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Black Ankle News & Updates

Sarah O'Herron
 
April 14, 2020 | Sarah O'Herron

Recipes for April 19th Virtual Happy Hour


For this week’s Virtual Happy Hour, we will be talking about the Feldspar IV and the Slate 5 and we 
thought it would be fun to have a cook-along wine pairing dinner to go with the conversation.  Ed and I 
(Sarah) will be cooking up a few of our family favorites.  

Here are the recipes, in case you would like to cook them as well. 

Williams-Sonoma Tiny Roquefort Popovers

For an appetizer and Feldspar IV pairing, we are making the Williams-Sonoma Tiny Roquefort Popovers 
recipe, although we will be using Chapel’s Country Creamery’s Bay Blue in place of the Roquefort.  

https://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/tiny-roquefort-popovers.html  

Leek & Goat Cheese Tart

For a main course and Slate 5 pairing, we are making a Leek and Goat Cheese Tart (also adapted from a 
Williams-Sonoma recipe). 

Ingredients:  

For the Pastry
1 cup all-purpose flour​
¼ teaspoon salt​
½ cup butter, cut into 1-inch pieces​
2-4 tablespoons water 

Mix together the flour and salt.  Mix in the butter using a food processor or a mixer with the paddle 
attachment until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add the water a teaspoonful at a time until the 
mixture just holds together. Shape into a flattish 6-inch round and refrigerate for an hour.  ​
After an hour of chilling, roll the dough out on a well-floured surface until it will fit into a pastry tin or 
pie plate.  Trim the edges and put the pan into the freezer for about 20 minutes until firm. 
Once chilled, cover the pastry with foil (and pie beads or beans) and cook in a 325 degree oven for about 
15 minutes.  Remove the beans/beads and foil and cook another 3-5 minutes, until the crust is slightly 
golden.   Or skip this whole process and start with a pre-made pie crust…oops, did I say that out loud?​

For the Filling​
2 tablespoons butter​
3 leeks – just the white part and about 2 inches of the green, halved lengthwise and cut into 3/4 inch pieces.​
¼ lb. goat cheese – we are using Cherry Glen Chevre​
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese – or substitute with Shepherd’s Manor Tomae​
¾ cup half-and-half​
3 eggs​

In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the leeks and cook stirring occasionally, 
until soft and nomoisture remains in the pan.  This will take about 30 minutes.  
Good thing you have that bottle of Feldspar and those popovers to sustain you!  
Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside to cool.
In a separate bowl, crumble the goat cheese, add the Parmesan or Tomae, half-and-half, eggs and salt and 
pepper to taste.  Whisk until well blended.  Stir in the leeks and pour the mixture into the pre-cooked pie shell.​
Bake at 325 until the mixture is firm.  ​
Let cool about 5 minutes and enjoy! 


If you prefer, you can easily substitute caramelized onions and Shepherd’s Manor Herb Ewe cheese for 
the leeks and goat cheese.
  The results will be different, but also delicious! 
 

Time Posted: Apr 14, 2020 at 3:13 PM
Sarah O'Herron
 
December 30, 2019 | Sarah O'Herron

Our 2018 Vintage

We are delighted to announce the official release of the 2018 Rolling Hills and  2018 Passeggiata.  Of all the wines we have made so far in this Black Ankle adventure,  these are the wines of which we are the proudest.  Not because they are the tops in terms of richness,    depth or concentration (the last few Estates or Crumbling Rocks will knock them  out of the water), but they were the biggest test of our abilities, creativity and energy as winemakers.      Despite the curveball that was the 2018 growing season, we think they are really  delicious. 

We are always considered a fairly wet wine region, with an average rainfall of 40 inches per year, but in 2018 we had over twice that amount - more than 80 inches of rain fell, much of it concentrated during the growing season.   All that rain meant that the grapes struggled to get ripe and build the concentration that we strive for in our wines.  

To add to the challenge, once the grapes were finally ready to pick, they were thin-skinned and very fragile.  It took very careful handling, including lots of bleeding  (pulling off some juice very early to concentrate what is left), radical sorting  (we ended up with less than 40% of our normal red wine production), cooler fermentations,  and special treatment in the winery to get the wines into shape.  

We also took advantage of one of our favorite tools - blending.  We spent hours mixing and matching the various lots we had and  took advantage of the fact that we are able to add up to 15% of wine from another vintage, using some of  our stash of 2017's to add richness and depth to the final wines.  

Finally, we took the best lots, which in a normal year would have gone to  Estate, Crumbling Rock, Slate, Feldspar, etc., and put them into the Rolling Hills and Passeggiata.  

The resulting wines feel like a miracle to us after what nature threw our way!  Each time we  sit back with a glass of one of these wines, we are proud of the fact that we were able to  produce something worthy of our label - and grateful that so far, 2019 is making life much easier on us.   

Time Posted: Dec 30, 2019 at 12:43 PM
Sarah O'Herron
 
September 30, 2019 | Sarah O'Herron

Fall Newsletter 2019

Dear Wine Club,

In soccer, a player who has excellent ball skills with one foot but not the other, is said to have “two legs, but only one foot.” Carrying that a bit further, despite being personally someone who has “two legs, but no feet,” ie: no soccer skills whatsoever, soccer has somehow become a big part of my life. Ed still plays in local league, our children all are, or have been, dedicated players, watchers and fans of the game. Soccer gets a lot of bandwidth in our home.

So, I guess it should come as no surprise to me that our vineyard crew is primarily made up of dedicated and seriously impressive soccer players. We have an official Black Ankle Vineyards team, La Raza, which is a semi-slang Mexican term that, according to our crew, refers to working people, especially agricultural workers. Evencio, our vineyard manager, who also oversees recruiting of all our players – oops, I mean workers, played in a semi-pro league in Mexico until a serious injury ended his career. He is now the coach and team manager. When we sit down each spring to figure out who we need for the vineyard in the coming season and he suggests someone new, there is usually a two-pronged reason – this guy is a good mechanic, oh, and an excellent defender, or this guy has great vineyard experience, oh, and he happens to also be a great striker. Since we are regularly impressed by the level of hard work, dedication and excellence that we see in our crew, I think this may be the secret to good recruiting.

It is also a lot of fun to see these guys in action. I feel like I am watching superheroes switch roles when I seem them on the field. Guys who could not be more kind, gentle and laid-back all week long at the vineyard let their alteregos out on the field each Sunday and become seriously competitive athletes. I am always amazed at how much energy they have left for the game after a long week in the vineyard. As I sit down to write this, our vineyard team is one game away from possibly winning the regular season and heading off to the championship rounds. We are excited to see how the rest of the season unfolds for them and will be cheering from the sidelines!

Cheers,
Sarah (and Ed)

Sarah O'Herron
 
January 30, 2019 | Sarah O'Herron

Winter Newsletter 2019

Dear Black Ankle Wine Club Members,

So, when is a new wine ready to release?  While Ed and I are pretty simpatico on many issues, on this point, we are often a house divided.  When wine is first bottled, it inevitably goes through a bit of an awkward stage – no matter how gentle the system we use for bottling is, the jostling around that the wine goes through to get from barrel to tank to bottle causes the wine to shut down a bit.  Aromas become somewhat muted and the delicacy and balance that the wine had during blending tends to be lost for a few months.  How long it takes for a wine to get over that period and return to what it was like before bottling can take from a couple of weeks to several months, depending on the wine. 

For white wines, as soon as the wine tastes, smells and has the mouthfeel that it had before bottling, it can be considered ready to go.  For red wines, however, the development in bottle tends to be more pronounced and here is where the controversy comes in.  The younger a red wine is the more pronounced its tannins usually are.  A very young can seem a bit harsh, but it also has great freshness and it works well to cleanse your palate and make each sip or taste of food that you take have as much impact in your mouth as the first.  As a wine ages, the chains of molecules that make up tannins bond together and get bigger, but are actually perceived as smoother and less noticeable in your mouth.  As the tannins soften, the fruit character of the wine tends to take a front seat and become more pronounced, while the tannins are a bit softer and less apparent.  After many years, a wine’s fruit flavors start to fade, its tannins begin to take on a silky, almost oily profile and the impact of the wine on your palate becomes much more delicate.

So where on this timeline of aging is the best point?  The beauty of wine is that on this question as on so many others, there is no right (or wrong) answer.  I like my wines young – I think the zip and freshness brought by stronger tannins adds to the enjoyment of the wine, even if it means the fruit is a bit less prominent and the mouthfeel is a bit tougher.  Or maybe I am just too impatient to crack into the new vintage to wait for it to soften up very much! Ed tends to like wines that are a bit older – favoring the more prominent fruitiness and softer tannins and exercising a lot of patience to let a new wine get there.

Where do you fall in the mix?  Try an experiment by buying several bottles of the same wine and trying it every few months or once a year and you will get a sense of how the wine changes and what you like best.  The 2015 Leaf-Stone is in your current shipment is a great wine to experiment with, because it will age a good long time, but it is (by my standard!) delicious right now, so you can’t go wrong.  I would have released it in August, Ed argued for April (if you are frustrated by the wait for your favorite wine, you know who to blame!), so we split the difference.

Whenever you drink them, we both hope you enjoy these wines to the utmost!

Cheers,

Sarah (and Ed)

Sarah O'Herron
 
December 23, 2018 | Sarah O'Herron

Winter Newsletter 2018

Dear Black Ankle Wine Club Members,

So, when is a new wine ready to release?  While Ed and I are pretty simpatico on many issues, on this point, we are often a house divided.  When wine is first bottled, it inevitably goes through a bit of an awkward stage – no matter how gentle the system we use for bottling is, the jostling around that the wine goes through to get from barrel to tank to bottle causes the wine to shut down a bit.  Aromas become somewhat muted and the delicacy and balance that the wine had during blending tends to be lost for a few months.  How long it takes for a wine to get over that period and return to what it was like before bottling can take from a couple of weeks to several months, depending on the wine. 

For white wines, as soon as the wine tastes, smells and has the mouthfeel that it had before bottling, it can be considered ready to go.  For red wines, however, the development in bottle tends to be more pronounced and here is where the controversy comes in.  The younger a red wine is the more pronounced its tannins usually are.  A very young can seem a bit harsh, but it also has great freshness and it works well to cleanse your palate and make each sip or taste of food that you take have as much impact in your mouth as the first.  As a wine ages, the chains of molecules that make up tannins bond together and get bigger, but are actually perceived as smoother and less noticeable in your mouth.  As the tannins soften, the fruit character of the wine tends to take a front seat and become more pronounced, while the tannins are a bit softer and less apparent.  After many years, a wine’s fruit flavors start to fade, its tannins begin to take on a silky, almost oily profile and the impact of the wine on your palate becomes much more delicate.

So where on this timeline of aging is the best point?  The beauty of wine is that on this question as on so many others, there is no right (or wrong) answer.  I like my wines young – I think the zip and freshness brought by stronger tannins adds to the enjoyment of the wine, even if it means the fruit is a bit less prominent and the mouthfeel is a bit tougher.  Or maybe I am just too impatient to crack into the new vintage to wait for it to soften up very much! Ed tends to like wines that are a bit older – favoring the more prominent fruitiness and softer tannins and exercising a lot of patience to let a new wine get there.

Where do you fall in the mix?  Try an experiment by buying several bottles of the same wine and trying it every few months or once a year and you will get a sense of how the wine changes and what you like best.  The 2015 Leaf-Stone is in your current shipment is a great wine to experiment with, because it will age a good long time, but it is (by my standard!) delicious right now, so you can’t go wrong.  I would have released it in August, Ed argued for April (if you are frustrated by the wait for your favorite wine, you know who to blame!), so we split the difference.

Whenever you drink them, we both hope you enjoy these wines to the utmost!

Cheers,

Sarah (and Ed)

Time Posted: Dec 23, 2018 at 7:11 AM
Sarah O'Herron
 
September 30, 2018 | Sarah O'Herron

Fall Newsletter 2018

Dear Black Ankle Wine Club Members,

Growing up, I was taught that if you can not say anything nice, you should not say anything at all. This growing season (a long, late winter was followed by heavy spring rains, and heavy summer rains, and heavy fall rains), it has been harder and harder for me to answer questions about how the weather has affected us and still, as they say, listen to my Mamma. I am going to give it a shot here, but don’t be surprised if this ends up being a very short letter…

2018 will go down as the rainiest year in the history of Maryland. From May 1st through September, we have received almost 4 times our normal rainfall total. When we set out to grow wine in the Eastern United States, we signed up willingly for the fact that we would have variability among seasons. The differences that each year bring keep life interesting and give each new vintage some distinctive character. Our California colleagues regularly ask us if we dry-farm (California-speak for farming without irrigation) or if we irrigate our vines. They are usually a bit puzzled at first when I answer, “No and no.” We do not irrigate, but we are not ever “dry-farming” around here – we get natural “irrigation” from the sky and we are prepared for that. Water management is one of the key factors in most of our vineyard development decisions: we have a hilly site, which will catch less initial rainfall, from which rain will run off quickly, and our soil is extremely well-drained and rocky with very limited water holding capacity. The rain that sinks in is dispersed very quickly and we have chosen rootstocks for our vines that are purposely inefficient in their use of water so that the vines are limited in how much rain they can absorb – the list goes on and on and all of these factors have made a huge difference this year. Our vineyards were designed to rise above in vintages like 2018, even though we would prefer more years like 2016 or 2017.

All of this to say that, while this year has been challenging, it has not been disastrous. The biggest impact that this rainy year has had on us, aside from a few grumpy days wishing the sun would finally shine, is that we have a very small crop. Grapevine flowers are extremely delicate and susceptible to rain during the flowering and fruit set period in the late spring/early summer and we had heavy rains during much of that period this year so our vines set a very small crop. As it turns out, that may have been good news in disguise. A small crop means that each vine is trying to ripen less fruit than it otherwise would, so despite the distinct lack of sunshine that this year has brought, the vines have been able to ripen the fruit that remained. We still have a few varieties left to harvest (and yes, we are still rooting for a few more sunny days!), but what we have picked has been surprisingly good, if not plentiful. All in all, we ended up working significantly harder to pick about half the crop we picked in 2017.

On the plus side for us, the last three vintages (2015, 2016 and 2017) were excellent, and we still have a decent number of barrels from those years tucked away in our cellar. As you know, we are not shy about mixing vintages to improve the balance between vintages, so keep an eye out for numbered instead of vintage-marked wines in the next few years as we pull from some older vintages to balance out this one. And since we got all the rain in 2018, there isn’t much left for 2019, right?

So, on to this quarter’s new wines:

The 2017 West Hill Chardonnay is medium-bodied and easy drinking with a lush mouth feel and juicy acidity. Aromas of yellow apple, starfruit, and pear are supported by a palate filled with tropical fruits, citrus zest and hints of creamy custard. Its finish is long and smooth. About 50% of the juice in this wine went through malolactic fermentation, a process in which tart-tasting malic acid (think biting into a granny smith apple) is converted to softer and smoother-tasting lactic acid (acid found in milk), making for a wine that we think has the perfect balance of acidity and structure.

The fourth rendition of Slate (also known as Slate 4) will be released to members only with this quarter’s allotment. It will either be included in your selection or offered as a wine you can add or swap for. It is a rich and balanced, full-bodied Bordeaux-Style blend that demonstrates diverse aromas and flavors of dark fruits, spice, anise, and tobacco leaf. It is clean and smooth but with plenty of verve, making for a complex, elegant and refined wine. As always, this wine demonstrates great ageability but is tasting wonderful and fresh should you choose to drink it sooner rather than later!

Well, so much for my short letter! Never trust an Irish woman who tells you she is going to tell a short story and enjoy your wines!

Cheers,

Sarah (and Ed)

Time Posted: Sep 30, 2018 at 12:52 PM
Sarah O'Herron
 
July 30, 2018 | Sarah O'Herron

Summer Newsletter 2018

Dear Wine Club,

Happy Summer!  Many of you have heard that we have purchased two new farms, with the idea of both expanding the amount of wine that we have available for Black Ankle Vineyards and creating a new sales and tasting space.  The new public space will be located in Clarksburg, on Peach Tree Road, just off Route 270.  We planted the first five acres of grapevines in Clarksburg this spring, so we are off and running! 

We are also excited to announce that we have settled on a name for the new farm: Live Edge Vineyards.  Why Live Edge? Often it is the little imperfections in things that make them so interesting.  Woodworkers refer to a Live Edge when they have left the natural shape of the tree to decide the couture of a finished piece of work.  The idea is that what has grown naturally is infinitely more varied, subtle and beautiful that what a woodworker would create in the shop.  In much the same vein, many gemstones get their colors from chemical impurities that turn otherwise clear crystals into dazzling blues, greens or reds.  A forest is enchanting not because of its regularity, but because of the vast array of sizes, shapes, colors, textures and smells that can be found there.  Straight lines and square corners have their uses, but nature almost never creates a crisp line or a perfect corner.   Rather the rule of nature is curves, contours and an ever-changing landscape.  Great wine is much the same way.  A wine that is perfectly consistent from the start of the bottle to the finish, or from day to day or year to year, can be pleasant, but never exciting.  The fascination of an extraordinary wine is how it can change over time or based on what it is paired with, or even our moods or the time of day; how it can spark our imaginations and add joy to our lives.

At both Black Ankle and Live Edge Vineyards, our aim is to capture the interest and complexity of nature in each bottle of wine that we make.  We work hard to create an environment in which our grapevines can flourish and then stand back and let the plants to their work, so that they create grapes with depth, character and finesse.  In the winery, we feel that our job is to help the wines through the fermentation and aging process but give them the room to express their individuality so that at the end of the day, we have wines that are more compelling than anything we could create without letting nature run the show.  Wherever we can, we believe in letting a little Live Edge shine through.  We will keep sending out updates as our project progresses.  Wish us luck!

As you try your wines for this shipment, you may notice that we have started using a new type of closure. We are constantly looking for ways to make the experience of Black Ankle Vineyards better and more consistent in any way we can.  Bottle closures may not be at top of anybody’s glamour list for making the best possible wines, but they have a crucial role to play in how our wines perform over time.  We work very hard to farm, ferment and age the best wines we can, and we get very frustrated when all that hard work is undone by a flawed closure.  All the different types of closures have their strengths and weaknesses and we have historically decided that corks, flaws and all, are better for our wines than anything else out available.

For our 2018 bottlings, we have decided to try something new and start using Reserva closures, a new product on the market.  The Reserva corks are made from waste sugarcane husks, so they are a manufactured product made from natural raw materials.  They appealed to us for a number of reasons:

Because of the materials which are used to make the closures, they cannot host the chemicals that cause cork taint, which previously made about 1% of our bottles smell like Grandma’s basement.
Very low “Oxygen Transmission Rate” – a fancy way of saying they seal tightly, keeping more air out than corks, so the wines will age more gracefully and we have greater control of what will happen to the wines once they are bottled.
Much reduced bottle variability – each regular cork is slightly different, leading to bottle to bottle variability in our wines, while the Reserva closures are identical, so while wines will still develop and change over time, on any given day, wines from the same vintage should be in the same place in their development.
Zero carbon footprint – the Reservas are made from sugarcane waste by a very gentle process (corks excel in this area as well, while screwcaps don’t), so they are actually making constructive use of what would otherwise be a waste product.

We think this change will give us better and more consistent wines (more vibrant whites and roses, better aging reds) and for us that is enough to make the switch.  Please let us know what you think – we welcome your feedback!  For this quarter’s wines, the Feldspar III has the new closures, as does the Bedlam Rose.

 

Cheers,

Sarah (and Ed)

 

Time Posted: Jul 30, 2018 at 12:49 PM
Sarah O'Herron
 
April 1, 2018 | Sarah O'Herron

Spring Newsletter 2018

 

Dear Black Ankle Wine Club Members,

Rocks, rocks, rocks, rocks, rocks.  Sometimes we get a little obsessed, but if you are into vineyard soils in our region you can never get enough of rocks.  Grapes can grow nearly anywhere, but the grapes that make the best wines need to work hard.  Rocky soils mean less water and nutrient for the vines, which struggle to survive and as a result make more interesting wines.  As I recently heard it so elegantly put, grapes are like people – the ones that have struggled in life have the best stories to tell.  And we want nothing if not wines with stories to tell.  Therefore, our little obsession with rocks.

We have spent much of the last two years in search of more rocks.  In early 2016, since we had already planted most of the vineyard land at Black Ankle, we decided that the time had come to look for some more growing locations.  This has involved pouring over topo maps, reading soil surveys and scouring hillsides to look for the rockiest, lousiest soils that we could find.  Last fall, we hit the motherlode – not one, but two farms that seemed too good to pass up.  Each had its own personality and points of interest, so we decided to take the leap and buy them both.  We purchased one in December and one in January.  It has been an exciting winter for us! 

One farm is just North of Westminster in Carroll County, and looks like it will be an excellent growing location for our difficult reds, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.  The other property is in Clarksburg, in central Montgomery County and will be home to several red varieties as well as whites for both still and sparkling wines.  It is also easy to get to, so we are planning a whole new sales and tasting facility there – stay tuned for more information on that!  (Best case scenario, it will open in 2023, so mark your calendars!)

So, back to the rocks…we spent an awesome, if very chilly, day early in March digging soil pits on the Carroll County farm with a geologist who specializes in vineyard soils and is helping us to build a detailed map of our soils.  I had never seen a geologist jump up and down in excitement before, but we did that day as he looked at the huge pile of rocks that is what passes for soil on that farm.  One hole was rockier than the next and the array of colors and textures that we pulled from the ground was amazing.  I couldn’t resist pulling out samples, and my kitchen counter is currently covered in a rainbow array of rocks.  Perhaps the coolest find was when we cracked open a sample rock and found perfect black pyrite crystal cubes, nicknamed Devil’s Dice.  It was like discovering a secret treasure.  We can’t wait to discover what wine treasures this farm will be able to produce in the coming years.  If the piles of rocks that we found are any indication, our wines will have some great stories to tell!

Below is a list of some of the wines that are included in our allotment this go around:

2016 Viognier

Weighty and beautifully balanced, this wine is rich and luscious with aromas and flavors of tropical fruits, honeysuckle, and citrus.  There is a creamy, honeyed characteristic to this wine that rounds out the minerality and a hint of white pepper on that long finish.  We produced 325 cases.

Aromas:  floral, tropical fruit, honeysuckle, pineapple and banana

Palate:  honeyed and creamy, tropical fruits: guava, pineapple, banana with hints of ripe pear and apricot. Mineral and a trace of white pepper on the long finish

2015 Leaf-Stone

The 2015 Leaf-Stone is an exceptional wine.  At 100% Syrah it clearly represents what Black Ankle’s soils can do with this distinct Rhône variety.  With balanced length, mouth feel, and flavor, the 2015 Leaf-Stone is both bold and refined.  We produced a tiny 225 cases, and are sold out of this wine except for what we are holding in your allotment.

Aromas:  Dark fruits swirled with a hint of earthiness.  Black currant, blackberry, licorice, spice, sweet tobacco, pepper, and a hint of cured meat.

Palate:  Black currant, black cherry, vanilla, blackberry, tobacco, black pepper, mineral, and plum.  Finish is long, warm, and peppery.

2015 Crumbling Rock

We just can’t get enough of this wine.  One of our signature Bordeaux-Style blends, the 2015 Crumbling Rock is rich and lush, while elegant and sophisticated.  It is smooth drinking with a refined tannin structure.  We think this wine has tremendous age ability, and we would recommend laying it down for a while (although it is tasting lovely now if you can’t wait).  We produced 1,210 cases.

Aromas:  Earthy notes lead into black plum, sweet wood/tobacco, black cherry, vanilla, cranberry notes with a hint of dried herbs and licorice.  There is also a tease of floral (violet) aromas as it warms up.

Palate:  Dark fruit flavors of plum, black currant, blackberry and cranberry interspersed with cedar, graphite, ending with pepper spice and some mineral notes.  Very nice viscosity and finish, full bodied.

 

Cheers,

Sarah (and Ed)

Time Posted: Apr 1, 2018 at 12:49 PM
Sarah O'Herron
 
September 1, 2017 | Sarah O'Herron

Fall Newsletter 2017

Dear Wine Club Members,

Happy fall!  As I write this we are heading to the end of our growing season and things ae humming along like crazy in the winery.  I swear every year that I won’t jinx us by making predictions about the season and the weather until everything is in the winery door, but I just can’t help myself.  As I gaze out onto this beautiful, dry, sunny fall day, it is hard to feel anything but optimistic. Life just seems a little better when there is the prospect of a delicious glass of wine at the end of the day (or year)!

I think making red wines is one of the most fun things that we get to do all year, in large part because it is the most active, messy process in the winery.  When we make white wines, the grapes are pressed immediately after harvest, so only juice goes into the tank.  The work of making white wines is mostly about protecting them from air contact and treating them delicately so that their aromas are preserved.  It takes a lot of care, finesse and attention, but there is very little interaction between wine maker and wine.

Making red wines is a totally different story.  For red wines, the whole berry goes into the tank, and a big part of our job as winemakers is to extract as much aroma, flavor and interest from the skins as we can.  In order to do this, we spend a lot of time each day doing what we call pumpovers.  This process involves creating a contained waterfall of juice, so that the wine splashes through the air and picks up oxygen to fuel the yeast which are fermenting the wine.  The fermenting juice is then pumped through a hose to the top of the tank, and sprinkled over the top of the skins in the tank so that it trickles by the skins to pick up color and flavors. 

I love this process.  First of all, it is noisy; the wine is splashing around everywhere and I have the sense that you can actually hear the wine being made.   Secondly, the air is filled with the aromas of the fermenting juice and from day to day, you can actually smell the juice becoming wine.  Finally, it is visually beautiful.  As the juice picks up more and more color from the grape skins, day after day, it becomes darker and more vibrant and it feels like you can actually see the juice becoming wine. Of course, we are tasting the wines along the way, but we get to spend a lot of our lives tasting – it is just for a few days each year that we get to tap into all our other senses making wine.

Below is a bit of information about some of our newest releases.

The 2016 Viognier is being introduced in our fall club. It is 100% viognier this year, and is full of light fruit flavors, floral notes, and a robust mouth feel.  With just about 2 acres of viognier planted, our production of this wine is on the smaller side, with just 325 acres produced.  Viognier goes great with spicy foods, a variety of seafood and shell fish, and other fun seasonally fall dishes!

The Passeggiata X (can you believe we have made 10 Passeggiatas?), is as fragrant, flavorful, and light as ever, dancing across the palate like our first vintage in 2006.  As many of you know, this patio wine is known for very soft tannin (if any), robust fruity flavor profile, and a touch of vanilla or butterscotch on the nose.  It is especially well-paired with turkey if you are looking for Thanksgiving wines.      

Cheers,

Sarah (and Ed)

Sarah O'Herron
 
March 1, 2017 | Sarah O'Herron

Spring Newsletter 2017

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. Enjoy!

Cheers, 

Sarah (and Ed)

Time Posted: Mar 1, 2017 at 6:46 AM