When tasting through the barrels prior to bottling, I was quite happy with the verve, and snappy fruit these wines exhibit. What about the early September heat spell people have talked about? Fortunately we were either 1) well ahead of the heat spell at harvest or 2) if it was during it, we were able to get the grapes in before they got ‘long in the tooth.’ Part of it is that we tend to harvest a little earlier than most people do these days. This means the fruit is a little less fragile and there is a little more room for an extra day on the vine. Yet much of this has to do with the very good relationships we have developed with different farming companies that would and could harvest our fruit when others were over-booked and could not even show up for 1-3 weeks! I think that is quite significant in any kind of vintage. Timing is everything here.
The range of fruit characteristics run from red raspberries and blueberries to a little bit of blackberry, with our signature fresh loam nuance and slight herbal notes. This vintage also shows a mild black pepper aroma that folds into something hinting of the ‘Rutherford Dust’ note used to describe Cabernet Sauvignon. On the mouth, the wine is medium-full bodied with a very crisp, upward trajectory of surprising length. There is a constant and gentle salivary response throughout, which I think is essential to food-friendliness.
While I have experience using 500 L puncheons to varying degrees for over 30 years, I have normally relied upon 228 L barrels and a few 350 L hogsheads for the Zinfandels (and Rhone varieties). However, since 2015 I have been also employing more of a particular type of 500 L puncheon not seen in the US before with very positive results. The idea was to ‘break in’ some of these for our Grenache which does not appreciate new oak so much. Then use the seasoned puncheons for Grenache. The discovery that the Zinfandel absolutely adores the first use of this is a bonus. I find an even more seamless union between the fruit and the wood and am contemplating moving more in that direction as I see the longer-term results unfold.