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.
The 2012 Obsidian Vineyard Syrah harvest is here! As we recently articulated would you believe tasting verticals, the same wine over several vintages, helps you make better wine? At Donelan we believe the best wines are not made but discovered. We work with 14 different vineyards, make 4 single vineyard Syrahs (and maybe a Pinot soon!), and it is imperative to understand those vineyards.
So how do we do this? Many ways, but one is to occasionally revisit the wine’s history. Tasting verticals help a winemaker think about the “big picture” prior to harvest which can be applied to the vintage standing on our doorstep: 2012.
Below are notes for the Obsidian Vineyard Syrah, 2006 through 2010. Obsidian is a warm, rocky vineyard located in Knight’s Valley of Sonoma County. Read more here.
2006: A wine loaded with dark fruit character initially masked with notes of roast game and Continue reading
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
We have noted previously how we identify great sites for making terrific wine. One important element in this land of sunshine and dry weather? Wind. For many decades it was difficult for vine researchers to distinguish the impact of sun vs. heat. You see, a dark grape receiving direct sunlight in the middle of the day can be as much as 30 degrees warmer than ambient air temperatures. So was it more sunlight, or warmer berries that increased your color?
Then in 2000 a study was published that used heated and cooled air flow to alter the temperature of grape berries without altering their sun exposure. The air passing over the grapes dampened high temperatures. Now, imagine yourself sleeveless on a sunny summer day, perhaps some perspiration on your arms but sipping some wonderful Syrah. Will you be cooler with a breeze, or without? It is breezes like in the video below occurring nearly every afternoon at Obsidian Vineyard that we believe allow us to make a floral, savory, cherry laden Syrah that tastes of something from a cooler climate than one would otherwise suspect from this vineyard. Obsidian is consistently one of our top rated Syrah; it is an old vine vineyard, rocky, burly, extremely low yielding, and breezy. And we know those breezes, even with full sun, will decrease the temperature experienced by those grapes – altering their physiology. It is another cog in the mystery of terroir. Join Donelan if you’d like to try some of the inimitable Obsidian Syrah.
How is it that we know that a vineyard will produce exceptional grapes and terrific wine? Our winemaker Tyler Thomas provides some principles that we utilize when scouring Sonoma County for the best new terroirs.
Here is a quick instruction from Donelan Winemaker Tyler Thomas on how we prune grapevines. Notice how beautiful the weather is! What a winter we have been having here in northern California! Learn more about Donelan Wines by joining our community