Hello once again! We trust you are well, and preparing for another Holiday Season. Yep, it’s pretty much here!
We have finished yet another phenomenal harvest here in Amador County. We saw a couple typical heat spikes in July, but then the weather pattern fell into, what I would call, more normal growing conditions (however, what is normal anyway!). After early September, there were no real extremes to mention and daytime highs were in the low 90’s with nighttime lows in the low 50’s. Grapevines like these temperature fluctuations! These optimal conditions allowed the fruit to fully ripen physiologically by providing a longer hang time on the vine so that the grapes could develop the fullest flavors possible. This harvest should make for some very beautiful, interesting and delicious wines!
We have a fantastic production team here at Renwood, and none of what we do would be possible without their hard work and dedication. Most of us were here into the wee-hours of each morning, for weeks on end, waiting for our nighttime picked fruit to arrive in order to get it all gently processed and into the tanks as cold, and as quickly, as possible. It’s tiresome work and makes for some very long days, but we are so adamant about making the best wines that we can. We just keep going because we know it’s the right thing to do!
In the Cellar, the wines of 2015 are aging gracefully. In another month or so, Moises and I will start working on the new blends, preparing them for bottling in April and May. Keep an eye out for some new wines that Renwood has not produced in a very long time: Hint: it’s Italian (wink, wink). Also new this year, we were able to purchase some concrete tanks. We’ve been conducting exciting experimentations with them, on several different varieties, and the preliminary results are very promising. We’ll share with you when we can, we promise!
My letters are never complete without expressing our deepest gratitude to you. For supporting us and for being our brand champions, we greatly appreciate all of you and look forward to seeing you here as much as possible and very soon! We hope you enjoy the current releases in this shipment and we wish you all the best in the coming month.
Another vintage is officially underway in beautiful Amador County and all signs are pointing to another high quality year. We have been blessed with four very good years here, and 2016 is shaping up to be another exceptional year. The season began with a longer than normal bloom in the vineyards, and apart from our typical July heatwaves, growing conditions have been ideal with daytime highs in the mid 90’s and nighttime temperatures in the upper 50’s. Simply put, Mother Nature has blessed us with optimal conditions for world class wines!
Harvest started with a small amount of Viognier on Wednesday, August 17th, which is about 11 days later than last year. The current weather pattern shows a bit of a cooling trend which will help tremendously with obtaining optimal physiological ripeness.
In the cellar, we finished bottling the 2014 vintage in June and are very pleased with all the new wines. The 2014 Vineyard Designates are stunning, and each of them are inherently unique just like the terroir of Amador County. One of the new wines that has yet to be released, the 2014 Grand Reserve Barbera, is a true show stopper if I don’t say so myself! Aged for 14 months in a brand new, 3000L untoasted French Oak cask, this is the purest Barbera we’ve ever made. It is silk-smooth, edgeless and unmistakably a true Barbera in every way possible. Only 50 cases were made!
We strive daily in our unrelenting quest for the perfect wine and to make sure each wine exhibits our high quality standards which always emphasizes freshness, vitality and drinkability. This is the winemaking philosophy we live by.
My letters never completely express our sincere gratitude to each and every one of our Members and guests. At Renwood, we are genetically programmed to make the best wines that we possibly can, to provide the best guest experiences, and to wholeheartedly be grateful that we get to share our hard work with you.
As the new wines quietly age in our cellars, we have already begun the process of working on the new 2014 blends that will be bottled in the next several months. This process takes us on a journey from barrel to barrel as we taste, making notes about the nuances of each wine and how we think each one can integrate, age and blossom in the bottle. The blending we do here is tedious, where a 1% addition of one wine can dramatically affect the outcome of the final product. Needless to say, we take this very seriously! After all, we absolutely love this part of our job and we are hypervigilant when it comes to the texture of our wines. I always say, “A wine has to feel as good as it tastes”…it must be a complete experience and we strive to bring this matrix to every wine we make.
I’ve been asked recently how the rain we’ve received so far will affect the growing season and harvest that is coming. The rain this year has been fairly spread out giving the ground and vines a chance to soak it all in. What we do not want to see, is a huge amount of rain after bud break as well as when the fruit begins to develop on the vines. For now, the precipitation we’ve received is more than welcome! In perspective, Amador County where the winery is, we get between 31-40 inches of rain in each season and since November 1st of 2015 we’ve already tallied about 21 inches putting us ahead of the average…for now.
In the vineyards, pruning has begun and will continue for the next few weeks. We are very excited once again to see the results of years of hard work in the fields nurturing the vines so that they have the best chance possible to produce world class fruit. Did you know that we own and operate about 180 acres of vineyards here in Amador? They are mostly Zinfandel but we also grow Barbera, Petite Sirah and Sangiovese.
NEW WINE ALERT:
In the next couple months keep an eye out for the release of the 2014 Grand Reserve Barbera. This beauty was aged in a brand new 3000L French Oak Cask and it is a wine that we are very, very excited to share with you. It is silky smooth and bursting with a purity of fruit that is a joy to experience. Only 50 cases are going to be produced!
Also, coming down the track will be the first Sangiovese that we have bottled in over a decade. This wine is now maturing in 500L French Oak puncheons and we are monitoring it closely so that we can capture the exact moment when we think it should be bottled and shared.
As always, I cannot express enough gratitude to our loyal fans. We truly believe that each person that walks through our doors or supports us where ever they may be, that you are family and we do what we do for you. Our dedicated winemaking team is fully committed to making the best wines we can in every little thing we do from the day the fruit arrives here at the winery to the day we bottle. We love this stuff and sincerely thank you for being a part of our family.
Joe Shebl, Director of Winemaking
Greetings everyone! Well, we’ve put another harvest behind us and are veryexcited about the new wines. The 2015 Vintage is shaping up to be one that will be remembered by all. The new wines are already developing some beautiful complexity and the colors are outstanding. Harvest was early this year, as some of you may have heard. In fact, we started harvest on August 6th with a small amount of Viognier from the Cooper Ranch that has become the base wine for the 2015 Proclamation Sparkling wine that will be released side by side with the new, and highly anticipated 2015 Jubilance! Our last day of harvest was September 26th which is oddly enough, the same exact date that we finished the harvest of 2014. I’m not sure what normal is anymore!
The 2015 growing season was also a bit erratic. We had an early, but fairly long bloom with things developing nicely. For the finale, we were gifted a couple of intense heat waves that sped up maturation dramatically. We had 3 weeks in which we were processing grapes 10 hours a day, but thankfully we have one of the best production teams anywhere. Kudos to the guys in the cellar!
In the winery, we are diligently working to barrel down the new 2015 wines to their respective barrels. One thing I implemented when I came on board in 2013 was to begin purchasing only new French Oak Barrels here at Renwood. I’m a true believer that the use of French Oak aids in the making of some of the best wines in the world. The new French oak integrates beautifully with the fruitful profile flavors of our wines. Something else that we are doing, is using large format barrels. Barrels of this size are 2 times the volume of a normal wine barrel (~60 gallons). These large barrels, called Puncheons, are used to very gently and slowly impart the slightest oak nuances into the wine helping to build impressive structure while retaining the wines intense fruit. The next time you take a tour, be sure to keep an eye out for the barrels on the blue racks, these are what I’m talking about!
We’ll be releasing several of the 2013 wines in the coming months, so watch for them! I am very much looking forward to sharing them with you. We have a few new Vineyard Designate Zinfandels as well as the resurgence of the Grandmère. This time, it’s a red blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Syrah. This is one that you’ll not want to miss. Did you know that we only make 200 cases of each of the wines that are sold only through our Tasting Room? It’s our intention to always deliver to you the most exclusive and highest quality wines that are possible. We wake up each day driven by this notion, keeping you happy makes us happy!
As of today, July 14th, we are seeing only a small amount of color beginning to develop in the red berries. This is what we call Veraison, (Ver-ray-shun), it is a French term meaning the onset of ripening. It’s hard to believe that in only a few more weeks we’ll begin the task of taking samples from all of our vineyards to monitor the ripening process. This means the start of harvest is less than 8 weeks away!
I’m frequently asked about how the drought is affecting the us in the wine business. We are fortunate, at the moment, to have ample water supplies both in our vineyards and at the winery. However, we are hyper-vigilant with our water use and are ensuring there are no water leaks so as not to waste water. Waste not – want not, right? With the weather conditions being what they’ve been, we’ve only had to minimally irrigate our vineyards once this year so the vines are not needing too much.
I consider this a good thing. Our ultimate goal is to promote the roots to grow as deep as possible where three things happen.
Over the next several months several of our new 2013 wines will be released and we are very excited about this! The fruit and power of this vintage is not like anything I’ve seen for a long time. Did you know that we only make 200 cases of each of the wines that are poured in the tasting room? We will always strive to make wines that have typicity of variety and typicity of site. Wines that are delicious, interesting and unique. We are passionate about sharing only wines of the highest quality, and wines that make you think.
Once again, we reach one of my favorite times of the year. The new 2013 blends have been put together and are slumbering peacefully as we make the final preparations for bottling at the beginning of May.
As I’ve said in earlier reports, the 2013 vintage is one for the ages. Power, finesse, grace, balance and concentrated fruit are our most commonly used descriptors when we talk about the wines from this vintage. New things are on the horizon for you in the coming months including the return of the esteemed Grandmere that will be a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah and Petite Sirah. We’ll also be spotlighting a few of the favorite vineyard designate Zinfandels. It's a very exciting personal project for me.
Moises and I are looking forward to the 3013 release and sharing these wines with you.
I was recently asked why I discontinued the use of American oak barrels in our winemaking program. American oak has been part of a general Standard Operating Procedure amongst Zinfandel producers for many, many years. Truth is, I have no idea why. When the same wine is put into high quality American oak and French oak, the differences are striking and dramatic! The wine aged in French oak is soft, subtle, and the purest essence of the Zinfandel grape fully expressed.
You will definitely taste the difference in all of our latest vintage releases as we have shifted our barrel program to French oak. I hope you will be pleased. I am committed to using the highest quality products to make our wines, and the proof is in the juice!
Warmest Regards, Joe
The winter months are generally a slower time for us, but this year has been different. In our vineyards we are continuing tremendous efforts to increase vine health and fruit quality. It truly is a year-round operation and our highest priority. Every day we are doing something in our Ranch to make our vineyards some of the most pristine and well tended, at a world-class level. This includes many things such as choosing the correct cover crop to keep weeds down and implementing cutting-edge pruning techniques.
Often I am asked, “How long do you use your barrels?” The short answer is we follow a strict five-year barrel plan and are ever aware of each of our 3,000 barrels' status and situation. We track them using a sophisticated barcode system that helps monitor exactly what wine is in them, for how long, and when it is time for the barrel to “reinvent itself” as a chair or table.
Every year around this time, Moises and I begin the task of blending. There are days that we taste 40-60 different wines, selecting the best of the best for each individual wine we make. Hey, someone has to do it, right?! Our approach is simple, but thoughtful. Throughout the course of a specific wine lot’s aging, we taste it a minimum of 50 times so we know exactly what each can bring to the table when blended, most years we have at least 60 different lots in the cellar. We conceptualize our cellar as a spice rack…there are endless options. This makes it easy sometimes, and other times you have to walk away and try again tomorrow. There’s never a dull moment.
Needless to say, we love it, and are again very excited to share our newest vintages with you as they release throughout the year.
Harvest of 2014 will go down in the record books here in Amador County! It was the fastest harvest I’ve seen in 16 years. A few early season heat spikes set the vines into action and with the weather pattern settling into a near perfect ebb and flow of temperatures of 93° during the day and 55º at night, the vines wasted no time ripening the fruit.
Our harvest started on August 11th and we finished on September 26th, almost 30 days earlier than a “normal” year. Yields averaged between 20%-40% lower than the past several years but the quality looks outstanding! Moises, my Assistant Winemaker, and I are very excited to see how the new wines will develop in the coming months.
We’ve employed the help of some fun new "toys" (read: geeky Winemaker stuff). We have a new 800 gallon French oak tank that we are aging our Barbera in….this is going to be awesome! Also, we are moving towards the use of larger format barrels, about twice the size of a standard 60 gallon barrel and the results are amazing. We are seeing ultra-concentrated and smooth wines, oozing with delicious fresh fruit. They are definitely going to be something to talk about.
We only have a few more tanks to press out in the next week or so and then we will focus on bringing the new wines into all the new barrels and then, once again, begin the task of putting the 2013 blends together for bottling next Spring.
Until next time,
“Some of the red grapes already have color!”…….This was the voicemail I received on July 5th from our Viticulturalist about a few of the blocks in our Estate Vineyard. Needless to say the warm spring and a couple of early heat spikes have truly hastened the pace of ripening here in Amador County making us approximately 2 weeks ahead of a normal or average year. We have been very busy over the past few months introducing some new viticultural techniques in our vineyards with the intention of pushing the proverbial quality bar even higher. We are never satisfied and are constantly seeking ways to improve our grape and wine quality so that we can offer the most delicious wines possible. I, as well as many others, are expecting another banner year for grape quality. While the crops loads may be down slightly less than the previous two vintages, we are very excited for what the coming months have to offer.
In the Cellar, we’ve bottled all of our 2012 wines and they are patiently (unlike me) waiting for their release in the next 3-5 months. As for the new 2013 wines, they are just over half way through the aging process and they are beginning to show a balance of power and finesse that is as intriguing as it is rare. Shortly after Thanksgiving, Moises, my Assistant Winemaker, and I will begin putting the 2013 blends together. After the blends are assembled, we will then put them back in barrel to further integrate until April when we then begin bottling. It goes without saying, grape growing and winemaking is a cyclical process!
The decadent wines made from this grape are usually deeply colored and typically loaded with intense aromas and flavors of blueberries, plums and blackberries. New world winemakers are finding success employing the use of new French oak barrels that lend levels of complexity and viscosity, helping to balance the grapes high natural acidity. The key to a successful harvest of this variety is closely monitoring the fruits acidity in relation to brix levels. It is always as if we are playing an anxious waiting game with Mother Nature where patience is greatly rewarded. This high acid, low tannin composition makes Barbera a wonderfully food friendly wine. Barbera stands up to, and dances with, almost any meal you can conjure.
The success of Barbera grown in Amador County can mostly be attributed to the similar climate we share with the grapes origin in Piedmont, Italy. Both locales have a Mediterranean Climate, meaning, the average high and low temperatures throughout the growing season only vary by a few degrees ºF. Both Piedmont and Amador County have four fairly distinct seasons. Each having, long, hot summers with occasional storms, a warm and pleasant fall, a short winter with occasionalfrost and snow, and a spring that starts in February or early March. Combine this fact with the well-draining soils of Amador, and Barbera is perfectly at home here and rival any of those produced in Italy.
Barbera has a long history in Amador County and an even longer, brighter future. With so much upside potential, Amador County Barbera is poised to continue is rapid ascension as one of the flagship wines from the region. The vintages soon to come will put Amador County Barbera on the international radar. Zinfandel may be King, but Barbera is unsubtly making a run at the crown.