In the Retail Room
We had an awesome Holiday Season hanging out with everyone who was able to visit us these past few months, and the wine inventory certainly shows that everyone enjoyed themselves and the juice we've been offering! There are just a few cases of our single vineyard blends2012 Nevaeh Red
and 2012 Tranquility
left, so if you're in need, get yours now before they are both gone baby gone!
Looking for the perfect Valentine's Day Gift for your sweetheart? Well, we've got you covered! We'll be serving flights and bites on Valentine's Day Weekend that will make any heart swoon! More details RIGHT HERE
And if you haven't visited us for a tasting in the Retail Room in a couple of months, then you haven't had a chance to taste the newer releases that have been rocking the menu recently. They are tasty! In addition to the mainstays, we're pouring four Killer Cluster wines - 2013 Riesling
,2013 Clement's Resistance
, 2013 Gregory's Return
, and2013 Syrah
. You've really got to taste these beauties as they aren't going to last long. Seriously! Learn more about Killer Cluster RIGHT HERE
and get some shipped to your door RIGHT HERE!
In the Club
It's almost time for the First Quarter's Vine Club wines to be released, so you know what that means - Vine Club Party! This time around, we're bringing back one of our most popular Vine Club events with a Blending Session
! If you were able to attend the last session two years ago, you already know that this is not-to-be-missed! More information RIGHT HERE
. Be there or be square!
Now that football is pretty much over, we bet you're looking for something fun to do on Sundays. Well you are in luck because we've got you covered! Come visit us and hang out at the Vine Club Lounge
from 1 - 5 pm
every Sunday! We'll show you some of the special wines we have reserved just for our Vine Club Members and you can grab a bottle, grab some bites from the Wine Kitchen
, and chill out with other members in our Great Room. This is the perfect way to wind down the weekend and recharge your batteries for the work week. It's also the perfect chance to grab a special bottle from our Library Selection, or from the Winemakers Select Bin series, and just chill, man... See you there! Cheers!
At the Show
It's never too early to start thinking about the concert season, and we've already put together the short list and the wish list of performers. Looking at the lineup it's going to be another incredible season!
Don't forget, if you're a Vine Club Member you receive season passes for two to all the concerts. What a bonus! And if you're not yet a Vine Club Member this is the perfect time to JOIN
and enjoy the benefits!
Stay tuned, as the full lineup for the Concerts will be released in the very near future! Until then, we'll see you at the Tasting Room! Cheers!
In the Vineyard
This is the time of year that we reflect while preparing for the coming year. The actual current task is pruning which is crucially important but at the same time pretty easy once you have done it for a few years. Our vineyard crew tends to stay with us for quite a while so we know they understand what is to be done. That gives us the opportunity to look at our vineyard from the 5000 foot view and understand what we have done well and what we need to improve on.
This year is a little more challenging than the past few on assessing our past but all for good reasons. Simply put, we have done a far better job with our vineyard and understanding our site over the past few years than ever before and the proof is in the wine. Looking especially at the 2014 and 2015 vintage the wines are certainly a step up and that is directly related only to the health and maintenance of the vineyard. Our site is different from our neighbors and we have to treat it as such. We can’t and don’t want to do the same things. Particularly with the Nevaeh Vineyard we have a very unique site due to our proximity to the Potomac and the Catoctins and the soil variations that come with it. No site more than 1 mile at most from the Potomac is going to have similar soils to our Hill and Pond blocks. That means in the Potomac Cluster of Loudoun County we are the only winery that sits on these soils and it makes for unique, complex and balanced wines when treated as they need to be. That is not to say better or worse, just unique.
Our new methods of soil maintenance and pest management are by far the two most critical pieces that have set us apart over the past few years. We have been doing a lot of sub-soiling, root pruning and cultivating in our vineyard which has given far better health to our vines. It breaks up compaction from years of heavy tractor work and allows the roots to get oxygen and therefore no longer suffocate. Many say they can’t do this because they need the grass cover to balance vigor, but luckily we don’t have vigorous soils. In the end we are able to also force the roots deeper opposed to sideways creating the ability for more terroir driven wines that are influenced by the dirt. In Virginia we are all in a borderline area as far as precipitation goes for viticulture. While because of the Catoctins we tend to be quite a bit drier than most of Loudoun we still certainly get rain. Roots will only dig as far as they need to for moisture unless forced. Simply having grass cover and not working it here will result in more surface roots. That results in wines that do not get the full benefit of the subsoils because the roots aren’t there to get the benefit. This has been huge for us to be able to get our roots deeper for this reason. They are reaching more limestone and therefore the wines are getting better acid balance and more minerality. The other huge benefit to having our deeper roots is that we have a better consistency of moisture. The soil moisture deeper does not fluctuate the same as the top-soil. In dryer months when vines are starved we have some soil moisture to stay healthy. But, more importantly when there is a harvest rain our roots are also not as saturated as they would be at the surface resulting in less diluted wines. Our soil maintenance changes simply have made for far better wines.
Pest Management is the other big positive change we have seen. Some people have scoffed at some of the work we have done saying it won’t work, and in some cases they were right, but in others they were not. Pest Management will forever be a hot topic in Virginia viticulture and there will always be those that simply say you have to spray and won’t worry about a better way. However there are also those that strive for better. That equates to better soils, better fruit, better wine and better conditions for our staff. This past year vineyards all over Northern Virginia commented and posted pics of their devastating Japanese beetle damage. We had some, sure, but not to the extent of what it seemed every other vineyard had. We also sprayed less than half of any other vineyard I have talked to. Why is that? Because we took a proactive approach in trying to resolve a problem we knew was existent. We tried runner ducks (certainly didn’t work because a fox ate them all…) and we increased our wild flower plantings. These wild flowers bring in huge amounts of beneficial insects which help to fight off the beetles. Another major change we have made that really should be done everywhere in our opinion is completely abandoned any herbicide. We simply cultivate under the rows now. Herbicide is simply not healthy and we know that so we eliminated it. The result I think is also healthier vines because we are not spraying poison near the roots. Ever since, the vines are healthier and the area vegetative growth is also healthier. Environmentally and socially we just felt it was the right thing to do.
So then what do we need to do better? There is always a better way. While we have eliminated the need for any herbicide, and we are pretty close to eliminating the need of any insecticide, the biggest challenge is certainly fungicide. Sure there are organic means but are heavy amounts of sulfur and copper any better (which are certified organic)? Fungicides will be the one we will research the most over the coming years. What can we do immediately though:
1) Learn from our mistakes – just because our runner ducks didn’t work this year does not mean they won’t work. The problem was simply their predator so we need to resolve that which is pretty easy. So if you see some great dogs running around having a great time you know we tried.
2) Create better bio-diversity – we need to introduce more species of wild and indigenous plants around our vineyard to actively promote beneficial insects and birds. Some birds will simply eat grapes which is a pain, but others help with bio-diversity which often lacks in a vineyard.
3) Look at each of our practices for better and more sustainable ways – everyone should always be doing this anyway. We need to lower our fuel needs. We need to lower our input to the soils in any means. We need to maximize all cultural practices (ways we can by hand manipulate for the better) whenever possible and not rely on machinery. There is always a better way.
Overall, as said before this really is a time of reflection and so far this is what we have seen as our best advances and what we need to watch closer. The vineyard is the backbone of our winery. It is the make or break to all that we do so it must get the attention and care it needs so each year we can taste from older and older vines (which we already have some of the oldest around here).
In the Cave
Blending, blending and blending. I think this year is my favorite yet for putting together the final reds to be bottled. In this case it is the 2014’s. The 2014 wines are by far the most pure, approachable and yet age worthy wines we have made. Many growers and wineries didn’t have great things to say about 2014 but I would say it certainly ranks up there with our best vintages. While 2007 was a very complete year it was the first year for me to work on this vineyard. That meant while the weather was perfect there was not all the knowledge on operating the vineyard for terroir so some of what was lost in 2007 is in the 2014’s. The other popular favorite is still 2010 which really is a controversial vintage. It made very hedonistic wines but not wines that truly expressed what our wines generally are. The 2014’s certainly don’t have the power of 2010 (they are powerful though) but they are far more balanced.
Really making the decisions on the 2014’s was easy. There really were no duds in the cellar so we could simply blend for the style of the site. It was clear which wines were more about the variety and which were more about the site. As would be expected it was most of the older vines and ones in better drainage areas that expressed the site best. The vineyard practices we have been working on are finally starting to shine through in this vintage.
With that we will now put them all together over the next week or so and allow them to settle another month in tank to be racked again so no filtration will be necessary. We will start to bottle these wines in March with the Nevaeh Red, Tranquility Red, Long Bomb, Cabernet Franc, Boneyard Unrefined Red and a new Boneyard wine called Pinnacle that replaces the varietal Syrah for now. These wines will start to hit club packs throughout the year before having their main release in 2017.
Other than that the cellar is pretty quiet. The 2015’s have all completed their malo-lactic fermentations and now are just resting in barrels. We did already bottle a couple of the early release wines in December and they are pretty special. Lots of Viognier!!!! Come taste some soon.
2015 Vintage Report
All about time and place.
The bud break was extremely late for us here at Tarara which gave us quite a bit of concern as to whether the later ripening varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon would make it. The spring was just so cold and wet that it seemed the vines would never get rolling. Well…when they did they rolled hard.
The summer was moderate temperature-wise with only a few rainfalls and they were mostly through June and the early part of July. After that the weather went bone dry and stayed perfectly moderate - not too hot and not too cold. Vines love this and it made the ripening very efficient and helped the vines not only catch up to being on time but in some cases the grapes ripened earlier than average. If I could have an August like that every year I would be a happy person.
Veraison (onset of ripening) went off perfectly with temperatures in the mid 80’s as highs and coming down into the low 70’s and 60’s at night. The soils had enough moisture to keep the vines healthy but there was no excess rain to be had. The berry weights were pretty light which meant great extraction and concentration.
Picking was pretty easy going for the most part up here at the northern tip of Virginia. There are certainly horror stories of rain further south but that had nothing to do with us. We did get some Viognier from the Monticello AVA this year and we were able to see the differences based on picking times and whether there had been rains. Most were great, some just good. In the end we are pretty thrilled with the wines we made though. Here in Northern Loudoun we really only had one rain event. Sure it was a beast of a rain event and even meant being stuck between two flash floods, but it had little impact on our harvest. It was timed pretty perfectly. Most of the Merlot was ready and picked just before the rain, as were all Chardonnay, Viognier and Tannat. The stuff that was left on the vine still needed a couple weeks anyway so it had ample time to dry out and continue ripening at the same time. The vines this year were in the best health we have ever seen so really the hang time was no problem. The only real struggle we saw on our main sites was one block of Cabernet Sauvignon on our Road block (only one acre) that simply ran out of time and is maybe not as ripe as we would like it. We got a pretty heavy frost on October 20th so that block was coming in regardless. The rest is superb.
The wines so far really just strike me as being perfectly balanced. Right from the moment they arrived at the Cave they were obviously special. The numbers were perfect (not that we really care about the numbers) and so was the skin, seed and flavor ripening. The wines show a great backbone and have solid tannic structures, good depth and wonderful complexity. They are maybe a touch less intense than 2014 but with seamless textures and astonishing complexity. I would almost call them a combination of 2009 and 2007. We will start to look at initial blends for the reds in the coming months and I can’t wait. Oh….and we also had far better yields than we have seen in years so there might be enough to go around!!