Donelanpedia: wine terms defined.
Alcohol: Byproduct of yeast’s desire to be inefficient sugar consumers, & as a chemical in your brain requires government warning.
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.
Now that we are at the end of August nearly all our Syrah, Pinot, Chardonnay, and Grenache vineyards have either progressed through or are currently in a process called veraison. Veraison, a widely adopted French viticulture term, does not have a direct translation but defines the inception of ripening and more or less means color change.
While veraison signifies the beginning of ripening, it would be misleading to think that only after this physiological time point can one “ripen” the fruit. There are several important processes that occur well before veraison that we know impact the way a wine finally tastes, and as such they certainly impact the final “ripening.” However, it is at veraison that the berry undergoes significant changes that are principally associated with tasty fruit: acid decline, sugar accumulation, and color change. (Parenthetically, this is nearly identical to what happens to tomatoes, which botanically are also berries). Flavor development is also important, but some flavors are indeed developed prior to veraison; and others dissipate after veraison and it is their absence that signals “ripe” fruit. ”Flavor ripeness” in some respects is how these elements taste relative to the primary changes mentioned above.
Veraison really is a remarkable transformation in the grape. The obvious changes of color, sugar, and acid only tell part of the story. For example, the acid declines because the berry begins to “eat” the acid for energy in lieu of sugar, which it now stores. Water resources begin to come into the berry by a different conduit and only in concert with sugar. Seeds begin to brown, tannin levels change. I could go on.
The most important part of veraison though may be its psychological impact on the valley. There seems to be a palatable shift in gears from the entire industry. It’s as if we have stepped into the on deck circle in a close game, and it is nearly our time to bat. Time to hit it out of the park.
It is Spring! And there is no time better than now to begin drinking the Donelan Venus Roussanne in earnest. The 2010 was just released, please enjoy this description from our winemaker Tyler Thomas of how Venus is produced and click here to find out more.
The restauranteur Sondra Bernstein is the passion behind some of my (Tyler) favorite local haunts in Sonoma County. We are regulars at the Fig Cafe in Glen Ellen (I live right down the street), frequent The Girl and The Fig on the Sonoma Plaza and have enjoyed my experiences at ESTATE, also in Sonoma (you can explore all three with the link). One thing we love about The Girl and The Fig is their passion for Rhone-inspired wines. The entire wine list is comprised of varieties that originated in the bounty of the Rhone Valley in France.
Recently Sondra who seemingly has boundless amounts of energy to juggle all her activities found time to write about the Donelan 2009 Venus, a blend of Roussanne (90%) and Vigonier (10%) on her blog: Rhone Around the World, a Girl’s Obsession with Rhone Wine. The description of the wine is superb:
The 2009 Venus exhibits crisp, fresh, delicate but impressively intense notes of lychee nuts, caramelized citrus, spring flowers, fresh pears and honeysuckle. Medium-bodied with lively acidity as well as an exotic perfume and a dry, zesty style, I would recommend drinking it on the early side because of its exceptional aromatics. Great dry finish and a minerality on the back end.
Noted wine collector and wine writer Erol Senel has selected the 2009 Donelan Venus as his #9 wine of 2011. Senel writes that Donelan’s “line-up of Rhone varietals is, in my opinion, second-to-none in California and rivals the greatness of the royalty found in the Rhone itself!”
Thank you Erol for such kind words. In giving the Venus 94 points Senel notes “the ’09 Venus is no exception to the trend of amazing wines coming out of this winery.” Read the full review and give the wine a try by contacting us, it is nearly sold out!
It is that time of year. No, it’s not only the grape harvest – it’s also the Nantucket Bay Scallop harvest. For decades now the Donelan family has enjoyed the fruits of Nantucket, including the annual scallop season, which comes every October. Here Joe Donelan describes their annual tradition. (I’ve tried Christine’s recipe, it is wonderful!)
The family spends a great deal of time on Nantucket Island, and while whaling was the life-blood of the island for about a hundred years, most of us know it for beautiful beaches, historic towns and incredible sailing. For locals, every October 1 is what the island is all about – when “Family Scallop Season” opens.
Nantucket Bay Scallops are considered the finest bay scallops found anywhere in the world, which is why we look forward to this rite of Fall here in New England. These small, tender, and velvety little beauties have a wonderfully intense flavor. Every year we look forward to getting in the bay with our gear to haul bushels, which we bring home to my wife Christine.
Our son Tripp Donelan is the primary hauler for our family. We display our licenses on our bibs and hats. Only a bushel of scallops per day is permitted and a few of our favorite spots include Monomoy, Hither Creek, Shawkemo, and Madaket Harbor. You can either haul them with a rake or simply dive for them.
The following recipe is one of our favorites and while many people love them raw, this sauté over pasta is terrific. Which wine? We think both our 2009 Venus and our 2010 Nancie Chardonnay pair wonderfully with this dish. The sweetness of the scallops with the minerality of the wines makes for an incredible combination. Even if you can’t get Nantucket Bay Scallops we encourage you to cook with your family and friends this Fall while sharing a bottle or two of Donelan wine. Enjoy and please let us know what you think of the pairing. (Join the Donelan Community)
Nantucket Bay Scallops with Fresh Pasta. Continue reading