Petit Verdot!

October 24, 2012

Just recently, we finished up the bulk of this years’ harvest by bringing in the Petit Verdot from the Bobcat Run block. The Petit Verdot will be a component in the Cabernet Sauvignon blend, it tends to have an aroma best described as ‘berry pie’, which elevates the red fruit characters of the Cabernet and helps bring them to the forefront.

Petit Verdot is a late-ripening variety, even with all of the ideal weather we had this year we still had to wait until the vines were starting to go dormant for the winter before the fruit was ready to pick.

As you can see, these vine have already started gaining a bit of their fall coloring. Earlier in the season, the grapes get sweeter because the vines are producing sugar via photosynthesis and translocating it into the fruit. This late in the season, the fruit gets sweeter because it is slowly dehydrating. This was especially true in the last few days before these grapes were harvested, as we had warm temperatures and a stiff breeze to help the dehydration along.

That little bit of warm weather was actually very fortunate, as it started to rain several days after the fruit was picked. We were most fortunate this year to get pretty much all of our fruit in without having to contend with any rain. This has been a truly exceptional vintage, both in terms of quantity and, more importantly, quality. We still have a lot of work to do taking care of the wines we’ve made, be sure to check back to see what we’re up to!

 

Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

Advertisements

More suckering

May 9, 2012

 

 

 

Today we finished suckering the upper part of the property, including the Foxtrot Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Syrah and Grencahe in Bobcat Run. We also suckered the Petit Verdot in Bobcat Run, but this variety has to be suckered a little differently than most other varieties.

Petit Verdot has relatively weak cane attachments, which means that the shoots can break off fairly easily. We are expecting to lose a few shoots to wind later in the season, and a few more will probably come off during cane positioning, so at this point we only sucker the shoots that are sprouting out of the trunk, leaving vines that have a bushy canopy on top of a cleared stalk.

One of the next big physiological stages that the vines are going to go through is flowering. The closed flowers emerge along with the shoot during budbreak. At first they are pretty small, but flowering is likely only a few weeks away and so they are starting to swell up.

Grenache has the largest clusters out of any of our varieties, and so it also has the largest bunches of flowers. Each tiny bump in this picture is a flower bud. Imagine that every bud on this stalk will turn into a single grape, and you will see where the characteristic shape of grape clusters comes from.

Things are moving fast for us, be sure to check back and see what’s going on!

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

 

 

 

Today we are putting our 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon down to barrel. We ended up with three different lots of Cab this year, each of which is going to contribute some volume to the final blend.

This has been a very unusual year, the timing of harvest coupled with the volumes of fruit we received meant that we had to organize the lots of Cabs in a slightly different way than usual. Generally we try to keep the wines from every vineyard block separate before going to barrel to maximize our flexibility at blending later on. This year, in order to keep topped tanks, it worked out that we had to do a little bit of blending beforehand. For instance, we found it convenient to crush the Petit Verdot directly to tank with the Cabernet, while in previous years we have kept it separate until the final blending. The result is three distinctive lots of Cabernet Sauvignon that, taken together, make a gorgeous example of what our estate vineyards have to offer.

Since this year was very cool, the wines are slightly more delicate than usual, so we’ve decided to pull back just a little on the American oak in our barrel profile for the Cab, from about 20% American oak to about 15%. American oak adds strong flavors of vanilla and butterscotch, so a lighter handed approach will better suit the elegant profile of our 2011 Cab.

The largest lot, 12 barrels that will likely form the base of the final blend, is a mixture of China Bowl, Montana Vista, and approximately 8% Petit Verdot. The second lot, 7 barrels of pure Cab, is comprised mostly of the Foxtrot block with a little bit of China Bowl blended in. The third lot, also 7 barrels, is a mixture of China Bowl, Montana Vista, and close to 20% Petit Verdot from Bobcat Run.

It’s hard to know exactly what these wines will taste like when we pump them out to prep them for bottling two years from now, so we will refrain from any further blending until then.

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

Exciting news…

November 15, 2011

 

 

This week we are proud to announce the release of our 2009 Cuvee Alis! As you may recall, Cuvee Alis is our Rhone blend of Syrah and Grenache. 2009 was the first year we produced it, as opposed to the varietal Syrah we produced in earlier vintages. The word went out to our ‘A-list’ members yesterday (if you wish, you can sign up for the A-list here), and we’ve already received a number of orders.

To ship wine out, we wrap the bottles in custom printed tissue paper and then re-pack them to fit the size of the individual orders. These bottles of 2009 Cuvee Alis were sent on their way to the East coast earlier today.
In addition to getting orders ready to ship, we’ve been busy dealing with the new 2011 wines. We went ahead and pressed out the Cabernet Sauvignon second crop at the end of last week. The wine turned out to still be slightly sweet, possibly because it is difficult to keep the fermentation temperature up in T-bins, so we attached the tank warmer to the porta-tank we crushed it into to help it finish out. Now it’s sitting at about 70 degrees F and it seems pretty happy.
 

The little rafts of bubbles that have formed on the surface let us know that the fermentation is still going in the tank.

 
On top of that, this week we’ve racked the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Foxtrot block and the blend of Petit Verdot and Montana Vista Cabernet off of their lees. Splash racking is a great opportunity to get a sense of how the wines are shaping up, you can stick your head down in the sump and get a nosefull of aromatics. Both of these lots are smelling great, lots of cassis and black cherry, with just a hint of anise and baking spices.
 
 
Even though harvest itself is done, there’s still a fair amount of work to do on the 2011 vintage, be sure to check back and see what we’re up to!
 
To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.
 

We have been busy indeed here at Amapola Creek! Harvest is almost done, there is only one more block of Estate Cabernet Sauvignon left to pick (more on this block tomorrow), and then all of the grapes will be in for the year.

Last Saturday, we picked what was left of the Cabernet Sauvignon in the Montana Vista block. Since there has been a lot of dew in the mornings, we had our fruit scheduled to pick in the afternoon, so that the fruit would have a chance to dry off a little. This threatened to be a very difficult pick, because the botrytis rot had really gotten worse in the previous few days, and we knew the picking crew was going to have a rough time sorting out the good fruit.

The picking crew in Montana Vista.

Very fortunately, the botrytis had only advanced to the point where it appears like a thin, gray fuzz on the outside of the grapes. When it is in this early stage of growth, it is possible for the pickers to use an old trick from the vineyards of St. Emilion; they grasp each vine and shake it vigorously, and all of the rotten grapes pop off and fall to the ground!

Botrytis infection significantly weakens the connection of the berry to the stem. When the fruit is still dry (the botrytis has not broken it open yet), vigorous shaking will detach infected berries and let them fall to the ground.

This allowed us to greatly speed up the process of picking, we got just under five tons of clean fruit from this vineyard on Saturday, which happily was a better yield than we had expected.

After Montana Vista was done, we moved down the hill to the Petite Verdot in Bobcat Run. This block actually had very little rot in it, and so the pickers were able to move through it very quickly. We got just under three tons of Petite Verdot.

Petite Verdot is a Bordeaux variety that is frequently blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. As you can see, it has slightly smaller, tighter clusters than most of our Cabernet Sauvignon clones. This variety typically adds a deep, fresh fruit character to Cabernet Sauvignon, its' aroma by itself is sometimes described as 'berry pie'.

Since we’re close to the end of the season, we are getting a little bit tight on tank space. So, we took all of the fruit we picked on Saturday and crushed it into a single tank and inoculated it with K1. Today this lot is fermenting very strongly, and the berry pie character of the Petite Verdot is quite evident in the top of the tank.

Many of our fermentations are drawing to a close, be sure to check back and see what comes next!

 To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.
 

Cluster thinning

September 23, 2011

We’re in a bit of a lull as we wait for our next load of grapes to ripen up, so we’re taking advantage by doing some last minute vineyard work on the Estate Petite Verdot. This year saw late rains in spring, so we decided not to thin our clusters out until late in the game. The risk was that rain during flowering may have caused ‘shattering’, meaning that the flowers fail to form into mature grapes. In that case, thinning while the clusters are too young may result in too little crop. Waiting until all of the clusters were set and starting to mature allowed us to see how much fruit we actually had in the field (plenty, it turns out, our Petite Verdot is generally a very productive block), which in turn allows us now to properly thin the fruit and crop the vines at the optimal level.

Thinned clusters are left in the vineyard row to compost back down into the soil.

It is always a little heartbreaking to see fruit on the ground, but when you’re making the finest wines possible it is vital to make sure the vines are in balance. If there is too much fruit, the fruit will not ripen completely. Too little fruit, and the resulting wine will have green, vegetal characters. As Richard is fond of saying, it’s better to have 80% that’s perfect than 120% that’s mediocre.

Here’s what a well maintained, properly cropped Petite Verdot vine looks like! Note how the leaves have been thinned out around the fruit; this allows in light, which helps the fruit mature and reduces vegetal characters, and it also allows air to flow through the canopy, which helps control mildew and fungus without resorting to the use of chemical fungicides. Also note how the fruit that is left is allowed to hang with plenty of space between clusters, this is another technique for letting air and light reach the fruit.

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main website, please click here.