The copious lightning storms and resulting wildfires in far Northern Sonoma Coast during the summer of 2008 affected the personality of the harvest from a vineyard that is normally at the core of our ‘Big Brother’ Pinot Noir by adding somewhat ‘smoky’ character to the brand new wine. As many wineries were facing the same thing, I was fortunate to be able to sit in on tasting several esteemed colleagues’ remediation trials. After tasting, I found that I was not comfortable with subjecting our wine to these various high-tech treatments. There was barely enough to even get the equipment wet, anyway. Our wine was only mildly affected and had a lot going for it in all other aspects. I continued on my normal course as the wine seemed headed in the right direction without intervention. So — in my usual way — I waited to see what happened and hope for continued integration with time.
I got my wish. Contrary to common wisdom, I used some new barrels from the start, feeling that their structural contribution would help integrate everything in the wine like they usually do. The only thing I really ‘did’ to this wine (and for the first time in the winery’s history) was to perform an old, traditional cellar procedure that used to be routinely done with most fine wines: I ‘fined’ the two older barrels with one egg white per barrel to slightly smoothen the finish. It is our first non-Vegan wine! As I observed that it continued to integrate and improve with time in the barrel, I left it there far beyond what I would have previously considered appropriate before this experience — 28 months. I am pleased with my choices as well as the results. Better lucky than good! The finished wine reminds me a lot of the typical Big Brother profile: dark fruits, earthiness, moderately thick texture, yet it finishes as though we had used a different type of cooperage than normal — more of a toasty oak note not unlike what dozens of other wineries think of as their ‘signature style.’ Numerous people in the wine and restaurant trade have tasted this wine before and after bottling and have not noticed anything different than normal. I wish I could shed my own expectation of what could have been. While I do not feel it’s our typical $50 ‘Big Brother,’ I feel this offers exceptional value, pleasure and satisfaction. Black lightnin’ is unlikely to strike twice.