2010 Update: the pretty damn good

Garagiste Mike shows the gods at Stonehenge how to properly dispose of a sacrifice -- in this case, Cabernet Franc

As promised in a few days ago, here’s the next installment of how our 2010 wines are faring. We begin with dessert: the wines that really seem like they’ll be excellent — assuming we let them make it to bottle and don’t gleefully guzzle them right now.

Cabernet Franc
We like to rack the Franc only two or three times over the year, supposing that minimal handling will help preserve its bewitching aroma. One of those rackings was a few weeks ago, and like a saucy mermaid, it beckoned us with a irresistible floral nose, and then lured us ever-further into the depths with succulent, floral fruit. Wow. Once again, this will be both hard to blend away and deservedly form the backbone of the Peugeot.

Syrah
I’ve opened two 2009 Syrahs in the last couple of weeks, and holy crap, this is the most adult wine I think we’ve ever made: deep and powerful but unmistakably syrah (vs. liquid oak with varietal flavoring, as many are). The 2010 looks to be a good follow-up, but with better acidity and rich, crisply-articulated fruit resonating through great depth. Awesome.

Grenache
This is the first year we’ve tried Grenache, and typical of our sober, judicious approach to winemaking, we blindly hurled ourselves over the edge, investing heavily. Luckily, it paid off: when we racked it about a month ago, its aroma was as bewitching as the Franc’s, but more luscious and Provençal-herby. Thankfully, we’ll have enough to bottle separately and cast in our first Côtes-du-Rhône blend this year. It’ll be one stunning leading lady in that road show.

Mourvedre
We pressed this varietal into service for the first time this year as the third leg of a Côtes-du-Rhône stool, but to our suprise, it stands on its own just fine, thank you. Inky dark, and redolent of pepper and roses. Holy moley.

Pinot Noir
After three vintages working with fruit from a highly reputed Dundee Hills vineyard, our Pinot this year is finally beautiful — if willowy. Since this varietal totally ate our lunch in the 90s, we’ve been pretty gun-shy about it: as with white wines, its essential delicacy means there are fewer places to hide crappy fruit or bad winemaking, both of which we had in ample supply back in the day. As a result, for the last few years we’ve only produced small batches as “side-bets” for the braver Garagistes.

This year, I’m proud to report, it looks like that bet will pay off, in part because we’re better winemakers, but more importantly, because we’re working with better fruit. Of course, 2010 was a lighter vintage in Oregon — no Parker wines this year without heavy manipulation — and our Pinot is no anomaly. But it’s not watery or bland. It’s just… elegant, with beautiful, focused fruit. We put a little oak on it a month ago (just a little), so by the time we bottle it in September, it ought to be really lovely.

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Syrah begins its journey

lovely syrah grapes, just waiting for the fermenterYesterday morning there were the faintest signs of life: the odd bubble here and there, the islands of grape skins slightly more pronounced than before (or were they?). Now the stuff’s going full throttle, right up to the rim of the fermenter.

The syrah came in with pretty nice numbers, spot-on sugars and pretty good pH. I’ve already added a dash of acid to bring that pH down into more comfortable territory, but all the building blocks are already there: the fruit tasted at perfect ripeness out in the field — maybe the most spot-on I’ve ever tasted in our winemaking — and it hasn’t changed in the winery, either. This looks to be a stellar syrah year if we don’t screw it up.

For fun, to increase flavor for what remained, and to sneak a little more space into the fermenter, I also bled out 10 gallons of syrah juice 24 hours after crush — a technique which also the traditional way to make rosé. I see now I should have done it maybe 3-4 hours afterwards, however, since the color is more garnet than rose, but if we can ride its fermentation to the ground without crashing, that should also make it a mighty flavorful summer quaffer. It’s currently a little stinky (something David and Amy of Westrey warned me about), but I’ll hit it with some nutrient and if that doesn’t improve matters, a little copper should have it seeing things our way.

But man, you should smell it: there’s a rich, deep sweetness to the must (since it’s only just begun to convert sugar to alcohol), laced with smokiness and a whiff of leather. Can’t wait to see it at press in a week or so.

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