Ledger David Gleans Winemaking Insight from Legendary Winemaker Gary Figgins of Leonetti Cellar
By Kiley Evans, Winemaker
A relentless pursuit of quality. This mantra guides every winemaking activity at Ledger David Cellars. The pursuit of quality takes many different forms, as well. Scientific research, vineyard experiments, and cellar trials have merit in the pursuit, but the wisdom handed down from those with more experience has its place, as well. When that wisdom comes Gary Figgins, who planted the first commercial vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley and with his wife founded Leonetti Cellar as the first commercial winery in the Walla Walla Valley nearly 40 years ago, it takes on serious weight. Leonetti Cellar is a legendary vineyard and winery whose focus has always been on quality. Their exceptional wines, consistently reviewed and rated as among the very best in America, combined with a very limited supply creates an undeniable mystique, as evidenced by the 3+ year wait to get on their mailing list. While justly revered for monumental, collectible, impossible-to-get Cabernet Sauvignons, what many may not realize is that Mr. Figgins produces arguably the best, and most highly respected, Sangiovese on the planet that isn’t from Italy.
Owner David Traul and I had the great fortune to meet Gary and Vineyard Manager Jason Magnaghi recently and when the opportunity arises to sit with the Master and his benchmark wines one seizes the chance to take proper objective measure of one’s efforts. We tasted the Ledger David Sangiovese from multiple vintages. The comments were encouraging (deep, ripe, effusive fruits with great weight and acid/tannin balance). We also were fortunate to taste the Leonetti 2005 and 2010. Both were beyond impressive for their balance, integration, presence, and personality. Trying to choose between the two would be an exercise in futility as they were so different, yet so utterly delicious.
We toured the winery, cellar, bottling room, and barrel cave. We discussed, among other topics, all things Sangiovese from trellising to crop loads to fermentation to blending to aging. The questions, answers, and discussions were lively and the wealth of knowledge offered was astounding. What we learned is that we are doing quite a few things right in the vineyard and winery. Our crop loads are in line for the variety when considering our spacing and site. Solid vineyard management. Our wines are showing a good balance of fruit, oak, and spice with the variety’s typical dustiness. The intensity and concentration are there. Varietal character? Check. What we also learned is that there are some areas of experimentation we should explore that could have potentially huge impact on wine textural quality, length, and longevity. No, we’re not going to spell it all out in this short blog post, but trust us when we say the bar is about to get raised…again.
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