September 26, 2012 § Leave a comment
Last week I was invited to be on a panel that was focused on Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels at Ridge Lytton Springs Winery. The panel consisted of what was billed as “New Zinfandel producers versus Old Zinfandel producers.” As I sat on this panel with a crew of sommeliers and wine writers in front of me, I realized that this is certainly a highlight of my career- not to be forgotten! On the “OLD Zinfandel producer” panel we had Julie Pedroncelli (Pedroncelli Winery), Doug Nalle (Nalle Winery), and the legendary Paul Draper (founder of Ridge Winery). For us Next Generation producers, we had Clay Mauritson (Mauritson Winery), Hugh Chappelle (Quivira), and yours truly!
The panel was set up in a really cool way. We each selected one library Zinfandel and one current release Zinfandel. They were all tasted side by side with the other panelists’ wine. I love doing tastings in this format, because there is no denying the wines in front of you and their characters. I thought our wines showed very well. The oldest Zinfandel that I could have possibly pulled was 2005, whereas Ridge had a 1999, and Nalle a 2003.
Meeting Paul Draper was a highlight of my short career, and his 1999 Lytton Springs Zinfandel had certainly not lost stride and still had years of life left in it. Doug Nalle is a winemaker that I’ve admired for some time, and he was the mentoring winemaker of a lot of winemakers in Dry Creek Valley. Julie Pedroncelli and her family have had their winery here in Dry Creek since Prohibition. I have to say that the “Old School” panelists were a great representation of the history of Dry Creek.
At the end of the panel, I got some one-on-one time with Mr. Draper, and was able to talk philosophy of winemaking and a little bit of history. All I can say is what a down to earth, inspiring and gracious host he is. Moments like these definitely help shape my winemaking style, and if nothing else, give me great stories to tell my children!
September 14, 2012 § Leave a comment
Developing my palate as a winemaker is a critical part of what I do. I feel like my palate for wine has improved dramatically over the last couple of years, and I can assure you that I practice frequently. The ability to exercise your palate is something that is crucial when you are looking to gain more depth and insight on certain wines, vintages, and vineyards.
Lately, I have been focusing on a different side of my palate that I don’t often get an opportunity to develop. This would be my palate for fruit in the vineyard. I am very fortunate to have a partner in Randy Peters, who has farmed wine grapes his entire life. He consciously practices on his palate for grapes each and every vintage. This year, as we’ve been walking our vineyards together, it blows me away the character in the fruit that he acknowledges. I would like to say that I do, but honestly, I do not have the depth of palate that he has…yet. Like anything that we connoisseur, the only way to develop this palate is time of practice. These grapes are only available to practice on once a year! This year, more than any other year, I have been consciously acknowledging the crunch of the skin, the texture of the pulp, the acidity of the grapes, and red or black flavors that appear with higher brix.
Why is this important? The flavors of the grape are becoming the flavors and aromatics of the wine. I would like to think that I am picking grapes with their flavor as the most indicative fact, as opposed to all chemistry.