Archive for the 'Les Tasting Notes' Category

One down, seven to go

Syrah-crifice over Stonehenge

Somewhere around 6am, I pulled out of the Safeway parking lot with snacks and a 4-pack of Red Bull, and pointed the truck east into the sunrise. Ten hours and an enological sacrifice later, I was backing up the driveway with a combined 1200 lbs of merlot and syrah. Like slipping into an old pair of jeans: the 350-mile harvest road trip to fetch the good stuff!

I’ll post our numbers later, but the grapes tasted pretty good, and in fact, surprisingly racy for Washington fruit. I think we could have pulled the merlot a day or two earlier, but picking it when we picked the syrah saved us a trip — and besides, of the two, the blend-destined merlot quite usable a little less than perfect.

But yeah, the syrah: great acidity but also great flavor; clean berries, crunchy seeds. This one’s going to be fantastic if we don’t F it up — something I made sure of by stopping at Stonehenge on the way back for our ritual sacrifice (see picture above).

More pics below the fold…
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It’s SO on! Crush begins tomorrow!

Truck and trailer rented, new crusher/destemmer on-site, and 3 or 4 Red Bulls to prop up a looooong road trip: Vintage 2010 is ON, people!

I’ll be schlepping both merlot and syrah tomorrow. For various logistical reasons here and at the vineyard, they’ll probably be a bit riper than we’d like, but the cool weather there (and here) has ensured they’ve retained the acid they’ll need to make a balanced wine. Can’t wait to taste ’em.

So, sometime around 1pm Tuesday, listen to the east for thunderclaps and the distant caroling or angels as I make the first ritual sacrifice at Stonehenge on the back back into the Gorge. Gosh bless Les Garagistes and their fermentin’ ways!

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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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Merlot in the lead…

… with syrah breathing down its neck. Merlot’s right around 24 brix, syrah about half a click behind. Perhaps the Garagiste harvest will lurch out of the gate this weekend, my friends!

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The grapes are hanging

Just got off the phone with our Eastern Washington grower, who reported that the vines there and pretty much everywhere else are behind schedule, perhaps as much as a week to ten days. That would start our Washington harvest in October for the first time I can remember.

He says things are looking good, though, and to be sure, Washington has a wider picking window that the Willamette Valley, which is also behind. There’s a danger things may get so late we’ll slide into frost territory, but he’s confident the upper Yakima valley will get a few more degree days between now and then to ripen things up.

What the vintage won’t be is heavy, jammy, and Parker-friendly, I’ll bet. And that suits us just fine. In fact, I mentioned to the grower — who made wine in Southern France’s Côtes du Rhône for nearly a decade — that the cooler season would probably produce a truly French and correspondingly stellar Cabernet Franc, aromatic, floral, and effortless. He agreed.

The Willamette Valley may not get off so lightly, however. If Nazi scientists were to design a perfect set of circumstances to fester powdery mildew around here, this year would be it. Luckily, our Red Hills fruit is tended by pros, so while for many this may indeed be a vintage made on the sorting table, we’re feeling good we may not need one — and net some delicate, authentically Pinot fruit in the bargain.

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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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We turn up in Communication Arts

Les Garagistes packaging featured in Communication ArtsHere’s some amazing news: while I was out of the country, my design firm‘s packaging overhaul for Les Garagistes was featured in Communication Arts! “CA” (as we grizzled veterans call it) is the design industry’s premier journal, so getting showcased in it is both flattering and humbling. Thank you, CA!

I think this calls for uncorking one o’ them packages in celebration …

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