Newsletter and Tasting Notes
We hope you, your family and the many loved ones in your life are happy and well. We have enjoyed another fast paced year spending as much time as possible with our families and friends.
As many of you know when we have time to get away and let our hair down we usually head for warmer climes, but this year the airline fare wars hooked us into booking a trip to Europe. In staying true to our mantra of traveling south to warmer climates we toured a large swath of the south of Spain. We traveled from Barcelona in the northeast to Granada where we rented a car and drove southward along the southern coast culminating in Seville. It was a fantastic change of pace highlighted by wonderfully warm and inviting people, tapas that still have us reminiscing and the enjoyment of more Spanish wines than we care to admit. Our first trip to Europe together, was a wonderful way to reset our clocks prior to focusing on our busy fall season.
Estate Vineyard Update
As we have been updating you on the trials and tribulations of the WesMar estate vineyard you have heard us state on too many occasions “wait and see”, “unsure of what to expect” and many other phrases of concern and consternation, some completely unsuitable for children’s ears. So, it was with great anticipation that we watched our little vineyard go through the ripening process while infected with the Red Blotch disease. Did the vines turn red once again a few weeks before harvest? Yes they did. At this point our concern was on the rise yet again. The jest between us was, “If the vineyard does not ripen past 18-20 brix then we will just have to make sparkling wine.” As we monitored the ripening fruit we exhaled a big sigh of relief once the grapes ripened to 20 brix, then 22 brix and finally harvested at 24 brix in early September. Not only did the vineyard ripen the fruit to the desired brix level, but none of the many other factors associated with Red Blotch ever came to pass. The pH was in the proper range, the color of the wine was robust and the tannins were balanced as opposed to vegetal or diminished. In short, the vineyard produced a healthy crop. With Red Blotch there are no guarantees, but as with life we can only live one vintage at a time. The vintage behind us is in the bottle and next years vintage has yet to come. Today’s vintage brings smiles.
2016 Vintage Retrospect
The 2016 growing season was mundane and uneventful, which is exactly what winemakers like. Winemakers can impart less influence allowing the wines to make themselves when weather is moderate and even and when grape maturity progresses consistently. The growing season got off to an early start, with bud break occurring in some areas by the beginning of February. This early start allowed spring rains to impact the vines during flowering, making for smaller clusters and berries. It was a long bloom, which is common in mild winters, but this year temperatures were warmer in May and June so most, but not all, growers had better fruit sets. Yields in 2016 were at or just below average. Moderate weather prevailed throughout summer. The lack of heat waves kept sugar levels and phenolic maturity in sync allowing ripening to progress slowly and predictably. This allowed us to wait for the gradual accumulation of flavors, rather than reacting to rapidly climbing brix numbers. This set the stage for wines of very good complexity, higher than average natural acidity, low alcohols, deeply colored and complex wines.
As tasted August of 2018. These wines were bottled unfined and unfiltered.
The 2016 vintage is comprised of four vineyard designated Pinot Noirs and two appellation Pinot Noirs.
After making Pinot Noir for so many consecutive years we decided a review of our fermentation protocol was in order. What we discovered was that after numerous vintages we had slipped into a more conservative approach in determining our usage of whole cluster fruit, which is the fruit that remains attached to the stems during fermentation. The grapes that are added to the fermenters that have been mechanically removed from their stems are referred to as destemmed fruit. A higher usage of stems during the fermentation process yields more structure and additional beneficial non fruit driven flavors. In the years in which the vine maturation process is moderate and even throughout the growing season, the stems lignifiy (become brown) early which allows us to add an increased amount of whole cluster, which adds to a wine’s complexity. In a year lacking the proper vine maturation, when too many stems are used, the results can be quite disappointing with green or vegetal overtones overshadowing the fruit flavors. Every harvest we discuss in great length the percentage of whole cluster that we intend to include. This vintage after much debate, I (Denise) grabbed the reins and went for as much stem inclusion as my worry warted husband could tolerate. The wines turned out fantastic and as you will taste, the 2016’s offer an experience with stem structure, minerality and clean earthy elements rounding out the fruit components.
2016 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Hellenthal Vineyard
This vintage of Hellenthal is wonderfully balanced offering an elegant, weighty wine in a more feminine style. On the nose are aromas of stone fruits, anise and vanilla beans. A taste reveals integrated flavors of blueberries and blackberries in front of a light vein of red cherries coupled with a touch of minerality, a dusting of anise and hints of honeysuckle. The abundant fruit tannins highlight the structure offering a very balanced long finishing wine that will age gracefully for years to come..
2016 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Balletto Vineyard
A wonderful nose of blue and black fruits mixed with the characteristic white pepper that is so vibrant in many vintages of Balletto. While the flavor profiles from this vineyard can vary from vintage to vintage, the consistency does not. Flavors of black cherries, candied black plums mingle with the vibrant white pepper that morphs into more of a spiciness as the wine opens. There is a quenching citrus essence and lively acidity married to some additional stem tannin that couples with the fruit elements to showcase a wonderful wine whose flavor continues to linger and linger.
2016 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Oehlman Vineyard
Intense floral aromas lead the experience alongside red fruits and tea. It opens with a bursting entry of raspberry jam, joined by a sweet cranberry flavor which is nuanced by orange rind, followed by black tea leaves and those typical baking spices that the less ripe vintages of Oehlman highlight. These elements are framed by fruit tannins leading into a long palate holding finish. This is one of those ah ha vintages of Oehlman.
2016 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
This pretty Russian River Valley owes its base to the Salzgeber vineyard with lesser support from the Oehlman and Balletto vineyards. The aromas in this blend offer lively red fruits, cocoa and spice. There are flavors of strawberries, salmonberries and black cherries up front with some cola, honey and toasted nuts further down the line. The fruit tannins so ever present in the Salzgeber vineyard offer the structure to carry the beautiful fruits to the finish..
2016 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
Owing to its parents (Hellenthal and Balletto) the Sonoma Coast offers a nose suggesting both black and red fruits with of course that white pepper from Balletto. On the palate are fruit flavors that run the spectrum from dark stone fruits to dark candied red fruits offering structuring stem tannin and a spiciness. The fruit flavors lurch to the forefront and fill the mid-palate, offering a density and complexity that allow a lingering finish. This wine is after all a Hellenthal entry, a Balletto mid-palate and a matrimonial finish.
2016 Pinot Noir, Sonoma County (aka Salzgeber Vineyard)
Aromas of dried red fruits and plum. The palate shows red cherries, plums offered through the vibrant entry well into the mid palate. The traditional Salzgeber fruit tannins are harmoniously integrated with the fruit expression. There is a freshness and palate quenching essence that carries through to the mouth coating finish.
What Makes WesMar Pinot Noirs WesMar Pinot Noirs?
We recently visited with some friends that we first met years ago when they came to visit us at the winery. On this visit the husband who has been enjoying our wines since the 2006 vintage asked, “Why are your wines so consistent and how is it that they age so long?” We proceeded to highlight our adherence to the philosophies that not only answered his two inquiries, but assists us in producing the kind of Pinot Noir that excites us to imbibe. First, we harvest with just enough sugar, while capturing all of the grapes natural acid. This not only defines the consistent style of the wine produced, but also helps to determine the longevity of the experience in the bottle. Secondly, we use very large open top dairy tanks as fermenters. Complete access to the fermenting grapes allows gentle and thorough mixing. Outstanding aromatics are achieved by the large area of fermenting grapes that are exposed to oxygen. Lastly, we do not fine or filter. A large percentage of wineries either add an agent to fine their wines, they filter their wines or both. Fining and filtering takes a toll on wines. Some natural occurring sediment, yeasts or bacteria may be removed by these processes, but that can also leave a treated wine hollow, shallow in flavor and with a thin mouth feel. All WesMar Pinot Noirs are allowed to settle naturally so as to avoid the risk of stripping away desired elements in the finished wines. By strictly adhering to these principles we can craft consistent wines that can be cellared for a decade or more.
When the subject of terroir comes up in conversation the general consensus is that we are talking about the soil in which the grapes are grown. While the soil is the tip of the iceberg, as with icebergs, the larger part remains invisible to the eye. Soil is the part that we can feel and run through our fingers, but the amount of water being retained in the soil for the plants is also of paramount importance. What about the heat index? The number of sunlight hours for a specific location can vary dramatically even within a fairly small geographic area. How about winds? These can be moist creating challenges such as mold or mildew or dry causing the vines to require more irrigation. The cold index and hours of frost/freeze also contribute to the annual cycle of the vine, perhaps causing a late start to bud break. Friendly or unfriendly vineyard bugs also have their paws in the picture. So, although we tend to focus most on that which we can touch and feel, the term terroir is truly defined by all of the elements of an exact place at an exact time. The same grape varietal with the same rootstock grown on the coast versus 25 miles inland may not be recognizable as the same varietal, due to the fact that so many of the attributes related to its environment can be different. Because of terroir, there are an abundance of varietal expressions.
Magnums (1.5 liters)
As you prepare for the holidays and your special occasions throughout the year, please keep in mind what a wonderful experience a large format provides. With large groups a single bottle might only provide a sip or taste, while a magnum might offer your group a glass or the chance to refill their glasses. Cheers!
Pinot Noir Tidbits
The next time you are wondering just what it took to fill that glass of wine in your hand consider these estimations derived from WesMar’s juvenile estate vineyard.
On the grape side:
Each vine produced 28 clusters
28 clusters per vine equaling 3.5 lbs per vine
Our 3000 vines produced 3.5 lbs per vine or a total of 10,500 pounds of fruit
On the wine side:
One ton (2000 lbs) of fruit produced about 2 barrels of wine.
Each barrel (60 gallons) equals 25 cases (300 bottles of 750 mls) of wine.
3.5 lbs of fruit per vine equates to 1.16 bottles per vine
5 clusters per glass of wine
Visiting WesMar Winery
We are open by appointment for visits and tastings. We always look forward to meeting new people and catching up with old friends. As soon as you know the dates that you will be in our area please reach out so that we can save the date for your visit. We hope to see you soon.
We want to thank you for the opportunity to present our wines to you. We are very pleased with the 2016 vintage wines and know they will please your palate as well.
Sincerely, Kirk “Wesley” and Denise “Mary”