Thursday, August 30, 2012

Still Waiting For Red

At this point in the season, the grapes out in the vineyard are relatively ripe. But to figure out the absolute optimum time to pick, you have to do some work in the lab. Today, armed with samples of Merlot from each row of the Hermes block, Nick is measuring brix and pH, or the sugar and acid levels. Ultimately, these details allow the winemaking team to turn a ballpark timeline for harvest into a detailed picking schedule. And while there is no telling how Mother Nature will behave, we do know that attention to the little things is essential to make truly great wine. This particular test requires some really technical work, like “squishing” the berries until you have enough “juice” to measure. No picnic, but it sure looks like we packed one...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Harvest 2012 Is Here!

The first Sauvignon Blanc from Persephone Ranch arrived last week! And according to winemaker Sara Fowler, "the grape quality is the best we have seen in several years". She also indicated that as in previous harvests, we are picking SB in multiple stages for varying ripeness levels.
The earlier picking brings in fruit with mouth-watering acidity that gives the wine those bright citrus and grapefruit notes. By the third round, we are getting fruit with higher brix levels. These berries are responsible for our Sauvignon Blanc's super aromatic and luscious tropical fruit character. The multi-step process involves a lot of timing and planning, but it is the only way to achieve a balanced wine with such layered and diverse fruit flavors.

Now that harvest has officially begun, the winery is buzzing with activity, but not quite in full swing. In between is still a quiet anticipation for the road that lies ahead. Cheers to Sara and her team on a smooth start to a very promising year!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It's time for the homestretch

The sacrifices we make in order to create great wine can be heart-wrenching. Take the process of thinning, or dropping fruit. A huge number of clusters were recently cut from our Merlot vines, and I must admit it is sad to see them shriveled up and baking in the dirt. But this is such an important practice because it ups the concentration of flavor in each remaining grape. Timed just a few weeks after veraison, which marks the point when the grapes begin to accumulate more sugar, thinning allows all of the plant’s energy to be channeled into a smaller amount of fruit. So from now until harvest, all of the earthiness from the soil and the ripeness from the sun is distilled, condensed, to make wines that are more powerful and refined.
These vines are pretty young, so even after thinning, the clusters are more than bountiful
On the other side of the winery, the HB Cabernet Sauvignon looks sparse in comparison. This block has seen many more years of thinning so it has a naturally lower yield--and is the source of our magically delicious Rutherford Estate Reserve.

At this point we have also stopped watering, which means the nectar in those grapes will be even more intense. All in all, it’s a rigorous time for the vines and a super exciting time for us as we wait patiently until the optimum time to pick. If the growing season is a marathon, this is about the 22nd mile. Close enough to taste, but the absolute most important part, as that last week or so of ripening will make their journey complete.    


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Introducing...Cabernet Sauvignon Persephone

Here in Rutherford, Cab is King—the noble grape is known for making wines that are uniquely complex, earthy and concentrated and it is an integral part of the district’s rich history. So it comes as no surprise that Peju’s flagship wine was the 1982 Cabernet Sauvignon.

This month we are celebrating another Cabernet first with the Wine Club release of our 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Persephone . This is a “Vineyard Designate” wine—meaning 95% of the grapes must come from a single vineyard. However, that single vineyard is located not in Rutherford, but in Pope Valley at our Persephone Ranch. This property was acquired by Tony Peju in 1996, and since then its grapes have been blended into our “Napa Valley” tier of wines. But with the 2008 Cab Sauv Persephone, the training wheels are off and Persephone Cab gets a chance to shine on its own.

Some freshly packaged Persephone Cab

Pope Valley has its own distinct character and is known for its focused mountain fruit flavors and consistent quality. To release an entirely new wine is an infrequent occasion for any winery, considering the labor and resources required to produce a specific bottling. But we think this Cab is truly special because it is a testament to Pope Valley as an up and coming grape-growing region. It also represents a milestone for Peju, as we now officially represent vineyard-designate Cabernet Sauvignon from two separate areas of Napa. For these grapes to go from a blending source to their own exclusive bottling is akin to stepping up from the farm team (no pun intended) to the majors. So welcome to the big show, Persephone! We know you’ll be a hit. 

For the time being, this wine is available only to our wine club members—but it is an exciting development nonetheless and more news from Persephone is soon to come!