2014 Verdelho, Pomar Junction Vineyard, Paso Robles
The Verdelho grape is capable of producing a variety of different styles of wines - from early consumption, vibrant, citrus-scented, crisp, table wines to opulent fortified wines, capable of aging for a century and all types of wines in between.
Genetic research indicates a high probability that Verdelho has its origins on the Iberian Peninsula. Verdelho shares several shared DNA strands with other grapes of Spain and Portugal: Albariño, Treixadura and Loureiro.
Ken Volk has long suspected that Verdelho was to be closely related to the grape Godello of Spain, based on organoleptic tasting and linguistics. Ken has gotten into some fairly heated discussions about that possibility with Master Sommeliers.
In 2015, simple sequence DNA testing at the University of Montpellier in France proved that Godello and Verdelho are in fact the same grape variety.
Godello had been named the hot new wine by many Sommeliers to upsell customers on, while Verdelho vines would rarely be seen on wine lists other than as “Madeira” in wine centric restaurants.
Verdelho is also called “Gouveijo” in Spain and parts of Portugal. Verdelho has been confused with other grapes of the Mediterranean such as Verdejo, Vermentino, Verdello and Verdicchio, all due to regional linguistics.
Verdelho has also been cultivated extensively in Australia where Ken first experienced the varietal. Verdelho has a long history in New South Wales and the Hunter Valley where its ability to hold up to rain with little rot made it popular.
2014 was the second hottest summer on record until 2015. Harvest was done on two picking dates in the last week of August. All of the grapes were whole cluster pressed and only the low pressure juice was used for this bottling. Following several days of cold settling, the juice was handled in two different methods. 85% was cold fermented in stainless steel at a cold temperature and the balance was barrel fermented in French and Hungarian oak cooperage.
The finished wine has aromas of citrus fruit and toasted oak. The fruit flavors of this wine range from sliced apple to ripe pear to more tropical fruits. The wine finishes with a distinct mineral finish. Try it with this recipe for a Catalan-style Seafood Grill.
2011 Pinot Noir, Enz Vineyard, Lime Kiln Valley
Located in the rugged Gabilan Mountains, east of Salinas, Lime Kiln Valley is a tiny appellation with one remaining vineyard, the small Enz Vineyard, which has seven acres of dry farmed Pinot Noir. Originally planted as Sauvignon Blanc, the vines were grafted over to two blocks of Pinot Noir: Pommard Clone#4 and clone 2A in 1994.
The topsoil of the property consists of decomposed granite with large Volkswagen sized boulders breaking the surface soil periodically. Beneath the granite topsoil, lay beds of hard limestone that in some areas have turned to crude marble.
This unique soil profile was created by the tremendous power of the San Andreas Fault that is two miles east of the vineyard. The tectonic activity of the area raised ancient calcareous sea beds and brought them to the surface of the valley.
2011 was a warmer growing season than 2010 and was punctuated by some extreme heat spells that caused some sunburn on overly exposed fruit. Spring started off with dry topsoil conditions and the vines were forced from the start of the season to search for water to support their growth. Very early in the season the cordon were thinned to one shoot per spur to reduce the crop size and preserve moisture.
The daily cycle of cool mornings and lifting fog, with peak temperatures coming from 1-3pm, would lead to onshore air flow from Monterey Bay, starting the cooling cycle all over again.
Veraison (berry color change) started in mid-July and an early harvest was looking inevitable. Harvest began the third week in August. The vineyard was experiencing extreme berry shrivel and fruit had to be harvested.
Pinot Noir Cluster
Despite the desiccated fruit, the juice had good flavors, chemistry and the lower brix allowed us to produce a lower alcohol wine. The small crop was fermented in a 6-ton open top stainless steel tank. Approximately 10% of the fruit was layered in the bottom of the open top and layered with dry ice. The balance of the fruit was destemmed and 20% crushed and the balance destemmed without crushing. The tank was chilled to 50 degrees and a long, six day presoak was allowed prior to pitching cultured yeast strain inoculants. Fermentation proceeded slowly and the cooling jackets rose to 80 degrees and the open top cooling jackets were raised to 82 degrees for the balance of fermentation.
Ken says, “Open top tanks lose a great amount of fermentation heat from the open top of the tank to the atmosphere that can lead to a low peak core fermentation temperature. I tend to ferment them warmer than I would in a closed top tank.”
The tank was pumped over manually once a day and sprinkler irrigated to help homogenize the tank temperatures twice daily. Ken was concerned about over extraction of tannin, so he aged the majority of this wine in water bent cooperage versus fire bent French oak cooperage from Cooperage 1912. Water bent barrels tend to be more elegant and less harsh than comparable fire bent cooperage.
Aged for 16 months, this wine spent its entire cellar life on its pressing lees. After two years in the bottle, this elegant and delicate Pinot Noir is more reminiscent of red burgundy than California Pinot Noir. Earth toned aromas of wet slate stone and humus, are followed by flavors of blackberry, Alpine strawberry and graham crackers. Our Enz Vineyard Pinot pairs deliciously with this recipe for a coffee rubbed prime rib with roasted garlic gorgonzola butter.
Coffee-Rubbed Prime Rib
2011 Tempranillo, San Benito County
Ken Volk has more experience working with Tempranillo than any other winemaker on the Central Coast. Ken was the first winemaker to bottle a Paso Robles appellation grown Tempranillo in 1986.
Tempranillo is an interesting variety for it can produce a variety of different styles of wine depending on where it is grown as well as winemaking goals and techniques.
One needs to look no further than its homeland of Iberia to taste the diversity of wines that can be produced from Tempranillo. In the Douro Valley of Portugal, it is called “Tinta Roriz” where it is one of the top five approved Port varieties and frequently is the second largest component in many Port houses’ blend of grapes.
In La Mancha, Spain it is frequently used to produce Blanc de Noir wines blended with other white grapes or to produce rich Rosé wines by itself.
Most often associated with the red wines of Spain’s Rioja Region, where it is the most planted grape. The range of wine styles can be fresh and juicy unoaked Jovenes wine to Crianzas, Reserves to Grand Reservas. The length of barrel aging and bottle aging prior to release determines these designations.
Debatably, the finest Spanish Tempranillo comes from the higher altitude vineyards of the Ribera Del Duero Region, north of Rioja. Here, the higher altitude allows for the grapes to ripen under cooler conditions, which help maintain higher acidity in the finished wines.
In 2011, we worked with three vineyards of Tempranillo. The Bella Collina that we have previously featured to the Cellar Door Club, as well as the John Smith Vineyard and our first small harvest from the Pomar Junction Vineyard.
Instead of bottling three separate Tempranillos, we made the decision to combine the John Smith and Pomar Junction together for a San Benito County bottling. This blend was an easy decision to come to after doing the initial blending trials and seeing the synergy of combined vineyards.
2011 was the first year of fruit production at the Pomar Junction Vineyard, with 80% of the vines bearing a small crop and the balance still being trained on cordon wires. The Tempranillo at Pomar Junction is a beautiful hillside planting at the western end of the vineyard. The small first harvest produced a surprisingly tannic wine with deep black fruit flavors.
The John Smith Vineyard is located on John Smith Road, northeast of the city of Hollister in San Juan Valley. This vineyard is 31 miles inland from Sunset State Beach on Monterey Bay. Despite its inland location, it is a very cool growing site and is usually the last vineyard of Tempranillo to ripen.
Only 350 feet above sea level, this property receives the constant cooling influence from the Monterey Bay via the Pajaro River course that allows cool marine air to travel easterly, cooling down the interior areas of San Benito County. Ken says, “Of all the Tempranillo vineyards I have worked with, the John Smith is the coolest growing site.”
Tempranillo tends to be a low acid grape with a high pH potential, which can make it a difficult grape to work with. The higher acidity of the John Smith Vineyard tends to provide more lift and structure to the plush, pillowy fruit of Tempranillo.
Both vineyards were hand harvested and fermented as separate lots. The Pomar Junction was destemmed and fermented in bins and a cool start to fermentation led to a warm fermentation. The John Smith Vineyard was fermented without crushing in 5-ton open top tanks and closed top stainless steel tanks.
Each lot was basket pressed and the young wines aged as separate lots in French oak thin staved barrels for 2 ½ years. Each lot was racked in the late spring of 2012 and assembled for bottling in July 2014.
The finished blend was 80% John Smith Vineyard Tempranillo and 12.5% Pomar Junction Tempranillo. After extensive trials, 4% Rio San Benito Grenache and 3.5% Mourvèdre from the Enz Vineyard were included to round out this wine.
After two years of bottle age, this wine has shed its tannins and has opened up to show its more delicate features. Somewhat Pinot Noir-like, this wine has aromas of currant and ripe berries, forest floor, flint and cigar box nuances. On the palate, this Tempranillo has a silky a texture with savory flavors of fig, plum, mulberry and Asian spices. Displaying the savory characteristic of San Benito wine, try it with this recipe for grilled spiced lamb chops with vegetable ragout.
Grilled Spice Lamb
2012 Touriga Nacional, California
Touriga Nacional is a grape of Portuguese origin that is traditionally used in the production of Port and table wines in Portugal. Touriga Nacional is not a well-known grape variety and seldom planted in California.
Ken had been searching for additional vineyard sources of Touriga Nacional besides his planting at Pomar Junction Vineyard and KVV trialed fruit from several new Touriga Nacional vineyard plantings in 2011 and 2012. In 2012, Ken purchased fruit from Cira Vineyards of Paso Robles and the Silvaspoons Vineyard of the Alta Mesa appellation near Lodi.
2012 Growing Season
2012 was the second year of what would become an ongoing multi-year drought in California. The rainfall of the winter of 2011/2012 was well below historical averages but it was generous in comparison to subsequent years. Temperatures throughout much of world saw record high and mean temperatures in 2012 and California was no exception.
The early warming soil and air temperatures stimulated an early bud-break, shoot elongation, flowering, fruit set, veraison and harvest.
Harvest started in the middle of September with fruit from the Pomar Junction Vineyard coming in first. KVV produced a vineyard-designated Pomar Junction Touriga Nacional and a portion of the Pomar Junction wine was used to blend into our California bottling. The Silvaspoons Vineyard was the next vineyard harvested followed by the Cira Vineyard.
In The Cellar
Each vineyard was hand-picked, fermented and aged as a separate lot during its time in the cellar. A wide variety of fermentation vessels and techniques were used depending on lot size and space available in the winery: 1.25-ton open top bins, 3 and 5-ton open top stainless steel tanks and 5 and 7-ton closed top stainless steel tanks were utilized.
All lots were destemmed without crushing and put through a vibratory sorting table to glean jack stems, peduncles and any non-grape material.
Small, open top bin lots received layers of dry ice to remove field heat and to allow several days of cold soaking prior to fermentation. Larger open tops and closed top tanks had glycol cooling jackets for fermentation temperature control.
The bin lots caps were punched down by hand, while the larger open tops and closed top tanks were pumped over, sprinkler or pin wheel irrigated 2- 4 times daily to promote uniform tank temperatures and help with extraction.
Open top tanks and bins were basket pressed prior to cap fall while closed top lots received several days of post fermentation maceration prior to pressing. Post pressing and several days of settling, the wines were transferred to Hungarian cooperage to undergo malolatic fermentation and aging.
After 28 months of aging, final blending trials were conducted for our California Touriga National. After determining what barrels of Touriga would be used for our Pomar Junction Vineyard designate and the Lusitania bottlings, earnest blending and fining trials were started for our California appellation wine.
After numerous trials, several barrels were culled and a blend of 48.5% Silvasapoons Vineyard, 28.5% Pomar Junction Vineyard, 21% Cira Vineyard Touriga Nacional, 1% Enz Vineyard Mourvédre and 1% Cabernet Franc from Caramody McKnight Vineyard was the final blend for our 2012 California Touriga Nacional bottling.
After 20 months of bottle aging, this wine has opened up and its tannins have softened. This wine has aromas of ripe plum, culinary sage, and lavender that are complemented by intense fruit flavors of ripe boysenberry and Bing cherry. On the palate, the wine is smooth and balanced with a lingering spicy finish. Try our Touriga Nacional with this delicious recipe for sausage and potato pie.
Sausage Potato Pie