Harvesting the Ricci VIneyard St Laurent, Carneros
Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope Wines champions unusual grape varieties, from uncommon appellations made in small lots, each described by him appropriately as “another rare creature.” One such example, his Ost-Intrigen, arises from 90 vines of St Laurent planted in the Ricci Vineyard of Carneros. With so few vines, Rorick harvests the fruit himself, rather than hiring a picking crew.
As some of you know, I have been following Rorick’s work with the St Laurent, visiting the harvest last year, barrel tasting it pre-bottling, and speaking about the wine on a panel when Rorick was unable to do so due to the 2013 harvest starting surprisingly early.
Starting his work with the Ricci Vineyard St Laurent in 2006, Rorick was able to encourage Dale Ricci to expand the planting of the fruit two years ago to several hundred more vines. 2013 is the first year the newer vines will be ready to harvest effectively tripling his Ost-Intrigen production. Though they grow directly beside the original 90 vines, the younger plants are progressing through ripening more slowly than the originals.
The Ricci Vineyard welcomes daily morning fog from the cooling influence of San Pablo Bay. The moist environment challenges growers with potential mold issues, with botrytis setting in early some years. At the same time, the cooler conditions serve the Austrian red grape, St Laurent, by discouraging too-fast ripening and heat damage.
The original 90 vines grow side by side in two rows.
from left: Matthew Rorick steps in to harvest one row while Alex Athens and Julia van der Vink begin harvest on the other.
The St Laurent is among Forlorn Hope’s last fruit to pick this year. The younger vines are still approaching their harvest point, and will be brought in later. Rorick is also awaiting harvest of his Alvarelho, the fruit for his popular Suspiro del Moro, out of Lodi.
The site offered incredibly healthy fruit this year, with great size consistency. In previous years the vines have suffered loss of fruit both from poor early fruit set, and extensive shot berry, with the smaller berries simply falling off at harvest. The 2013 harvest offered beautifully consistent fruit size.
long morning shadows fall over Alex Athens and Julia van der Vink as they harvest
looking into the healthy 2013 Ricci Vineyard St Laurent clusters
Matthew Rorick picking his St Laurent (i love this photo)
Preparing the St Laurent for Fermentation, Tenbrink Winery, Suisun Valley
Rorick’s preferred approach for the St Laurent fermentation begins when the fruit is scooped whole cluster into a neutral oak puncheon for fermentation. The puncheon allows all of the fruit from the 90 vines to ferment in one environment, with some textural influence, but no flavor influence from the wood.
Small amounts of dry ice were layered into the fruit to help slow the initial fermentation stages and increase the carbon dioxide (CO2) environment around the grapes. By increasing the CO2, Oxygen levels are reduced thereby also slowing the chances of any aerobic bacteria activity during cold soak or fermentation.
For Rorick’s approach, while the fruit is fed into the puncheon it is also foot tred lightly to break up some of the berries and allow juice to come in contact with the rest of the bunch. The method also keeps some berries intact, allowing fermentation to occur within the berry itself. Cooling the early temperatures of the fruit also extends soak time for the juice with its skins and stems, supporting more flavor and structure in the final wine without relying on over extraction.
2013 shows a lot more juice from the larger berry size, with still pretty red cherry and spice notes. Rorick brought the fruit in this year around 22 brix.
After preparing the fruit it was covered to maintain the CO2 environment. Rorick also names each individual ferment to make it easier to communicate with his team about which ferments need to be tested and how each is doing (and cause it’s fun. duh.). After spending the day with Matthew, Alex, and Julia, I walked into the winery to discover they named their original vine St Laurent ferment after me. hee! (Dear Lord, I hope I behave.)
To see last year’s St Laurent harvest photos:
To see the barrel tasting preview post on the Ost-Intrigen:
To see a goofy photo series of running around Alaska with Forlorn Hope and Dirty & Rowdy:
Thank you to Matthew Rorick.
Thank you to Julia van der Vink, and Alex Athens.
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