Now that Harvest is over and we have seen the holidays come and go, I can finally settle down (between pruning days) and taste the barrels of wine which are slowly starting to show their personalities. Once a wine is put into barrel it is warm and wild with primary aromas of fermentation. It takes at least a couple of months for the wine to finish its fermentation and settle its lees to the bottom of each barrel where the dead yeast cells will begin to autolyze and feed the young wine with amino acids. Sometimes tasting a wine before its secondary fermentation starts can be awkward and disappointing to the novice. But after some years of experience of tasting through young barrels of wine we look for two things: structure and potential.
Now, by structure I mean the trinity of 1.) fruit 2.) acid and 3.) tannin. All of these elements are essential in determining a wine’s character, balance, texture, appeal and potential for cellaring. If one is greater than the other a wine can be unbalanced, which can either be good or bad depending on our personal palates. Heavy on the fruit but low on the acid an tannin can mean that we are holding in our glass a “fruit-bomb” destined to please most people but has little potential for pairing with diverse foods or lasting long in the cellar. Too much acid or tannin with a deficit of fruit could mean that this wine needs some years to open up in the bottle to show its true potential although an imbalance in these two departments may never allow a wine to truly shine.) But when all three are in agreement, a wine can really show us the character of the vintage and the vineyard with promise for the future.
Walking through the cellar right now is truly a pleasure. The wines of the 2003 vintage are very appealing with massive fruit characters, supple decadent textures and a healthy amount of acid and soft tannins which should make for very good drinking in the near to mid-term once the wines are released. Some of these wines will not be destined for long-term cellaring, yet some of them might just surprise us. Looking back on the harvest every winemaker in the Northern Willamette Valley was freaking out! Most of us had never seen temperatures and chemical lab analyses like those. Some of the older farmers exclaimed: It’s just like 1983! (I was 8 years old, so I can’t help you there.) The vintage was hot and the risk of making unbalanced wines with heavy alcoholic characters was in your face. So it was with caution that we proceeded and changed our winemaking style to adapt to the season and now that we can taste through some of our barrels, the results are magnificent!
The Bergström Vineyard: Nose is loaded with medicinal mineral notes and big red cherries. This wine is luscious and tempting already. The De Lancellotti Vineyard: Closed now but showing tell tale Willakenzie soil spice notes of star-anise, cardamom and gingerbread with big dark fruit characters and a strong acid backbone to support the wine. This wine will need a few more months to start opening up.
The Arcus Vineyard: is perhaps the greatest wine we have made to date from this incredible site. Huge heady perfumes and a decadent silky texture. Too bad this may be the last Arcus we will make.
The Shea Vineyard: right now is the star of the cellar with a color, aroma-profile and glycerine-laden fruit-core which makes it tempting to drink now. This wine will definitely shine. I keep dropping my jaw at how silky these wines are.
The Hyland Vineyard: Could be the greatest showing from these 30+ year old vines that we have ever seen. The Cumberland Reserve will be a monster in 2003!!
The Broadley Vineyard: Wow! Port soaked griotte cherries wrapped in caramel. This wine will be impressive! Huge color, and structure make this wine a potential sleeper of the vintage. We hope that you will all join us this Memorial Day weekend at the winery as we will be pouring barrel samples of all of these wines and offering them at a futures price for release in November. I couldn’t be more proud, and after a vintage like 2003 I couldn’t be more relieved.