The 2015 Vintage: Short, Sweet…and Spontaneous!
Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year in El Dorado wine country. The intensity of harvest winds down as fast as the vine’s leaves turn shades of crimson and gold. Pomegranates, pumpkins and persimmons start showing up everywhere. The ground is covered with acorns and a carpet of dried pine needles blankets the entrance & winery. Fall also marks the harvest finish line and gives Frank some breathing room to reflect on the 2015 vintage, communicate daily with our winemaker daughter in France, and throw together our own spontaneous trip to France!
Our earliest harvest on record, the Edna Valley Pinot Noir (our second vintage) arrived late August, then Estate Cabernet mid-September, then right behind it rolled in Russian River Pinot Noir (our first) and the locally grown Stonehaven Ranch Chardonnay. Frank says that there was lots of fruit on the vine but the clusters were very small, in our case, by as much as 50%. The rest of the harvest resumed late September with Estate Syrah, then a tiny pick of Estate Vermentino, also known as Rolle (a white varietal in Chateauneuf du Pape) and grown right by our entrance gate, then another tiny pick of Estate Viognier – both of these whites destined to be blended with Estate Roussanne, which was picked last. Frank’s plan is to blend all three into the first all-Estate vintage (2015) of Melange Blanc!
Next in – Cabernet Franc and Estate Grenache for Dunamis, Cepages de la Ferme (Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah), and a new Estate bold blend you’ll see next year called “Water Tower” (Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache). On September 23rd Estate Mourvedre, Primitivo, and Petite Sirah rounded up the Narrow Gate harvest and a little local Zinfandel from Fair Play trickled in on the last day of September. The abundant fruit set was deceiving to the eye as this vintage’s reduced cluster size produced half the “normal” yield but with the benefit of intensely flavored & complex juice. And that’s it – the fastest harvest on record.
We’ve nicknamed the 2015 vintage “short and sweet” and know how to make the most of a less-than-ideal situation especially when we have a daughter who arrived in France on August 16th to work a harvest internship making Gamay in Beaujolais. Influenced by Gina’s experience (you can read Gina’s travel blog at agirlandavine.wordpress.com) we’re completely taking advantage of our early harvest, packing our bags, and heading to Lyon, France. We’ll join up with Gina for the first ten days and meet her host family at Domaine de Briante (domaindebriante.fr). We’ll stay one night at their Chateau then move on to Côte Rôtie (think Syrah Viognier) and Condrieu (Viognier). Now that we are making Pinot Noir we’ll spend four days in Beaune, Burgundy, then on to Chablis, where we were in 1995 and remember drinking some of the finest Chardonnay ever. After there, well, we are so close to Champagne that, what the heck, we’re goin’! Who knows if bubbles are in our future (or Gina’s)? In Reims, Gina meets up with a group of harvest interns and they are traveling to several great wine destinations and European countries until she returns home late November. But she won’t be home long before heading to Central Otago, New Zealand’s Burn Cottage, for another amazing, viticulture and winemaking intern experience, from January to June 2016 (www.burncottage.com/history.html).
Frank and I, finally alone, will then head south to the small villages in the Cote du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape). Then, onto Provence before flying back from Marseilles. We’ll depend on the Michelin Red book and local recommendations for restaurant guidance and journaling the culinary and wine experience all along the way. I’m hoping for some down time to do a little writing – that is if I can keep Frank from pacing around our romantic, relaxing, French country accommodations – like a caged wild animal trying to break free to meet up with winemakers and taste their wines, and strain to understand and speak their language, at every single producer in the country!
Frank’s looking forward to the winemaking inspiration; I’m looking forward to the culinary – and together we are looking forward to bringing it all home to Narrow Gate.
We also hope to see you at one of our upcoming food and wine pairing events to taste our new wines, enjoy some great food, and share stories of our short, sweet, and spontaneous trip!
Francois et Teena