Just one week ago, on Sunday Sept 29, we concluded the 2013 harvest at Dyer Vineyard. It was another banner year for us- early, ample and delicious. Sugars had hovered around 24 brix for several weeks as we watched the flavors develop and skins soften to the point where color extraction becomes easy. With a small storm coming in Sunday night we made a quick decision to pull the trigger and pick.
After 5 years of relatively late seasons (and a few that were cut short, literally, by rain) 2013 was a return to harvest of the 1990s. No heat waves marred the critical, post veraison ripening period and the fruit was in tip top shape when it arrived at the sorting table.
Now mid fermentation, we’re watching a brooding, deeply colored wine take shape. The tannins are rich and ripe, color intense and that characteristic black cherry note that dominates the best vintages fills the cellar.
For the second year in a row, we’re fermenting ¾ of a ton of Cab Franc separate from the blend. From 2012 we’re planning to release 50 cases of pure Cab Franc… it’s too early to say about the 2013, but it could turn out to be a little tradition. Stay tuned!
For quite awhile, now, we’ve been meaning to review all the vintages of Dyer Vineyards Cabernet – we’re amazed to realize there are fifteen vintages now (seventeen if you count the two in barrels!) But, we just hadn’t gotten to it.
In a recent moment of serendipity, Bill was talking to Doug Wilder, the Publisher of Purely Domestic Wine Report, who was wondering aloud about the age-ability of Napa Valley Cabernet. The conversation evolved into setting up a fifteen-year vertical tasting of our wine with Doug, who suggested we also invite a couple of his fellow wine writers.
There’s been a long-running debate on the age-ability of Napa Valley Cabernet because of our lovely, warm climate. The warm growing season is responsible for the generously fruity nature of the wines but it also tends to soften the natural grape acidity. This makes the wines easy to enjoy when they’re young but may take away from their longevity in some cases.
What an exciting opportunity! We taste our older vintages from time to time, but to sit down to a complete vertical with critics we respect is really a very momentous occasion.
We are so pleased that Doug found a “consistent aroma and flavor profile unique to the vineyard” and that that all of the wines, even the first few vintages, are still full of life.
He has just published his thoughts on the tasting along with notes on each vintage and comments on the role that terroir plays in our Diamond Mountain wines. We'll post his notes on the website page for each vintage (Our Wine/Library.) Those of you who have older vintages in your cellar may find it useful. But until we do, you can link to the entire article here. You may just want to subscribe!
The Napa Valley Vintners is our local trade organization and if you aren’t aware of the educational riches there, you should check it out!
The most recent addition to their library is a video series called “Napa Valley Rocks.” It consists of several short, but very informative, videos that cover everything from the history of Napa Valley to how the vines are pruned.
When it came to the piece on viticulture, I was honored to be asked to provide quite a bit of the content! This video covers the amazing diversity of Napa Valley and you’ll see me talking, mainly, about terroir-driven and single vineyard wines – wines from the hundreds of small producers in the valley like Dyer – and how the sites and practices set one apart from the other. It’s well worth watching, if I do say so myself!
The video series had its world premier at our local Cameo Theater on February 20th, so we had our glitzy, red-carpet night in advance of the Oscars! It was quite an event and helped kick off an annual charity auction called Premiere Napa Valley. This year the auction raised over three million dollars for local charities!
So – happy viewing! Since we’re into March, now, we’re very much looking forward to bud break. Not that we want it to be early – better a bit late than early to avoid frost damage - but it’s always so exciting to see the first tender green growth emerge from those gnarled, woody vines. Cheers!
Well, we’ve had a little excitement here on Diamond Mountain! Bill and I are so pleased that Dyer Vineyards is featured in an article in the January issue of Wine Business Monthly, a trade magazine. It’s part of their Varietal Focus series, and this one is called “Nine Winemakers Share Their Approaches to Making Great Cab.”
It's an in-depth article that features nine wineries, including three from Napa Valley hillside vineyards, three from Napa’s valley floor/Rutherford and three from Walla Walla in Washington State (Washington is now the second largest wine-producing state in the nation and coming on strong!)
We are proud to be in such good company. The featured wineries include Spottswood, Corison, Pride, Chappellet, Leonetti... Each of us submitted one wine for tasting - ours was the 2008 Cabernet. All of the wines were tasted three times, with each winemaker talking about his/her wine and, specifically, the impact of the vineyard. What a great opportunity to taste the wines from these wonderful producers and hear what the winemakers had to say about them.
We don’t submit our wines for review, but occasionally they’re picked up and reviewed anyway, and it’s always great to get a good review from the press. But, for a winemaker, there’s really nothing better than a good review from our winemaking peers! Not a bad way to start the new year!
If you'd like to read the article, I'm afraid it requires some patience. You'll need to go here and create a user name and password. Then, you can choose between scrolling through the online version (the story starts on page 98) or downloading the pdf. After all that, who knows, you may find that you want to keep the subscription! Most wine-industry folk start their day by reading Wine Business Monthly's daily news blasts and the magazine is a source of great information about all aspects of the wine industry. Cheers!
Looking out the window this morning at our rather soggy vineyard, we’re so grateful that our harvest is over and the grapes are safely in the barn, so to speak.
The fruit is so amazingly clean this year - with very few raisins, no sunburn, no mold and uniformly brown (mature) seeds - that we can do a nice, long cold soak. This technique is a favorite among the tricks in our bag that helps us get a jump start on the extraction of color, flavor and the right kinds of tannins – the supple ones from the grape skins.
You can think of the cold soak as sun tea vs. tea made with hot water. You get the full flavor without the bitter tannins. For us, different phenolic compounds (tannin is a polyphenol) are extracted from the skins and seeds at different temperatures and different alcoholic concentrations.
So, as the grapes were destemmed, we blanketed them with dry ice (the solid form of carbon dioxide) to get them cooled down to below 50 degrees. This creates a very inhospitable environment for yeast and delays the onset of fermentation (it also protects the fresh juice from oxidation.) And, the low temperature and lack of alcohol in the solution allows us to get a lovely extraction of everything we want - color, flavor and texture - and virtually nothing we don’t want.
So, we're off to a great start and just loving the 2012 vintage! It seems to be one of those rare years when we can have it all! Next up, we’ll take a walk on the wild side and talk a little about yeast, wild yeast and mixed cultures. Cheers!
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