Now that harvest is over and we are busy pressing the last of our lots and putting wines into barrels, lets recap the season.
The weather during the growing season was a bit cooler than average. We have seen later bud break and bloom in the spring, relatively mild weather and a slightly delayed veraison in the summer. Sure there were a few heat spikes during the month of July, and it was a warmer summer that the last two years, but compared to the long term average, it was still cooler. The weather remained warm and pleasant until mid-October when isolated rain showers began. Fortunately the rains were short and did not cause any severe damage or mildew problems. Now that the fruit is in, the weather has turned fairly cold and we are expecting a fair amount of rain. I am glad that we received all our grapes before the weather had a chance to spoil them on the vines.
This was an exciting harvest for Renwood this year. We have invested heavily in new equipment and this harvest gave us the opportunity to play with all of our new toys. We constructed new catwalks in the cellar which made pump overs, additions and most any other winemaking tasks much easier and more efficient. While it may be difficult to see how catwalks can make better wine, when you’re in the thick of it, catwalks allowed us to get more accomplished in the limited amount of time available. This translated into healthier fermentations that went to completion more easily. We also redesigned our open top tanks and added a pneumatic punch down device. This allowed us to compare the effects in wines where the cap was managed via pump over and via punch down. The verdict is still out as both methods have their pros and cons; but it does allow for another layer of versatility and complexity in our wines. Last year we began increasing our concentration of new oak barrels in our barrels program and this year we continued adding new barrels and more French Oak. We believe that this trend will once again further improve the quality of our wines.
Even with the cooler spring and delayed bloom, the warmer end of summer brought harvest right on time. The white grapes began arriving in late August and red grapes began in mid-September. Most vineyards that provide our grapes had yields that were 10 to 20% more than expected, and some were over by as much as 60%. It was a large crop and yet the quality remained very high. Flavors and aromas developed much earlier than normal and in many cases we were waiting for sugar and acid balances to mature before picking. The preliminary tastings have shown very well structured wines with deep color and high tannin levels. In time the tannins will mellow and allow the fruit to express itself more. We are very excited with the initial results and expect great things from the wines of 2012. Stay tuned for more updates from the Renwood cellar.
Zinfandel is as American as apple pie, making it the perfect choice for that most American of holidays, Thanksgiving. Although Zinfandel was not present on our shores in 1621, when the Pilgrims first feasted with their Native American neighbors at Plymouth Colony (hmm, Plymouth), it would have been right at home on their tables, especially as the main dish was venison.
Zinfandel arrived in the U.S. two centuries later, by most accounts through the importation of vine cuttings from the Austrian Imperial plant collection. By 1832, a nursery in Boston was advertising “Zinfendal” vines, which became quite popular. Migrating west, Zinfandel struck gold in the Sierra Foothills during the early days of the Gold Rush in the late 1840s. An easy-to- cultivate vine, it produced hearty, robust red wines that quenched the thirst of the hard-working prospectors who flocked to the region seeking their fortunes. Later in the century, when the root louse Phylloxera destroyed most of California’s vineyards, Zinfandel largely survived because it was planted on rootstock more resistant to the bug. During Prohibition, the Volstead Act allowed home winemakers to vinify up to 200 gallons of wine annually, and Zinfandel became even more popular, because its sturdy constitution allowed it to survive the long journey back east. By the early 1970s, Zinfandel was the main component in premium red wine blends that captivated a new generation of wine drinkers, and subsequently became a prized varietal wine.
Over the years, there have been numerous theories about Zinfandel’s origin, but the long-running mystery was finally solved a decade ago, when researchers determined, through DNA fingerprinting, that Zinfandel was identical to an ancient Croatian grape called “Crljenak Kaštelanski.” (Try saying that fast five times while gobbling some turkey!)
Despite its European origins, Zinfandel today is considered America’s “Heritage” Wine, quite appropriately, because the wines it produces are bold and brash, much like Americans themselves. So, as you ponder which wines to savor with your Thanksgiving dinner, cast a vote for Zinfandel, Renwood’s specialty and America’s true pilgrim wine.
Last month, Renwood was the official wine sponsor of the 2012 Film Independent Forum at the Director’s Guild in Los Angeles. This month, we’re again heeding the siren call of Hollywood as the exclusive wine sponsor for the Hollywood premier, and premier party, of “Anna Karenina,” the new film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s famed 19th-century novel starring the swoon-inducing British actors Keira Knightly and Jude Law. The premier party for the film is on Wednesday, November 14th at Greystone Manor, a super-hip supper club in West Hollywood that’s a magnet for celebrities from the film and music industries. We’ll be pouring our 2011 Viognier and 2010 Premier Old Vine Zinfandel for the assembled guests.
Jamie Lubenko, our marketing and communications manager, muses:
“I think that if Anna and her lover, Count Vronsky, could have tasted Renwood wines at one of the many balls they attended in Czarist Russia, Lenin might have become a wine merchant rather than a revolutionary.”
We’re delighted to be associated with a beautiful film and one of the best novels ever written, both of which represent a level of creative artistry we constantly aspire to Renwood.
Renwood Winery made a name for itself at the Film Independent Forum, held Oct. 19 - 21 at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles.
The 2010 Musician’s Zinfandel and 2011 Viognier proved to be the perfect cast for the eighth annual event, which hosted more than 450 attendees over three days.
As the official wine sponsor of the forum, Renwood wines filled the glasses of film professionals and aspiring directors and producers as they toasted to new connections and bright futures. The weekend was filled with speeches, panels, networking lunches, a keynote by Director John Singleton and a screening of David O. Russell’s film, Silver Linings Playbook. But independent films weren’t the only thing being buzzed about at the forum. Renwood wines were an important part of the conversation, with the Musician’s Zinfandel achieving great renown among attendees.
Film Independent Co-President Josh Welsh said in an email, “I happened to be near the bar during one of the receptions and heard one of the forum attendees raving about the Zinfandel. To be honest, I normally have a beer at our events, but because he was going on about it, I got the (Musician’s) Zinfandel. He was right to rave!”
With notes of red and purple fruits, holiday spice and a black peppercorn finish, the Musician’s Zinfandel really shines during the fall and winter months.
The 2011 Viognier pairs really well with spicy foods. As the temperatures drop and you find yourself turning up the heat in the kitchen – and on the thermostat – keep your taste buds chilled with the Viognier’s tropical flavors of coconut and pineapple and its soft, creamy texture.
We’re very pleased with the reception Renwood wines received at the Film Independent Forum. As the weather finds you spending more and more time indoors, we hope you’ll pick Renwood wines to be the star of your next event. Whether you’re planning a holiday gathering or a “Modern Family” marathon, let Renwood wine be your best supporting beverage.
After two fairly cool years, we have experienced more summer days over 90 degrees than in the previous 50 years. This heat and low winter rainfall have challenged our viticulture in Amador County. Dry farmed vineyards are ripening up faster than we expected, drip irrigation vineyards have been playing catch-up, and our winemaking staff is trying to stay ahead of “Grapeaggedon”. This is when every vineyard is ripe on the exact same day, and everybody wants to pick grapes. Cool vintages give a more even ripening and a slower pace. The warmer ones may ripen faster, resulting in a harvest pace that does not allow for much sleep. So far, the white grapes Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, and our troika of V’s - Verdelho, Vermentino and Viognier – have crossed the scales. The only red grapes from received Amador have been Syrah, a typically early ripening varietal, and Zinfandel from some really warm sites. From a cooler, but early bud break site, we have received Mourvedre and Zinfandel from Contra Costa County. This heat has also moved Barbera ahead of its normal last place finish in the race of grapes and we may harvest some earlier than some lots of Zinfandel. So far, we are happy with the flavors, and the sugar levels are not as high, so in our minds that is a “win-win”. Stay tuned for faster paced action from Renwood!
Consulting Winemaker Jeff Cohn added, “What a difference a year makes! This time last year it was cold a touch wet, but this year the sun is out and the temperatures have been perfect allowing for the development of complexity and flavors. In the end this should prove to be an amazing vintage.”
Time flies when you’re having fun, and suddenly, it’s harvest! We asked our longtime winemaker, Dave Crippen, to give us a preview of vintage 2012.
“The last couple years – 2010 and 2011 – were atypically cool in Amador County, so picking began later than normal. This year’s growing season has been more conventional, except for a notably dry winter and significant late-spring rainfall. Since early June, we’ve enjoyed a wonderfully consistent weather pattern of dry, mild, seasonably warm days with just a few heat spikes. We like “mild” at Renwood because at our 1,700-2,000 foot elevation, we get plenty of sunshine from April through October with warm-to-hot days tempered by refreshingly cool nights (courtesy of evening breezes flowing down from the Sierras). In contrast, California’s costal wine regions experience warmer winters and early springs, and thus enjoy an earlier start to the growing season. Ripening in those vineyards, however, slows during the summer months due to a persistent layer of marine fog that penetrates coastal wine valleys most evenings and usually doesn’t burn off until mid-day.
“In Amador, we have fewer overall sun days, but the sunlight here is more radiant and intense, which quickly accelerates ripening. As a result, grape growers in Amador have to guard against vine heat stress and grape sunburning, which can be exacerbated by a lack of adequate soil moisture. Despite these perennial concerns, everything is looking good in our vineyards right now, with our red grapes starting to color up – what the French call veraison – and our whites looking like they’ll be ready to pick by early September. (Our first reds should be harvested by mid-September.) In short, barring unforeseen shenanigans by Mother Nature, we’re looking at what could be a most excellent harvest at Renwood and throughout Amador County.”
We’re not big on tooting our horn here at Renwood, but sometimes, it’s hard to resist. At the recent California State Fair Wine Competition, the granddaddy of all American wine judgings (nearly 2,900 wines from 688 wineries were evaluated), Renwood won 11 medals: golds for three of our 2010 zinfandels (Timberline, Gold Crest and Dry Creek Valley); silvers for five more (Boucard's, Reserve Dry Creek Valley, Grandpere, Premier Old Vine and Fiddletown); and bronzes for 2010 Old Vine Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel and 2010 Clarion, our Zinfandel-Syrah blend. These sterling results were not an aberration. At the 2012 SF International Wine Competition, the largest in the land with over 4,500 wines from 1,300 wineries, we took a double gold medal for our 2010 Gold Crest Zinfandel and golds for three of our other 2010 zins: Boucards, Dry Creek Valley and Old Vine Dry Creek Valley. Our 2010 Grandpere, Reserve Dry Creek Valley, Fiddletown and Premier Old Vine zinfandels garnered silver medals while we notched bronzes for 2010 Clarion and 2010 Timberline Zinfandel.
Other highlights of the competition season included a double gold/best of class award at the Amador County Fair for 2010 Timberline Zinfandel (along with golds for our 2010 Grandpere, Gold Crest and Boucard's zins); a double gold/best of class for our 2010 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel at the El Dorado County Fair (along with a gold for our 2010 Fiddletown Zinfandel); and a gold at the Long Beach Grand Cru for our 2010 Timberline Zinfandel.
As you can tell, we’ve gone a little medal-crazy, but what better place for a winery to strike gold than in the heart of Gold Country?
Last August, Renwood was acquired by an international investment group that owns five wineries in Argentina and Uruguay and also grows fresh fruits and nuts and makes cheese, olive oil and honey. The investors are true Ren-aissance men, which is no doubt why they chose to launch their first U.S. wine venture in Amador.
Our new owners have committed sizable resources to the upgrading of every facet of Renwood’s operations. We’ve been busy making a bevy of delicious new wines, redesigning our wine labels and completely renovating our tasting room, which is scheduled to reopen in late August. (Meanwhile, we’re open for business in a temporary tasting room at the winery.)
We think you’ll love the new tasting room. It’s been completely redesigned to feature several outdoor tasting areas (complete with fire pits), a private fireside tasting room, and a new, state-of-the-art tasting bar. Walnut facades, comfortable couches, leather club chairs and low wooden tables give the space the feel of a chic, yet casual resort club lounge, with a hostess and concierge on hand to cater to your every need.
When you visit, you’ll be able to choose from a full menu of tour and tasting options, including seated ‘flight’ tastings of Renwood’s famous zinfandels. You will also have an opportunity to sample and purchase South American olive oils and honey, along with locally made foodstuffs.
There will be great food, too. We’ve designed menus of pre-packaged, seasonally themed salads, sandwiches and other dishes you and your friends can purchase to enjoy with your tasting of Renwood wines. There’s much more to tell you about all the great new improvements at Renwood, so keep checking this blog for our latest Renditions.
Ever wonder what the “Ren” in Renwood signifies? Well, it derives from “wren,” the small songbird of which there are some 80 species. Wrens migrate between Alaska and southern Argentina (appropriately, given our new owners) and tend to dwell in dark places like caves. (They no doubt like wine cellars, too!)
Although wrens are small in stature, they are known in legend as “the king of birds.” The legend says that, long ago, all the birds agreed to elect as their king the one who could fly closest to the sun. Various species fell by the wayside until only the mighty eagle remained, or so he thought. In fact, a clever wren had hidden in the eagle’s plumage. When the eagle finally faltered in his ascent to the sun, the wren took flight and, upon reaching the highest elevation, was crowned king of all birds – a triumph of ingenuity over strength.
Many changes have taken wing at Renwood over the past year, including unique new labels for our wines featuring an illustration of King Wren lording it over a disgruntled eagle as they perch in an old Zinfandel vine shaped into an “R.” We have three new labels, each dedicated to a different channel of distribution: chain retailers, independent retailers and restaurants. We also will have a special label for wines we sell exclusively to our tasting room and wine club customers and have renamed seven of our zinfandels after wren species: Bewick’s, Boucard’s, Flutist, Mérida, Musician, Niceforo’s and Timberline.
Our new labels debut with our 2010 vintage wines, which we’ll be releasing in July. The caliber of the artwork reflects the superior quality of the wines, and vice-versa, so we invite you to spread your wings and fly on over to Renwood to check out our beautiful new plumage.