The Vintage: Some like it hot, and if that is what you are into, then 2015 is your kind of vintage. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that. A clean, fully developed and relatively expressive vintage, 2015 (much like 2014) offers up a significant contrast to the frigidly cold yet scintillating vintages of 2010 and 2011. In the context of Pinot Noir vintages, there are showers and then there are growers.
We have grown wine in nearly the hottest and certainly the coldest vintages ever recorded in the Willamette Valley within a 6 year span. We have triumphed over vintages colder than Champagne, took what appeared to be rotted Chardonnay from Typhoon Pabuk and produced a Botrytis desert wine to rival Sauternes, sweltered under elevated evening temperatures and summer drought conditions that teased an unprecedented early harvest window. And, to borrow a line from Frank, “We did it our way.”
While some experienced pre-mature fermentation again this year, Ernie held out for rain before he pulled the trigger on Cluster Pluck 2015 (He looked so determined at midnight under the full moon doing the rain dance in block 2.) “Hey, whatever works...” Once again, this year the conditions were right for a sticky. This time it is Our Muse Viognier emulating the traditional late harvest beerenauslese style – complete with gold capsule.
You can read the full Harvest After Action Report (AAR) on our FLOG (Farming bLOG):
The 2015 vintage was one for the record books. And like 2013, it provided us with a unique opportunity to make a late harvest wine. By mid-September the Viognier had accumulated more than enough sugar to make a nice table wine, but the flavors were nowhere to be found.
So, Ernie said let them hang a bit longer. And so they did and continued to accumulate even more sugar. By mid-October, the sugars were too high to make a dry table wine, but the flavors had started to come on. Again, his decision was to let them hang, and so they did.
By the end of the month, our old friend Botrytis had started to settle in. This was a good sign, especially since the weather was dry. This forced the berries to yield their water, even further concentrating the aromas and flavors. Our Muse from the 2015 vintage is a late harvest Viognier made in the Beerenauslese style.
There are plenty of rules and regulations for what can be called a Beerenauslese, but one of the most important factors for making this style of wine is the concentration of sugars and what you do with them. We harvested at well over 28 brix, so we had the concentration factor on our side. We whole cluster pressed these semi-desiccated and Botrytis concentrated berries and settled the juice to ferment in stainless steel.
The second most important factor in a Beerenauslese style wine is to let the juice ferment until the yeast produce enough alcohol to arrest the fermentation. That happens at just around 15.6% alcohol. The remaining sugar is left unfermented. And this is one of those times when it is better to be lucky than good. The remaining sweetness needs to be supported by the acidity of the wine, which, of course, it is.
The 2015 Our Muse Viognier is bottled in 375 ml bottles and finished with a traditional gold capsule. The gold capsule is used in Beerenauslese style wines to alert the consumer that this is indeed a special wine. The 375 ml bottles are used so that you can remember what it was that you enjoyed the evening before. 63 cases produced.
Tasting Notes: A white maple hue alludes to the vinous origins. Bright and distinctive aromas of ripe melon, mango and golden raspberries penetrate. The palate experience is rich providing mid-palate volume without the encumbrance of oak maturation, allowing the true character of the fruit and natural acidity to triumph. This Pearl is far from a shrinking Violet.
Culinary Inclinations: White King Salmon sashimi, spot prawn sushi with roe or seared Ahi tuna in sesame oil provide Blanc de Noir contrasts commensurate with the wines hidden charms.
Bellpine Pearl is a still white wine made from gently pressed Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. The unique platinum color results from brief exposure of the clear juice to the deeply hued skins. While making a “Blanc de Noir” or white wine from dark grapes is not exceedingly difficult, it does require attention to detail as this wine was fermented without sulfur dioxide. Bellpine is the name of our sedimentary soil series and Bellpine Pearl is our pearl from the soil or “Perle de Bellpine.”
Last summer Ernie had toyed with the idea of creating a “white Pinot Meunier.” Actually, his recently revealed motive was to create a base wine that he could re-ferment into a sparkling wine. The first step, however, was to make a relatively clear wine out of red grapes.