As a winemaker, having multiple ridiculously fantastic dinners each year is as much a part of the job as bringing in grapes each Fall. American Seasons in Nantucket has provided more than their share of wonderful food experiences in my tenure as winemaker at Donelan Wines. During the 2013 Nantucket Wine Festival we are excited to demonstrate our shared commitment to quality with a private event at the restaurant.
For me, the crystallized first impression of the cozy restaurant helmed by Michael LaScola and Orla Murphy LaScola was its warmth, and its pickles. Pickles? Yes, pickles. Don’t misunderstand, the first meal was terrific and many since then have been some of the best I’ve had in any given year. But that first visit, the warmth of the reception and casual feel set the stage to experience high cuisine comfortably and without pretension Then, toward the end of the meal Orla toured me and Tripp Donelan through the kitchen to meet Michael where we were greeted with a jar of pickles. To date, they remain the best pickles I’ve ever had.
A kinship between Donelan and American Seasons goes beyond the longtime friendship of Donelan and LaScola. There is a passion to focus on every detail, large and small, that might impact the way a wine (or dish) tastes. An uncompromising approach to a craft filled with variables. When I tour a winery, I notice how you hang your hoses, not just how Continue reading
Donelanpedia: wine terms defined.
Bud break: buds formed yesteryear finally getting to strut their stuff as Spring springs new leaves with stored plant energy.
We are starting a series we call Donelanpedia: wine terms defined.
To get things started, how about Donelanpedia!
Donelanpedia: a cheeky attempt to define wine terms in 140 characters or less. Send terms our way, we’ll become your winopedia.
Here we go again. The seasonality of producing wine is one of its most attractive elements. As a former Donelan intern once said “it’s a grape’s world and we’re just living in it.” Buds have broken, shoots and leaves are extending (at great speed with this heat!), and another vintage is on its way. Here we go.
At bud break vines use stored energy in the roots and trunks to support new leaf and shoot growth. One interesting note about vine buds is that the buds bursting this spring were actually formed last year. And in those buds there exists already 5-7 leaves and – generally speaking – two cluster primoridia, the structure that will become flowers, fruit, and then the whole cluster. This is why pruning is so critical, it sets the stage for the coming year’s yield since the buds already contain leaves and clusters.
There is much to learn from bud break. It sets the stage for the timing the whole season. It is also a time to learn about temperature nuances in our vineyards. Cold air in the spring drains to low points and we often see a difference in the emergence of leaves and shoots across our hilly vineyards. The different timing can impact the evenness of ripening at the end of the season. As a result we will create segments in the vineyards based on the variation in bud break. Another way to capture variance and make sure that each vineyard section is ripened to a point of ultimate quality.
As this season begins it sets the industry into its season long fret about quality. The north coast of California has received trace amounts of rain from January through April. All this means that soils are relatively dry and that water stress is likely to be higher earlier this year than it has been since 2007. Earlier water stress tends to improve overall wine quality.
The warm temperatures this Spring have led to a slightly earlier than average bud break and I expect (if things continue as they have) an earlier flowering. This will mean harvests coming starting in early September (instead of mid-Sept) if not late August (!) and all of harvest wrapping up (all fruit off the vine) before mid Oct. Of course we’ll have to wait for flowering to occur to say definitively. This favorable weather tends to support good fruit set and cluster number appears to be average to high. All this means we could be looking at average to above average yields with high quality growing conditions.
Now, if it were to get cold and rain in early May all bets are off. Thus far though, knowing our vineyards and knowing vines, we are stepping out with our best foot forward toward another high quality vintage.
Come say hello, meet proprietors Joe and Cushing Donelan along with winemaker Tyler Thomas this Saturday in Los Angeles at Wally’s Wine. As part of Wally’s weekly Saturday tastings you’ll be able to taste our wonderful portfolio of Chardonnay, Roussanne, Pinot Noir, Grenache and Syrah wines. Enjoy multiple wines, get questions answered, and experience the passion of the Donelan family: “the best wines that you’ve never heard of”.
Lately we have spent much of the mid-winter checking in on wines we made several years ago. At times we are impatient to see how our Pinot Noir or Syrah or whatever develop because that information can inform what we do in the upcoming vintage (which is why we often taste verticals as harvest approaches). It was with great pleasure though, and patient savoring that we recently cracked a 2009 Nancie Sonoma County Chardonnay, our inaugural vintage (we recently uncorked our 2009 Pinot Noir too).
When first bottled, this wine was reticent if at once richly textured and crisply structured. Those mouth feel characteristics have been happily retained but the aromatics have begun to complexly open and develop in a way that expresses classic Chardonnay. The nose seems Californian with its riper tropical fruit but mixes in hints of wet stone and other “mineral” notes along with citrus and white peach. The palate continues to be where the wine shines and orients itself toward its cousins across the Atlantic. If you have any of 2009 Nancie Chardonnay left, check in on it with some fish or scallops, it won’t disappoint. It should also continue to nicely develop over the next several years.
Once our Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, or whatever wine reach the aging cellar, our hope is to do nothing to them except employ patience and blending. At times however, a good racking is in order if only to Marry various components together sooner rather than later. Racking is a process of removing wine from barrel (off any settled protienaceous material that has settled) into a tank, rinsing the barrels, then returning the wine to barrel.
Obsidian Vineyard Syrah is a very unique Syrah. Nestled in Knight’s Valley and growing in rocks, the vines produce wine of rustic – and classic – Syrah character. Rarely does one find Syrah vines planted on such rocky perches that dot Sonoma County (watch video describing vineyard). Recently we racked the 2011 Obsidian to make the final blend destined to be bottled in Fall of 2013. Before doing so we always taste every barrel just to double check.
Wow, this wine is incredible! Savory Syrah if there ever was one. Loaded with cherry tobacco, earth, and a certain something-something that is at once compelling and comforting. The palate is fresh but austere too, creating a bigness that doesn’t exhaust the palate. Still in need of much time, we just had to share this update of one of our more iconic – if not California’s more iconic – Syrah wines. It is fantastic as usual.
With the impending release and bottling of the 2011 Two Brothers Pinot Noir, I (Tyler) recently dipped into my allocation to enjoy our inaugural vintage: 2009. The context was perfect: on a ski trip with a bunch of colleagues I have known since my genesis in this industry. The perfect crowd for constructive critique but the perfect setting for utter enjoyment after a day of skiing.
If you are like me, you’ve hoarded at least few bottles of this wine, and yet also have consumed more than you probably wanted. The latter fact is due to the wine’s delicious youthfulness. After reading this note you’ll likely wish you had more. Sadly the wine is very much sold out so grab hold of the 2011 while you can!
The 2009 Two Brothers is a classic for what we think Pinot Noir ought to be: perfumed with fruit and spice, layered, delicate, refined, quite youthful, supple, and finesse driven. Tart red fruit, cardamon, and hints of sweet spice pour from the glass. The wine demonstrates the paradox of light color, delicate texture, but utter depth and complexity. Think of it like lace: gentle, elegant, but intricate. Beyond all that flowery description it is just a darn good drink. The constructive critique confirmed this, and I can officially recommend pairing the wine with a long day of skiing!
Our winemaker, Tyler Thomas, posts again as a guest on the notable wine blog Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews. Tyler describes the personal winemaking philosophy developed over time, as a result of many wine experiences culminating in our approach at Donelan Wines.
While obtaining a B.S. and M.S. in Botany and Plant Molecular Biology, I was fascinated with plant physiology: how a static organism could adapt/interact so well to its environment. Winemaking is a wonderful professional avenue to enjoy the fruits of such interaction in a way that brings pleasure to so many people. In this industry my focus has almost exclusively been with producers who sought to maximize wine quality (and hence, your pleasure) by maximizing our understanding of any particular place and bringing forth that expression with deft work in the cellar. My desire is to produce wines of great and special character consistently and efficiently each vintage. Read more at Wakawaka Wine Reviews…
This week our winemaker, Tyler Thomas, will be posting two pieces as a guest on the notable blog Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews. The first reflects on the humanness of winemaking:
One of the elements of winemaking I enjoy is how its production employs our humanness. This topic is difficult and very broad so I’ll try to remain on task. We could start by discussing wine’s transcendence. Wine transcends its original material. It points to – no – engages the imbiber into an experience of enjoying flavors other than what would be expected from tasting its original components. Cherry wine tastes like cherries, but grape wine doesn’t taste of grapes. And while I think, just as NYU President John Sexton argues, that baseball implies a larger transcendence and the same could be said of wine, here we’ll leave that windy path for someone else to travel. But there are plenty of other reasons beside wine’s transcendental nature that invoke our human experience, not the least of which is the way it draws our pleasure and gladness of heart. Continue reading at Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews