Usually, I start out this letter with “Greetings from Mount Airy”, but today we are sitting on the Gironde estuary in Bordeaux looking out over beautiful Chateau and vineyards.  So, Greetings from Bordeaux!  For Sarah and I, the trip we take every other year with some of our customers is a chance for us to see how others grow and make their wines.  That stimulates us to try different ideas and techniques to make better wine, helped along by eating great food and being with great people.  This job can be frustrating and difficult sometimes, but today is definitely not one of those times.

Our winter in the vineyard was exactly what we hope for - uneventful.  Not too cold, no big temperature swings, and plenty of sunshine for pruning.  So far this spring, the only risk of frost came very early, before the vines were vulnerable.  As a result, everything looks great in the vineyard and we are off to a good start.  The newly made 2015 reds are sitting quietly in the cellar and look to have the makings of a very nice vintage, while the 2014’s (also quite nice) are being prepared for bottling later this month.  The 2015 whites were bottled in March, and the first releases are ready to go.  We are excited to have more whites this year than last, so we hope to have a greater selection to offer for longer this year. 

If the winter in the vineyard was uneventful, the winter in the tasting room was anything but.  We had carefully planned a major addition/renovation to begin January 1st, but county permitting dragged on much longer than we expected and we did not really begin the project until March 1st.  We have managed to finish most of the renovation, but still have work to do to complete the new buildings and seating area behind the tasting room.  If you come visit us you’ll see the new seating area inside, the new glass doors in front, the redesign of the breezeway, and many other changes inside.  Over the next few months we’ll be adding a new wine storage building, a staff building, a new covered seating area out back which we hope will be a cozy spot to sit and enjoy the atmosphere and wines, and most importantly, more bathrooms!  You may also notice the new roofs on the barns and farm house, as well as many other subtle but important improvements in the grounds.  Black Ankle Vineyards is always a work in progress, and we hope to continue to improve it for many years to come.

In order to keep our quality at a high level (so we don’t disappoint you!) when we blend our wines, we have adopted a French idea known as “declassification”.  It means that in exceptional years a winery produces more reserve wines, while in lesser vintages little or no reserve wine is produced.  In this way overall quality is maintained as the regular wines get the best barrels in lesser years, but the quantity of individual wines varies considerably from year to year.  For BAV this is most relevant for Crumbling Rock and Rolling Hills – each year at blending, we have to decide how much Crumbling Rock we can make while still having enough in reserve to make a great Rolling Hills.  In 2013 we were able to make a lot of Crumbling Rock (more than double 2012) as it was a generous and outstanding vintage, but at this year’s blending of the 2014’s we decided (for only the second time in our history) not to make a Crumbling Rock at all.  We will have a beautiful 2014 Rolling Hills (and a new Viento as well), but no 2014 Crumbling Rock (early indications are that the 2015’s are going to be excellent, so CR will return in good quantities a year later).  Luckily we have not yet released the 2013 Crumbling Rock, which will soften the blow a bit.  We don’t plan to officially release it until later in the year, but we are going to offer all of you a sneak preview with this wine club release.  Sorry, only one bottle per member right now (Mel – is this right?  Change it to whatever you want to doJ), but we should have enough for another offering later in the year.  The 2013 is destined to go down as one of our finest wines, and we are extremely proud to let our members get an early chance to sample it. 

So, on to the wines in this quarter’s shipment:

2015 Chardonnay Reserve – while we weren’t able to make a Crumbling Rock at blending this year, were fortunate to have enough wonderful Chardonnay from 2015 to make our first ever Chardonnay Reserve.  Everything we usually pack into our regular Chardonnay, but with more focus, intensity and length.  It is drinking beautifully right now, but should evolve and improve for many years.

2015 Bedlam Rose – It’s back!  The wine we made accidentally in 2011 was so popular that we decided to re-create it.  In the Black Ankle tradition, the 2015 Bedlam Rose is more concentrated and longer than a typical Rose wine.  A mix of every single grape we grow, both red and white, it shows a vibrant red color and abundant freshness, while leaving your mouth wanting another bite of whatever you are having for dinner. 

2015 Viognier -- This is my favorite Black Ankle viognier to date.  It has a bright citrusy nose with hints of fresh flowers and herbs.  It will be a nice compliment to fresh summer vegetables, or try it with grilled shrimp or scallops.

2015 Quartzite – The Quartzite is a richer-style white wine with a hefty palate weight and a lingering finish.  It has hints of peaches and nectarines on the nose and will be a nice pairing with almost anything you can think of to put on your grill this summer.


Ed (and Sarah)