Red Blend, 60% Sangiovese / 40% Merlot
To be honest, we've never liked the term "Super-Tuscan". We still don't. As a matter of fact, that will be the last time you even see that term used here. Despite our disdain for that word pairing, at its heart lies a fantastic story. It is a story not about a particular place or terroir, but about wines that were born from a vision and an individual's resistance to the status quo. This story has carried us through some of the toughest times since we began making wine and is the inspiration behind our first release, "FLEK".
Several decades ago, frustrated by very specific government mandates about how wine could be made and what grapes had to be used, winemakers in Italy began experimenting with non-native grape varieties. Mostly French varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. These wines were sometimes blended with their native Sangiovese, sometimes not. In either case, the results were often spectacular. But because these wines were created only in accordance with the winemaker’s personal vision and not Italian winemaking law, they were entitled only to the lowliest official designation, "vino da tavola" or "table wine". This designation created an economic hardship for any winemaker that wanted to produce these wines commercially. And so these liquid works of art were often produced only in small batches, solely for the consumption of the winemakers themselves. That is, until the world got a taste and they became some of the world’s most sought-after wines.
We are all told what we can and cannot do. Probably more often than we realize. Usually the source is an external one, like laws or "government mandates". But occasionally, the source is an internal one. Born from our own personal fear of failure or consequences, it permeates it's way into our conscious belief of what it is we can and cannot do. Ever since we began making wine, we have battled our fair share of self-doubt and had to challenge our own ideas of what we are capable of. The story above has served as a reminder that in the end, our vision is all that really matters and to never let anything get in the way of that.
Our vision for "FLEK", was to produce a world class red blend that was beautiful, unique and highlighted the best of what the Sierra Foothills, Amador County and the Shenendoah Valley had to offer. The grapes grown in these regions of rugged beauty are truly among the greatest in the world. It is a place that has deep roots for our family, has changed the way we look at wine and how we look at life. We poured our hearts and souls into making this wine a reality. We hope you will enjoy.
The Sangiovese grapes come from the "Noce Knoll" block of a 24-acre vineyard in the heart of the Shenendoah Valley. Planted in 1999, by the Gullett Family, on an old walnut orchard, this 9-acre Brunello clone block contains vines originally sourced from the famed Altesino vineyard in Italy's Montalcino region. The Gullett family has been growing Sangiovese grapes and producing some of California's best Sangiovese wines for over 30 years. We are truly privileged to partner with a family so dedicated to such a beautiful variety
The Merlot comes El Dorado County, in the hills rising above the American River near Coloma, CA. Planted in the mid 90's, the entire Merlot harvest from this vineyard was originally contracted to Robert Mondavi for 10 years. Since then, 8 acres have been grafted over to Rhone varietals, in the rockier sections of the vineyard, leaving 6 acres of only the best Merlot vines. The soil is comprised of decomposed granite on rolling hills, known as "Auberry" soil. During the summer months, warm air from the central valley warms the vines, while cool mountain air flows down at night providing an ideal micro-climate for this varietal.
The Sangiovese was fermented in new French oak puncheons for 13 days, lightly pressed and returned to the same French oak barrels for an additional 18 months of aging. The Merlot was fermented in stainless-steel, pressed and racked to 225L neutral french oak barrels then aged for 18 months.
In March of 2015, after 18 months of aging both wines separately, we began our blending process. We created several trial blends from 95% Sangiovese / 5% Merlot, to 50% Sangiovese / 50% Merlot. After 4 weeks of laboratory and sensory analysis, we found that the blend of 60% Sangiovese / 40% Merlot exceeded even our own expectations of what was possible. The result was pure perfection. In April, we racked both wines into a tank and put the final blend back into neutral french oak barrels for an additional 10 months of aging. We bottled 120 cases on February 4th, 2016.
On the nose, you will find aromas of red cherry and almond with just a bit of earthiness. The Sangiovese seems to dominate the palate upon first opening with it's vibrant acidity and the flavor of fresh red berries back-dropped with just a hint of oak. But as the wine develops in your glass, the Merlot begins to come to life. The wine transforms into this beautiful blend of dark cherry and vanilla bean without ever going over the precipice and becoming too heavy or jammy. A masterfully executed high-wire act, balancing beautiful fruit flavors and clean bright acidity.
TA: 0.72g / 100mL
Cases Produced: 120
Rosé, 75% Grenache / 25% Viognier
Every year in late summer you begin to keep an extra close eye on your grapes as they ripen. Testing their sugar content nearly every day until just the right time to pick. It's a lot like waiting for a child to be born. When it's time, it is time. Nature doesn't wait until it can conveniently fit itself into your schedule. On Monday, August 24th, we got the call from our grower that it was time. The grapes were right where we wanted them. Averaging 24° brix, the vineyard crew would be picking the grapes the following day.
By this time we had moved production to our new facility in Healdsburg, CA. The vineyard, where these grapes are grown, is a 4-hour drive away and harvest was at full throttle keeping our winemaker, Kevin, busy 10+ hours a day, 7 days a week. The obvious solution would be to just have the grapes shipped. There are essentially 2 ways to do this. The first option is to schedule a dedicated truck. Truck goes to pick up, grapes get loaded and driven straight to our facility. But this option is very, very expensive and doesn't make financial sense for just 1 ton. The second and more economical option is by hitching a ride with other shipments on a truck heading out our way. But that means the grapes would travel during the heat of the day, making one stop after another, baking in the hot sun until they finally arrived at the winery.
So we went with plan "C". The next day, Kevin rented a truck and coordinated an evening pick-up of the grapes with the grower. Leaving from Sonoma at around 8pm, Kevin called his close friend in Sacramento, Mark Taylor, and asked if he wouldn't mind tagging along in case any extra help was needed. Hesitant at first, Mark asked: "Who the hell sells grapes at 2:00 in the morning?" After a brief explanation of the situation and a little convincing, Mark happily agreed. They arrived at the vineyard at around midnight and had safely loaded the grapes onto the truck by 1am. Transporting the grapes in the cool evening air, Kevin dropped Mark back off in Sacramento and arrived to the winery at 4:30am. Kevin took a brief nap in the truck as he waited for the cellar crew to arrive. By 6am, everyone was ready to start. The grapes were unloaded, sorted and crushed to tank by 7:30 that morning, and Kevin was back at work by 8am.
These grapes were sourced from the David Girard Estate on a vineyard perched on the hilly slopes that rise above the American River Canyon. The soil is comprised mostly of sandy decomposed granite. This particular section of the vineyard is littered with large weathered stones that collect and retain the heat from the sun during the day, which they then radiate back onto the vines during the cool evenings. The rocky hillsides provide excellent drainage for the vines, producing grapes that are complex and well structured. We couldn't be happier with the grapes grown on this site.
Field blended, the grapes were crushed and destemmed on August 25th. After 24 hours of skin contact, the juice was pressed to a stainless steel tank for primary fermentation. We kept the tank cool during fermentation, never allowing the temperature to exceed 60 degrees. Fermentation was complete on September 10th and the wine was transferred to neutral french oak barrels.
We decided not to inoculate the wine for secondary fermentation, and opted to see what the wine wanted to do on its own. It proceeded to go through malolactic fermentation naturally and we began a daily sensory evaluation of the wine to see how far we wanted to let it go. We loved the bright acidity of these grapes and didn't want the wine to soften too much and become flabby. So we halted the secondary fermentation at 50% complete. Little decisions like this make or break a wine. The result of this decision has been one we will never regret. The wine was cellared for an additional 4 months in barrel. We bottled 45 cases on February 2nd, 2016.
Breathe in, and aromas of peach and apricot dominate the nose. On the palate, the fruit continues to take center stage, only now they are rounded out by notes of white flowers and crisp minerality. The finish is clean and dry with no residual sugar or lingering sweetness.
TA: 0.72g / 100mL
Cases Produced: 45