Killer Wines: The 2013 Vintage Review
Music and wine have a lot in common. Both evoke emotions and very strong memories of where you were and what you were doing when you heard a piece of music or drank a wine. Harmony and dissonance in music and harmony and astringency in wine it is argued have similar functions and there is some research to show that the parts of your brain that react to music are also affected by the aromas and sensory experiences from wine; as a result, the particular music one is listening to can actually effect the perception of the wine.
I have had the opportunity to attend two very different seminars in recent years that looked at this phenomenon and until you experience it, it is easy to be skeptical! Being a winemaker and a music lover I find the experiments of pairing wine with music fascinating and the results are quite astounding. However, there is a school of thought that I am not yet convinced of, that suggests the music you play to vines or that one plays in the winery during the winemaking process can affect the wine.
However, I do believe that the alternative, indie music to which I listen in the winery does share common traits with the wines that I make. I strive for wines that are profound; wines with distinction; and wines that are authentic. I am not making “top 40” wines for the masses and, like alternative music, my wines may not be to everyone’s taste; but those that do like it are usually pretty passionate about it. This harvest season, the music I played in the cellar to keep me going during the three times daily punch downs suggests that the 2013 vintage will be an energetic, edgy, soulful and, above all, it should rock! (see my playlist below.)
“What are punch downs?” you may ask. As grapes ferment in open top tanks or bins, carbon dioxide (CO2) is released as the yeast consumes the sugar in the must (grape juice plus skins and seeds). As the CO2 rises, it pushes the grape skins and seeds up to the top of the tank. This is called the cap. A punch down is the process of pushing the skins back down into the juice to aid in extraction of color from the skins and to disperse temperature so that the fermentation does not get too hot. Sometimes this is done by foot (e.g. the famous I love Lucy episode) but, mostly for hygiene sake, it is done with a stainless steel tool. I punch down my fermentations between 1 and 3 times per day depending on the lot and where the grapes are in the process of becoming wine. It is a lot of work and I usually start at about 6am. Music and coffee are a big help!
This year I forgot to recruit any harvest interns, so when friends came to help with punch downs, the break was welcome. All of my helpers were rock stars, well only one was an actual rock star, but the others were stellar.
In honor on one of my harvest helpers, Ronnie V, the drummer for the band The Killers, the “Punch Down 2013” playlist included a couple of his band’s hits, including Miss Atomic Bomb, which I have riffed on as the working name for my 100% carbonic maceration Pinot Noir, which I am calling “Miss Carbonic Bomb”. This wine is incredibly complex and literally the grapes “exploded” in your mouth from the CO2 trapped within the skin.
Overall, The 2013 vintage is shaping up very nicely, but it was a wild ride.
Late budbreak, rain in June, a very warm growing season and a very early harvest, as I predicted in June in our last newsletter, characterize the 2013 vintage. This year’s harvest was nearly as large as 2012 but the chemistry of the juice was very different; warm nights are not what we are used to in Sonoma County. Normally, by the time the sun goes down it starts to get chilly, but this year the temperature did not always go down to the 50s until 3 or 4 in the morning. This caused the fruit to ripen more rapidly. Typically the marine influence in Sonoma County creates a stop start growth pattern; the long chilly nights have the effect of putting the grapes in the fridge, slowing down the maturation process and preserving acidity. The other ‘wild’ aspect of the year was that everything came in at the same time. Picking crews were at a premium. Crews were starting at 10pm and working until 10:00am. At Olivet Grange, we picked on 4 mornings, bringing in most of the fruit between 2am and 6am.
Despite all of the oddities this year, I am really pleased with the wines I have in barrel. The two new vineyards, farmed by Jim Pratt, Vine Hill and Sexton Road along with new fermentation techniques have produced some very profound and intriguing Pinot Noirs. However, at this stage, it is our Endless Crush Rose which is the most anticipated wine from 2013. I made more Endless Crush Rose of Pinot Noir following the popularity of the 2012 vintage. Since we sold out of the 2012 vintage in April, we have been asked every week by our customers all over the country, "when will there be more?" The answer is soon!
The 2013 Endless Crush tastes very similar with an amazing mouthfeel and the same juicy fruit profile. Very yummy! I am just getting ready to bottle it next month so that it will be ready for shipment in the spring.
My 2013 Harvest Playlist:
Cape Cod Kwassa Kassa, Vampire Weekend
Everyday I Love You Less and Less, Kaiser Chiefs
Gold On The Ceiling, The Black Keys
Girl on Fire, Alicia Keys
Hello, The Cat Empire
I Predict a Riot, Kaiser Chiefs
Lola, The Kinks
London Calling, The Clash
Lonely Boy, The Black Keys
1985, Crash Kings
Mr Brightside, The Killers
The Wolf, Miniature Tigers
Train In Vain, The Clash
WHALE, Yellow Ostrich
Tighten Up, The Black Keys
Should I Stay or Should I Go, The Clash
Shiny Diamonds, Say Hi
Sacrilege, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The High Road, Broken Bells
California Uber Alles, Dead Kennedys
Marathon Runner, Yellow Ostrich
Miss Atomic Bomb, The Killers
Fall in Cloud, Nothings