By Jeremy Weintraub, Winemaker
The 2016 vintage at Adelaida was exceptionally good, with very high-quality fruit and slightly above-average yields. The winter rainfall was higher than in the previous four years, budbreak was early, and conditions during fruit set were unremarkable—which is ideal. The summer had a few periods of very warm weather—in June we hit 100 degrees nine times—but that heat created lots of color. July, too, was warm, but it was followed by a beautiful, cool to moderate August, which gave the pigmented varietals time to recover and develop flavors.
The 2016 Adelaida Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah wines combine some of the best attributes of previous vintages: the structure of 2013, the fruit and plushness of 2014, and the savory character of 2015.
We began picking Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on September 21st from the old section of our Viking Vineyard. As usual, the grapes were fully ripe, and we fermented them in a combination of wooden vat, wooden barrel, along with concrete and stainless steel tanks. The wine aged for 20 months in 75% new French oak barrels.
The Syrah harvest from Anna’s Vineyard began on September 9th. The grapes fermented in concrete and stainless steel tanks. Fermentation took its time—up to 3 weeks—and temperatures peaked at 86 degrees. The wine matured for 18 months in 70% new French oak barrels, hog heads, and puncheons.
In a rare, quiet moment during the 2014 harvest season, Annette Dennigmann, our Wine Club Manager, sat down with Winemaker Jeremy Weintraub. Jeremy holds a Master of Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis and has worked on the North and South Islands of New Zealand, in Italy, and in St. Helena California. Now settled on the Central Coast, he has been with Adelaida Cellars since 2012.
Q: What was the first fruit that arrived for the 2014 vintage?
A: We picked a small portion of chardonnay for its bright and energetic potential. Last year we split our 3.8 acre chardonnay block into three separate parcels that differ in slope, aspect, and elevation, enabling us to pick across a range of flavors.
Q: 2014 marks the 50th anniversary for the HMR Pinot Noir vines. How does the age of the vines contribute to the wine?
A: The fruit from older vines produce wines of greater depth and complexity than do their more youthful counterparts. The differences are not quantifiable. You simple know it when you taste it.
Q: We have a new baby on board, the concrete tank. How does this differ from stainless or barrel? What will this bring to the wine?
A: We're planning to use this tank for fermenting and aging grenache noir. Concrete tanks highlight the purity of the fruit inside and also, compared with, say stainless steel, allow for rich flavor development. Unlike oak, concrete imparts no toast character or tannin.
Q: What impact of challenges has the California drought had on this harvest?
A: Incredibly, we haven't seen any negative effects of the drought. Our farming plan now and into the future is to severely ration the amount of water we deliver to our vines, with the dual goal of making more interesting wine and conserving this precious resource. While drought is a major concern for us, our vines so far have weathered it well.
Q: When did you begin your career as a winemaker? What do you like best about your job?
A: I started on Long Island, driving a tractor for a family owned vineyard and then working harvest in the winery. What I loved then is what I love now: tasting fruit in the vineyard, smelling fermenting tanks, getting incredibly sticky, and sharing those long days with like-minded people.
Q: What changes have you made in the vineyards since you started?
A: Beginning 2013 we stopped spraying herbicides and we moved to organic fungicides, such as mineral oil, from synthetic sprays. Being good stewards of the land has always been a priority for Adelaida Cellars. It's essential for the long term success and health of your farming operations.
Q: We have three interns that we added to our already amazing production team for this year's harvest. Could you tell us a little something about them?
A: We have an intern from the University of Bordeaux, France, an intern from the University of Udine, Italy and a recent graduate from the University of California, Davis. The interns are hardworking and serious. Plus they are making us some delicious meals!
At 2:00am on August 19th our vineyard team started harvesting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from our HMR vineyard as well as a small block of Syrah from our Viking vineyard. With Winemaker Jeremy Weintraub at the helm, he has been working diligently all year with our Vineyard Consultant, Daniel Fischl and Ranch Managers, Mike Whitener and Ota Espinoza just for this moment. The grapes are now ready and we look forward to the results of all of their hard work. Following is a brief look at some of our new practices, new equipment, and new barrels for the 2013 vintage.
To date we have brought in Chardonnay (HMR Vineyard), Viognier (Anna’s Vineyard), Pinot Noir (HMR Vineyard), Syrah from both Viking and Anna’s Vineyards, Gamay (HMR Vineyard) and Malbec from Viking Vineyard.
New this year, we are harvesting in the middle of the night for several reasons that pertain to our sustainability and quality! Cool and happy ranch employees. Second, cooler grapes stay in tact and ensure quality. Cooler grapes won’t start premature fermentation and last, cooler grapes take less energy to cool down for cold soak prior to fermentation.
New winemaking practice this year- Our Winemaker, Jeremy Weintraub, is executing “pigeage” pronounced peej/AHGE on our Syrah/Viognier blend in order to delicately introduce Viognier into the Syrah. Most grapes stay in tact during the whole berry fermentation, while some juice from both of the varietals are introduced. This is a tradition borrowed from the Northern Rhône area of France like Cote-Rotie.
This harvest, we are introducing new Italian winemaking equipment,including the Pellanc de-stemmer and sorting table!
Brand new oak barrels!
You have heard the saying, "Every day is a new day", well, during harvest, every minute is a new day! Stay tuned and we will keep you updated!
As of June 28, a high pressure system has settled on the entire West Coast, and weather experts are forecasting several days of high heat and possibly record-breaking temperatures. With that projection in mind, and with seeds beginning to harden and veraison on the near horizon, we decided to give the plants some water.
While we employ a technique known as deficit irrigation to control shoot growth and increase grape quality, we want to keep the plants alive. Over the next several days we’ll continue to feed the plants enough water to counterbalance evaporative losses.
These early-season high temps are preferable to those that occur late in the season, as the intense heat induces the green grapes to make sunscreen in the skins, which will provide protection throughout the summer.
When the heat recedes we’ll finish our cluster thinning pass, which we began several weeks ago. This involves culling excessive clusters and those on weak shoots with an aim to balance the fruit load to the age of the vine, its size, the size of the canopy, and the size of the shoots.
We’re excited about the way the 2012 wines are developing. While their baby fat is still very much present, the wines reflect in their underlying richness and precision the nearly perfect growing season of the vintage. Not only did warm temperatures return after two consecutively cool years, but yields were up, too.
Rainfall between November and April (when the bulk of the annual precipitation occurs) was slight, especially in contrast to the previous two years, but not critically so, and there was rain into May. We saw budbreak first in our Upper West Block of Pinot noir, followed closely by Syrah and Grenache in Anna’s Vineyard. Budbreak finished in the Lower Viking vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon.
From the end of May into June daytime temperatures were in the 80s and 90s, with occasional spells of heat, which led to even and successful flowering. July temperatures were unusually erratic, with some days in the 70s followed by days that eclipsed 100. Fortunately, the nights were largely cool, which allowed the vines to recover.
The return of seasonably warm days (compared to 2010 and 2011) snapped veraison—the period when the skins soften, sugars accumulate and, in the case of red varietals, color pigments known as anthocyanins are synthesized-- back to its normal schedule.
The heat continued into August, in which we recorded two weeks over 100, but our top-notch vineyard crew stayed on top of thing and metered out enough water to keep the plants transpiring. September was virtually perfect, with warm days and cool nights and only a handful of hot days.
On August 29 we harvested Syrah from Viking Ranch vineyard as our first pick of the year off the estate. From that point on, the action was non-stop for six weeks, as the vineyard and production crews worked tirelessly to bring in fruit at its optimum and process it in time for the next pick. By the time we finished our last estate pick—Picpoul blanc, on October 18—and our last off-site pick—Carignane from Camp 4 in Santa Ynez Valley--we were exhausted but also elated by the vintage’s prospects.