The first thing that comes to mind when I think about the 2013 vintage in the context of
those that preceded it is “classic.” Not classic as in vintage of the century, but classic in
terms of what I have come to think of as pure expression of varieties. The 2013 Pinot Noirs
tend to be more perfumed, tighter structured and less obviously “fruity” than the 2012
vintage. In this way, perhaps less typically Californian. They strike me as somewhat “old
world” or perhaps more accurately, “old school” in character. In a good way, of course.
As I have written elsewhere many times, I’m preoccupied with energy, purity and freshness
in wine, particularly Pinot Noir. There are too many examples of California wines (some of
which I made myself) that seem somehow lethargic after a short time in bottle. It’s not
always a function of too much ripeness. It seems to be more complicated than that. Much of
my winemaking the last few years has focused on keeping the wines younger, fresher. Less
new oak, less time in barrel, less oxidative handling.
The 2013 Shop took me by surprise. It is the only Shop to date that I aged longer than a
year. It was brought out of barrel just prior to harvest and spent the next three months or
so in stainless. I bottled it in December, just after the 2014 harvest. Usually I bottle all my
wines on the early side, during the summer preceding harvest, while they still have plenty
of energy and freshness. The 2013 Shop, however, demanded a more “traditional”
approach, meaning extra time in the cellar before bottling. Both to resolve the tannins but
more importantly to resolve the flavors and aromas. An outlier, in my experience.
At this stage I find the 2013 Shop to be quite pretty in the aromatics, and noticeably lighter
on its feet than the 2012 or 2011, which is a good thing. As always, there are lots of whole
clusters in the fermenters, and the wine is fermented using indigenous yeast and bacteria.
An honest, un-manipulated expression of Pinot Noir from Carneros.
|I’ve been making wine for 30 years. I have always been hands-on-walking the vineyards, working the vines, sorting grapes when they arrive at the winery, pumping over and punching down, driving the forklift, dragging hoses, even fixing bottling machines myself. This is the way I like it (well, maybe not the bottling machine part). I am constantly studying the grapevines and the ground in which they’re planted. Understanding where your fruit comes from doesn’t just happen. When I go snooping around in the vineyards, I like to joke that I’m off to “become one with the vines.” But there’s always a little truth in jest, no?
For many years, I have wondered how we’ll be making wine in California many years from now. What will the ”California Tradition” look like? Will we still be using French Oak barrels? Will we even be growing grapes in the same locations? After much deliberation, I decided that I should pursue the answers myself. I have met many interesting and inspiring winemakers over the years, and have tasted wines grown and made in many different ways. Instead of relying on the tried and true, the rest of my career is going to be spent pushing forward. Mind you, there are some goofy things I’ve seen that my wines will never endure; however, exploring the use of alternate vessels--concrete, oak, steel-for aging and fermenting, larger oak barrels, and stripping away additives and modern conveniences is how I think I will find my way forward. This, I believe, will yield more compelling wines, more pure, more honest. Not that I have been impure or dishonest in the past, of course, and the wines still need to taste good and be fun to drink.
I invite you to come along for the ride. This should be interesting.