2015 marks a year of growth for us at Pearl and Stone Wine Co. with increased production, a new vineyard source, and a new barrel cooper to add to the mix! But more on that later...
It’s been a busy few weeks at P&S. After releasing our first wines, 2013 Wandering and 2014 Unemployment Beach Rose, in August, we immediately ramped up for the harvest, which came far earlier than ever in Washington State. The past two years saw us crushing and pressing wines in late October, fighting Mother Nature as she dealt us big storms and power outages. This year is a very different story as the harvest started 3-4 weeks ahead of “normal”, and as of September 27 were are 75% done with the the 2015 harvest! Pressing wines in September, while the temps are still dancing in the 70’s, is much more enjoyable, although we don’t expect this year to be any sort of "new normal”.
As I mentioned earlier, we are very excited about a new vineyard source to add to our Two Blondes fruit. Sagemoor Farms’ Dionysus Vineyard in the Columbia Valley was planted in 1973 and remains one of the most respected and sought after vineyards in Washington State. Several of our favorite producers make some amazing wines from this world-class fruit, and we are very lucky to have the opportunity to add it to our program.
We also added a new barrel cooper to our spice cabinet with the addition of Boutes. We expect it to be a nice complimentary style to the Tarransaud and Gamba barrels we have been using the past two vintages, and will continue to use moving forward.
Grape Crush Update:
Two Blondes Merlot and Sagemoor Cabernet Sauvignon were picked and crushed on September 11th. This is 3 full weeks ahead of last year for the Merlot, and picking Cabernet the same day as Merlot is almost unheard of, but Sagemoor is a warmer site than Two Blondes, and 2015 was a record breaking year for warmth. Both wines went through fermentation beautifully, and were pressed off the skins and put into barrels on September 25th. They will now rest comfortably as they go through a secondary, or Malolactic, fermentation over the next several weeks.
Two Blondes Cabernet Franc came into the winery on Friday, September 18th, about 4 weeks ahead of last year. We brought in 5.5 tons of this special fruit, and immediately pressed off 2 tons to make our 2015 Rose’. The remaining Cabernet Franc finished its primary fermentation over the next 12 days and was pressed and put into barrel on September 30. It is looking and tasting sensational.
That just leaves our Two Blondes Cabernet Sauvignon, which we picked on October 1. Although it stayed out on the vine longer than the others, the weather cooperated almost perfectly by cooling down significantly in early to mid September. This allowed the fruit to continue hanging on the vine without accumulating excess sugars while more complex flavors developed. It was a perfect scenario for the king of red grapes, and we’re really looking forward to seeing how this fruit does in the winery after fermentation. Cabernet Sauvignon is typically one of the latest ripening grapes and last year we were pressing it on Halloween, so having it in the winery the first week of October is a welcome change.
We are absolutely thrilled with the 2015 vintage so far. It’s clearly way too early to tell what these wines will ultimately end up being, but we are very excited about what we’re seeing so far. Being such a warm year, we did see slightly elevated sugars in the grapes at harvest time, but we did not see the corresponding high pH levels, which would indicate low acidity as one might expect. The results so far have been beautifully ripe fruit, with deep, intense colors, flavors and aromas, while retaining a balancing natural acidity. As winemakers, we want to be as hands-off as possible and let the wines be what they want to be, rather than trying to manipulate them with winery voodoo magic, and this vintage is letting us do just that.
With the teaching background of the P&S partnership, we can use the analogy of teachers with a new set of kids each year to get to know; some years the kids want to make bad decisions and we have to step in with some disciplinary action and make some course corrections. Other years the kids make good decisions and we just have to get out of their way and let them be who they want to be! Either way, we do out best to steer them right and be proud of them, but the latter is a whole lot easier and less stressful! In 2015 our little grape pupils are very well behaved…so far!