News from the Olivet Grange
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
Relationships are important in life. Owner and winemaker, Kathleen Inman has been working with vineyard manager and grower Jim Pratt since planting the Olivet Grange Vineyard in 2000. Jim’s meticulous farming techniques and his wealth of viticultural knowledge have helped to make Olivet Grange one of the finest vineyards in the Russian River Valley. In turn, Jim has adopted many of the same organic and sustainable practices in his vineyards that Kathleen pioneered at Olivet Grange. In 2010, we began purchasing Chardonnay from Jim’s Irwin Lane Cornerstone Vineyard for our award-winning Chardonnay and this year, the relationship expanded to include two of Jim’s fantastic Pinot Noir vineyards: Sexton Road Ranch and Pratt Vine Hill.
The last year has yielded numerous awards and positive reviews for our wines. To meet increased demand, these new vineyard sources were added for the 2013 Harvest with the goal of offering our customers more options for naturally made Pinot Noirs which reflect the unique places where they are grown. The Sexton Road Ranch and Pratt Vine Hill vineyard have Pinot Noir clones, micro-climates and soils that are very different to what we have at Olivet Grange and we are excited about the opportunity to produce new, exciting wines for you to enjoy in addition to the Olivet Grange wines. Although the primary fermentation has just finished, these new wines are already showing incredible balance and intense flavors, even at this early stage in their development.
Sexton Road Ranch is in the Sebastopol Hills area of the Russian River Valley, not far from Thorn Ridge Ranch, and is planted to Pommard 4 and 5, and Clones 23, and 777 in Goldridge soil. This is a cool site and lies adjacent to the Littorai Estate vineyard.
Pratt Vine Hill is a small ‘moonscape’ parcel of Goldridge soil near Forestville, just on the edge of the Green Valley sub-appellation in the Laguna Hills. It is planted to Mount Eden, Martini and Swan Pinot Noir clones. With prestigious neighbors such as Kistler and Dehlinger, this relatively young vineyard site has amazing potential.
The 2013 Harvest is now almost complete, with all lots fermented dry. After several weeks of very early mornings in the vineyards followed by long days in the cellar, we are pleased to report that the 2013 vintage is showing every indication of being stellar.
One thing you can be certain of as a farmer and winemaker: no two years are the same. The 2013 vintage is no exception.
It is raining in wine country as I write this. Who knows how this will affect the vintage. Will mildew and botrytis rear their ugly heads? I sprayed for both just before the rain to mitigate the risks at OGV, but at my other vineyards, I can't be sure.
Only last week when I began to think about how the vintage was shaping up, I was hesitant to say things were looking fantastic. As a farmer I have learned a pessimist is just an optimist with experience! Bud break was later than usual, possibly because I pruned a bit later this year. I always use the lunar calendar as a reference for selecting the days to prune, and this year the ideal dates were in January or mid-March. I went with the later dates, which usually slows the appearance of first shoots.
Once spring finally arrived and the delicate shoots appeared, the pace of growth was quite rapid. Flowering was not marred by rain and we had perfect set at Olivet Grange. My optimism is further fueled by a complete lack of shatter this year. Shatter is when bunches are incomplete because not all of the berries were pollinated. The young bunches at OGV are near perfect at this stage of the growing season. As things stand now we are about 10 days ahead of normal so we might be looking at a slightly earlier harvest.
However, for now, we will have to wait and see how these rains will affect the 2013 vintage.
Slowly, slowly, the winegrapes are ripening. The Pinot Noir at Olivet Grange is about 80% through verasion (the term used to describe the turning of the grapes from green to their final colour). The Pinot Gris is a bit further behind and the Chardonnay at the small Fredricks Road vineyard has not yet begun to turn. My best guess is that we are three weeks behind a typical year. It is just so cold…it reminds me of summer in Yorkshire!
Besides the work in the vineyard – removing fruit from short shots and applying the final spray before harvest, I have recently bottled the 2009 Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. These are both tiny lots and may all be taken up by the wine club, so if you are not a member, you might like to consider joining. The 2009 Pinot Gris is made exclusively from OGV fruit and just over 100 cases were bottled. The new Chardonnay lot, which is even smaller, will be released later this month.
Although the weather has been a worry, we are so thrilled to finally be in our new winery. The tasting room is nearly complete, and by the Labor Day weekend we will be celebrating our Grand Opening. I have taken great care in selecting the most environmentally sensitive materials – reused, repurposed and recycled – wherever possible and it is thrilling to see them all come together and even better to see how interested the visitors at the winery are in our efforts to minimize both waste and our impact on the planet. We hope you will come by and see us. I am here nearly all of the time and happy to give tours of the vineyard and the gardens, so do stop by. Officially we are open Thursday – Sunday 11-4, but you can always call for an appointment at other times.
They say "membership has its privileges", and there are some wines which in the future will only be available to the wine club because the lots are so small. Are you a member of one of our wine clubs yet? If not, this is a fantastic time to join! With the opening of the new winery, our club members will be the first in line to receive Grand Opening discounts, offered new limited release wines, and will be on the guest list for Grand Opening and Harvest celebrations in the coming weeks!
We have three different Inman Family clubs to join, each tailored to your wine preference and budget. Our Club Members are guaranteed access to all of our limited release wines, and receive discounts on every purchase. Click here to read more about our Wine Clubs, and sign-up today!
COMING SOON for Inman Family Wines Club Members Only! To celebrate our Grand Opening at the Olivet Grange, we will be releasing our first Chardonnay. Sourced from a tiny vineyard on the south west corner of the Russian River Valley, only two barrels were produced of this rare beauty and only 48 cases will be for sale. If you like tropical fruit in your Chardonnay, this will not be the wine for you. I love buttered popcorn at the movies but I loathe it in Chardonnay, so in the interest of full disclosure…there is no butter here – instead look for refreshing acidity, juicy pear, Meyer lemons, hazelnuts and great minerality. This wine was made to be enjoyed with food and is likely to drink best from 2011-2016. Like the white Burgundies Simon and I love, my hopes are that this wine will reward those who cellar it. Available only to our Club Members, there is no better time to join!
Category Wine Reviews and Press - 01/19/2010 Posted by Kathleen Inman
We had some really lovely write-ups on our 2006 Pinot Noirs by Josh Raynold in Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, and I only just found out about them yesterday!
I wanted to share them with you.
I don't send my wines out for scores, but when samples are requested I do. The problem is I don't subscribe to any of the magazines or websites that publish scores, so when things do appear, I miss them.
I have always had the view that wines are too ephemeral to put such a concrete number down to categorize them, when they seem to change in the bottle day to day. Pinot noir in particular is seemingly very changeable.
However, Josh's comments are spot on with how I thought the wines tasted this weekend during the Pinot Days in LA event, and I wanted to share them with you. Also, a little external validation is very welcome, from time to time; especially since I work on the wines by myself and don't really get much input during the production process.
Here are the comments and scores.
2006 Inman Family Wines Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
($45) Light red. Pungent redcurrant and cherry aromas are complicated by musky herbs, flowers and licorice. Light in weight, with finely etched red berry flavors that possess sneaky power and are framed by silky tannins. Dusty mineral and dried rose notes build with air and carry through the tightly focused finish. I like this wine's understated, fat-free personality. ~ 90 Points
2006 Inman Family Wines Pinot Noir Olivet Grange Vineyard Estate Russian River Valley
($52) Vivid red. Cherry, dried flowers, baking spices and smoky minerals on the nose. Supple cherry-cola and blackberry on the palate, with gentle tannins and minerals adding structure and focus. The spicy notes recur on the finish, which leaves refreshingly bitter cherry skin and anise notes behind. I like this wine's blend of depth and vivacity. "OGV" stands for Olivet Grange Vineyard. ~ 91 Points
2006 Inman Family Wines Pinot Noir Thorn Road Ranch Russian River Valley
($52) Bright red. Seductive aromas of black raspberry, cherry compote, smoky herbs and Asian spices. Fleshy red and dark berry flavors are given spine by dusty minerals and complicated by candied rose and cola notes. Suavely blends richness and energy, finishing with echoes of cherry and succulent herbs. Already seductively complex, this has the depth and balance to reward at least another few years of patience. (JR) ~ 92 Points
2008 Inman Family Wines Rose of Pinot Noir Endless Crush OGV Estate Russian River Valley
($25) Bright pink. Fresh strawberry and raspberry aromas are complemented by suave floral and spice qualities. Fresh, incisive and pure, offering tangy red berry flavors and good underlying minerality. Extremely easy to drink, with good finishing snap and lingering raspberry character. ~ 89 Points
As many of you know, over the summer we held out hope that our dream of having a winery and tasting room at Olivet Grange Inman Family Winery from Olivet Roadwould be realized before the end of 2009. This autumn, the date was pushed to January. Now, I have my fingers crossed that we will be open for the Russian River Wine Road Barrel Tasting weekends in March! Sadly, we have been plagued by delays, but we are now erecting the steel skeleton and in 8 weeks we should have a roof and walls! Once we get an occupancy permit, we will be inviting you to come by and visit. I have been posting images of the various stages on the facebook page as well as sending out a few tweets. I am much better at updating those than I am the blog, so please do follow our building’s progress there.
Our journey began in early 2008 when we applied for a use permit from the county. When that was granted, I foolishly thought the rest would be much more straightforward. Little did I know!
In March we put in the standard septic system leach lines for the domestic waste (toilets!). The goal was to get this done while the vines were dormant, but it was finished just as we had budbreak.
In April we signed the agreement with the General Contractor.
In May we began to install our process waste water recycling system and to bury the 16,000 worth of storage tank for the water.Waste water recycling at Olivet Grange The grading commenced shortly thereafter and they made ready for the foundation.
In August, just before harvest began, the architect finished (or so we thought) the construction drawings. I believe it was on 5 September we submitted the plans to the Sonoma County PRMD, however it was not until 3 December that we were able to pour the foundation. In between we were able to do the driveway, and just as the rains came the entire site became a quagmire.
Yesterday was a big day for us. The steel arrived. Now the height of the new building can be seen as we have the main column supports. The steel for this building is recycled and most of it comes from used automobiles.
Indeed, it has been difficult for me to understand how this whole process works. After smoothing, compacting, and adding Columns rising in the mist: future Inman Family Winerymore reclaimed hard core, they then come and dig a trench and tear it all up. Then after filling that trench in, more rock, more smoothing and then giant pieces of equipment come on site and now it looks like this!
I am soooo looking forward to the end result!
Although some kids grow up wanting to run away and join the circus, I was not one of them. However, in the last 4 weeks since harvest began for Inman Family Wines, I have felt like the Ringmaster in a three ring circus that I wanted to run away from!
In many ways, harvest is one of my favorite times of year. I love tasting the fruit on the vine, grooming it in preparation for picking and then enjoying the wonderful smells of the fermenting must in the winery. The 2009 vintage has been very surprising. Severe drought, a devastating frost the year before and a cool spring had me thinking harvest would be later this year. I didn’t think I would begin harvesting until after Labor Day, but even in the absence of warm weather this spring, the vineyard seemed to catch up to ripeness levels on a parity with previous years at the same date.
I brought in the first fruit for our Endless Crush Sparkling wine on August 24th. The following Monday, August 31st, I brought in 12 Tons of OGV Pinot Noir for our estate Pinot and 3T of OGV Pinot Gris. The following week had me going back and forth from our vineyard, where the building project for the new winery continues with major earthworks and two-thirds of the vineyard was yet to be harvested, to the winery to check on the Pinot Gris, bubbling away in stainless steel barrels and the cold soaking Pinot Noir in chilled fermenters, and up to the sparkling custom crush facility in Hopland. Good thing I drive a Prius.
The following week, Kevin Burton, began work as our new Director of Sales and Hospitality, it was our 25th wedding anniversary, we harvested fruit from Ted Klopp’s Thorn Ridge Ranch on the 3rd of September, the following day more fruit from OGV and at the weekend, it was the Sonoma County Wine Country event at Mac Murray ranch, where I was pouring and a speaker on the Rosé panel. By this time I had fermentations at so many different stages and in two locations as well as 4 more picks to call.
The last two weeks have been more wine events (The 2006 OGV Pinot Noir actually won a medal at the Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival on September 13th) and the completion of the first few fermentations. The circus that is Inman Family Wines reached its most chaotic point this week when I bottled 1449 cases of 2008 Pinot Noir, pressed off three fermenters of 2009, dealt with septic system contractor for the winery and organized 2 chardonnay picks…all on the same day. Yesterday was spent barreling down the 2009 Pinot Lots, harvesting and then pressing the two Chardonnay vineyards. Of course the Bucher press which could handle the two lots of whole clusters at the same time went down that morning, so then I had to use a smaller press and do the two lots separately. By this time the temperatures were reaching the high 90’s and with no canopy over the press area, this was hot work. Dry ice was keeping the chardonnay cool, but I was getting a sunburn! Part way through pressing the second lot of Chardonnay, the pump broke. Just my luck! At this point thoughts of running away began to enter my head…exhaustion, heat stroke or a was it a moment of sanity?
This morning I put the blend together for the base wine for the Endless Crush Sparkling, and on Monday I will pick the last Pinot Noir from OGV. Harvest will be over, and in another two weeks all the wines should be tucked up in barrel. As things stand now, this looks to be a stellar vintage for Inman Family. The Pinot Noir wines from OGV are delicate and the alcohols are all below 13%. The Pinot Gris and Chardonnays are lean and steely and are looking very promising. However, I am resolved to cease being a Ringmaster; I have made a note to myself to NEVER bottle during harvest and to learn to say no to wine events in September.
This year will be the first time I have attempted to make a sparkling wine. I love experimenting and learning new things, and although I have wanted to make a sparkling from Olivet Grange since I first began making our wine in 2002, this is the first year I have had the courage and resources to do so.
On Sunday when I was inspecting the vineyard, I randomly sampled a few berries and was surprised that the sugars read between 15 and 17. This morning I went and sampled properly to try and get a more accurate reading. Armed with a handful of one quart Ziploc bags and a sharpie pen, I set down the rows to sample by clone. I have five different clones of Pinot Noir in our Olivet Grange Vineyard and this morning I only sampled the 114, 115 and 777 because those are in my mind the most elegant of the five clones and the ones I plan to include in the Endless Crush Bubbly. For an accurate sample I picked 100 berries of each clone from across the blocks, taking form both the morning side on one row and the afternoon side opposite. The results were a bit of a surprise. Clone 114 was 17.7 BRIX, 114 was 17.5 BRIX and 777 was 19.5 BRIX (Yikes!)
The flavors are very delicate and the acids very high; although not quite ready yet, within a few days I reckon they will be ready for harvest. I plan to harvest 5 tons which will be about 325 cases. I have arranged to make the wine in Hopland at Rack & Riddle. Friends who were formerly with J Vineyards, whose sparkling wines I have always enjoyed, are now up at this wonderful new facility for custom crush. I shall aim to make base wines for a blanc de noir, and I hope to introduce the delicate pink color by using a red Pinot Noir base wine from our vineyard in the “Liqueur d’ Expeditions” (also known as the dosage, which is added to encourage the second fermentation in the bottle which will produce the tiny bubbles in the wine)
I will keep you posted on this adventure!
Have you ever fancied picking up a bandeja and secateurs and playing vineyard worker for a day? Does being at the vineyard at 5am for sunrise send shivers of excitement down your spine? If so, you should sign up for the picking list for Olivet Grange? You can help harvest on one day of the 3 or 4 pick dates, and we’ll pay you in wine. Send an email to Kathleen, and we’ll keep you up to date on when we’re picking and what you need to do to participate. Remember this is dirty, physical work and you must be able to lift the bandeja (a shallow trayKathleen carrying a bandeja of Pinot Noir to the tractor. not disimmilar to a dish busing tray) with 50 to 70 lbs of fruit. The tray is then dumped into the ½ ton macro bins on the back of the tractor. Also, it helps if you are local, because we usually give only 48 hours notice. This is not for the faint of heart or weak of arms! One thing is does give you is an appreciation of the hard work people do in the fields everyday to ensure we have food on our tables.