3 things come to the forefront in a vintage like 2010 – experience, patience and perseverence. In a meeting with Mike Wolf yesterday he displayed and comforted with all 3.
Anyone who has spent any time in nature understands that the logic of the natural world, while identifiable on a molecular level, is unstable and downright confusing on the macro level. How many times have you scratched your head in wonder while weather.com or your local weather person proclaims a likely rainless day as the showers pour down? While Mike can’t predict the rain (though he can exhaustively gather and analyze data on pressure systems, moisture levels, etc.) his experience and patience were tantamount to where we are now in the vintage cycle.
A quick recap of phenology;
March 19 Budbreak
June 3 50% Bloom
August 16 50% Verasion
Anticipated harvest? Second week of October?
Every time I taste wines from the 2007 vintage in Napa I am wowed.
I taught an introduction to wine class at the San Francisco Wine Center last night. Though the content was aimed at fundamentals, the wines were anything but basic, including 2007 Chablis Grand Cru Clos from Brocard, 2006 Ermitage L’Ermite from Chapoutier and a just released bottle of 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford. What struck me, and the entire group (some of who had little business being in an introduction to wine class at all but came simply to taste the wines) was the absolute deliciousness of the 2007 Cabernet.
It is no secret that 2007 was an incredible vintage throughout Napa Valley, in fact, it is one of those vintages where making a bad wine indicated a winemaker or viticulturalists need to return to school, or accounting, or some other profession where they can’t fail to capture natures gift of a near perfect vintage. What I liked best about the wine we tasted last night, and THE defining character I find in the top wines, is balance. Yes, there are some over the top fruit bombs reminiscent of a certain vintage in the late 90’s whose wines have become a caricature of full bodied “over the top” wines from Napa Valley, but on the whole the wines retain a symmetry between ripe fruit character, firm but silky tannins and a fresh acidity that remains the essential component for graceful agability in wines from any region.
Working with an estate vineyard forces an intimate understanding of the land. With each harvest our knowledge of the Meteor Vineyards’ potential and how to best work in and around it has grown exponentially. Now into our third vintage, we believe we have found the perfect expression of Meteor Vineyard.
In 2007, warm spring temperatures led to early bud break with very little rainfall. The summer remained mild with few of the heat spikes typical seen and dry conditions leading to small berries of intense fruit. After a brief interlude of cool the second week of October, Indian summer prevailed, affording us plenty of time to consider the optimal moment for harvest. What crossed the sorting table was as close to perfection as Cabernet Sauvignon gets. Our first glimpse of the wines post fermentation confirmed this. We knew we had something special.
Like the Perseid meteor shower that that paints the northern hemisphere sky for a short time every August, Meteor Vineyard Perseid, the new bottling from Meteor Vineyard, will be visible October 14, 2010. Don’t miss it – pictures can’t do it justice.
Design: To conceive of, fashion, invent.
Scan the shelves at any wine shop and you can’t help but be slightly overwhelmed by the sheer diversity of – you thought I was going to say selections (countries, grapes, appellations, etc) – no, design. I am the first to admit that as a sommelier my taste tends towards the simple and the classic (ok, it helps if it says Domaine de la Romanee Conti or Coche-Dury on the label and I take great if sadistic pleasure in the arcane specificity of German labeling law). I am also quick to condemn the use of fuzzy critters, iconic film stars (Marilyn Merlot????), derogatory off handed snipes (Fat Bastard, Cleavage Creek) etc. I am also now keenly aware of the tremendous amount of work that goes into the simplest of labels.
The considerable amount of time it takes to produce a bottle of wine demands careful consideration of it’s final appearance. From planting to first harvest? 4-5 years (Though in Meteor Vinyard’s case it was 6 years). From harvest to bottle? 22 months. From bottling to release? 1 year. Throughout this process myriad decisions are made from clone to rootstock, from pruning time to green harvest, from tonnage to harvest date, from maceration (cold soak or not?) to pump over of punch down, from barrel selection (and quantity of new versus old) to length of time in said barrel….
So what bottle do you put a wine you have invested 9 years into? The weight of the glass affects shipping weight and the amount of glass that goes back into recycling (if we are lucky). Too light and it feels cheap, too heavy and it feels ostentatious. Length of cork? Cork at all? Wood or carboard for packaging? 3 bottles? 6? 12? Design for the boxes, corks, capsules and labels?
With the release of our Meteor Vineyard Perseid mid October, the culmination of these decisions will be complete.
After speaking with a number of designers, we were taken with the work of Chanda Williams. Her innate understanding of the unique nature of Meteor Vineyard immediately translated into a label tone that captured the tone of the earth. The lone oak, a sentry in the vineyard (we did not remove any oaks during planting so this reference is always a little confusing – there is actually a native oak preserve on the property) needed to remain as the focal point and continuity between the two wines. To reconcile the astral connotation of Perseid’s direct reference to the impressive meteor shower that appears in August each year, while maintaining the earthy feel, Chanda introduced a series of stars and “fading light” into the background as well as a richer copper tone to the foil stamped name.
Want to see it? Soon enough.
Meteor Vineyard Perseid Cabernet Sauvignon Release October 14, 2010