August 24, 1999
Our two children, Kate (14) and Susie (11) are headed back to school tomorrow. Therefore, Pat and I may have time to update the diary more often.
Our temperatures have continued to be above normal, with a few days over 100 degrees and all days within the last week above 90. Even the nights have been above 50 degrees which has visibly accelerated the ripening process. As a matter of fact, at this rate the Sauvignon Blanc may be ready before the middle of September. Since Brendan will not finish school for another ten days, it appears I'm going to have to make a lumbering appearance out into the vineyard to collect some samples of Sauvignon Blanc in the next week or so to test the sugar level.
Some of you who have been by the winery recently have been informed about our imminent bottling of the ZP2C cuvee. I also believe I have mentioned before in the diary the approximate percentages of each wine that will make up the final blend. At bottling the wine will turn out to be about 30 percent Zinfandel, 25 percent Cabernet (Bordeaux based), 30 percent Petite Sirah, and the remaining 15% consisting mostly of Carignan with some Syrah, Pinot and Barbera. As I've said before, ZP2C is whatever is left over from the bottom of the barrels at the time of the initial bottling in July. We intentionally tried to leave one gallon or more in each of our 130 barrels at bottling since we don't fine or filter. We have also purchased an additional full barrel of Petite Sirah that was fermented at Lambert Bridge Winery. The clear wine is drawn off the top of the sediment and then mixed with the Petite Sirah from Lambert Bridge to create a uniquely different blend than the Neighbors' and Estate cuvees. From what I remember, the word "cuvee" is a French terminology alluding to the dry wines that are blended to create a final still wine in the Champagne area of France. Yeast is then added to this cuvee to start the fermentation for the sparkling wines of that area. I just thought "cuvee" is a more interesting word to use but is obviously interchangeable with the word "blend" in what I write in this diary.
At this time, I am estimating that we will be bottling 120 cases of the ZP2C and will be selling the wine initially at $16 per bottle. In the next few days, we will be adding this wine to our order form on our website. We will also continue to offer the 1998 Neighbors' Cuvee, which will be entered in our local Sonoma County Harvest Fair wine competition in October. Also, for those who may have missed the initial offering of the 1999 pre-harvest futures, we will have the revised form up on the site once again (follow this link for the '98 & '98 order form).
August 26, 1999
We did some initial sugar tests on our Sauvignon Blanc yesterday, and
we were very surprised to come up with about 21 percent sugar. That means
that we will probably be harvesting Lambert Bridge's section of Sauvignon
Blanc late next week or shortly after Labor Day. The grapes I am selecting
for our estate Sauvignon Blanc are growing in somewhat richer soil but
still well drained, which should yield a slightly more grassy style. The
flavors from the Sauvignon Blanc berries and also the Zinfandel fruit are
showing much more intensity than what I can remember from last year. Also,
it appears that even though the ripening has been slower this year, it
has been more consistent than I can remember in several years, yielding
bunches that have much better color than last year's crop. I am encouraged
that this vintage, even though yielding a small amount of fruit, will produce
intensely-flavored wines. I've spent a good deal of time going over what
I predicted we would produce this year and am hoping that the case estimates
on our new form for the 1999 harvest will turn out to be relatively accurate.
I still feel that the crop will be down at least 25
We've had a few questions about our use of oak barrels in the production of our many wines. Except for the Sauvignon Blanc and the Pinot, we blend a lot of varietals into our finished wines. I am using the oak from 5 different manufacturers and 4 different countries this year, and that is because I want to use oak in the same way that I blend my wines, that is, to give character but not overwhelm the wines with only one flavor. Oak should be used similarly to a spice or herb used in cooking a fine meal. This year I am purchasing about 50 percent American oak, 35 percent Hungarian oak, and 15 percent Czech Republic. I prefer the character or spiciness that comes from all these barrels rather than *in my opinion* the more neutral, or even tannic, characteristics of French oak. I am purchasing one French oak barrel and am considering purchase of additional French oak for the Aca Modot only. Any of you who have purchased 1998 Aca Modot and are willing to try a bottle at this stage of its development, will find that it is more tannic than any of the other wines I have produced. That may be attributed in part to the use of 50 percent new French oak in this wine instead of predominantly American oak in my other wines. I am not sure whether I want to continue using that much French oak yielding this more tannic wine, and I will consider any of your opinions.
August 27, 1999 (high 105 degrees, overnight low 70)
We have continued to have above normal temperatures. Last night we had a low of 70, which is *very* unusual in this area. As I've said in the past, our average low for this time of year would be about 50 degrees. I have also said that our average high of 90 and average low of 50, a 40-point range, does produce superior grapes for wine. Seventy degree nights will at this time of the year also accelerate the onset of harvest and is welcomed in this particular growing season. As I mentioned yesterday, the flavors in the grapes at this time are substantial so I'm not concerned about having temperatures that are more characteristic of the Central Valley for one day. We are now planning to bottle our ZP2C next Wednesday because it appears that we will be harvesting Sauvignon Blanc grapes for Lambert Bridge on Thursday or Friday and I want to get the bottling finished before we start harvesting. In the grape business, anything can change from day to day, so stay posted for the latest developments early next week.