Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A first look at 2009

The Chaine d'Or winery is maybe 30 minutes from where I work, so when Paul Romero told me he'd be bringing in the last of his grapes I took a long lunch break to go up and see. By the time I arrived the heavy work was done and it was down to what may be the most important part of winemaking - cleaning up. Jerry was hosing down everything in sight (including the dog) while Stef was doing punch downs on the Syrah and estate Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as lab tests on the latest delivery.

Much of the wine is now through primary fermentation and is in the barrel undergoing the secondary malo-lactic fermentation. Since 2007 Paul has relied on wild yeasts with good results.

I got to taste my first barrel sample of the 2009 vintage - a Cabernet Sauvignon from the "Crimson Clover" vineyard. So far everything I've heard about the 2009 vintage has been positive; it was an easy year and has resulted in a larger than average crop of very good quality. The downpour in late October doesn't seem to have caused too many problems. Pretty much every winemaker I've spoken to has had good things to say about it, and before the cynics say "well they would, wouldn't they" bear in mind that they still have plenty of wine from previous vintages to sell.
The cab was a lovely dark purple colour; loads of fruit and some nice young, firm tannins - it tastes good now!

Crimson Clover is a 1.5 acre vineyard in the Santa Clara Valley near Morgan Hill. It's not too far from the Uvas Creek vineyard, from which Paul & Stef sourced some excellent fruit for their first vintages. Uvas Creek's owners now also own the Sycamore Creek winery and are using all the fruit themselves, so this will be the winery's Santa Clara Valley Cabernet from next year.

The winery has just released their fall offering; 2007 Santa Clara Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 "Haut Tubbe" and 2008 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay. I'll post notes once I open them, but I'm particularly keen to try the Cabernet again, as the last time I had it, it was showing very well indeed. The Chardonnay is completely sold out; there may be some of the others left.

The "Haut Tubbe" is a blend of various small lots including Cabernet, Zinfandel, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. Because it's sourced from both the Santa Cruz Mountains and Santa Clara Valley AVAs it has to carry the "California" appellation. I recently opened a bottle of the 2006 Haut Tubbe (my last as it turned out thanks to an out-of-date cellar listing, bad planning that). It had good fruit backed by lots of tannin; we had a glass each and put the stoppered bottle in the fridge. On the second day the tannins had softened considerably and the dry, brambly fruit was showing nicely. On the nose it was savoury, with grilled meat, menthol and figs. Clearly this is a wine that deserves cellar time. I'm definitely going to try to hold on to the 2007s for a little longer.