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.
I try not to get philosophical when it comes to wine, as the point is to enjoy it and not dwell on it in any existential way. But winemaking and grapegrowing are hopelessly bound up with tradition. People have been drinking some version of wine for 8,000 years, so that’s to be expected. But there are numerous reasons to question which traditions are worth heeding and which are best abandoned, and, simply put, the use of cork as a closure for wine bottles has reached its point of usefulness and value at Adelaida.
Cork is the outermost bark of an evergreen oak. Horace says that the Romans used cork to stopper their wine vessels, which were likely made of earthenware, but adds that these were then sealed with pitch, as the corks themselves weren’t sufficient. Rocks were also used to stopper earthenware containers. Glass then became the stopper of choice, until the 1600s, when Dom Perignon began using cork because glass itself wasn’t very effective at keeping oxygen out.
By the late 1700s, cork had regained favor. It did a better job of keeping oxygen out than anything else available, it allowed a certain amount of oxygen ingress--which may or may not be advantageous for a wine--and it was a renewable product.
Two attributes of cork are of primary concern when it comes to wine, especially as it relates to Adelaida wine. The first is the cork’s propensity to deliver into wine a compound called Trichloroanisol, or TCA. This compound, while innocuous to health, makes a wine smell moldy or musty; that is, tainted.
Adelaida has been purchasing the most expensive corks on the market and they’ve been guaranteed to be free of cork taint. Unfortunately, we’ve still found bottles that are corked. The cork company has offered to buy back the bottles that are corked, but that doesn’t help out the consumer who opened that bottle up as a special occasion, or who gifted that bottle to a friend.
The second challenge with corks is arguably one of its virtues: it’s a natural product, so each one is different. But, that also means that each wine bottled under cork will smell and taste different, too. I’ve been asking myself how I’d feel if my companion and I ordered the same dish at a restaurant but found one being different in quality than the other. It’s just not acceptable.
Which brings us to the Diam cork. The Diam is made from natural cork that’s been milled, treated with supercritical carbon dioxide to eliminate all impurities, and formed into a cork shape with a binder.
With these new corks we are confident that each bottle of Adelaida wine that you purchase or receive as a gift will smell exactly like it’s supposed to smell, bottle after bottle.
Jeremy Weintraub, Winemaker
Grapevines require a certain amount of heat to make grapes and a certain amount of sunlight to make sugar, and an excess of either degrades the potential quality. From 2012 through 2016, California experienced a number of climatic events—most notably consecutive years of drought and warming temperatures--that have prompted us to reconsider how we farm for high quality wine. One solution that we’ve come up with is the use of shadecloth to lower the temperature around the grape clusters and to decrease the potential for sunburn.
Shadecloth is simply a knitted fabric that blocks UVA and UVB light from penetrating the canopy while allowing a sufficient amount of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) to reach the leaf’s chlorophyll and other pigments. PAR, in short, is the light in the visible spectrum (400-700nm wavelength) that’s responsible for photosynthesis.
We began experimenting with black and green shadecloth in 2013 and since then we’ve covered over 90% of our vines. So far, the results are very promising. We’ve been able to harvest grapes later than we’d expected given the increasingly early budbreak with greater color, less sugar (lower potential alcohol) and far less desiccation.
This year, with the cooperation of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, we’re going to experiment with a white shadecloth to see if color makes a difference—how white or black shadecloth influences wine grape composition. Stay tuned.
As we wrapped up the month of October the days descend into full autumnal splendor. The pumpkin patches are overflowing, the leaves are turning color, and the 2016 Adelaida Harvest is at an end. We are absolutely thrilled with this year’s harvest. 2016 saw several unique challenges from yet another drought year, summer storms, and wildfires at our front door. And still, yellow bins of magnificent handpicked fruit rolled into the winery, day after day.
From six Estate vineyards, 157 acres, and two months of backbreaking labor, a promising 275 tons of fruit was harvested. The first pick of Muscat Blanc came in on August 16th, and the Adelaida crew raised bubbling glasses of 1984 sparkling Adelaida Pinot Noir to christen the harvest season. [insert pic from our toast].
This harvest lasted longer than past years, just over two months, which gave us a longer ripening season. The last grapes, Grenache and Petit Verdot, came in on October 19th, ending the picking stage of harvest. While every varietal showed up to play, each team has its all-stars. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Zinfandel all have stood out. Each varietal shows tremendous vibrancy and depth of character. Cabernet Sauvignon is arguably the 2016 Harvest MVP-Most Valuable Player. The Cabernet shows great potential with skin color, cluster size, and fresh ripeness.
Every year’s harvest faces challenges, farming is an arduous endeavor. For the 2016 Harvest, Winemaker Jeremy Weintraub was most surprised with “the health of the vines despite six years of drought.” Moving on from the harvest season, the fermentation and aging stages will commence. The cellar crew are busy transferring wine from oak, concrete, and steel tanks to barrels for the ageing process. In regards to the entirety of the harvest, in Jeremy’s words, 2016 was “exhausting, but very rewarding! We’ve got the most professional and committed crew at Adelaida.” With such an astounding harvest, we are excited to see how the wines age and develop over the coming years.
As harvest nears, I got the chance to sit down with winemaker Jeremy Weintraub to find out more about what is currently happening in the vineyard and learn about the uniques ways that he measures water levels in the soil.
Q. What is Veraison and why is it important?
A. Veraison signals the onset of ripening and is when the pigment in the grape changes from green to red or black. The grapes will soften, accumulate sugar, and lose some of their acid.
Q. Has Veraison began in the Adelaida Estate?
A. Historically, we’re still about two weeks away from Veraison; however, we’re beginning to see quite a bit of coloring come up in a few varieties (most notably Pinot Noir).
Q. What are you doing in the vineyard right now?
A. The vineyard crew has been busy tidying up the grapevines and ensuring that the fruit clusters get just the right amount of sunlight to ripen to their full potential, but not too much light or heat that they get sunburned or lose color potential. It is a balancing act.
Q. What Tools are you using to ensure that the vineyard has enough water?
A. Water is vital to all life. For a grapevine, water demands change throughout the season. We monitor plant water use and needs through a combination of our own eyes as well as sensors placed throughout the ranches that record evapotranspiration and soil moisture.
Our third tool is the dog paw—more specifically, the digging action of Oliver our vineyard dog. If we see moist soil six inches below the surface, we know that the vine has plenty of water to draw from. We combine this observation with the soil measurements of our probes. Our vineyard probes measure water up to 48 inches below the surface in four inch increments.
Q. Why is it important to check water levels in the soil?
A. We need to check levels to ensure that each variety is getting what it needs. We want our red grape varieties to experience a moderately high amount of stress leading up to Veraison, which ensures the proper functioning of physiological processes without killing the plant. With white grape varietals, we don’t really want to stress them at all.
Q. How often do you water the vineyard?
A. We irrigate only when necessary for plant life and quality. Also 33% of our vineyards are not irrigated and rely solely on what Mother Nature provides us during the rainy season so those vineyards are never watered.
Ranch Manager Emeritus
Mike remembers the day in 2001 when he and Adelaida owner Don Van Steenwyk were driving on the HMR ranch and Don asked, “What would you plant on this hill?” Mike answered “a dry farmed vineyard”. It was then that Adelaida Cellars chose to plant dry farmed Zinfandel on what is now Michael’s Vineyard.
It is with deep gratitude and respect we raise our glasses to you, Mike Whitener (zinfandel, of course!). Cheers!
The first very wet winter in four years is upon us! This year’s El Niño, caused by elevated surface water temperatures in the South Pacific, is expected to bring about heavy rains and cooler nights. El Niño rains promise a limited replenishment to our water-starved soils…..if we can keep the water from running away! Fortunately, the rains that we’ve had so far have been wonderfully easy, with a handful of daily accumulations totaling not more than 0.9 inches. Since July 1, 2015 we’ve recorded 8.3”, over 2" more than this time last year! What does this mean for the vineyards? Those frequent, light rains allow the soil to slowly absorb the water, which, over time, help to flush out the salts that have accumulated from the prolonged drought. Our concern over heavy downpours at Adelaida is that the steep slopes will simply allow the water to run off, carrying with it our valuable topsoil. To combat this possibility, just before the first rains began to fall we planted lots of peas, beans, white and yellow mustard, daikon radish, and triticale to build up the biomass of our soils. Right now, the vineyards look beautiful with lots of greens and colors, and we know that we’ve done as much as we can to work in stride with Mother Nature.
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!
The Summer Newsletter was created throughout the late spring and early summer months of 2013. With notes from the Winemaker Jeremy Weintraub, insights from Resident Wine Educator Tony Hermann, and from National Sales Manager, Paul Sowerby, a lively review of our cellar wines, it is a work that incorporates the many voices of Adelaida. Also included is a recipe pairing for Grilled Swordfish, a list of our most recent wines, notes on our new 2011 Pinot Vineyard Series, and a list of upcoming events.
The cover photo is of one of our newest additions, Liam the llama. He came to Adelaida in March with his big black coat, thick and matted, from the cold winter months. His face, warm and friendly, boasts dark eyes and lengthy lashes, giving him the appearance of a big flirt as he greets our guests. At the winery, Liam's job is to protect the sheep and he acts the part by being on constant watch. In times of trouble or simply to play, he is always quite the show with his long loose strides and lengthy neck gaining momentum as he removes the sheep from danger.
Click below to see our 2013 Summer Newsletter. Cheers, Sunni