Wines in the barrel are uncannily similar to women the way they behave. One day a wine will whisper lovely suggestions under her breath. Another day she will seem brusque and irritable. Or silently withdrawn and simply won’t speak at all.
My little Cinsault, ripened on a southeast facing slope is a gentle, almost tender wine aged in a neutral barrel because I suspected that heavy oak would completely overwhelm her delicate perfume. On occasion she has displayed a frisky bit of spice, but as often as not I detect soft floral notes, subdued ripe plum, pleasant acidity, and a bit of windblown vineyard. Nevertheless when I sampled from the barrel a few weeks ago my girl would not talk to me! Maybe she had a bad dream … it’s a mystery to me. But my stubborn flower had shut herself in and made her mom quite unhappy. Today is bottling day and I sampled with a little trepidation …. Voila! She speaks! She curtsied, danced a pretty little adagio and sang a charming melody. This 100% Cinsault will be my new “Soul Sister.” A dry rosé styled wine, best chilled and served on hot afternoons with summery salads or mild cheeses.
I only have two cases left of my 2012 “50 Shades of Red” blend. She’s come a long way and I’m so pleased at how well integrated and balanced this wine is a year after bottling. She still has a vibrancy that I adore in young wine but is less edgy, mellower and with a luscious finish that seems to have improved with a bit of age. When blending my new vintage of 50 Shades I wanted to stay true to the original flavor profile. So she is still 50% Grenache harvested from a mature vineyard in the valley of San Vicente south of Ensenada and blended with four other varietals. This year I concocted a mélange of Syrah, Mourvédre, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo. If my 2013 “Soul Sister” is a petite ballerina, my 2013 “50 Shades of Red” is a leggy burlesque dancer with a zippy floor show … a bit on the campy side and with a few surprises! Typical of Grenache you’ll encounter fresh strawberries and hibiscus on the nose, the Syrah adds delectable spice, the Mourvédre a touch of gaminess, the Cab lends backbone and structure, the Tempranillo gives a touch of darker ripe fruit and a pleasing suppleness to the blend.
The last wine I prepared for bottling today is my new “Tattooed Lady” a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon which I purchased from a small winery in my neighborhood and put in a gorgeous second-use Alain Fouquet French oak barrel in the St. Emilion style. And now I’m going to tell you about a former boyfriend, lol. Back a hundred years ago or so I dated a guitar player. Guitar was his first love and his pupils would dilate with undisguised desire whenever he beheld (read: coveted) a beautiful guitar. The reason I bring this up is because I have a similar reaction whenever I get my hands on a sensational barrel. My heart palpitates and my mouth waters. So though my second-use Alain Fouquet French oak barrel in the St. Emilion style may not mean much to you, in geeky winemaker vernacular it’s just: WOW (read: Oh yeah, Baby, come to mama!) Now this wine we’re discussing is a kind of a stepdaughter because I didn’t crush the grapes myself. They were crushed about a quarter of a mile from me by friends from whom I also buy grapes. I adopted her as a baby and have “raised” her as my own (what they call elevage in fancy French wine lingo). Secretly I’ve fretted more over this stepdaughter than I have of any of my own. I didn’t have any control over her first moments as a live wine so could not easily predict how she would turn out. We’ve had our ups and downs. Mostly I’ve found her overly tannic and terse but I hoped with patience and TLC she’d relax a little and chill out. A week ago I was just not getting what I wanted from her so I decided a fining was in order. I don’t know how that sounds to you but it wasn’t a whipping, I promise. I did whip up a couple of egg whites with a pinch of salt and wine though. Fining red wine with egg whites is a traditional method of removing undesirable tannins among other things. I figured it was worth a shot. If that didn’t work I’d maybe have to sit on the bottled wine for a year or so before releasing it. A solution I can ill afford at this early stage in my winemaking career when revenue flow is critical!
So if you can imagine me dancing to Pharrell William’s “Happy” song then you fully understand my elation when I sampled the wine today. My curt stepdaughter has finally stepped up to being a rather spirited debutante. Sticking with my dancing metaphors, let’s just say this smart Cabernet is a Ginger Rogers sporting some kickass ink.
I’m quite attached to my baby girls so I get stressed at the thought of these wines being out of my hands. Nevertheless I decided this round to filter and bottle offsite. This decision is driving me a little crazy. You see, filtering wines is the norm. It’s kind of like pasteurizing milk. Proponents agree that it helps stabilize the wine, gives it a longer shelf life, and polishes the wine for aesthetic appeal. Filtered wine travels better because there’s no sediment to shake up and go turbid. Perhaps filtering lessens the chance of bottle shock, that awful malady that occurs when the molecular chains are broken and causes the wine to taste “off” for awhile. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that filtering can strip a wine of color, aroma, and other characteristics and may produce a sterile, “dead” wine. This is freaking me out. I’m fond of my quirky girls and don’t want to create cookie-cutter McBarbie doll wines, so this filtering and bottling offsite is an experiment, folks. I prefer my milk raw but it’s too early to state that I prefer my wines unfiltered. Wish me and my girls luck.
Thanks for tuning in. There’ll be more to come!!!!