Vintage Wine

  • Going through hoops

    January 20, 2015 17:44

    Cellar activity comes alive in January as we transfer the previous vintage, 2013, out of barrels and then fill them back up with the 2014 wines. There are two activities which help age our young wines. One is the container and the second one is the atmosphere found within the barrel aging room itself. We didn’t install air conditioning in this large building but the temperature here is regulated by vents that open to the night air, close in the morning and maintain a steady temperature throughout the year-on average 55-60 degrees. Each of our red wines are aged for 12 months. As the year progresses, the barrels are ‘topped off’ with additional wine every three months because, as it ages, a portion evaporates. Even when we are keeping the barrel room at a cool temperature we have loss, which is the reason behind aging wine in a porous container like an oak barrel. Slow oxidation over time concentrates flavor, adds character, and gives more structure through acidity-the less water and alcohol the resulting wine has, the more these shape and define the wine. There is a tipping point however because with too much evaporation, there is a chance of spoilage. With air getting to the wine there is a chance that it will turn bad, in a word vinegar. Another way of alleviating rapid loss is humidifying the room. In California the humidity level is rather low. By using these two relatively simple steps makes the wine in your glass much more complex, tastes better and is easier to drink upon release. Now where is my glass-I’m ready for some nicely aged Merlot.

    The sight glass is a gauge used when emptying barrels, letting the cellar crew know when they have reached the bottom-more air, less wine and it keeps the lees at the bottom of the barrel.

    Barrel Sightglass

  • Judge Julie

    November 20, 2014 12:54

    A few months ago I received an invitation to be a wine judge for the Grand Harvest Awards Competition sponsored by Vineyard & Winery Management. The wondered aloud ‘do I need credentials to be a judge’? Debra Del Fiorentino, the Competition Director, assured me that my experience (almost 30 years) in the industry was enough. I looked forward to the opportunity, tasting as many wines as I could to be ‘in training’ for the big day. November 18th rolled around and I showed up at the event, my palate ready to go. My co-judges were the inimitable Larry Van Aalst (a 25 year sommelier and host of The Sonoma Report), Leslie Renaud, from Roth Estate Winery, and Christopher Christensen, from Bodkin Wines. We tasted through our first set of wines from Anderson Valley in Mendocino. Paso Robles was next with 62 (!) wines followed by what they termed the ‘Native American Red and White Hybrids’. Can you say Catawba, Seyval, Vidal Blanc, Concord and Noble? We had them all and more judging 203 wines altogether—and what a great education it was. I tasted more wines in one day than I have tried in the last year. While they weren’t all gold medal contenders it was a fascinating study of the competition and I broke new ground trying 11 new varietals and added them to my need-to-taste bucket list. In the end, my palate was sharpened by immersing myself in the wines and I now know there are so many new experiences out there just waiting for me to delve in and learn. Cheers! Or should I say ‘bottoms up’!

    Grand Harvest Awards



  • Time in the Bottle

    September 30, 2014 15:31

    Library wines, cellar picks, those wines you’ve saved but now don’t know how they have fared while in your closet, basement or beside your fridge. I have received many emails over the years about our wines they have found in their parent's cellar, in a dusty corner of a store or they have received as a gift. Usually the sender asks about quality of the wine giving me the vintage and name in order to find out more.

    Rule of thumb when it comes to that dusty jewel from your basement: check cork for leakage, check fill level in bottle (should be ½ to 3/4 inch from cork), ask yourself what the temperature was in the storage area: constant and cool or was the wine put through the seasons with ranges in temperatures matching the cold or heat outside. Usually you'll see signs of leakage around the capsule or a low-fill level in the bottle-these don't always mean it is a lost cause but can be indicators of a wine beyond its' time.

    What does an older vintage wine smell and taste like? Nothing like the 2012 Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon you just drank. Time in the bottle means some things change: ripe fruit often turns to dried fruit notes, toasty oak turns to cedar or tobacco, the wine softens as the tannins age gracefully and move on to a supporting role. The taste is different too—more delicate, less overwhelming in some cases. Aged wines aren't for everyone because so often we enjoy the flavor of wines just released or a year or too older. Here's to older vino in my Dino!

    1985 Cabernet Sauvignon