With my 2013s in short supply – fall releases are long sold out, spring releases available in small amounts – I tasted through my barrels of 2014 Pinot noir on Saturday.
Wow, what a surprise. I’ll be the first to admit I was nervous tasting through the wines. 2014 was a very warm summer with an early harvest. As a wine geek, I tend to find warm years in pretty much any wine region of the world to give at best generous but perhaps overly fruity wines that taste great but aren’t compelling. At worst, wines can lack freshness, taste raisiny and even tired in their youth. Think 2003 in Burgundy, the home of Pinot noir. That’s not at all what I’m looking for in my own wines.
Still, I’m true to vintages. My wines change from year to year, reflecting the story of each growing season be it hot, cold, or somewhere “normal.”
When I put the 2014s into barrel last fall, they were pretty darkly colored and full of ripe fruit, exactly what I’d expect from a warm year. I’ve always learned you can properly judge a red wine until the malolactic fermentation is done in the following spring, and as a wine maker the reasons for that grow more apparent each year.
Before ML, acidity is sharp. The wine softens from the malolactic process. The color and density of the wine can change during the process, even dramatically, as pigmented particles in the wine settle out. ML also causes a temporary pearlescence in the wine, an oily sheen that further complicate color evaluation until things settle out.
That’s why I haven’t done a comprehensive barrel tasting of the 2014s until now. Things weren’t quite set, and while the wines will continue to evolve before bottling late this summer, things are set enough at this point to get a pretty good sense of what I have in cask.
So how are my 2014 wines? In a word, surprising. Remarkably fresh with good fruit intensity, of course, but no candied or fruit juice qualities the hotter vintages can give. Colors are much more moderate than I expected, even translucent in many casks. Acidities are bright, thanks to picking at appropriate ripeness. I did add tartaric acid to a few fermenters to allow for lower sulfur additions post fermentation, the pH of a wine directly relating to how effective the sulfur you add will be. But across the board, the acidities in these new wines are terrific, and again surprising.
I work with four vineyards for Pinot noir and each of course gives a different wine. So too each barrel takes a life of its over the winter and spring, going through ML at its own pace, and otherwise settling out and “curing” during barrel aging, or elevage, on its own. The result is a variety of material to select the top barrels from each vineyard for my single vineyard bottlings, then blending the rest by appellation for my Ribbon Ridge and Eola-Amity Hills cuvees. It only happens in some years that there are a few barrels just not good enough for either level of bottling, and I blend them as general Willamette Valley designation and sell to my mailing list and restaurants for super cheap. I don’t release any wines that aren’t good, but that WV level allows me to cull out tasty but otherwise simple wines and sell them for the right price for drinking pretty soon.
All together, I’m changing my tune on the 2014s. No more talk of the hot vintage and “big” wines. What I have in the cellar is much more elegant and lithe than I ever expected. That’s great news for people who appreciate delicate and nuanced Oregon Pinot noir. And even better news given the warmth we’re already seeing in 2015. If I can make wines this coming year to rival the 2014s, I’ll be a happy guy.
Interested in these 2014s? Join the Vincent Wine Company mailing list and you’ll receive a special offer on pre-release pricing in August. Wines are being bottled in September and shipped to mailing list customers in the fall when weather has cooled. Some of my wines never make it to retail shelves, so buying from the list is the best way to go. Plus I offer terrific discounts for mailing list buyers. Sign up today and look forward to the latest offer in August.