Winemaker Kiley Evans Sums Up 2014 Harvest in A Word: Exhilarating
By Winemaker Kiley Evans
Well here I sit, Macbook on lap, trying to find the words to express the vintage we are experiencing in 2014 at Ledger David Cellars. Yes, I know the hype in Oregon this year has been early, hot, bountiful, and great quality. I’ll go along with all but the first. You remember my recent post about how our vineyard is a cool spot in a warm area? The evidence is at hand. Let’s dive into our white harvest so far.
The Ledger David whites are all in the barn (I’m from the South, remember? Everyone has a barn in the South and that’s where crops go when harvested). Our first pick, Sauvignon blanc, or savvy as one of my dear Aussie compadres calls it, is fermented dry and aging. Crisp, clean, concentrated aromas and flavors.
Our second pick was Chardonnay. The Chard has completed its primary fermentation, as well. We kept our vineyard’s two clones separate this year and are again using roughly 20% new French oak and 30% ML fermentation. The wine right now is hard to read. It just finished the alcoholic fermentation and hasn’t fully integrated as of this morning. The component parts, intense tropical fruit, balanced acidity, toasty oak, caramel and butterscotch tones, are there, but they aren’t all playing the same page of music just yet. Patience required.
Chenin blanc came in next. We turned the Chenin into a grand experiment. We have a great combination of stainless steel drums and neutral oak barrels and we have multiple yeast strains at work including “native” yeast, which are the yeasts that come into the winery on the fruit. We will bottle several different tiny lots of this wine for future tasting to see which of these trial wines comes closest to expressing our vineyard site when compared to prior vintages.
I have to say the wines are beyond interesting with unctuous mouthfeels and textures unlike anything we have done in the past. Viognier was next. All I can “legally” share about our Viognier from 2014 is that it is simply astonishing, a first for Ledger David, and an exceedingly rare style of wine. Trust me when I say it will blow the status quo out of the water. Lastly, we harvested our Malvasia bianca. Malvasia is a very late ripening variety and the wine has only just begun to ferment. We have a little something special planned for this, too.
Our first red in the barn was Syrah. As I tasted the three bins of fermenting black marbles this morning I was struck first by the intense inky color. Then the aromas took my nose for a ride. Blue and black berries, earth, game, road tar, pepper, all-spice, grilled bread, and an intriguing herbal note that reminded me of dried herbs de provence and garrigue. Tempranillo came next, or at least part of it. What we have fermenting right now astounds me with its depth of flavor, richness of texture, and structure considering its age. This earlier-ripening clone tasted in the vineyard like it had something special to show, which is becoming a bit more obvious now. Reserve, you ask? I can’t say for certain just yet, but am definitely leaning that way.
All of our Malbec came next. Wonder why my hands are stained? Wonder no more. Malbec inspired the “Society of the Black Hand”, of which I am a proud member every harvest. It stained the inside of the glass as I swirled and is staining my keyboard now. Intense black and red fruit, lavender, and freshly roasted coffee with an oily, thick, chewy, and extracted texture, mouth-filling body, and long, pure finish. All I could say was, “Wow.” We have harvested a portion of our Sangiovese and Cabernet franc, but those wines have not begun to ferment yet. Given the Syrah, Tempranillo, and Malbec thus far I am seeing this as one of those rare vintages in which Mother Nature blesses our vineyard with exceptional fruit and we do our best to coax from those grapes an expression of her goodness, vitality, and indomitable spirit. It won’t be long before we start thinking about pressing the reds off the skins, selecting and filling barrels, and shortly after that blending. The process comes on fast, but with wines like these it is such happy torture.
The last of the wines were picked the first week in November – Cabernet franc and Petit verdot.
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