Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Vellum 2011 Vintage Notes

I say this every year, “This is the finest wine we have made yet!” The expression may be getting a little trite, canned and a few may wonder if I have original thoughts in my head(?) but still... I can’t help myself! The 2011 vintage really is the best wine Vellum Wine Craft has produced to date.

This harvest marked our fifth successful year of production and regardless of the cool, sluggish weather I could not be more pleased with the results. The wines are honed, elevated and grand- even in their youth.

We started off 2011 with the second coming of the much anticipated Vellum White. I expected this to be a great year for white wine. The persistent cool weather and and intermittent rains throughout the summer slowed development and the fruit never really saw any real heat or burn. Nature handed us perfect clusters with a bright expression and the wine practically made itself in the vineyard! Today, Vellum White sits in cool, still neutral oak barrels on its lees. It has been frequently stirred to marry the sediment with wine and develop a full silky texture and considerable length. Lively aromas of gardenia, green apple skin and apricot leap out and they are already integrating nicely with the palate.

The Merlot, likewise was picked in its youth and much like the white, it too gets stirred! This is not usual for a red, but it is an important part of its development. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot needs (for lack of a better word?) - meat! Everything else is there, wonderful (but uncharacteristic for the varietal) cocoa aromas topped with dark brambly fruit for which our vineyard is known. The mouth feel is unctuous and plump and beginning to lengthen. It makes me realize that last year’s vintage was no mistake. The 2010 Merlot is destined to be contribute beautifully to our classic Cabernet!... And, this one will follow suit. I would bottle it tomorrow if I could, but then I forgot... like many of you out there, “I don’t drink Merlot!”. It’s true and shame on all of us! So the best we can do is stir and wait and one day hope for acceptance in a more enlightened wine drinking world...

Fortunately, the anointed Cabernet Sauvignon grape does not endure such bad press. This year however presented a challenge for many, as the cool rainy weather was not anticipated, yields were down and mold ran rampant. For Vellum, the vintage played right into our hands. This is what we have been waiting for - bring on the Ice Age! No mold and we gently pressed out more wine per ton than ever, making for a healthy yield. I am astonished really and I do not know how this happened, but it means more wine for all of you!

Our small lot American clone Cabernet Sauvignon was fermented with flawless uncompromised clusters and finished well under 14% alcohol. This dark ruby wine is succulent not only on the palate, but in the nose. Both carry persistent black raspberry and raw cassis aromas and flavours. It is a little exuberant now for the variety, but it will integrate with care in barrel in the months to come. Like the its predecessors, the understory characters of the vineyard are captured too, but this year I created something new. The flavours underpin the palate and the wine is so complete that it actually folds under the tongue with amazing reach. I can’t let this get away!

Not to be outdone, our French clone Cabernet Sauvignon from Coombsville (pictured above) recently finished and has been put to sleep in barrel today. This as many of you know this is our base and also signature wine that comprises Vellum. It provides not only the structure of the blend but also the fulcrum from which the other wines spring. Even in its infancy I am calling it out and tipping it for greatness! Roasted nuts, vanilla bean and cocoa hover over a bottom note aroma of sweet, warm but herbaceous blackberry. The nose and the palate are in contrast shifting to a strong, pure cassis and only cassis. There is an explosive entrance to the wine apexing with a magnificent high mid-palate adhesion - a gripping quality reminiscent of the best Cuban cigars! It releases and floats down gently to a side palate succulence and very broad length. This is certainly the grand Vellum wine of the year!

April 14th, 2012 cannot come soon enough...This will be another classic vintage and the best(?)! Please save the date to find out and join us for the 2011 Vellum en primeur.

Karl Lehmann, Vellum Co-Founder and Winemaker