Spring Release April 04, 2017 08:32
With our first release sold out and harvest well behind us, it’s about time for a quick update. First off, thanks to all of you who purchased wine. The first release was two tons of fun. Secondly, we are preparing for our second release. It’s much smaller than the first but we have a couple wines we want you to experience before we get wrapped up in harvest again as we still have plenty of pre-harvest bottling to do in June and July.
What we have managed to do is bottle two of our new 2016 whites. They represent our first efforts in our new spot and we are very excited by the results. The first wine is the non-ML Sutter Ranch Chenin Blanc. It’s a wine I have made since 2009 but with a few modifications. In previous vintages I destemmed the fruit, pressed and fermented in stainless steel, then bottled in December. Although I have been happy with this wine, I have wanted to build it up a bit without picking at high sugars. So what we’ve done is pick on two different dates, foot treaded the fruit prior to pressing instead of de-stemming and also used a screw press (one built in the Loire, even….yes) instead of a bladder press. Then we fermented in three ways: tank, barrique and egg. The egg produced the best results, so, hopefully more eggs in ‘17. Then we gave the wine a bit more elevage before blocking ML. It’s actually partial ML but has great malic freshness and vibrancy. We bottled it on January 25 instead of early December. The wine exhibits a better mid-palate weight and more complex finish than previous vintages and retains the salty/savory acidity we are used to seeing from this vineyard.
The second wine we bottled is the 2016 Wirz Riesling; our second vintage. Wirz Vineyard is a great old site. It was planted to Riesling in the early 1960’s, own rooted, dry farmed, and head trained. The vines are gnarled little shrubs that produce small berried, tiny clusters. We pressed whole clusters to tank, then racked to neutral puncheon for a spontaneous fermentation in our cool cellar. Racked young and bottled young this wine is very dry; not “Riesling dry” but honest to goodness bone dry, laser sharpness.
We are releasing the 2015 Wirz Riesling as well, right beside the 2016. The ‘15 is an orange wine: foot treaded, partial fermentation on skins and stems, barrique elevage and lots of oxygen. This is the yin of the ‘16 yang; super funky for a Riesling…..so, between the two you can “get down and get back up again”!!
Look for an announcement very soon. Thanks, everyone!
Notes regarding my preoccupation with Chenin Blanc July 25, 2016 18:51
I began making Chenin Blanc in 2009 when I was presented with a few tons of fruit grown in the Sacramento River delta from a vineyard in Solano County. I pressed whole clusters and fermented the juice in a stainless tank, racked it once it was negative Brix and blocked ML. I was not expecting overt Chenin characteristics to show, so I was quite pleasantly surprised when they did.
Seeing potential in the vineyard, in 2010 I followed the protocol of ‘09 but paid more attention to fermentation temperature. The results were good but I felt we missed out on the complexity that really carries Chenin into the serious wine zone. The ‘11 vintage wine saw more lees contact which I believe really added another dimension on the palate. We had so much rot in ‘12 we had to hand sort it in the picking bins, losing about 30% of the volume. I hit it with sulfur and crossed my fingers. It turned out as quite a nice wine, although the high points seemed to have been knocked down.
Then, in 2013 I became so sufficiently weary of having to place my Chenin project on the back burner that I decided it was time to try out the ideas rolling around in my head.
First, I assembled a small crew and we went down to the vineyard for a 1:00AM pick. The chemistry looked good for sparkling: 3.1pH at about 17 Brix, barrel fermented, sur lie until Thanksgiving time when we tirage bottled it. The sediment was so light I decided not to disgorge, which I think is correct given that the wine is so finely carbonated.
The next pick, the “normal” pick, was split into two lots and I changed the protocol to de-stem the fruit so we could get some skin contact and a bit more oxygen to the juice. The bulk of the juice went to the 5th vintage of “stainless” wine and the rest, about 500 gallons went to barrel for an unaided fermentation. Both wines exhibited so much “Chenin funk” that I was actually quite worried that my ideas manifested themselves as ugly and angry siblings to the well mannered wines of 2010 and 2011. However, after some elevage they turned out to be some of my favorites. Well received, too. The “stainless” won the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition in ‘14 and the barrel fermented lot was included in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Wines on the West Coast.
For 2014, I took another step forward by adding to the line-up a Pet-Nat and another still wine. The fruit for the sparkling coming from the same vineyard in Solano County and the still from the Aparicio Vineyard in Sutter Creek.
The Pet-Nat was bottled at night after an already long day. We riddled it the following May and disgorged in June. This wine, I think, is one of the best Pet-Nats around. It ended up on several nice wine lists and quickly sold out. I saw a few bottles at Corti Brothers in Sacramento last week and the last of it is in Rouge Tomate’s cellar awaiting their reopening.
The mountain Chenin from Aparicio is by far my favorite. I blogged about it earlier this year highlighting its unique pedigree and history. There is so little of this wine produced that very few will be able to taste it. Only the first couple hundred folks on the mailing list will have the opportunity to purchase this wine.
The 2014 “stainless” is sold out, but the barrel fermented version is still available around the Bay Area, Sacramento and southern California.
We bottled the 2015 barrel fermented wine last Saturday and it should be released next Spring. The ‘14 traditional method sparkling is still in barrel and will be en tirage after this harvest. It’s release is dependant upon how it develops over the next few years. The ‘15 Pet-Nat is riddled and the plan is to disgorge early in August with a planned release sometime during harvest. Perhaps we can celebrate a successful ‘16 harvest with bubbles!
So, what’s new for 2016? One more still wine, that’s what! I was fortunate enough to secure Chenin Blanc from a vineyard in south eastern Sacramento County just up the street from my cousin’s house in Herald, CA. This fruit comes highly recommended and I can attest to the high quality based on the wine made from this vineyard that I have tasted. Considering how much I love field blends, both for the added complexity in flavor, aroma and texture, and for the sake of respecting our winemaking/viticultural history, I intend to field blend in some Chardonnay and/or Sauvignon Blanc. I’m very excited to work with this fruit and although I am also happy to add another Chenin Blanc, I am still on the prowl for more sources.
More than anything I love drinking these wines and sharing them with family and friends….friends of Chenin Blanc.
Thanks for indulging. Cheers!
Aparicio Chenin Blanc April 03, 2016 11:57
In 1973 Joe Aparicio and his wife, Iris, took over farming of his father’s vineyard. Santos Aparicio planted the original five acres to Zinfandel and Carignan in 1934 at the top of the ridge overlooking the hamlet of Sutter Creek. Own rooted, head trained and dry farmed in the remnant of an ancient Mehrten mud flow over-laying slate and green schist, the vineyard remains just as it was except for one addition: Chenin Blanc
The year after this husband and wife team took over, Joe planted the variety Iris was so fond of. Just north of the original block along the fence line he planted as his father would have. The vines were put in the earth on their own roots and watered by hand from a barrel filled with water from the creek below.
Today 50 vines remain. In a good year we can make about one barrique but usually see about three quarters of a barrel. We prune, we pick and nature takes it’s course from there in a neutral barrel for about twelve months. This tiny lot is a rare example of the incredible potential for California foothill warm climate Chenin Blanc. The fruit is often quite ripe by the time the pH gets above three, so it’s a big wine but it is also balanced and light on it’s feet. We’ve named this wine Iris.
Bottled last summer just prior to harvest, the 2014 vintage will be released to the mailing list exclusively this coming harvest, 2016.
Pre-Harvest Report June 13, 2015 11:24
The end of '14 and first half of '15 were pretty busy and eventful and harvest '15 is very close. So here is a quick status report before we're up to our ears in fruit:
Chronicle Top 100
Yes. We made the list with our barrel fermented 2013 Chenin Blanc. Our mission to prove the potential of California Chenin is starting to materialize.
Our Norhtern California Chenin Blanc Association had it's first official summit in Napa at the end of December where we tasted and evaluated our efforts with this variety and discussed the future of CA Chenin. The core group is made up of top producers including Leo Hansen (Leo Steen), Chris Scanlan (Pain & Glory Cellars), Nathan Kandler (Precedent), Matthew Rorick (Forlorn Hope), Tegan Pasalaqua (Sandlands) and yours truly (St. Rey)
We are pleased to announce that Chambers & Chambers Wine Merchants is distributing our wines. The SF Bay Area and Sacramento markets are responding well and we expect Southern CA and New York very soon. Here is a list of the newest accounts:
58 Degrees & holding Co.
The Wine Consultant
Chronicle Winemaker to watch
I'm very flattered and honored to be named as one of the ten rising star winemakers by Jon Bonne in his annual piece for the SF Chronicle.
That's the short list of significant events. We are finishing up bottling and disgorging sparkling Chenin Blanc and I hope to have an announcement out very soon to the mailing list with new releases. Please sign up for early access to '13 high altitude Syrah, '13 Zin, vermouth, '14 sparkling Chenin and a few more.....
Post Harvest Report January 05, 2015 11:26
Harvest is over but we are back in the cellar now that the holiday season is behind us. We're tasting the fruits of our labor from last fall, bottling some new whites and some of the '13 reds and planning some events.
As you may know, we added a few things with harvest '13, including barrel fermented Chenin, high altitude Syrah and Mèthode Traditionelle Chenin Blanc. We're bottling the Syrah next week, releasing the sparkling on Wednesday and the barrel matured Chenin is almost sold out.
New for us in '14 is a Pét-Nat of Chenin Blanc, several Zinfandels from various area vineyards, a Cinsualt, a Mourvèdre from the foothills and unique Mountain Chenin from Sutter Creek: 40 year old own rooted, dry farmed stuff. Hope to get 17 cases.....