I have worked with Syrah most of my career, and one of the remaining unanswered questions: what is the origin of people adding Viognier to Syrah. Most responses correctly explain that adding Viognier to Syrah has its roots in Cote Rotie of the Northern Rhone where they are allowed to add up to 20% Viognier to Syrah (cofermented). Rarely though, do you find an explanation as to why they ever started the practice in Cote Rotie in the first place! That is what I am after for those of us in Sonoma County.
“But Tyler,” you say, “they do it because it adds a floral note to the wine and rounds out the mouthfeel, increasing the complexity and hedonism of the wine.” Of course, but how on earth did they ever discover that? Why would someone add a white variety to a red? Wouldn’t it dilute the color quality?
As it turns out, adding Viognier can actually help the color. This is because most red wine has greater color intensity than it ought to given the concentration of color compounds found in the wine. We know now that colorless compounds called cofactors bind and stack in between colorful compounds called anthocyanins to increase the intensity of the color that meets your eye. And while white grapes are missing anthocyanins, they have plenty of cofactors in their skins which – one could argue – will enhance the color intensity. Pretty cool.
But of course they didn’t know this back when the practice of adding Viognier to Syrah
began. In fact I cannot find solid evidence of when the practice even started but suffice it Continue reading
It is hard to believe April is nearly over. Where has the year gone? Grapevine shoots are emerging in earnest and soon we will be in high gear assessing our Syrah, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Roussanne, and Chardonnay. Another item we are assessing is the success of our blogging and social media interactions.
This assessment is difficult. After all people suggest it is a long game of brand building and I am inclined to agree. While it is tempting to desire results – in terms of sales – right away, this isn’t fair or realistic. It also presumes you are using social media correctly, Continue reading
Quality to Donelan means we try to do everything well, including our conservation.
It is frost season and in the morning you can see overhead sprinklers running all over the valley to protect swollen buds from damage. Water use in California is a hot button topic and the wine industry will play a critical role. Local growers within the Russian River watershed of Mendocino and Sonoma counties filed a lawsuit against the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) last October because of an unprecedented regulation targeting winegrape growers’ use of water for frost protection purposes.
Water use has engendered tension for ages and according to an American Intelligence Community report problems with water could destabilize several regions across the globe in the next decade. One thing is for sure, with growing populations and ever growing needs for water, improved efficiency in water use is a must. I’ll leave the frost protection debate for lawyers, but there are steps we can take – and indeed that we have been taking – to improve the quality of our stewardship each year. And in our minds, quality stewardship is a part of producing quality wines.
We are always open to exploring new ways to improve the stewardship of our resources. We work with growers to move toward organic farming, and limiting water use. Since Continue reading
Learn a bit about our approach and how we think we can make better wine.
A production of Donelan Wines and Smiling Tiger Video
Recently I came across a piece I wrote for Wines and Vines magazine a few years ago and caught a useful note for communicating the nature of the complex and challenging 2011 vintage.
In the article I noted how I would like to see “thoughtful individuals engage the task of evolving a flexible set of premises and perspectives that would not … suppress the complexity and multiplicity of [cellar and vineyard] realities,” but which “could also serve to mediate, integrate, and clarify.” That’s a mouthful but bear with me.
I was quoting Richard Tarnas’ book, Passion of the Western Mind, which recounts the developments of western philosophical thought. Many who drink, think, and write about wine are quite thoughtful; but it seems to me we are often more dogmatic than “flexible” in the “set of premises and perspectives” employed. As a result the “complexity and multiplicity of cellar and vineyard realities” go largely under-appreciated, misunderstood, and become difficult to clearly communicate. Our constant spin works fine when we have consistent vintages, but in educating this way we have set ourselves up for a PR nightmare in a challenging vintage.
Can we be honest about the nuances of a difficult vintage and avoid the spin that seems to Continue reading