Tuesday, November 5th, 2013
To say that this was an unusual dinner would be a gross understatement. Sunday afternoon Tolosa was the featured winery for a dinner put on by Outstanding in the Field. The basic concept of these meals is to put them on in close proximity to the source of the food. The Morro Bay Oyster Co. was the featured food provider so improbable as it sounds a dinner for 100 was set up, cooked and served on the Morro Bay sand spit just across the harbor entrance from Morro Rock. The weather cooperated with mild sunny weather. Anyone who knows the local climate knows there’s almost always wind along the coast. Everyone got some sand in their wine glasses and sand on their plates, but curiously no one seemed to mind. I think that was a testament to how good the food was and how spectacular the setting. We all hung out on the beach for the first hour or so. Re-Find spirits from Paso served some fruit based cocktails as a starter and Tolosa 2012 Rose of Grenache was the beach wine. Roasted artichokes and oysters straight out of the water were passed around. We moved to the single long table set in the low dunes just behind the beach next. The table described a single graceful curve. I’m pretty certain that’s the longest table I’ve ever eaten from. Clark Staub from Full of Life Flatbread was the chef, and it was his inspiration to site the dinner where it was. The food was super, from the salad that started it through the two kinds of pizza, and then on to black cod for the main, and finishing with a quince dessert, every dish was inventive and delicious. The wines requited themselves nicely. The 2012 Pinot Gris opened up against the salad, then a pre-release tasting of the 2011 Block 569 Chardonnay with the pizzas that impressed everybody. The 2011 1772 Pinot Noir, also pre-release offset the black cod beautifully. Finally we served a barrel sample of the 2012 Viognier Port. This rare type of dessert wine really got everyone’s attention. The company and conversation also were at a high level and as the sun was setting we made our way back to the dock via water taxi, wind burned and filled with good food and wine.
- Larry Brooks, Winemaker
Monday, October 28th, 2013
This morning, as the first Arctic system brings sporadic showers to the valley, seems like a good time to re-cap the 2013 harvest. We knew from fairly early in the season that we were going to have a larger than average sized crop. The cluster weights we took at lag phase and veraison both indicated a crop that would be 15-20% above the average. That prediction turned out to be conservative. The actual crop was 20-30% higher than average with a good bit of variation at the varietal and vineyard block level. This large crop was a result of ideal weather during the late spring when the clusters bloom and set. If an individual berry fertilizes more seeds then it has the potential to be bigger and make for a heavier cluster. It was not unusual to find three or four seeds per berry this year instead of the normal one or two. In some parts of the vineyard cluster weights were higher than we’ve ever seen. Large crops are worrisome. They take longer to ripen, and hence are more exposed to hazards of the weather. In retrospect we need not have worried as weather conditions through September and October were ideal. There was little fog, and no rain. There were no significant heat spells, and ripening proceeded in a controlled and orderly manner. A very basic worry with a large crop is how to fit it all into the winery. Again, the weather treated us kindly as the moderate temperatures resulted in an orderly evenly paced harvest, and we were never forced into the situation of having to press off a tank early in order to make room for the next fruit to be picked.
The last big harvest, 2005, made red wines that were light in color and lean in structure. This is a common characteristic of bountiful harvests, and it was what we were expecting from 2013. But, with wine what you expect is rarely what you get. The red wines from this vintage are well colored and sturdily structured from a phenolic point of view. It seems that the 2013 is one of those rarest of harvests in which the vines achieve both quantity and quality. While it is far too early to say with any certainty, at this point they remind me of the 2008 wines. I am speaking mainly of the Pinot Noirs our primary red wine. We have 25 distinct lots of Pinot Noir this year, which will make for a large variety of choices come blending time in the spring. As in 2008, the Syrahs looks exceptionally dark and rich, and they may well turn out to be the stars of the vintage.
The white wines fr om the estate look fine. With Chardonnay you honestly can’t tell for almost a year whether the wines will be good or something better than that. A good recent example of this phenomena was the 2010 Chardonnays, which were quite lackluster in barrel and bottle until suddenly they exploded with flavor about six months after bottling. I can say with confidence that there’s nothing wrong with this year’s Chardonnay. The lighter more aromatic white wines look promising. Many of them are just going dry as I write. The Viognier and Pinot Gris are tasty at the moment. We have some solid Sauvignon Blanc and two excellent roses, both the Grenache of prior years as well as a rose of Pinot Noir. We once again made an ice wine style Viognier dessert wine.
Our Bordeaux varietals which we source from contracted vineyards in Paso Robles ripened without issue. The majority of the Cabernet came in last week and is still fermenting. The Merlot which ripened earlier is in barrel and tasting fine.
All in all it was a very good harvest. The moderate weather created ideal ripening conditions that allowed the big crop to come in slowly and in prime shape. It also meant it was long. Most harvests wrap up after six weeks or so, but this one went on and on. We’re in the 9th week at this point and there’s still the few odds and ends to bring into the winery. Much cellar and barrel work remains to put this big baby to bed, and the crew will be relieved when Thanksgiving arrives and things slow back down to normal.
- Larry Brooks, Winemaker
Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
Week 5 Harvest Update by Winemaker Larry Brooks: Oct. 14th:
Except for the briefest shower one morning last week, perfect ripening weather continues as the theme of this harvest. Given the large crop we are fortunate the weather has been so kind. At this point only block 554 Grenache, which we set aside for red wine production, remains to be picked from the estate. At our Meeker vineyard in Paso Robles, the Cabernet Sauvignon will be picked late this week and early next.
We picked our Estate Syrahs at the end of last week. While the crop was not large on this varietal the levels of ripeness are quite exciting and I have high hopes for the quality of this vintage. We will have a bit over a 1,000 case of Syrah as well as a few hundred more of a Salaal blend once the Grenache comes in. We are co-fermenting about a ton of Viognier or 10% in one of the large open top fermenters and we are trying some stem inclusion in a small open top to create a broader flavor palette to work with.
The estate Petite Sirah came in at a normal crop.
Block 551 Viognier was picked for dessert wine production and shipped to the freezer, to emulate our “ice-wine” style and bring back our popular, Legacy dessert wine Viognier.
until next week- LB
Pressing off reds
Pressing off Chardonnay
Monday, October 14th, 2013
Here’s a harvest update from winemaker Larry Brooks from Week Four- October 7th, 2014:
The pattern of perfect ripening weather continued from September into the first week of October. The main tasks of the week were bringing in the Meeker Merlot and continuing pressing and barreling down Pinot Noir. The character of the Pinot vintage is now obvious as 90% of the wine is dry and pressed. It is a vintage of high extract. In the best lots both color and tannin are high. The high tannin lots are some of the highest tannins I have seen in Pinot. This is no doubt a result of the high seed counts as seeds produce most of the tannin in Pinot. I believe that judicious blending and perhaps some fining will result in wines that we will all be happy with. There is quite a bit of diversity so multiple reserve bottling should be easily obtainable.
From the estate it was a light harvest this past week – the pause between the early varietals and the late. We brought in Grenache for Blanc and Rose. This was much less than anticipated, and it looks like Grenache Rose and Blanc will be tasting room only or close to it. Pinot Gris came in a bit heavier than usual – consistent with all the Pinots.
Remaining to harvest are the estate Syrahs, Petite Sirah, and Grenache for red wine. A tiny bit of Chardonnay and Viognier for dessert wine will pick tomorrow. The Meeker Cabernet looks very nice and about a week or so out. The Meeker Tempranillo and Petite Sirah are having trouble ripening and it remains to be seen whether they will hit target sugars.
Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
Each and every harvest truly has its own unique character. And like meeting new people you have to hang out with them for a while before you start seeing their personalities with any depth or accuracy. While I’ve been watching the fruit for this harvest develop all year, it’s only in the last twelve days that I’ve made the acquaintance of the wine. In some ways I’m just meeting the wine as it takes seven to ten days after the first Pinot is harvested before you have dry wine that you can actually taste. I’m pretty sure that I like this harvest, and that we’re going to be friends. It’s a bit too early to say whether we’ll fall in love. I’m pretty cautious in that area, and a vintage is no one night stand. What I do know at this point is that it is a bountiful crop. We’ve picked 70% of the Pinot Blocks as of yesterday, and every single one of them picked out at or above my estimates. My estimates were high to begin with, and for many of the blocks we have record yields. The cluster counts are normal to a bit low. The generous yields are due to much bigger and heavier clusters than average. The handful of tanks that I have fermented to dryness show good character. The color is solid and fruit aromatics good. The tannin structure at this point is a bit on the soft side, but there’s time to extract more tannin. Sauvignon Blanc starts tomorrow and it tastes wonderful on the vine. Sauvignon Blanc is one of the few wines where you can actually get a good idea of the quality of the wine from the grape flavor alone. Chardonnay will start in earnest by the end of the week. We’re in a pretty cool pattern for the next week or two which makes my life much easier as the fruit is developing slowly and there’s no need for hair trigger decision making.
- Larry Brooks, Winemaker