Calcareous is heading down south for the VinDiego Wine and Food Festival next weekend. We are on a panel talking about Bordeaux varietal wines from Paso. To get ready for one of these I like to jot down general ideas and concepts so they are fresh in the mind. Then, once the seminar begins, it is always best to just speak freely and let things go organically. That is the only way to keep things engaging for the audience and make it feel more like a conversation over wine and not come winemaking 101 lecture. Anyway, I decided to share with you my thought scribles I wrote down as my cheat sheet as a kind of behind the scenes. Sadly, I got double booked and have to be Phoenix during that weekend. Luckily for those in attendance though, Associate Winemaker Tyler Russell will be attending in my abscence. We strongly share a general philosophy in winemaking and presentation style. Speak to what you know and believe, and you will speak something of value.
The only crop thinning we perform is on the Malbec, which is a minimal green drop right at veraison. Thus the soils here produce an extremely low yielding vineyard by nature. West Paso land is of such poor agricultural value, it can’t even be used as grazing land in a commercial sense. Thus it has been sitting around waiting for the wine industry.In The Vineyard
The Malbec much more productive due to varietal diefference, but mainly due to planting on only flat part of vineyard, thus the block contains actual top soil. This allows for more vigorous growth. Even with almost double the yield, the stunning quality of the Malbec produced on the property (it is now a main component of the Lloyd, actually biggest in 2010) has cemented our non-interventionist farming style. Unless something extreme happens, trust the vines to produce their fruit as they wish, our job is to work with the vines, not against them. Applying a pre-concieved plan or notion is always a quick road to disaster. Work with your site, this is the only way to stay true to place ( I use Place instead of terroir because I’m from California, not France) and produce a genuinely unique wine.
We harvest almost exclusively on flavor in the vineyard. Analysis is only used to help reference how best to meet the needs of the fermentation. For our Bordeaux varietals, brix ranges from 24-29 brix with pH’s 3.2-3.6. The mix of climate and soil and Calcareous produces complete physiological ripeness while still maintaining very strong acidity. This is the very reason why Calcareous exists as a vineyard and winery.
There is never an established protocol in the cellar as far as production goes. Every lot, every vintage is unique. Just taste, see and feel the fruit, it will tell you how it needs to be handled. In most cases we use open top fermenters ranging from ½ ton to 5 tons. This allows us to stay open to the needs of the fruit and yeast. We are then free to use punch-downs, pump-overs, or delastage as needed, being as reductive or oxidative as will most enhance the fruit. Complete physiological ripeness of skins and pips (brown seeds) allows for extended maceration (25+ days) with no fear of green tannins. Most winemakers go to extremes to avoid seed tannin, we embrace it. (In trials, the past few years, the press fraction of wines have proven superior in blind tasting due to superior tannin structure). These tannins produces a natural toasted wood element in the wine without over use of oak tree tannin. French oak barrels can lend wonderful flavors to the wine, but they do not speak to place. Thus we only use about 20% new oak in our lots.