It is definitely Spring at Lynmar. The California Poppies are visible everywhere, their tangerine faces smiling at the sun. Apple and cherry trees are resplendent with bloom and the abundance of the land is evident, as clumps of green sprout from the bare earth in every direction. The vines, so stark just weeks ago, are adorned with delicate new leaves. In the early hours of the day the cacophony of songs from the birds fill the air as they chatter busily and little nests get bigger in the rafters.
Spring is when we begin the blend trials. Lynn and I sit down with the winemaker and talk through the portfolio of wines that will come from the grapes harvested the year before. As everyone knows, 2010 was one of the most challenging growing seasons in recent memory. The very cool growing season with severe heat spikes in the late summer, challenged even the most experienced of winemaking teams. Harvest was a short 17 days compared to 50 the year before, and the winery worked almost continuously during that period to receive and process the grapes.
Yesterday, our winemaker Bibiana, our vineyard manager, Jason, Lynn and I tasted through the Pinot Noir from 2010. Bibiana, as always, was ultra prepared. The antique table in the VIP room in the caves was neatly covered in white paper to protect the marble. Before each of us were 3 wine glasses, a spittoon and water, as well as a sheet with alternate blends narrowed down in previous trials, with Paul Hobbs, our consulting winemaker.
The first wines we tasted were two alternates for the 2010 Russian River blend, both with the same core, but one that would be 21 barrels and 575 projected cases and another that would be only 11 barrels and 275 projected cases. After tasting the wines individually and voting for our favorites, we talked through what we liked about each, and then chose the one with the bouquet of violets and white flowers and the classical pinot flavor profile of red raspberries and strawberries.
As we tasted blend after blend, our excitement grew at the singular quality that was evident from Quail Hill. Bibiana talked about how wonderful it was for her, as a winemaker to have 14 clones of Pinot Noir, farmed separately by block, fermented and barreled separately so at blending her creativity and training could be fully utilized. It was remarkable to witness Bibiana and Jason discuss the vines in each block with the familiarity of family. Like two exasperated parents they clucked over the Mt Eden clone in Block 7, which they felt needed another two years of proper nutrition with extra magnesium to reach its potential. On the other hand the performance of the Pommard Clone was greeted with exclamations of approval – a report card of all A’s after a difficult school year!
After two hours of tasting and spitting, mouths numbed and teeth stained, we agreed that the most unfortunate part of 2010 was the size of the harvest. With only 127 tons harvested, we will have much less wine than we did in 2009 – but the wines will be excellent and the portfolio will cover the range. Lynn’s blend is a deep, dark brooding wine – perfect for a hearty steak and blue cheese, while Block 10 is elegant and feminine, yet powerful and confident (like the women at Lynmar). Bliss Block lives up to its impeccable reputation, approachable yet complex and nuanced – the magic of the 7 clones, organically farmed and harvested together. Phew!