Dear Wine Club Members,
Happy Spring! This is a lovely time of year for us in the vineyard, when the vines begin to leaf out again, the weeds are still too small to be much of a bother and flowers seem to be blooming everywhere. As the new season opens, it always seems to hold the possibility that this might just be the year that we have a perfect growing season. I’m sure that by the August letter, we will be discussing the ups and downs of what has actually happened out there, but for now we can imagine only good things.
To add to the fun this spring, we have just added three new acres of grapes to our vineyard, bringing our total planting up to 45 acres. The new acreage is about half Cabernet Sauvignon and half Cabernet Franc, and is located just below the vines at the far end of the driveway closest to the red barn, at the top of what used to be the cow paddock. (Yes, that is why the cows are gone, because we needed to make room for more grapes!)
For planting, we bring in a special crew from the Finger Lakes who have a GPS-driven planting tractor and rig. The machines are a remarkable combination of new and old technologies. The tractor is completely driven by GPS – the driver made a point of dancing around and waving his hands as the tractor drove perfectly down the rows – his only job is to brake, as apparently, the GPS has not figured out that part yet. The planter itself is like a contraption out of Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (am I dating myself here?!?) – a series of bent-wire clips rotate around so the operators can place vines in them by hand, and a ferris-wheel of planting “fingers” sweeps around in the perpendicular direction to pick up each vine and place it into a trench that has been opened in the ground by the planter. The exact placement, however, is dictated by the GPS, which tells the “finger” when it can release the vine, so it is exactly a meter from the vine before it. A pair of angled wheels then closes the trench behind the planted vine. The whole process moves along quite quickly and our only glitch (aside from encountering a few giant rocks, which are just part of what we expect any time we try to dig into the ground around Black Ankle) was a brief period when we lost contact with a few necessary satellites. The GPS needs to read about 8 satellite signals to get the level of accuracy needed to place the vines correctly and for about an hour we lost connection with several of them. Apparently the signals are often weaker in the afternoon, and are made worse by humid weather and pine trees, which act as antennas and draw the signals toward them – the bizarre things that we learn in this job!
We have several new wines for this quarter’s shipment:
The 2015 Piedmont is a new wine for us in the tradition of our blended whites – Bedlam and Quartite. It is a blend of 47% Grüner Veltliner, 22% Albariño, 28% Viognier and 3% Syrah. It is both refreshing and complex, boasting aromas of honey suckle and pear, followed by crisp citrus flavors and a minerally finish. At only 181 cases produced, this wine will go largely jus to members.
Passeggiata IX is almost sold out for the year, so we are happy to include it in your spring wine club allotment before it is gone! This lively blend is perfect for the warm weather we hope is coming soon. It is fresh, and flavorful, medium-bodied, and a Black Ankle favorite.
Slate 3 is very well structured with sturdy tannins, robust fruit, and ample length, depth, and intensity. Every year at the blending table we hope to be able to create some wonderful Bordeaux-style blends. Our first rendition of Slate came about during our blending session in 2011, and this release is just the third time we have been able to produce a wine we want to call Slate since then. It was bottled on April 15th of this year, so it is very young in the bottle. We would recommend hiding it in the back of your wine cabinet (or closet!) for as long as you can wait!
The 2015 Terra Sol, although not included in this allotment, is worth talking about! In a few earlier letters, you may recall, we talked about our plans to experiment with making a late harvest wine from some of our Grüner Veltliner and Muscat last year, and this wine is the happy result of that experiment. It is dessert wine made in the tradition of late harvest wines around the world. The grapes are left to hang on the vine a month or more after the rest of the harvest has been taken in, in the hopes that botrytis, known romantically as noble rot, will take hold. The botrytis dehydrates the grapes, reducing the volume of juice by more than 70% but also concentrating the sugars, acids and flavors. Once the grapes are picked and carefully sorted and pressed, an achingly slow fermentation (6 months is typical) finally dies out, leaving much of the natural sugar in the wine. The result is a rich, delicate and tantalizing wine.
Sarah (and Ed)