Roughly each week Winemaker Michael Westrick will offer his incite and expertise in the world of wine. Check out his latest entry.
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Harvest is finally over and Thanksgiving is coming up quickly. Those of you that follow my blogs will recall that I wrote about “2018 - The Perfect Vintage?” earlier this year. As it turns out, it was exactly that! One of my cellar hands declared this year’s Pinot Noir to be the “best I’ve ever tasted off this property!” And you know something? He’s spot on. It was a perfect vintage and for that we have a lot to celebrate.
And celebrate we will! I’m starting off our Thanksgiving festivities with a Monterey Jack and Goat Cheese Melt with a Roasted Poblano Sauce served with blue tortilla chips and toasted slices of sourdough baguette. The accompanying sipper has to be Balverne’s Sauvignon Blanc, of course. The incredible fruit of this wine, along with the nice acidity, makes it a perfect pairing for this zesty cheese appetizer.
I am opening dinner with Shrimp Tamales and Garlic Corn Cream Sauce. Rich and flavorful, this needs a wine with some richness of its own and some good acidity and Balverne’s Chardonnay is the perfect match! The delicate pear/apple notes of the wine and toasty vanilla notes from the oak barrel aging pop the shrimp and corn masa flavors while the acidity of the wine works wonders with the garlic corn cream.
Gotta have pumpkin on Thanksgiving so next is a Pumpkin Soup spiced up with a dash of chipotle purée. Wine? Just keep working with the Chardonnay. You’ll be stunned!
For the main course I’ve opted for a Barbequed Orange-Garlic Cornish Game Hen with a Cranberry-Mango Sauce paired with Balverne’s 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir, an exquisite wine. Such a great pairing, you simply have to try it for yourself!
Given we’ve already incorporated the requisite pumpkin into the menu, dessert focuses on warm chocolate cakes with dulce de leche centers. Decadent, I know. And what a pairing for the Notre Vue Bordeaux blend or Notre Vue’s Rhône blend. Simply heaven!
Whatever’s on your menu this year, there is a Notre Vue and Balverne wine for every step of the way.
From all of us at Notre Vue Estate Winery, best wishes
for a very Happy Thanksgiving!
(Source: Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill cookbook.)
As a winemaker I would never, ever suggest, just one week into harvest, that this might be a “perfect vintage.” Why jinx it? Why take the risk of inviting Mother Nature’s wrath so early on when we have so many weeks to go?
So, I won’t. However . . .
We have both lots of Sauvignon Blanc in the barn. Perfect numbers. Our first Pinot Noir came in today and I was just handed the lab report for the lot. Perfect numbers.
By “perfect numbers” I mean the sugar and acid content are ideal for making stellar, well-balanced wine with minimal winemaker intervention. We won’t have to adjust the sugar or the acid and that’s a good thing. Natural is always preferred over making any sort of add or adjustment. Perfect.
And the weather? The forecast is for excellent ripening weather over the next few days then a bit of a cool down that will slow sugar development but will allow flavors to continue to mature. Sunny and dry. Perfect.
Yet I am petrified! How long can “perfect” continue? I’m hoping for about another eight weeks. That’s all I ask. But that is a long time this time of year. There is no reason a heat wave won’t hit us in the near future. The riper fruit gets the more susceptible it is to damage by extreme heat. So, no heat wave, please. Or, heaven forbid, we should get some rain. Ripe fruit, with softer skins, is very susceptible to damage by mold. And mold thrives in moist, damp air. So, no rain, please. Just perfect. That’s all I ask.
This is the life of a winemaker. Faced with perfect conditions for the foreseeable future, here I sit worrying. I’m trying not to think about the weather, though I did just check the forecast again minutes ago, for the nth time today. And its only 10 AM.
The good thing is that, whatever comes our way, I’m ready and that does take the edge off things a bit. This is my thirtieth harvest. If I don’t know how to handle a little adversity by now, there is no hope for me as a winemaker. I keep thinking about the Farmer’s Insurance commercial “We know a thing or two ‘cause we’ve seen a thing or two.” So true. I’m ready for anything. I hope.
The perfect vintage? Could be. Too early to tell but things are looking mighty good out there right now. Though this winemaker, for one, will not ever say that. Not now. Nope. No way.
Harvest 2018 is underway! The first of our Balverne Sauvignon Blanc grapes came in this morning in stunning fashion. We’ve had a beautiful growing season to date with just a bit of a cool snap for the last week or so. While sugars might not accumulate rapidly in the cooler weather, the flavors do continue developing, the result being that I found this year’s Sauvignon Blanc ready to harvest at lower Brix levels (sugar content) than usual.
Why is this good? Because it translates to lower alcohols in the finished wines. You may have heard the adage that “wine grapes benefit from a long hang time.” That means the longer the grapes hang on the vine, the greater the chance flavors will be more concentrated in the fruit at harvest, resulting in a more flavorful wine. While we’re blessed in California with beautiful, warm summers, the heat can sometimes be a little too much of a good thing making sugar accumulation (and therefore potential alcohol levels) run ahead of flavor development. The ideal situation, obviously, is to have maximum flavor development just as the grapes reach that magical sugar content.
For me as a winemaker, a lower alcohol is important as it helps keep the wine “in balance.” Put another way, a wine with an excessively high alcohol will taste “hot” or have an alcohol “bite” to it that may not be pleasing, and that higher alcohol may mask some of the more delicate fruity and floral notes of a wine. Sauvignon Blanc, known for its lighter body and bright, crisp fruit aromas and flavors, most definitely benefits from these lower alcohol levels.
Any winemaker anywhere in the world will always tell you without skipping a heartbeat that “This vintage is the best we’ve ever seen!” Well, you know what, I’ll say that right now about Balverne’s 2018 Sauvignon Blanc. And we haven’t even made the wine yet! Make a note on your calendars to visit Notre Vue Wine Estate in April of next year to taste Balverne’s 2018 Sauvignon Blanc. Trust me, you’ll be stunned! And happy you visited!
Keep tuned to this blog to hear about our upcoming Pinot Noir harvest. The weather for the foreseeable future is ideal and the Pinot Noir grapes are already tasting simply fantastic. In fact, I’m thinking this vintage will be the best we ever seen!
A votre santé, mes amis!
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