2019: Coastview Vineyard Releases
We find ourselves in these holiday and winter months taking time for rejuvenation and a bit of introspection. As we enter 2019, we are approaching the 20th anniversary of the first planting in our Estate vineyard. And having just finished what could be described as an epic vintage, we see how far we have come. I want to give a big thank you to all of you out there who have been with us since near the beginning, through our evolution of style to where we find ourselves now with wines of energy, finesse, transparency and hopefully, ever so satisfying. In all ways, this annual release of our latest Coastview Vineyard wines represents where we are at in this evolution of style.
The four Coastview Vineyard wines that we are presenting in this release are: 2016 Chardonnay, 2016 Pinot Noir, 2015 “Terraces” Syrah, and the 2014 Syrah. All three vintages have much to offer with favorable growing seasons. The other factor going in our favor is the increasing age of this remarkable vineyard which is 18 years in the 2016 vintage. Having worked with this vineyard for 12 years, I have definitely witnessed the evolution of characteristics that it expresses with each successive vintage. Famous French vignerons in the Rhone Valley and Burgundy swear by the importance of vine age and now having seen it for myself I get it. What I can say is that these recent vintages are definitely beginning to show the benefits of vineyard age, even for the “Terraces” Syrah which was planted in 2008 to a special field selection from John Alban. One can only guess as to how much more beautiful the wines will become as these vines get even older.
As for winemaking style, the 2014 Coastview Syrah was the first where we used 100% whole clusters (something we did with nearly every Syrah in 2018). We held this wine back for an extra year to allow the tannins further time to integrate and this patience paid off. The use of larger format 300 liter hogs heads French oak barrels with less new (just one out of three barrels) and with the new oak employing a special toast and forest which imparts very little ‘oakiness’ to the wine all contributes to greater transparency. And transparency is what we want with this beautiful Syrah that comes from these decomposed quartzite soils. The 2015 “Terraces” Syrah saw a nearly identical oak regime which allows the finer nuances, and differences from the other bottling, to shine through. We did back off slightly in whole cluster to about 2/3s used, but this dominant percentage is still enough to promote the benefits we have seen from this technique – greater mouthfeel, enhanced depth and savory/roasted meat character. As some of you know, we make our picking decisions based on the physiological ripeness of the grapes and not the sugar levels by themselves. In this vintage, we witnessed incredible color development (color imparted to the juice of freshly crushed grapes) at a relatively low sugar level, with great flavors, so we picked. The finished alcohol is 13.5 which is in a range considered normal in the Northern Rhone, and this wine bares a striking resemblance to its Northern Rhone counterparts grown on granitic hillsides. And no doubt the tiny yields of this vintage produced a wine that is packed with intense, brooding and tightly wound fruit that is only now just beginning to unwind with a long decant to reveal what this wine has to offer.
The 2016 Chardonnay is our seventh vintage making this wine and it feels to me like we are finding our stride with this varietal in this vineyard. One of the most difficult things to get right is the ripeness with this Chardonnay. Dry soils and intense sun can cause the sugar levels to spike in a matter of days and with picking crews needing to be lined up days in advance, one sometimes needs to trust intuition and experience to make a call. With this vintage, I think we got it right with a Chardonnay that expresses tremendous varietal character along with a complex variety of fruits, plus the verve and balance that allow a Chardonnay to really sing. While this wine is drinking beautifully now, we are finding that a few years of bottle age is a great thing if you can be patient. And who knows, these could be very long lived wines with the slight reduction that is evident at this juncture (reduction is the opposite of oxidation). It was old world expressions of Chardonnay which got us interested in this varietal and we feel fortunate to have found a vineyard which is capable of evoking this old world feel.
Pinot Noir very much embodies the same trickiness with getting the pick date right. The 2016 vintage did help by providing consistent and moderate weather through the harvest season. Our 2016 Coastview Vineyard Pinot was fermented with nearly 100% whole clusters which we have found to work beautifully with this vineyard. Aromatics that leap out of the glass, intensity of fruit on the palate, and vibrant acidity are the hallmarks of this wine, and ones that bode well for a long future. If you decide to imbibe this wine anytime soon, decanting is strongly recommended.