Newsletter September 24, 2009

Harvest Notes

Today I went to the winery to taste through the fermenting Chardonnays in the barrel. I also tasted through the Pinot Noir fermentations in the tanks and the Pinot Noirs that have been pressed and put down to barrel.

Tasting through fermenting chardonnays is like being surrounded by mountains of assorted fruits. When Chardonnay juice is pressed off its skins, it looks and (somewhat tastes) like freshly pressed apple juice, with a little pear and pineapple juice to round it out. As the fermentation progresses, the juices becomes lighter in color, fizzy (as the yeast produce CO2, along with heat and alcohol) and the flavors begin to expand.

Here is an abbreviated list of aromatic and flavor descriptors used by James, Robin and myself - banana skin, Fruit Loops, Juicy Fruit gum, Pear Drops (Robin is British), Lemonhead candies, pear nectar, pineapple,  tonic water, crushed fresh tarragon, bruised kiwis, and caramel apples. My favorite barrel was from the Dutton Brothers “Big John’s” Vineyard. They have a planting of the French Dijon 809 clone. This clone is incredibly aromatic. Right now the fermenting juice smells like a fruit salad of honeydew, peaches, and pears scented with the perfume L’eau d’Issey Miyake. 

Next, we tasted through Pinot Noirs both in fermentation tanks, and freshly pressed in barrels. Again, the aromatic and flavor descriptors were wide ranging and included strawberry yogurt, red fleshed plums, pomegranate, green peppercorn, red cherries, boysenberry syrup, dried Mediterranean bay leaf, muddled strawberries and raspberries.

It has been an exceptional ripening seasons - the tannins in the Pinot Noirs are husky and abundant but very fine grain. These tannins are the framework that expands the jammy fruit flavors of the Pinot grape. I was struck by how complete some of these wines tasted, even still on their skins in the tank. These are going to be very dramatic wines!

- Anne Moses