July 1998 Pre-release: Not everything we had was unaffected by the late summer rains. The same things that probably cause the wine from this area to be so supple, also made it more susceptible to negative effects of fall rain and ensuing botrytis infection. My family removed most of the leaves which covered or touched the fruit and sprayed this area immediately following the late rain. Additionally, affected fruit was removed a couple of days before the harvest, helping to ensure that sound fruit would be harvested. I had a sorting table built for my destemmer so that we could hand feed the machine, making it easier to discard unwanted portions of grape clusters that might have made it to the winery. The extra work paid off as the resulting wine shows. It exhibits its typical round & supple character so well expressed by the 1996 bottling. The 1997 Shale Terrace also exhibits some exotic stone fruit aromas like plum and apricot, and is a shade more elegant than the 1996 Shale Terrace Zinfandel. The type of yeast I used to complete most of the fermentation has enhanced the wine’s mid-palate thickness. Our resulting wine seems to soak up the new burgundian oak like chamois soaks up water. This speaks to me as a wine for near-term enjoyment for three reasons: 1) It is never structured to last decades, 2) Whenever there is significant botrytis on the fruit, aging is accelerated, 3) It is so satisfying while young that it is hard to keep one’s corkscrew away from the bottles, leaving no point in saving the wine forever.
April 1999 Release: I have often been told that this area of our vineyard tastes more of Dry Creek than Alexander Valley. I think it is like Chambolle raspberry with a smackerel of Charmes black pepper. It is seductive & complex with flavors ranging from earthy, smoky bass tones to soaring raspberry/cherry, a hint of mint and perfumed stone fruits, all wrapped in a silken robe.