The story of our 2015 Sauvignon Blanc is filled with Good and Bad news.
The bad news starts with the amount of damage sustained by the vines after a second consecutive harsh winter. Very few of the suckers that were brought up to become new trunks in 2014 actually made it into the 2015 growing season. There were those that looked like they were going to bud out, only to agonizingly collapse a couple of weeks later. The sheer number of dead buds made for disproportionate growth and vine vigour issues – meaning lots of extra work. The far north end of the block looked more like the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse than a vineyard, replete with half-dead, split trunks oozing crown gall tumours…
The good news is that we had any Sauvignon Blanc fruit at all! In fact, 2015 was an amazing growing season for whites, with moderate heat and cool nights during peak ripening time. The lighter crop ripened very quickly, ultimately leading to intense concentration of flavours and aromatics. I stuck with my tried and true formula in the winery, with 75% of the juice fermented and aged in my trusty old French oak barrels and 25% done in tank. The finished wine was blended, filtered and then bottled on April 6th, 2016.Aromatics: “a nose for days”, candied pear, lemon/lime, melon, grilled pineapple
Our Pinot Gris sustained similar winter damage to its neighbouring Sauvignon Blanc, which was surprising because it is considered a much more winter-hardy varietal. Another sobering reminder of just how much sustained extreme cold the vines experienced in the winter of 2014.
The very light crop (about 40% of a normal year) made the vineyard work easier to stay on top of, ultimately producing some of the cleanest fruit we’ve ever seen in that block. Pinot Gris is my favourite varietal to walk through in the fall because of the cool look of the tight, metallic-pink coloured clusters and the intense aromas in the air. Tasting each berry is a treat, as flavours explode in your mouth. You can almost anticipate the texture of the wine they will soon create.
We harvested our ripe Pinot Gris on September 18, 2015. Believe it or not, one of the challenges I face crafting my whites is finding good, used white wine barrels. It seems that more and more winemakers are holding onto their prized neutral wood – and I can’t blame them! I was fortunate this past vintage to pick up some great older white barrels from J.L. Groux at Stratus, and about 66% of my 2015 Pinot Gris juice was the direct beneficiary. All juice was fermented with R2 yeast and likely went through a partial, wild malolactic fermentation.Appearance: golden pink colour
Many experts feel that it takes about ten years for a planting of grapes to really come into its own. I feel like the wine form “Jean’s Block” is getting more complex with each vintage and it bodes well for this relatively young, 9-year old Riesling block.
What I like most about Riesling is their reliability from a growing perspective. They crop well, ripen without issue and always seem to have enough acidity to make a nice wine, whether your preferred style is dry or off-dry.
We harvested the 2015 crop on October 8th and fruit came in at 18.3 degrees Brix. Previous vintages have proved to me that “two yeasts are better than one” in terms of wine complexity, so I split the juice into two tanks: 900L fermented with W15 and 375L with R2. What resulted was one of the longest fermentations I’ve ever experienced – the ferments started on October 16th and didn’t reach a “balance” point (Specific Gravity 1.003) until December 1st! This was not done by choice, but the results were a pleasant surprise. Sometimes yeast just become a little sluggish in high-acid/low pH must. There were times when I thought the fermentation was stuck, but I chose not to re-inoculate and patience paid off in the end.
I love the nose produced by Clone 49 Riesling – it’s just so fresh and intense! We bottled this wine on April 6th, 2016.Aromatics: apricot, peach, lemon, green apple
In looking back at my harvest notes for the 2013 Pinot Noir, I’m immediately drawn to the “Fruit Condition” section where I have written: excellent; “Some of the nicest we’ve ever picked.” – Wilma. I remember it well, and it makes me smile as much now as it did when she said it on September 18, 2013.
We hand-picked 90 boxes from rows 3, 4 & 5 and 64 boxes from rows 8 & 9. These are the rows that I traditionally use, and they represent a good cross section of terroir from our oldest vines. The Pinot was sorted four times: first I do a quick pass on my own before we harvest to remove any obvious rot; then each picker must inspect clusters as they cut them; a third inspection takes place as boxes are loaded onto the wagon and finally again as they are dumped into the crusher. Those select few Pinot berries that made the final cut ended up filling two fermenting bins.
After a four day cold soak at 18°C, the first bin containing rows 3, 4 & 5 was inoculated with RC212 yeast and the second bin (rows 8 & 9) was inoculated with W15. Fermentation lasted about a week, with peak temperature around 34°C. Wines were then inoculated with malolactic bacteria strain MBR31 and racked to barrel. After 24 months in oak (100% French, 20% new), the wine was blended and eventually bottled on April 6, 2016.Aromatics: “Like walking into a pantry”; ripe cherry, dried spices, truffle
A later Spring than 2012 (few are earlier) led to an interesting vintage that felt like a constant uphill battle. The growing degree days were just not adding up, so an effort was made to dramatically reduce crop level at veraison. Then we waited…and waited some more…until all the leaves had fallen and finally picked our Cab on November 15, 2013.
The fruit was quite desiccated on the vine at this stage, almost a late harvest look, and we actually ended up with close to 23 degrees Brix and reasonable acidity. The drastic thinning gamble had worked, but at the expense of tonnage. We ended up with only 117 picking boxes of Cab Sauv from five rows that would have normally yielded 150 boxes.
The fruit was processed into two bins and after a four day cold soak, Bin 1 was inoculated with FX10 and Bin 2 with F15. Finished wine was blended, inoculated with MBR31 bacteria and racked to barrel where it would spend the next two years. Two new French barrels were used (Taransaud and Billon) along with a couple of wily veterans. The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon was bottled on April 6th, 2016. This wine will surprise many people.Aromatics: cherry, blackberry, anise, loose-leaf tea
*See 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon for the challenges associated with this growing season.
As we nervously hung our Syrah into November for the first time, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be writing a description for a Five Rows 2013 Syrah – the grapes just didn’t look right. They tasted fine, the lab numbers were good, but the berries looked wrinkled and raisin-like.
A harvest date was finally settled upon, but to our astonishment we awoke that day to….frozen Syrah-sicles! An overnight frost had thrown a wrench into the plans, making for a unique harvesting and de-stemming experience. The stems were so brittle that I was concerned the berries wouldn’t properly separate from the rachis going through the de-stemmer, adding unwanted bits of stem to the must. In the end – I needn’t have fretted, as the semi-frozen berries rattled off the rachis with ease.
82 boxes were harvested from Clone 7 rows 2 & 3, along with 57 boxes from Clone 100 (“Old Block”) rows 1 & 2. The Clone 7 was inoculated with RX60 and the Old Block with F15. Both bins were pressed after a week-long fermentation. The whole batch was aged in French oak; three older barrels and one new (DAMY Rouge).
This wine was incredibly smooth from the get-go, and frankly I have no idea why. Perhaps it was the extended hang time and wilted berries, perhaps it was the frost – yet more proof that the most unique wines often result from unforeseen circumstances. It was bottled on April 6th, 2016.Aromatics: lavender, cassis, vanilla, cooked meat, thyme (“Smells like a lamb dinner” – Wilma)