Why Smaller Can Sometimes Be Better
The quality of a wine is not always dictated by the sweetness of the juice. Many winemakers make decisions on when to pick by simply measuring the degrees brix (percentage of sugar) in their grapes, and generally pick when the sugars are at their highest possible level. Lane and I, however, pick when the flavors of the grape are at their peak, regardless of sugar content. That's not to say that we ignore sugar - we do test for it, as well as acidity - but our main decision to pull the trigger is based mostly on what our palates tell us.
The 2014 Chardonnay has now gone from vineyard through the crusher to barrel, and has completed its fermentation. As I mentioned in our last newsletter, we brought in two clones of Chardonnay from Sierra Madre Vineyard this year: Robert Young and Wente 15. Robert Young looked as he always has - handsome, debonaire, and a bit plump - but the Wente 15 clone behaved completely differently. What was most striking was how small the berries were. And small berries make for better wine.
Why, you may ask? Because more skin means more flavor. So many flavors are locked up in those crunchy little grape skins. If the skin-to-juice ratio is high, so will the concentration of flavors in the wine be. Wente 15 has such small berries this year, the skin-to-juice ratio is off the charts.
We expect a rocking good year for the 2014 harvest. All of our Sierra Madre Pinot came in over the last two weeks as well, and is fermenting away in open-top bins. Needless to say, it looks (and smells) awesome, but more on that later. The 2013 vintage is almost ready for release as well, so look for stellar new Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as a few new surprises! Stay tuned…. more harvest stories to come!
- Will Henry