Left: Veraison at Tablas Creek in Paso Robles on August 10th. Right, Roanoke Vineyards on August 12th
Left photograph courtesy Tablas Creek Vineyard, right by Jennie Spencer, Roanoke Vineyards
The Fall at Roanoke Vineyards
If you’re a Talking Heads fan, and perhaps of a certain age, you’ll remember their song Crosseyed and Painless, which features a refrain about facts (hear the entire song here). The initial phrase is “Facts are simple and facts are straight,” and then later, “Facts don’t do what I want them to.” “Facts all come with points of view” may be the key line as we consider some facts about global warming.
On August 10th I received the quarterly Tablas Creek Vineyard blog, written by Ian Consoli (Tablas Creek is the California outpost for the Perrin family of Chateau Beaucastel, and co-owned by the California Haas family). Ian’s headline was that veraison (when the grapes stop growing in size and begin to ripen) had just begun in their vineyard in Paso Robles. On August 12th our wine club director, Jennie Spencer, took this issue’s headline photograph in the Roanoke estate vineyard. Although the image is beautiful, and the vineyard is in top shape, it's also ahead of itself.
A true fact: The summers at Roanoke Vineyards have been progressively warmer for the last several years.
Facts are simple in that this illustrates we’re well into a period of climate change, and because facts all come with points of view, I’ll leave it to you to determine why this is happening. The more optimistic among us (those who don’t own waterfront property) might suggest that the hotter summers will make it easier to grow Vinifera grapes, and that would be true. At least until there is a stronger hurricane.
Speaking of which, Henri, the only hurricane named after a famous artist (Henri Matisse!), blew by without incident. We had the hatches battened down, and the grapes were tucked safely under the nets, but the big breeze never happened, and in the end we had 1.5” of rain (which was greatly appreciated). We are closely watching two storms in the Atlantic right now.
As we move into late September and October, watch your Roanoke emails for news about the harvest, and how you may participate. Last October our members picked 26 tons of grapes in about six hours, a record! Toward the end of the day, we moved a couple tons of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Hill block, and Cabernet Franc from the Twelve Rows, so members could assemble the field blend that has become The Hill for 2020. The process involved a lot of heavy lifting, which was no small feat with a mask on. You’ll have a chance to taste an early version of this wine when our 2020 tasting boxes are available in early January.
Our hope . . . is to be able to host a few barrel tasting events in the cellar for fully vaccinated people, however all bets are off until we can get a clear reading on what the virus is doing. So again, watch your emails from us, but be advised your at-home evaluation with one or two of our tasting boxes will not only provide you with a vision into the wines, but also an evening or two of big fun. This is a way to try these wines in your glasses, at your own pace, and with a dinner you cooked.
The chorus of Crosseyed and Painless is “I’m still waiting, I’m still waiting . . . ,” and so we find ourselves in that situation with an excellent vintage on the vines, and sunny weather ahead. It looks really good, but feel free to chant.
The Fall Portfolio
The Roanoke Vineyards fall portfolio is one of the most diverse selections we’ve ever released. The four wines are wildly different from one another, each arriving with a good story, and each asking for a little attention to your glass to fully appreciate. This wide angle selection wonderfully illustrates our scope and vision.
Let’s begin with the 2020 Roanoke Vineyards Site Specific Rosé™, which pushes the limits of the genre. The world is full of rosé, and because the expectations for any rosé are very specific and rather limited, it’s an easy bullseye. If the wine is cold enough, not too sweet, and vaguely pink, it’s considered a home run. Past that, none of us ask too many questions, but that’s the wrong way to look at wine.
Several years ago Roanoke trademarked the term “site specific” for a particular reason. We know that good wine can express not only a sense of place, very unique flavors and characteristics, but also the philosophies of the grower. This wine is built from estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, that, like all our estate wines, was grown without herbicides and with an organic approach focused on the health of the vineyard, the health of the planet, and your health. And because the Cab Sauvignon brings such depth and complexity to the table, this wine really benefits from a little aging. That’s not to say that you won’t find it a lovely companion to tonight’s dinner, but that it will be best appreciated on a special occasion at some point in the future. This is the richest, cleanest, and most beautiful rosé on this side of the Atlantic.
Historically, Merlot from Long Island’s North Fork has had a very singular flavor profile that comes from its maritime climate and Havens Loam soil. The Roanoke Vineyards 2018 Merlot shows none of that, and could easily be mistaken as a wine from another region entirely. This wine is bright, fresh, and loaded with strawberry, sage, cinnamon, and tarragon. The color is deceptively light for a wine of this depth, however there’s balance and a radiant acidity that will make food pairings a breeze. This is a young wine, but this is the time to drink it!
The Wild! from 2020 is everything we look for from this particular wine. Technically, this is a site specific wine, coming from Steve Mudd’s easternmost vineyard planted in 1982, and really showcasing the Muscat clone Chardonnay. If you’re not a fan of big, barrel fermented Chardonnays, this crisp, stainless steel Chardonnay will speak to you. There’s an abundance of melon, citrus, and fruit cocktail, making this wine its own ruckus party. Because this is a wild fermented wine, each year can vary widely, however the 2020 is a wild success.
Just to the west of the vineyard’s tasting room are the twenty three long rows of Cabernet Franc, where the 2019 Site Specific Cabernet Franc grew under the attentive eye of our vineyard master, George Fernandez. Much like the Gabby’s Cab Franc that grows just to the east, this wine abounds with Bing cherry flavors that are stunningly pristine, and free from pyrazines that can send Cabernet Franc into a bell pepper tailspin. Of the varietals we grow, Cabernet Franc is the most susceptible to wet weather, but the 2019 arrives in your portfolio as a solid cruiserweight, ready to take on a fresh Montauk tuna steak, or Wagyu steak tartare. 95.1% estate Cabernet Franc, and 4.9% estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Unequivocally, this is our best Cabernet Franc, ever, and the best value in our portfolio.
Below, members blend Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to create the field blend that will become The Hill 2020