Thursday, October 29, 2009

The First Wines of 2009

As many of you have experienced from our past vintages, VELLUM is a terrifically balanced wine. This is achieved not in the blending later on but by means of the extraction the new vintage goes through.

A great wine like anything else can only be as good as the sum of its parts. No one will ever augment a finished wine by adding bad one to it. So, all of the parts need to fulfill a role and not only do they need to be fermented properly but also be pressed properly to obtain the final amount of extract from the skins and seeds. It cannot be emphasized more the importance pressing of the skins plays in the finish and therefore future success of a wine.

Essentially, VELLUM is the combination of four separate wines: two Cabernet Sauvignons, one Petit Verdot and one Merlot. On a recent tour someone asked me why can't all the grapes be thrown together in one big tank? I would love to try this and I could get to sleep early at night too!

However, in reality, like people the grapes for these wines have different needs and mature at different rates. Therefore, they are harvested and created at different times of the season. So we make four wines and when the fermentations are finished; we press four wines into four tanks.

By this, instead of putting the "free run" into one tank and the press wine into another, it all gets combined into one tank. In many wineries it is common practice to do the contrary where a winemaker will end up with eight wines and blend back later...if at all.

For VELLUM, the wines need to be whole and integral from their inception. Again, like people they need a body AND a spirit to fulfill their purpose. So pressing a wine rounds out the body to give the wine flesh and bone. The art comes in knowing when to stop! It is a balancing act of tasting the wine as the pressure increases gradually on the skins and seeds. Here too it increases in phenolic capacity. That is, it becomes more bitter and astringent as the tannins are removed from the pressings and added back to the free run.

Many people think for a young Cabernet Sauvignon to be great in the future, it first should taste bad in its youth. I agree that no wine is at its best when it is first made but it is my belief that more than anything a wine a needs to obtain balance while young. The point is to build it a leveled and solid foundation from which it can grow.

Thus far into the 2009 harvest we have three of the four wines for VELLUM in barrel. This year, seemingly every last drop of wine was pressed out of the skins and added back to the original free run. The wine benefited greatly from this marriage with no trace of bitterness or overly extracted tannins. The wines are big but will be tempered by time and gentle movement as they gain framework resting new oak barrels.

So, there is still one wine out there to be made. Twelve tons of Linstad Cabernet Sauvignon (half our production) is still on the vines. It will be harvested tomorrow. My thanks in advance to Jeff, Brian, the Linstads and Francisco and his meticulous crew for what they are about to do. Mornings begin early in the vineyards and we get to start this process all over again for the last time in 2009. I for one (...minus the sleep) am looking forward to it!

- Karl Lehmann

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