I’m an unabashed lover of French wine (and Italian, Californian, etc.), and there are certain grapes we grow in California that just don’t ring my bells like the French versions do. Syrah is one of those grapes.
Making up the red wines of the northern Rhône almost exclusively and extremely important in the southern Rhône as well, this grape stinks of aromatic bushes, roasted game, fecund earth, and a black fruitiness that is simply…Syrah.
When we make a version, as we did with the 2018 Cassis, a wine that will be released on September 5th for one of our wine clubs, I get more than a little giddy. Vive la France!
The senses are the winemaker’s greatest tools. The ability to smell and taste and remember what you’ve experienced from barrel to barrel are crucial in putting together consistent wines.
Outside influences, like Brettanomyces, a spoilage yeast that lives everywhere in the winery, can get in the way of the true expression of fruit and vineyard and the intent of the winemaker. Being clean in the cellar is the easiest way to keep Brett and other malign bugs at bay.
Between every barrel, we spray a 70% ethanol solution on the thief, that metal tube in the accompanying photo, that we use to steal a little wine out of each barrel.
We draw wine out into our glass, smell, taste, make notes, then sterilize the thief before it goes into the next barrel. Think of it as the prophylactic use of prophylactics…a condom for our Cabernet.
As the 2020 harvest fast approaches, we are busy in the cellar making our first official evaluations of the 2019 wines. We devote about an hour a day making detailed notes on each barrel in a specific lot, thinking about where that particular barrel may ultimately end up.
The cellar is always full of changing mysteries, and this view of ladders and staircases (Escher-like) reminds us of the ups and downs of all artistic endeavors.