21 Dec 2010
These days everyone is looking for a value. $15 is the new $25 when it comes to wine prices. Finding quality wines at $15 and under can be little bit of a challenge. Never fear, I have tackled the often unenviable task of sipping through some swill to present 10 wines worthy of showcase. My top 10 list for 2010 contains several local favorites and a few nationally distributed stars as well. As I looked back through the reviews I discovered that 105 wines competed for these 10 spots. The white wines stood taller than the reds and Washington was a showcase for value.
Tasted during a whirlwind tasting tour of Maryhill wines, this flagship red wine is available for anywhere between $10-$15 – “Dark red fruits with fragrance of lilacs and campfire with a medium mouth feel, well integrated oak and tannin.”
While this blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah may be bottled in Oregon, the fruit comes from the Desert Wind Winery vineyards on the Wahluke slope. A slight sweet cherry fruit on the front palate with a woodsy chalkiness that settles on the back part of the tongue. Moderate acidity with subtle vanilla and cocoa spices on the finish. A fairly complex wine with good structure. Leading with heavy oak keeps this one from scoring high. It’s a great value and a wine for lots of occasions. Better with food. $10-$12 3+/5
Very tight on the nose with only slight floral blossom and citrus present. What was lacking on the aroma comes out to gently play on the palate. The Cono Sur is what you would expect from a traditional Sauv Blanc. Tropical fruit, pineapple, good minerality. Wine blogger, winefoot, described this wine as a grassfield creamsickle. I couldn’t agree more. At only $13, this classic presentation of Sauv Blanc showcases the potential of this Chilean variety. Easily the best value Sauvignon Blanc I’ve had in a while! 4/5
100% Sauvignon Blanc from Bacchus Vineyards in Washington. Cut open a pineapple, squeeze some lemon and spray a small spritz of vanilla room spray and you have the nose of this wine. Strong acidity on the upper palate with a smooth citrus and lemon peel flavor across the tongue. There is no tartness and the alcohol is not hot. Not overly huge in structure but has great flavor for the price. $11 retail but only $7 at Cost Plus World Market. 4/5
Aromas of boysenberry, toasted almonds, and dark red fruit on the nose. Very aromatic and full with subtle notes of campfire. Medium bodied Syrah that is slightly thin on the front but opens up nicely to dark red fruit, hints of smoke and a beautiful long velvet finish. An easy sipping Syrah that will have you wanting more. Retail is $15 but I scored this wine for only $10. At that price this well balanced, nicely flavored Syrah scores a 3+/5 and will be a definite re-buy.
A fantastic display of character on this wine. Wonderful flavors of honey, granola, and peach make for a very enjoyable experience. A touch of sweetness balanced with good acidity make this an elegant mouth feel that begs for more. At only $15, another fantastic display of quality and value from Finger Lakes. The 2007 Heron Hills Riesling is a lesson in quality and value for the region. Classic Riesling aromas of petrol, mint, and citrus translate into elegant medium-dry flavors of honey, granola and peach. A fantastic showcase that scores 4+ out of 5 ($15)
Overheard on Twitter:
|canapes45:||RT @pinotblogger: Heron Hill! Wow petrol. I’m smitten. Perfumy fruit balancing it. Off dry, great acid, long finish. Price is right. A fav! #flxwine|
Wholly wow, this is a big wine. There is some decent fruit on the front end which is immediately attacked by the strong tannin on the back end. This wine needs food! I look forward to pairing it with some BBQ, spicy pork, or a steak. At only $10 this is a big wine with some big back end structure that deserves a 3+/5. I would definitely consider this for a future purchase to pair with food.
100% Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon – Moderate hints of black and blue berries. The strongest scent is green briar or evergreen. Nice notes of spice dance around on the back end. A pleasing front end with some sweet fruit that is Syrah-like. A subtle vanilla oak pokes through right before the tart tannins grip your tongue on the back end. It’s not a Darth Vader death grip, but still pretty stout. At only $14, this is a heck of a value and a well made every day Cabernet. If you ever find this wine on sale for $10-$12, buy several bottles. 4/5
100% Chardonnay from Connor Lee Vineyards with 100% Malolactic fermentation. Two months in French oak. 760 cases Thicker viscosity, more pale yellow than a traditional CA Chardonnay. Mild nose with hints of pear and honey. Big and rich butter, vanilla and pear. No oak to speak of. Felt thick and meaty. Finished with a beautiful acidity that washed across the back of my mouth. At a retail price of $12, this is a very well made Chardonnay. I score it a 4+. So far this is one of the best “value” Chardonnay’s that I’ve had. Kudo’s, Mike! I’m not really a Chardonnay fan but this was an incredible offering for the money. I would venture to guess that it could be found for under $10 in certain locations, depending on sales.
The Kiona Lemberger has quickly become a go to wine for around $10. The wine pairs well with a variety of food and is gentle enough to enjoy without. On the nose I enjoy bright strawberry and cherry with moderate earthiness and minerality. In the mouth a sweet wash of cherry, vanilla and some cola flavors. The wine is sweet and soft with more substance on the back end with some spice and tannin. At just $11 this is easily a 4 (out of 5). This is another incredible Kiona value and a stand out in their wine arsenal.
20 Dec 2010
It’s that time of year when people pull out their Top, Best Of and Year in Review lists. All for jumping on the bandwagon, I decided to pull together three lists that recap my year in wine blogging. In this post I share my favorite articles across the bloggersphere, top wine stories, and my favorite post from each month of 2010. Later this week, I’ll reveal my top 10 value wines (under $15) and the top 10 wines of the year.
One of the earlier wine blogs I connected with was Joe Roberts from 1winedude.com. Joe’s interview with author Robin Goldstein (Wine Trials) was my favorite wine news post of the month. The 70+ comments provide a ton of reading fodder as well.
January marked the premier of one of my favorite weekly posts, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from Ben Simons of Vinotology.com. Most weeks, Ben provides a humorous look at news from the wine world.
The top post from Nectar Wine Blog (previously DrinkNectar) is a still very relevant post called, Is Facebook Tweeting Hurting Your Business? While the practice of Tweeting your Facebook status may be efficient, it can have a negative effect. Check out my reasoning why.
Thanks to people like Rick Bakas of Bakas Media and Craig Drollett of Taste Live, online taste and tweets became commonplace in 2010. Events in 2010 allowed me to explore wine from Chile, Virginia, Texas, and Michigan and celebrate #WAMerlot, #CaliCabs, #CabernetDay, #SauvBlanc, #Chardonnay, #WAWine, #Champagne, and more.
Wine Bloggers Bite the Big One: This post from @DirtySouthWine (aka Hardy Wallace, aka NPAHardy) was in response to recent allegations that wine blobbers are a bunch of non-influential, wine whores railing against traditional media and seeking free wine. This amazing post will have you laughing from poop to chainsaws.
The most active post on my site for February tapped into a vein of hostility toward restaurant wine prices. Wine Ripped off and Ticked Off (60+ comments) – A look at the horrible wine practices of restaurants and their 400% mark-up, uninspired wine lists and crappy wine glasses.
For me, March was a break out month with #WAMerlot. The partnership with 10 Washington wine writers helped make many connections that have turned into friendships. The month ended with a great trip to Seattle to participate in Taste Washington. It was actually during that visit that some of the initial ideas for Nectar Tasting Room began to develop.
Two of my favorite wine blogs provided highlights from March. Tamara Belgard of the now quiet Sip with Me blog (Tamara now works in marketing for Cana’s Feast Winery in Oregon) writes an incredibly sensual post titled, My Date With Pinot Noir. Warning, either have a cold shower running or your significant other nearby. The second highlight is an ambitious series from this year’s recipient of Best New Wine Blog, SwirlSmellSlurp.com. The “his and her” blog has attempted to taste wine from all 50 states in the series United Slurps of America. At last check the team has sipped through wine from 17 states.
While not necessarily one of the most viewed posts of the month, it is one of the events I am most proud of in 2010. “The Night Merlot Was King” was the recap of the #WAMerlot event. Through social media a group of bloggers was able to mobilize 100 wineries to showcase Washington Merlot for online and offline events.
April marked the mobilization of the online wine community against House bill HR5034. Industry heavy hitters Tom Wark and Free the Grapes helped generate significant buzz against the bill that threatens to limit how wineries can ship wine to customers. I strongly urge you to join the American Wine Consumers Coalition to stay informed on important news that impacts wine consumers.
Wine Enthusiast contributor Steve Heimoff provides some great content to the wine blogging world. Steve Heimoff’s’ post “5 Questions for Robert Parker” generated 50+ comments. Steve asks the questions respectfully and eloquently.
My most viewed post – 7 Social Media No Brainers – While these tips may seem basic, I guarantee there is more than one that you’re not doing. I see these basic rules broken every day. You should check it out. Let me know if you are doing ALL seven.
Some of the most re-hashed stories of the year provided hours of reading enjoyment and online debate. While not specifically occurring in May, seemingly every blogger has covered the topics of wine scores / 100 point score and Biodynamics. Palate Press presents a very well thought out insight into credibility and how Robert Parker may have hurt his street cred by introducing something better than 100 points. VIEW POST.
Stuart Smith of Smith-Madrone Winery provides an alternate view to the practices of biodynamic farming on his blog Biodynamics Is a Hoax. “I submit that if you believe in science you cannot believe in Biodynamics, and the corollary is just as true, if you believe in Biodynamics you cannot believe in science.”
I’m very excited to share that the most viewed post for May was a video, picture and text recap of our journey to Lake Chelan, WA. VIEW POST – I love the Chelan area and look forward to our annual visit.
June’s landscape was dominated by the 2010 Wine Blogger’s Conference. 300+ wine bloggers, writers, trade, and media converged on Walla Walla, Washington for a showcase of the new media of wine blogging. The 2010 Wine Blog Awards recognize excellence in new media. The list of winners is a showcase of the best wine writing on the internet. The 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference will be held in Charlottesville, VA.
A post that went live in the final 3 days of the month quickly gained traction and took the lead for most viewed post in June. Behold the future of obscure sport TV, the next big reality programming…The Sport of Speed Wine Blogging!
The wine world is not immune to economic woes. 2010 news was full of wine consolidation, winery closures, and news of a glut in bulk juice around the world. In Texas we witnessed the auction, withdrawal and re-auction of Cap*Rock Winery. Similar woes beset Virginia’s Kluge Winery and California’s Cosentino Winery later in the year.
Featuring one of the more creative pieces of writing this year is a piece from Wayne Kelterer of the blog, A Long Pour. Wayne’s creative interview of the wine grape, Merlot is humorous and witty. Find out why Merlot is sad no one cares anymore.
The most viewed post of the month quickly became one of the most viewed posts of the year on Nectar Wine Blog. Take a look at some creative ways to recycle your wine bottles. I guarantee you’ll be inspired to buy a glass cutter.
Power belongs to the entrepreneur. In August (and the months that followed), I watched several of my friends step out in pursuit of their dreams to be in the wine world. Using social media to build contacts and networking connections, good people like Joe Roberts, (http://1winedude.com) Ed Thralls (http://winetonite.com), Tamara Belgard, (http://sipwithme.blogspot.com) Rick Bakas (http://bakasmedia.com), and Ben Simons (http://vinotology.com) have blazed trails of inspiration for many people.
A lot of debate occurs about the place of the 100 point scale in the wine world. Vintank, and several influential bloggers, are looking to unseat the balance of power by introducing a “BADGE” method of rating. Why We Think the Badge Concept Will Work
Perhaps one of the cleverest videos of the year belongs to the folks at Hope Family Wines in the Office like spoof to promote their new wine, Troublemaker.
As attention turned toward harvest one of most insane stories of the year was from @vinography on the story of how thieves managed to steal a ton of Syncline Winery Mourvedre grapes…right off the vine! The Wine Super Villain Strikes
News was also dominated by the unseasonably cool weather in Washington and California (the country’s premier grape growing regions). The challenge would continue through harvest with cool weather continuing in Washington and a strong late season heat wave making things challenging in California.
I really enjoyed this creative post from my friend, Taryn Miller. Her ode to Cabernet Day, “Twas the Day of Cabernet” was creative and well written poetry.
The most viewed post at Nectar Wine Blog was A Blend of Apples and Grapes – iPads in the Tasting Room.
October saw a battle of booze in Washington State. Initiatives 1100 and 1105 threatened to end the three-tier distribution system and the states monopoly on booze sales. Neither initiative was very well written and in the end they both died at the voting booth. Sean Sullivan of wawinereport.com provided a very detailed analysis of both. Sean is one of the most valuable Washington wine resources in the state!
The always humorous and self deprecating Suburban Wino kicked off his new series, Booze in the News. Joe Herrig is one of the nicest guys in the wine world and his site is a must read for those into good wine, good food, 80’s movie / TV trivia, and odd tangents.
In October, I announced the upcoming launch of Nectar Tasting Room. The shared space wine tasting room features five Washington wineries and is the culmination of the reason for starting this wine blog. I was humbled by the massive support from the wine community. Twitter analytics show that the potential reach of this announcement surpassed 250,000 people.
November / December 2010
While I’ve been buried in the work that revolved around the release of Spokane Wine Magazine and the upcoming opening of Nectar Tasting Room, the amazing wine writing continued to fill the interwebs. This creative minds at VinTank outdo themselves with this unique interview with Craig Wolf from the Wine Spirits Wholesalers Association.
Enobytes tackles the technology of QR Codes and their impact on wine, wineries and other marketing. While I don’t agree with everything in the post, the conversation that has grown in the comments contains some great insight and knowledge.
Twitter Helps Fight City Hall – My use of social media gets the traditional media’s attention as I struggle with the rigid permitting process of City Hall. The result is a collaborative meeting of compromise and progress with city officials!
Wow, what a year. As I looked back at the posts and news, I was overwhelmed with the volume and quality of content. So many things were omitted here for the sake of length. Book releases from friends Evan Dawson (http://www.evandawsonwrites.com), Paul Gregutt (http://paulgregutt.com) and Rick Bakas (http://quickbitesbook.com), consistent quality content from Jeff Lefevere (http://goodgrape.com), the building of a brand by Barbara Evans (http://seattlewinegal.com), the retirement, un-retirement and disappearance of The Hosemaster of Wine, and so much more mark an amazing 2010. Cheers to the wine blogging world and cheers to an eventful, profitable, and passionate 2011.
November 23 and 24 were the punctuation mark on a long cool growing season for Washington grape growers. With temperatures plunging from 30 degrees to -4 degrees and lower in a matter of a few days, vineyard managers were scrambling. As wineries wrapped up the 2010 harvest, doubts about the 2011 harvest lay heavy on many people’s hearts. Much of the damage will be uncertain until Spring but many areas had a lot to be thankful for over the holiday.
Washington grape growers understand hard freeze. With one coming every 5-8 years, this part of the business is nearly unavoidable. Not every region in the state is susceptible to hard freezes. Much of Washington’s grape growing region lies along the moderate temperature control of the mighty Columbia River. There are some vineyard sights in higher elevation, or away from water that can cool off quickly.
Michael Haig, of Spokane’s Whitestone Winery, manages his wineries estate vineyards off of Lake Roosevelt, an area of the Columbia River created by the Grand Coulee Dam. Michael explains the potential devastation of a hard freeze and shows how wineries check the primary, secondary and tertiary buds for damage. What makes this freeze unique and potentially damaging is how early and how quickly the freeze came. Haig says, “Over time the buds will become cold hard, which means as the temperature slowly drops, the buds can withstand colder temperatures.” Michael peels back the layers of the bud to expose a positive sign, green. The primary buds, at Michael’s vineyard, remain intact indicating a full harvest for 2011.
Many vineyard managers I contacted held similar sentiments regarding damage, “I’ll let you know in the Spring.” An article in the Tri-Cities Herald by Andy Perdue paints a grimmer picture in certain areas of the state.
“It’s not pretty,” said Rob Andrews of McKinley Springs Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. “It’s too early to tell 100 percent what is going on, but in the 30 years I’ve been growing grapes, this is the hardest I’ve ever been hit. We’re looking at a tough 2011.”
Preliminary investigation reveals little to moderate damage in most areas with Horse Heaven Hills containing pockets of greater damage. Damage will depend on grape varietal and specific topographical location for many of the vineyard blocks. The results will reveal themselves more fully with the Spring thaw.
The Washington State University Viticulture and Enology program has an informative Cold Hardiness Website that breaks down the potential damage to various grape varieties. According to the site, the more cold hearty varietals include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. The more fair weather grape varieties are Barbera, Mourvedre, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sangiovese. A mere 5 degrees can separate 10% bud loss from 90% primary bud loss.
During my visit with Michael, he was excited to announce the second annual release of the Pieces on Earth red blend. The wine is one of four wines that make up the Pieces series (Pieces of Red, Love You to Pieces, Scared to Pieces, and Pieces on Earth). The predominately Cabernet blend is available for a limited time and has a special holiday label. The medium bodied blend has a balanced structure of dark red fruit, coffee, cigar box, and moderate cedar. The tannins are well integrated and perfect for enjoying now or with your upcoming holiday dinner. At $20, this is a solid 3+/5
Whitestone will be releasing their 2007 Merlot on December 17. From Michael:
“This is our most coveted and award winning wine. In blind competition, our Merlot has won gold at every major wine competition in the United States, along with being named Top Merlot for the State of Washington. The 2007 vintage features rich textures of leather and spice adding deep texture to rich raspberry and currant. Ripe tannins find harmonious balance in this well structured wine, which finishes off with a long, smooth after taste. $26 bottle”
Whitestone’s Spokane tasting room is located at 111 S. Cedar and is open Noon – 6pm Thursday – Saturday. Watch their Facebook page for special events and live music when they‘re open until 9pm.
13 Dec 2010
The rolling hills and wheat fields covered in a layer of white, the drive from Spokane to Pullman is as beautiful as it is peaceful. Just 90 minutes from Spokane, Washington State University and University of Idaho dominate the landscape of this twin town of 50,000. With college enrollment of 18,000 at WSU and 11,000 at UofI, this is a region defined by young aspiring students. Conversations of Snookie and Coors Light are more likely to be found than sips of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet. On this journey we explore the wineries of the Palouse.
Merry Cellars has been making hand crafted wine from premium Washington vineyards since 2004. On our visit, Merry Cellars was celebrating their annual barrel tasting of three 2009 vintages. Winemaker Patrick Merry graciously welcomed us and beamed with pride as he showed us around their new tasting room just north of Pullman off of Highway 27 in an industrial park loop. The 2009 Tempranillo, Syrah, and Carmenere all showed promise in their youthful state. Each of these wines is expected to be released in the next few months. The stand out wine to me was the Syrah which already boasted a nice balance of fruit, spice, and flavor.
As we tasted through each of the current 9 releases, the common thread of a hint of sweetness accented each of the fruit forward wines. A consistent quality was present across the board and only the Stillwater Creek 06 Syrah flirted with the $30 price point.
2009 Merry Cellars Stillwater Creek Semillon
I loved the smooth fruit and hint of toasted almonds in this wine. The 100% Stillwater Creek Semillon spent 6 weeks fermenting in new American and Hungarian oak before undergoing full malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Great layers of melon, almonds, and minerality graced this wine. With a full and round mouth feel, the only lacking quality was decent acidity. $18; 3+/5
2007 Merry Cellars Stillwater Creek Merlot
Coffee, coke, cocoa, and cherry define this wine. I didn’t write a lot of notes here, other than this wine stood out in the tasting. At $26, this is a little more money than I would spend for a regular wine but it offers way more complexity than your traditional $10-15 garden variety mass produced Merlot. 3+/5
On the Moscow / Pullman Highway is an eclectic artistic winery that breaks the mold of traditional expectations. While difficult to pronounce, Wawawai (three WA’s and an i) is named after the nearby canyon where the Moffett family grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Lemberger, Sauvingon Blanc and Rkatsiteli. The most recent plantings are classic Bordeaux blenders that contribute to the significant depth and complexity found in wines; Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmènere.
We spent a good hour talking to senior winemaker Ben Moffett. I was struck by his reserved demeanor and quiet passion for his unique wines. These are not your traditional fruit forward wines found in most wineries. Making only about 1000 cases per year, these wines had complexity and layers that are highlighted by earth, minerality, and terroir. The experience is highlighted by the modern art vibe of the tasting room. On warmer days, I would imagine that the adjoining barn would be a fun space for events and concerts.
2009 Wawawai Canyon Carmenere Rose
Tasted at room temperature, this wine boasted huge flavor of roses, strawberries, spice and melon. I really enjoyed the depth of flavor and aroma and even took a bottle back to the hotel to enjoy later that evening. I suggest the wine just slightly chilled from room temperature, any cooler and it loses its depth. This easy drinking spice could pair extremely well with late night dancing with someone you love. $19; 4/5
Beyond the Wine
The experience on the Palouse was punctuated by three amazing meals. The irony in the dinner meals was the absence of local wine (and even Washington wine), but the locations, food and atmosphere helped soften that disappointment.
How ironic for me, the writer for Nectar Wine Blog and owner of the new Nectar Tasting Room to be eating at a Nectar Wine Bar in Moscow. To be honest, prior to this trip, I had no idea that this business existed. After a humorous exchange of my business card with the hostess, we were seated in the cozy warmth of this Moscow hot spot. I enjoyed a flight of Zinfandel wine with my steak. The food was beautifully prepared and the potato / veggie side was seasoned to perfection. Others in the group were equally impressed with their experience.
Part pub, part café, part upscale restaurant, this hot spot in the heart of downtown Pullman was quiet on our arrival. Our trip was during Apple Cup weekend, the annual rivalry with University of Washington. We enjoyed dinner as the staff kept tabs on the close football game. Ultimately the WSU Cougars lost but dinner was a huge win.
Good Night and Good Morning
As the game ended, downtown Pullman came alive with a rush of crimson (and even some hints of the enemy purple). As part of our night cap we enjoyed the eclectic atmosphere of Rico’s at 200 E Main Street in Pullman (walking distance from Swilly’s). Rico’s doesn’t feel like a small town bar. This is a large pub reminiscent of a Manhattan hot spot or Boston pub. While many of the patrons were drowning their sorrow in suds, the pace picked up steadily as the night progressed. With a large wood bar, old brick, and a wall of library books, this is THE spot to drink. The only fault I could find was the situation of the restrooms. One lady in our group mistook the quietly labeled upstairs men’s restroom as a unisex room and boldly shared the space with the guy at the urinal. I think he was more surprised than she was. Only later did she discover that the women’s room was downstairs.
Before ending our weekend we were sent off with one of the most memorable breakfast experiences I’ve had. In downtown Moscow, dozens of people packed the inside of The Breakfast Club and even spilled out into the streets as they waited for their table on this chilly winter morning. The wait…totally worth it. The French Toast Benedict (bacon, cheese, eggs, and hollandaise sauce) and hash browns declared victory over my stomach as I satisfactorily retreated in defeat.
The Palouse is perfect for an overnight stay even if you aren’t attending one of the major universities. I enjoyed the trip and was pleasantly surprised by the wine and culinary experience. I’m looking forward to the next visit. There is definitely more to this region than collegiate conversations of Snookie and Jersey Shore. Drop off your aspiring students and stay for the wine, food, beer and more.
Work, wait, work, wait, work like heck, wait, work, wait, enjoy! This seems to be the order of the winemaking process. Add in a lot of cleaning and a lot of beer and you’ve got some good wine. For the last several months we’ve been following the 2010 Bacchus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Barrister winery.
The 2010 vintage has kept owners Greg Lipsker and Michael White on their toes. In their 10 years as winemakers, 2010 will go down as the most challenging. The cool season kept the fruit on the vine longer than normal. Harvesting on November 4 yielded a fruit with lower sugar levels, higher acid and higher pH than in previous years. The snowiest November on record compounded challenges as well.
Interested in the process? Take a look at the previous posts and see what a grape goes through before it gets in your glass.
Fermentation is where the sugar in the grapes is converted to alcohol. This process typically takes 7-10 days after the wine is inoculated with yeast (food for the sugar). Barrister winery uses four different types of yeast that emphasize different characteristics of the wine (aromatics, flavor, structure). This fermentation happens in stainless steel tanks. For 2010, Barrister decided to let the wine undergo extended maceration. This is the process where the juice and skins stay in the same tank for an additional period of time. This helps to soften the flavor and provide more weight as the short ‘hard’ tannin chains link together to become soft.
This extended maceration means…more work. During this time the skins must continually be “punched down” to avoid the cap from drying out and to keep the skins connected with the juice. The 2010 Cabernet spent a total of four weeks on the skins hoping to capture the traditional softness of Barrister wines.
Two years ago Barrister bought the HAL 9000 of the press world. This beautiful blend of computer programming and stainless steel is their reward for using a small hand press for the first 8 vintages of their wine. This specific press company makes 8-12 machines per year and wineries like Betz and Col Solare use them in Washington. Prior to entering the press the “free run” juice (the juice that happens as a result of press, fermentation and punch down) is pumped into a temporary holding tank. The remaining juice – trapped in the skins goes into the press. The computer goes through a series of press and pause cycles to provide a consistent and soft extraction of juice. The juice goes through four filters before being pumped into the storage tanks. Barrister lets the pressed juice sit in the tanks for 24 hours to let additional sediment settle before being pumped into barrel.
The tradition of using oak barrels has been around for hundreds of years. Used properly the oak can impart beautiful layers of vanilla, charcoal, smoke, toast, tobacco, and more. Barrister uses French oak barrels for their 2010 Bacchus Cabernet. After soaking the oak barrels in water to swell any leaks, the free run and pressed juice are tucked in for their long rest. Barrister is lucky to have a large 7500+ square foot barrel room where hundreds of barrels rest single high in the naturally climate controlled basement. The smell is amazing. If you haven’t been to the Barrister barrel room, leave a comment, I’ll help arrange a visit for you. Access to the basement is through an old service elevator with an old fashion hand operated gate.
The Cabernet will rest in the barrel room for 18-26 months gently rocked by the trains that pass next to the winery several times per day. Part 5 in the series we’ll revisit the wine as it ages and talk about the barrels, blending and more. After all that wait, work, wait, clean, wait and work…now the long wait begins as the wine sleeps, rests and matures to become the beautiful Barrister Cabernet you’ve come to love.