Almost New Year’s Eve. Happy New Year!
I am looking forward to the new year. I am definitely concerned about the economy and the effect that it will have on wine sales, for myself and other wineries.
I am feeling it already, although it is difficult to separate out the effects of the snow storm with the economic turmoil. Either way, most folks are spooked. My business was down in November and December, as it was last year also; and like last year we had horrible weather just before Christmas. Geez, what is a normal year?
I was hoping for a great December as that is generally how I pay for my grapes. Luckily I cut back on my production this year knowing I had to make my last payment to the owners…which I did and chronicled in the last post, “final payment”.
I am excited about wines that we made this harvest, in particular the Cabernet Sauvignon from Upland Vineyards in Sunnyside. I am always amazed that I am getting grapes from that vineyard. I first learned of it when I visited the vineyard with Dr. Walter Clore as we visited Al Newhouse at the vineyard back in about 1993. I was immediately struck by the location atop Snipes Mountain, right about the middle of the Yakima Valley, and the rocky soil.
Almost with a sense of destiny, I met Todd Newhouse, Al’s grandson, and helped him with some research regarding the vineyard when it began as Upland in about 1912 by W.B. Bridgman, a remarkably forward thinking man who first planted table grapes in 1912 and wine grapes in 1917 when he saw a market for grapes during Prohibition.
For my research efforts, Todd Newhouse paid me in Cabernet Franc grapes. Last year, I got most of my grapes from Upland Vineyards.
I got his Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on October 4th. His father, Steve Newhouse, helped transfer the grapes into my bins that I then brought to the winery for crushing. Al Newhouse came by to visit briefly and there they were; three generations of Newhouses.
The wine fermented at a cool temperature, dropping into the mid-50s and reaching up to about 72 degrees and continued fermenting for about 5 weeks. I then allowed the grape skins to stay in contact with the finished wine for another three weeks before pressing, which is a tricky technique and requires constant tasting and monitoring; topping up daily with CO2 gas to keep oxygen out of the tank.
The Cabernet Franc, also from Upland, came in later, about the third week of October. This wine fermented a bit quicker and I didn’t leave it on the skins as long because it is less tannic that Cab Sauv.
It is in barrel now but is really weird, as it usually is about this time. It is still murky magenta, light in color, and showing leafy characters without a lot of fruit development. I have learned however that this will all change; the color will clarify and deepen and the leafy character with soften with more fruit flavors (in Cab Franc more plum).
I also made two Merlots from Walla Walla grapes and they are vastly different. One is from the Noah Family Vineyards owned by Vashon Islander Rex Noah. His Merlot is interesting as it seems a bit acidic and the fruitiness is not obvious. But I know that this will change and that the fruit will come out. I think this is going be a good wine for blending with the other Merlot that I got from Dwelley Vineyard, also in Walla Walla.
The Dwelley is fun and I enjoy working with Bob Jones who lives on Vashon and coordinates my dealings with the vineyard. Bob and family (and friends) also help in most of the processing of the wine from delivery to crushing, punching down, pressing and bottling. This year’s wine is bit different. It hasn’t totally finished fermentation and there is a tad bit of sweetness and it has a remarkable richness but it is very different than past vintages of this wine.
Lastly, I have to say that tasting the 2008 Pinot Noir is also very weird….but I think it is going to be remarkable. Those grapes weren’t picked until the last days of October and we were lucky to get about 50 gallons and I have only 30 gallons in a small oak barrel. I don’t think this wine is going to reveal itself for a couple of years. It is in such stark contrast to the lighter and fruitier ’06 vintage.
Okay, now looking forward. I am just starting to plan for next year’s concerts. I hope to have a couple of festivals, like we did with the folk festival. I would like to help organize a poetry festival and a jazz festival; both will be island-wide.
I also have a bunch of new ideas……so stay tuned.
And thanks for being supportive. You know, I make wines that I like but I make them for you. Enjoy!