Welcome to the Capstone's blog, here is where we will be highlighting events and news from around the winery.
Happy New Year!
We exceeded our expectations in 2023, thanks in part to you and mother nature. The wines are shaping up beautifully and the vineyards are dormant, waiting to be pruned. This is a fun time of year for winegrowers, as there is a lot of tasting and blending to do. Most of the science in winemaking happens during primary fermentation but the blending trials are where the art form comes into play! We pull samples of the different varietals and cooperages to analyze, very critically, for overall quality of attributes. For the reds this year, I’m going into blending sessions with the goal of making a Merlot dominant Bordeaux blend, a Cabernet Sauvignon dominant Bordeaux blend, and a varietal Cabernet Franc. This may be my goal, but ultimately the wines will dictate their percentage of involvement in the blends. We have a lot of really high quality wines to play around with, which makes it more challenging because there are so many different options and directions to go.
This whole process will take us a couple of weeks of tasting, retasting, trial blending, back to the drawing board, then more blending. It is very important to do these trials with other palates that you respect and have a similar understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish. I usually prefer to taste with 3 to 4 other people. Once the blends have been determined, we will move the wine from barrels into a tank, run some chemistry, and test for microbes. After a few days of letting the wine settle, it will be moved back into barrel for aging until bottling in August.
White wines are picked and fermented ahead of reds and are not such a complicated matrice as red wine. They tend to show themselves a bit earlier, allowing us to dial those blends in before the new year. I just got our Muscat Ottonel into the charmat tank and it is refermenting away, gaining pressure and bubbles. The charmat tank came in about 2 months late from Italy which has set us back a bit with your first quarter wine club release. Barring any issues the Muscat will be sparkling, in bottle, and released to you by the end of February.
Following the Muscat, we will bottle our Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, and stainless steel Chardonnay. This year the C² will be made sparkling in the charmat method. Our champagne method wines will be Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay - those are years away from being ready but well worth the wait!
My favorite, and one of the most important tasks in the vineyard, is pruning. The cuts we make now will play a large role in overall vine balance, health, and fruit yield for the coming year. The fruiting buds for 2024 developed in 2023 and given how much sunlight the buds received last year, we’re hoping for healthy yields.
Pruning requires a high degree of viticultural knowledge, however, hauling all the clippings out of the row middle, to the row ends only requires stamina. So, if any of you have not backed off your new year's fitness resolutions, please reach out to me and I’ll help you keep them going.
We just got the vines on order for the 2025 planting - Pinot Noir and Gruner Veltliner. These are two of my favorite grapes and no true sparkling house can function without Pinot.
I’ll close as I always do, by saying thank you for your support. Capstone is truly a dream come true!
As far as growing seasons go, when the row crop guys look scared, the grape growers are cautiously grinning. We’re about 8.5” of rain behind this year. In fact our 100 yr old cistern at the bottom of the property that was full at the beginning of the season, now has only 2” of water in it. The vines are pretty stressed and are going into survival mode, when they shut down vegetative growth and focus on ripening the fruit. Currently we’re looking at a lighter than normal crop, owing to loose clusters with small berries. Fortunately, these tiny clusters and berries can produce concentrated wines with wonderful depth and longevity.
We could start picking Muscat, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc for sparkling wine by the end of next week! As many of you may have noticed, we don't have our winery built yet, so this year we’re taking all our fruit up the mountain to Fox Meadow and making the wine there. Hauling all that fruit will be quite a feat, fortunately, I like a good challenge.