by Chris Cameron
I had my first opportunity last week to taste through all the 2017 wines we produced. Following the completion of fermentation, we rack all the wines off their gross lees. That means we gently transfer (pump) the wine from the top down to ensure the solids that have settled are left behind. These solids are called lees and are mostly dead yeast cells and fruit solids. My winemaking style is reductive (avoiding oxygen wherever possible) and the resulting lees can have some strong, and potentially unpleasant, aromas so we look to separate them as soon as practicable.
The red wines are currently completing their malo-lactic fermentation (MLF), which causes the naturally produced malic acid to lactic acid. This also has the effect of softening the wines’ acidity. The tasting both confirmed most of my thoughts on the wines but added some pleasant surprises.
The weather during harvest did not co-operate as well as hoped with extreme heat for 10 days+ resulting in difficult ripening for the more subtle varieties and those that ripen first. The temperatures lowered to more expected levels but we experienced a hiatus for about 3 weeks, further messing up ripening consistency.
On the downside, Albarino and Grenache Blanc did not perform well, but there is a tremendous upside. The ripeness, flavors, color, and depth of all other varieties are outstanding! The most consistent performer (again) was Merlot. Every block ripened beautifully with some of the best examples of this variety that I have seen. Not to be outdone, though, was Cabernet Sauvignon. All the wines are intense and complex with the newer blocks showing remarkable elegance as well. Look out for the Tannat again, this grape is turning out to be a stunner for Paso Robles.
I also worked on a new wine program with very exciting results but more about that next time….