasted labels down in what seemed like slow motion. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice had it easy, that lucky bastard.

So for April bottling, a few things to R&D:

  • Staggered workforce implementation. Bring in a small crew for blending and/or prep, when more than 4 or so people will just stand around, then ramp up (a surge!) as bottling begins.
  • Formal sign-up. Rather than the general “please show up” request, I’m thinking I’ll try getting (er, “relentlessly encouraging”) people to sign up.
  • Better and better-staffed labeling process. Garagiste Dave and I tried a few different strategies as we labeled away, and I think we went about as fast as two people could, but ultimately, it’s about person-power. I’m thinking three on the body labeler: one to send a label through the gluer and roughly position it on the bottle, two to adjust those labels and actually smack ’em down, permanent-like. Then, 2 on the top label (one gluing and roughly sticking on top of the bottle, the other positioning and adhering), and 1 to move cases and bottles around.

Any other or alternate ideas? Any improvements from the bottling line folks? Love to hear them. Log ’em here.

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Ladies and gentlemen: your 2007 Peugeot

Blending aftermath: no blend left untestedLast weekend, a bunch of us got together for BlendFest II — This Time, It’s Gonna be War, but in contrast to BlendFest I a month ago, we have a clear winner for the 2007 Peugeot blend:

  • 50% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 15% Merlot
  • 35% Cabernet Franc

A big part of the reason we couldn’t settle on a blend the first time around is because the Franc was still muddy from the CPR we’d given it a few weeks prior. We tasted that it was reviving, but it was also clear that what we were tasting was a stop a long the way, not the final destination.

I’m glad we waited. By last weekend, the Franc was much more lively and fragrant — maybe still a little thick, as if shaking off the last whisps of anesthesia, but much more like the wine we’ve come to love over the years.

We started with the blend we’d all grudgingly favored from the first round (45/15/40), but the newly revived Franc forced us to immediately recalibrate. Then, with surprising speed and unanimity, we zeroed in on the blend above. Garagistes’ notes include “best so far,” “better, consistent experience and good length,” “more Loire flavor, and lively acidity in the finish.” My notes say “Lovely nose, and amazing in the mouth. Nice and rich, but with great balance and a long, fresh finish.”

I think everyone walked away excited to drink this baby in about a year. Its journey will continue today, as we blend it off an seal it away for another 6 months of aging.

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Franc-ly Puzzling

As I wrote a few days ago, the Cabernet Franc — long our favorite wine from our grower — wasn’t its usual self at last racking. While it’s been dependably fresh and lovely any time we pull it from barrel, last week it was dull and flat, seemingly absent the will to live. A little unsettling, to say the least.

Today I got back some lab results from our long-suffering friends at ETS Labs, so we have a better picture of what’s going on with this sullen teenager. But even as the data answers some questions, it raises some others.

Stroke your beard and consider a theory or two with me after the jump…
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The 2007 at June racking

A few nights ago we got together to rack our three wines, and of course, couldn’t help tasting them as they poured from barrel to tank and back into barrel.

2007 Cabernet Franc
I think the consensus was that contrary to any of our previous experiences with this wine at this stage, the Franc showed the worst of the three. It had a decent fragrance, but it was murky and lifeless in the mouth, oddly framed with a hint of oak (it’s in an essentially neutral barrel). And once past the tonsils, it was like it was never there. Overall, a far cry from the fresh, precocious party-in-your-mouth the Franc usually is — and the way it was in March, when last we racked it.

So, what’s going on? Theories abound — more in a future post — but it’s certainly true that most wines go through “dumb” or hibernative stages, where between one chemical state and another they’re kind of in limbo. I think of it like a construction project: you begin with one thing (nice bones, but what Nazi scientist designed that wallpaper!?), but before the shiny new thing emerges (did you notice it matches my iTouch?), you float like Dante through the undoing of one and the creation of the other, where your thing isn’t what it was, but it isn’t what it’ll become. It’s something, yet it’s also not quite anything, either. And you have to use a port-a-potty in the back yard for a month.

Anyway, that’s not unusual for wine as it evolves (for example, see my notes on the Sauvignon, below), but it’s not how the Franc has ever performed in the past. More soon.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Next up was the Cab. It was also a little shuttered, but more in a way you’d expect at this stage in its life. All the stuffing was there, and indeed, it had a lot of complexity and good feel in the mouth, though not much of a finish that night. All in all, however, showed pretty good life for so young a wine, and all present murmured approval into their cups.

If you’ve got a weak heart, please skip the second half of this sentence: the merlot was the best wine of the evening. I’ll give you a minute to get your bearings. Sometimes a glass of wine helps.

While it lacked a little backbone (though in point of fact, it showed the backbone of a good Merlot), it betrayed surprising life, in addition to a bass marimba-like depth and velvetyness in the mouth. Almost complex, and a pretty good ride through the finish.

If this is in fact representative of where the Merlot will end up (no guarantees there, of course), I’d say this is due to a combination of three things: 1) wild yeast (so many gene pools, so many flavors); 2) crop load (we asked the grower to dramatically reduce yield in 2007: and 3) pulling a seignée out of it (in a nutshell, a seignée drains juice from a fermenter, increasing the proportion of flavor-packed skins to tasty juice). I’d give more of a nod to 2 and 3 than 1, but probably all played a role.

Next up is blending, so we’ll see if this was an aberration or a strategy worth repeating.

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Science meets art

Paper chromatography results
Gosh, what’s the correct answer? Find out after the fold!
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