Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Sturdy Foundation

The last of the Cabernet grapes for 2007 are in tank. Our Linstad Cabernet weathered the rain with no effect on the quality of the fruit. I tasted the juice after 64 hours of cold-soaking the "must", or crushed grapes, prior to fermentation. When I held it in my mouth the wine hesitated and hovered before it fell in the middle of my palate and spread out. I knew then that with a few winemaking adjustments to bring up the "foundation" of the must we would have a great wine.

Now two weeks have passed and the ferment is almost done. The wine is already beautiful! The alcohol mends well with the tannin. And the acid provides a sound framework desired for longevity.

The Cabernet floats and falls gracefully as the juice and the tannins are dense and fine but well-knit in their infancy. This is exactly the type of wine that we want Vellum to be. I realize that sometimes it is difficult to judge this early on but we are off to a very encouraging start.

A very wise man once told me that drinking young Cabernet is like sleeping on the cold hard ground and eating raw Brussel sprouts! Not very inviting imagery but it subscribes to the idea that young wine needs to taste bad now in order for it to be great later. Though these are sound assessments, I am not in complete agreement with the idea. A wine does need alcohol, acid, tannin and extraction but these things need to co-exist. One component cannot stand out from the others. For example, the alcohol should not be noticed above the rest of the wine. One would only then think about a burning sensation in the throat and nothing else. With an unintentionally high alcohol wine, the only hope is that aging will lessen this effect and balance it with the tannin. The odds however are against this. An ill conceived wine may never integrate well.

A wine needs a frame - the acid.
It needs warmth and support - the alcohol.
And it needs padding - the tannin.

These are the essentials that carry the aromas and flavors to your palate. They must be sound and must rise and fall together.

I like to think that drinking young Cabernet, when new and sampling of rich dark fruit, should be like sleeping in a sturdy bed that yields and breaks-in slowly over time. Each night you are welcomed back and the more it is slept on the better it gets!

This is the '07 Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon.

- Karl

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