Tags Posts tagged with "Carneros"



Hyde de Villaine

Born of a collaboration begun in 2000 between Napa Valley grower Larry Hyde and Burgundy winemaker Aubert de Villaine, Hyde de Villaine (HdV) produces premium Chardonnay (as well as a range of red wines) from one of the region’s most coveted sites for the variety. Hyde Vineyard grows Chardonnay in the clay soils of Carneros, that, combined with the site’s older vines, offer incredible innate power to its wines. The oldest section of Chardonnay at Hyde was planted in 1979, established with Wente cuttings. With the wish to stay entirely in California heritage selections, in the 1990s a portion of the vineyard was planted to Calera cuttings as well, though the majority continues to be Wente. Vine age has proven an advantage not only for the quality of the wine but also the health of the vineyard coming through the California drought. As the vines have continued to age, cellar choices have also shifted. The older the vines the longer the wines are held in barrel before bottling, for example.

Stephane Vivier leads the winemaking for HdV, working with the Hyde and de Villaine families to adjust the expertise of Burgundy’s long heritage to the particular character of Napa fruit. The house style, for example, has included full malolactic (ML) conversion since 2004. The cool character of the Carneros vineyard’s microclimate make preserving a sense of intense freshness while still doing full ML possible. The HdV team chooses to innoculate for ML with a strain that delivers ultra clean flavors, while also going through ML in a relatively shorter time. As Stephane explains, while many producers in much cooler climates choose to go through ML slowly to bring greater depth of flavor to otherwise steely fruit, warmer climate Chardonnay can benefit from the opposite approach – maintaining balance from a shorter ML process. While Hyde Vineyard is cool for Napa Valley, the wealth of sun brings greater flavor development, and overall temperatures are warmer compared to more genuinely cool climates like Burgundy.

The goal for HdV is to produce what Stephane calls restrained opulence. As he explains, in Burgundy, Chardonnay is understood as the Queen of Grapes, simultaneously sturdy, serious, and even imposing, with a noticeable presence. Respect for the fruit, then, comes with recognizing that natural stature of the variety. The view makes sense when tasting the HdV style – nobility comes with an innate opulence without excess as it is shaped by poise and control at the same time. Thus, HdV respects the fruit expression of California while crafting viticultural with a focus on freshness and cellar choices to maintain that integrity.

In the cellar, winemaking techniques are kept simple. Fruit is harvested to capture acidity. Then, in one of the most distinctive winery choices, the fruit is pressed at profoundly low pressure and slow speed. Pressing lasts a rather long time, as a result, outstretching industry norms for the region by more than half a day. In taking the long, slow approach, handling of the fruit is minimized through a gentle touch that invites a subtle frame and a range of understated flavors in the resulting wine. As Stephane explains, the idea is to keep things simple but to make complex wine. During aging there is no racking and before bottling no fining of filtration. It is not necessary with full ML. Barrel choices are kept consistent. Aubert has a long standing relationship, since the 1950s, with the Francois family and so those barrels are used for HdV as well.

Tasting Vintages: 2014 and 2011

Last week Stephane and I were able to taste the 2014 and 2011 vintages of HdV Chardonnay. The record cold temperatures of 2011 were outstanding for the variety. In 2014, the third year of drought brought a surprising combination of bright acidity and ample flavor at lower brix.

As Stephane describes, the 2011 vintage for Hyde Vineyard was fairly wet at the beginning and then turned cold. Big rains came at the end of the season, impacting harvest for many people, though HdV brought in fruit prior to the biggest storm. The weather conditions reduced fruit set and slowed ripening bringing a lot of innate concentration and producing a very focused and bright wine with an utterly persistent finish. The 2011 Chardonnay remains mouthwatering and focused while carrying a bit more richness of age compared to the utterly youthful 2014.

The 2014 harvest came with the impact of three years of drought. Vines were just beginning to show drought stress but vineyards throughout the region dealt with it by creating one more push for large yields, a hopeful last chance to reproduce. Yields were large throughout Northern California. At the same time, vines created a surprise reaction – vines had significant crop but with concentration comparable to that coming from cold 2011, also offering acidity and ripe flavor at lower than usual brix. The 2014 wine is savory and lightly spiced in a focused, mouthwatering frame. Opening lean and concentrated, it continues to evolve significantly with air pointing to good aging potential and plenty of interest through the palate.

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.



Truchard Vineyards & Winery

Truchard Vineyardslooking towards the fault line that runs through Truchard Vineyards
— each hill contains a different soil type, and grows a different grape variety

One of the first to plant in North Carneros, Tony Truchard began establishing his Truchard Vineyards in 1974 at a time when others thought growing vines in Carneros might be crazy. Even more unusual, his thirst was for Cabernet. He remains to today one of the few people growing the variety in the area. Consistently 10 degrees cooler than the heart of Napa Valley where Cabernet thrives, people at the time believed Carneros wasn’t warm enough to ripen grapes.

Planting his first vines on his own by hand, Truchard persisted thanks partially to the inspiration of his neighbor, Frank Mahoney, who had already established Carneros Creek Vineyards near by. Mahoney was among the first to bring drip irrigation to the area, a technology developed for reclaiming the deserts of Israel, and today used through California wine country.

Beginning first on a 20-acre parcel, the disadvantages seen by others in Carneros would become an advantage for the Truchards. With the lack of agricultural promise, neighbors offered their parcels to Truchard for purchase. Buying land as he could afford it, today Trucard Vineyards grow over 200 planted acres on 400 contiguous acres all north of the Carneros Highway.

While South Carneros proves flat and entirely clay pan, North Carneros rolls with hills and fault lines. The fault line that cut through Truchard Vineyard has pushed such a range of soil types that along the retaining pond each hill includes a different soil type, and thus also a different grape variety. In volcanic ash they’ve planted Syrah, in clay Merlot, clay with limestone a mix of both Bordeaux and Burgundian varieties, in sandstone they also grow a mix of grape types.

Today Truchard is considered one of the premium growers of Carneros, with 12 different planted varieties including Zinfandel, Tempranillo, and Roussanne most unusually, but also each of the 5 Bordeaux reds, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. Most of their fruit sells to quality producers, but they also produce their own wines under the Truchard label.

Truchard Wines

Truchard WinesMost incredibly, Truchard has avoided raising wine prices. Today, Truchard offers some of the best quality for cost in Napa Valley. While the label does include two reserve level wines (available to wine club) coming in around $75, the remainder of their portfolio ranges between $25-38. Finding a quality North Coast Pinot Noir, or a Napa Valley Cabernet at those prices is almost unheard of.

Truchard wines offer nice mouth watering acidity, vibrant flavor, and pleasant clean fruit throughout. They are wines with easy presence — nicely balanced, well integrated, stimulating and never forceful. The standouts in yesterday’s tasting include the 2013 Roussanne, 2010 Tempranillo, and 2011 Zinfandel. That said, any of these wines would do well at the table. Following are notes on the current portfolio.

* Truchard 2013 Roussanne, Carneros Napa Valley $25
Pretty, lifted aromatics are followed with vibrant acidity through a creamy palate of light (not sweet or heavy) almond paste, citrus blossom and curd with a delicate white pepper finish. The 2013 Roussanne will age nicely, but is beautiful and yummy now.

Truchard 2012 Pinot Noir, Carneros Napa Valley $35
Offering pretty, bright red aromatics the 2012 Pinot Noir carries forward with a nicely focused, mouth watering palate of raspberry bush and cranberry. This is a nicely balanced wine with a taut, lean, and pleasing palate.

* Truchard 2010 Tempranillo, Carneros Napa Valley $30
Both nose and palate here carry red, and red violet fruit alongside pretty rose and violet elements, and a hint of molasses throughout. The palate is wonderfully mouthwatering and fresh, with polished tannin, and an ultra long finish.

* Truchard 2011 Zinfandel, Carneros Napa Valley $30
A unique Zinfandel offering high tone red fruit and mixed exotic spices, the Truchard Zinfandel offers wonderfully mouth watering acidity, easy tannin, and an ultra long finish. This is a yummy pizza and pasta wine.

Truchard 2010 Merlot, Carneros Napa Valley $30
Keep an eye out for the 2011 Merlot as the 2010 is already almost sold out. The Truchard Merlot carries the recognizable blue fruit and flower midpalate of Merlot filled out and lengthened with nicely the integrated herbal traction of Cabernet Franc. It’s a nicely balanced, and surprising combination for California Merlot.

Truchard 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Carneros Napa Valley $38
Giving screaming good value, the Truchard Cabernet hits that balance of doing well with age on it and drinking well now. Carrying black currant, a touch of pine, and refreshing red and green bell pepper this wine has tons of flavor without over extraction on a nicely structured frame.

Truchard 2012 Syrah, Carneros Napa Valley $30
Wanting the most time in bottle, and the most air upon opening, the Truchard Syrah brings inky dark aromas and flavors through a perfumed musk and pine lift. The same carries into the palate touched throughout by an ashen patina carrying through an ultra long taut finish.


Want to read more on Truchard Vineyards?

Check out Tom Riley‘s article for the San Jose Mercury News here: http://www.mercurynews.com/eat-drink-play/ci_26078260/napas-truchard-caves-goats-winning-chardonnay

Thank you to Mathew Fitch. CHEEEESSSSE!!!

Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com


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.

Monday of this week Rorick and his team, Alex Athens and Julia van der Vink, picked the original 90 vines. Following are photos from the harvest, and the prep work done afterwards at the winery. Harvesting St Laurent

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.

Harvesting St Laurent

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.

Harvesting St Laurent

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.

Harvesting St Laurent

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.

Harvesting St Laurent

long morning shadows fall over Alex Athens and Julia van der Vink as they harvest

Harvesting St Laurent

looking into the healthy 2013 Ricci Vineyard St Laurent clusters

Harvesting St Laurent

Matthew Rorick picking his St Laurent (i love this photo)

Preparing the St Laurent for Fermentation, Tenbrink Winery, Suisun Valley

Preparing the St Laurent for ferment

Back at Rorick’s Tenbrink Winery (which he shares with the Tenbrink family and Abe Schoener of The Scholium Project) Monday’s St Laurent pick weighed in at 969 pounds (not including the macrobin).

Preparing the St Laurent for ferment

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.

Preparing the St Laurent for ferment

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.

Preparing the St Laurent for ferment

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.

Preparing the St Laurent for ferment

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.

Preparing the St Laurent for ferment

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.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com


Tasting an early bottle of Forlorn Hope’s 2012 St Laurent

Forlorn Hope St Laurent 2012

click on comic to enlarge

Last September 2012, I was lucky enough to witness the harvest of 90 St Laurent vines from a vineyard in Carneros. Several years ago, Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope Wines had convinced the vineyard owner to keep the few clusters intact to be made as one of Rorick’s unusual creatures. He has since managed to expand the collection to include a few more vines in the same location. I’m excited to see how the 2013 harvest goes as a result.

In the meantime, Rorick’s 2012 St Laurent is still in the aging process before release. However, he recently pulled a bottle and shared a preview with a few of us. I was able to take the bottle home and enjoy it over the two days following.

Forlorn Hope’s 2012 St Laurent (aka. Ost-Intrigen) begins all plush sheered-velvet across the palate, a textural pleasure bringing pert red fruit and flower-spice integrated with dried herbs and orange zest. The acidity pulses vibrancy ushering in a long finish. As the wine uncurls with air, the flavors deepen. The fruit stays primarily red with back beats of blackberry seed spice, accents of saffron and smoke, and a move from orange zest to mandarin. By the end, the wine takes on all the appeal of fresh picked cherries pitted and served in fresh baked pie. The crust is crisp. The fruit is tart but deepened from the baking. To make the pie, the cherry has been squeezed over with lemon juice first–the lemon itself does not show in the final flavor, but brightens the cherry in the final pie. The finish is long on this wine with a stimulating zing, full of igneous rock minerality.

To put it simply, 2012 turned out lovely plush fruit for Rorick’s rare creature. I’m excited to drink this wine again. I love pie. It’s my favorite.

Thank you to Matthew Rorick for sharing the early bottle of his St Laurent.

Forlorn Hope Wines: http://forlornhopewines.com

To see photos of the 2012 St Laurent harvest: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/09/17/harvesting-california-st-laurent-matthew-rorick-and-forlorn-hope-wine/

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.