Saturday, November 25, 2006

All Great Wines Begin With ... Lab Work!

Last night's lab frenzy - all white juice got tested, conditioned with nutrients to keep the yeast healthy, and innoculated with yeast, so wine is happening! There in the pic you can see the pails where each batch is fermenting. Each pail sits in a tub of water with ice added daily to keep fermentation cool and slow - avoids loss of aromatics in the whites. In addition to these pail there is a quarter barrel of chardonnay fermenting in an oak barrel. Further back are the large tubs with red grapes soaking in a stew of their own juice. These tubs are wrapped with insulation and dry ice added to cold soak the flavors out of the grapes - a step that costs a little extra but gives fruit extraction a head start before fermentation begins in a day or two.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

2006 Grapes Arrived

Yesterday the fridgee truck arrived with our shipment of 1300 lbs of premium California wine grapes. The whites are in the form of pressed and settled juice ready for a cool fermentation into white wine. The reds will go through various cold-soak regimens after which yeast will be added to start their fermentations. If all goes well we will be pressing wine in mid to late December.

In case you have forgotten what we are making or only wrote down the wines you are participating in, here is the full list:

Zinfandel - Russian River - a different vineyard source than we used in '05 (that was Mendocino) this is an old vines vineyard that rockroom sourced from in '03 and '04.

Right Bank Blend - Napa Valley - like its distant cousins being made from grapes grown on the "right bank" of Bordeaux's Dourdogne River, this wine will lead with merlot but we will give it an American-style boost from a solid dose of cabernet sauvignon and a splash of cabernet franc. Certainly an elegant sibling to that Inkgrade badboy we are making!

Chardonnay - being made in 2 styles from 2 sources: a big California-style barrel-fermented (Radoux French oak barrel, medium+ toast) Carneros chard, and a low-oak Santa Lucia Highlands chard going for a more acidic, food-friendly wine. Assuming the SLH juice tests out with solid acid levels (looks likely) we will make a small batch of sparkling "baby-blanc-de-blancs" wine as well.

Sauvignon Blanc - Napa Valley - same source as 2005 but more of it - it disappeared way too fast!

Pinot Gris - Suisun Valley - first time for this one. Call it pinot gris or call it pinot grigio - lets just hope it's good!

If you are in Austin over the Thanksgiving weekend you might want to drop by on Saturday or Sunday as things get going!

Monday, November 06, 2006

On the scene report as White Hawk syrah gets crushed

The following is David's hands-on report from Saturday where he was on location to sort our White Hawk syrah:

Report from sorting white hawk syrah: white hawk first, but had the opportunity to taste inkgrade and hein pinot for this year, all are early and in barrel, so just some impressions, and for those of you who I don't know well, had Jlin to confirm.

White hawk fruit was very clean, but a bit late picking. Having said that, acidulating is easy, and it is ideal to let those grapes hang a bit, because you can never replicate what is 'earned' in the vineyard by getting some more hang time with the clusters. Tasting the fruit...about every fourth cluster was peppery, and we replaced lots of thepre-sorted fruit with browner stems for the whole-cluster component. Still, whole cluster this year is 20% at most, which is fine for the fruit nature gave us...opulent, refined, ultra-aromatic fruit...hints of spice, pepper, but most delicate and important for syrah, floral elements....who didn't as a kid pull off a honeysuckle flower and 'sip' it! That is one of many components our '06 syrah has. Better yet, we got (twist an arm) pulled to the numerous barrel rooms and tried all sorts of 2005-vintage White Hawk Syrah, and I must say the formula rockroom will use this year was the best of what we barrel tasted from 2005...come on out and try it yourself if you don't believe! The best of class was 25% whole cluster, 25% new oak (zebra barrel, recooped with staves so ratio is 25% new French oak...those guys in Sebastapol are forward thinking), which exhibits fruit and nature, which in '06, imho will be stellar, and not oak bits, which are easily overdone.

We also tasted through the 2006 Hein Pinot and Inkgrade cab. In order, here is the progress report: Hein-damn, must be better than last year...why? been in barrel a month, so fully fermented but still has 9 months to pick up character-I tasted stawberry preserves, and loads of cranberry, the whole-berry variety you find when you're lucky. This differs from the '05 rockroom Hein in magnitude....the '05, if any are Burgundy fans, is Anderson Valley*read cool climate*, and is oppulent and pretty, with ultra-floral notes. The '06 will be that, if barrel samples hold true, just more preserved fruit qualities, so look for both, and try them side by side. Next, Inkgrade. Do you know how hard it is to find a cabernet with chocolate/cocoa notes? tough to do with a young one, and that is EXACTLY what Inkgrade is yielding this year so far. This is an inaugural year for availability of Inkgrade fruit, and thank goodness we jumped on it. Scott C. was all over this one, as he was out here to meet the fruit, and since the cab came from 2 VERY distinct blocks, both good but one higher altitude with more sun, I think we got the best ratio of fruit, and damn it's good. Inkgrade just finished malo, and has a complexity and flavor, so far, which easily tops your favorite Napa cab if you are looking for something aside from ultra-toasted, oaky cab. Nothing wrong with that if that's your Parker preference, but this is less oaked, and meant to be so because it shows what nature gave us this year. I like 'oaked' too, but this exhibits real varietal character, and with well treated *thank you Scott* Howell Mountain fruit, chocolate/cocoa notes get to show themselves. It's going to be a yummy cab, gang.

That's it from the source, and realize that is mostly one pallette, all opinions stated are mine, not necessarily from JLin, our resident sommelier, who was there too, and sure she'll have her say as time permits, but think we were of a mind for basic impressions. Rockroom wineauxs, this year is looking good across the board, so pay attention!