Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Radius 4 - Last Wine of the Vintage

The wine making calendar is an odd one. On one hand there is the grape growing side of things...the annual harvest which has been set by Nature from time immemorial, and hasn't differed dramatically in the 5,000 years wine has been made.

On the wine making ledger, though, the calendar is really 3 years long for us. And now, I have finally reached the 2006 vintage's December 31st.

As I noted in the previous post, our 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon has been put together, and the last wine...Radius IV followed suit yesterday.

I will post tasting notes on the wine when it is released in June to members of our Future Release Program, but the vital statistics are: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon (40% McGrail Vyd, Clone 15, 20% Home Ranch, Clone 7, 10% McGrail Vyd, Clone 8); 10% each Ghielmetti Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.

Over time the Radius release has evolved from a Cabernet, Syrah, Barbera blend to a more traditional Bordeaux blend. Concomitant with this evolution is a wine with more tannic heft, darker fruit, and a longer consumption arc. Given the quality of Bordeaux-variety fruit coming from our estate vineyards, this blend model (always subject to the vagaries of the vintage, of course) seems to be the right one for members of the Future Release Program.

2007 beckons. Hmmm, when exactly am I now?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2006 Cabernet Rounds Into Form

The last wine of the 2006 vintage has finally taken shape. With a renewed emphasis on our Cabernet heritage our small-production wines such as the Premier Cabernet Collection and Single Vineyard Series take precedence. Our largest production wine, the Cabernet Sauvignon - Livermore Valley, had to wait.

Numbering now at about 1,000 cases, the 2006 vintage of Cabernet will be released in April or May of this year. What began in my head as an 80%+ Cabernet blend (a little bit of Cab Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot in there to get to 100%) ended up in my glass as a 100% Cab comprised of six different clones from four different vineyards.

I drew samples from nine different barrel groups, taking wine from 2-4 barrels from each group depending upon how barrels are available. I then taste each grouping separately making notes about the wines. Next, I put together a representative blend of just the Cabernets as that wine would be the foundation for whatever other Bordeaux varieties might make the cut.

First impressions are important but hardly conclusive. I have made blends that I loved and got them home to taste them later and couldn't imagine what I liked in the wine. The same on the other pole. After making the Cab blends, I made a blend with the other varieties and let them sit while I went to get my son lunch.

Under the best of circumstances, I will have more than one blend that I like a lot. Then the questions become those of volume and the fate of the barrels that don't make this blend. Some of the folks on our hospitality team tasted the two wines that came out of this session, and the 100% Cabernet ended up being the unanimous favorite.

Right around the beginning of Spring, you'll be able to taste the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon - Livermore Valley and tell me whether I got it right.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

When to Drink Our Wines...One Person's Opinion

We often get asked when is the best time to drink a certain wine. This question is more complicated than it seems on the surface. What style of wine do you like? Do you like older wines? Do you like wine young with a lot of tannin? There really is no one answer.

We have updated our Drinkability Index to provide a little bit of guidance. Remember, though, that the best palate is your own.

Click Collector's Circle and Future Release Program for the wines of those clubs and Cabernet for info about our general release wines.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Liquid Amber - 2006 Barbera

Guess which wine was being produced in the northwest corner of Italy 400 years before the first Cabernet...go ahead, guess.

The grape, from which this wine is produced, is more widely planted in the old country than Sangiovese. It also makes up about 12% of the red wine produced in California. Know what it is yet?

When grown right, allowed to hang long enough to take the edge off its considerable acidity, it produces a wine with the wonderful aromatic mix of ripe plum, dark cherry, leather, and brown spice.

In the mouth, rich fruit abounds, and its silky mid-palate is framed by both balancing acid and fine-grained tannin.

Planted originally in the San Joaquin Valley, the grape's abundant acid was only employed to add a little bit of zing to otherwise flabby, overheated red wine. It is in the Livermore Valley on Block 3 of the Home Ranch Vineyard, though, that this often over-looked, under-appreciated variety shows true delicious character, presence of mind viz. a whole variety of foods, and courage in the face of mid-term aging.


One more clue...it also makes up 100% of Liquid Amber, the first release of 2009 for the Collector's Circle wine program. You got it now? Huh, do ya?

Oh, wait. This is embarassing. You see, I was giving all these clues: mostly a blending grape, high acid, not many 100% versions of the wine made, etc. etc. And it was right there in the title of this post all along...wow...really embarassing.

Anyway, the 2006 Barbera, one of the Collector's Circle's favorite wines, will be released at the Winery on January 10th. Only 192 cases were produced exclusively for members of the program. There are a few cases extra and a few spots left if you want to get this wonderful wine.