Cellar Notes…from the Winemaker

 

I was fortunate enough to wiggle in some vacation time at the
end of the 2015 harvest, being as small as it was. Even more fortunate
to be on the “Enchanted Rhine” river cruise with a number of Wilson
Creek wine club members. We were cruising down river and drinking
wine. “What do you think of this one?” was commonly asked of
me by our California wine drinking friends as they struggled to
understand the wines.
Winemaking style in Europe is quite different then that of
California, being more acid based and food driven, and less fruity
than the California style. As a result of this revelation or in some
cases confusion, I began comparing wine to pizza.
We are all very familiar with pizza, there is the New York style
having thin crust and the Chicago style with thick crust as well as
the California style with all types of unusual toppings. Pizza truly
reflects on the region of its inception for example: Hawaiian pizza
with ham and pineapple. Pizza reflects on the regions temperament,
ethnicity and favorite ingredients. We may have a style that we
prefer but we can also appreciate the other styles. As Americans we
look at pizza as a whole meal and feel that we own it. Yet pizza is
Italian, and it’s made and viewed quite differently there.
Wine is very much the same as pizza in this respect. In Europe,
wine is viewed a an integral part of the meal. It reflects on the
temperament, growing conditions, and viewpoint of the region.
The soil minerals, sunshine and the flavors come through in its
wine. As a result, the wines have pronounced acidity followed by
fruit. They tend to be lower in alcohol and thinner in body. These
wines truly shine with a nice lunch or dinner as the French and
Germans think it should.
The world of wine is as vast as the wine growing regions
themselves. Styles, flavors and approach to winemaking is a true
reflection of that uniqueness. Similar in respect to pizza with thick
crust or thin, tomato sauce of white, and the vast amounts of
toppings that are offered.
I found myself anxiously awaiting the next stop along the
Rhine to try its wines and order pizza with anchovies!

Weather and Wine

March 2014 Vines

“Whether the weather be fine, Whether the weather be not,

Whether the weather be cold, Whether the weather be hot,

We’ll weather the weather, Whatever the whether, 

Whether we like it or not.” -author unknown

 

We will weather even this lack of weather. As much of the rest of the nation digs out under feet of snow with arctic temperatures, those of us in Southern California are happy with unseasonably warm temperatures, and sunny days. That is unless you are a viticulturist who, like Gene Kelly, love singing in the rain.

We are classified as a Mediterranean climate, as are many of the worlds’ premier wine regions, with hot summer days, cool evenings and the majority of rainfall in the winter months. Average rainfall for Temecula is 14.4 inches with 84% falling November to March. To date, we have only received 2.43 inches when the historical average is 10 inches and almost all of it came in a single event from February 27th to March 1st. However, we have drip irrigation so “Why the long face, Plowboy?” I am asked. The winter rains play a vital role in the ecology of the semi-arid soils especially irrigated soils. Over the dry months salts tend to build in the upper areas around the root zones. The winter rains dilute and flush out excess salts and move nutrients into the root zone. Fortunately, we have added thousands of tons of mulch and organic matter to our soils over the last year. This, in conjunction with microbial treatments and natural additives, like humic acids, are compensating and making what could have been a poor year into a challenging year with prospects of a modest decreased yield but continuing improvements in the grapes and wine. For those of you who joined us for the Wilson Creek Wine Academy class on pruning, you got a hands-on demonstration of how we are managing our canopy to keep quality in the forefront.

The cellar, however, is having a great year. Our new winemaker, Gus Vizgirda, jumped in with both fee and bugle a-blazing. I am not kidding! Gus calls the crew to lunch, back to work and ends the day with bugle calls, so please stop calling Dept. of Wildlife with displaced moose sightings.

So while I am still praying for a late rain and Gus is practicing his bugle calls, the wines this year are better than ever and the future looks so bright that we are walking on sunshine (am I mixing my pop music metaphors?)

We look forward to seeing you at the winery.

– Greg “Bioman” Pennyroyal