Vineyard: Mokelumne Glen
Bottling Date: January 23, 2017
Release: March 1, 2017
Production: 47 cases
Drinking Window: 2017-2022
This was our first vintage making Dornfelder, so we were really starting with a blank slate. I knew that I wanted to use some of it for rose, and I also wanted to make a red wine, but since I can't stand rose that isn't fresh and vital, the pick date was really determined by the rose. Some laughed at us and said there was no way we could make red wine from fruit picked that early, but I'd like to think we have shown that not only can it be done, the results can be quite intriguing.
Because we were making the rose anyway, I decided to try something a little crazy. We took half of the Dornfelder and destemmed it to tank. Then we took the other half and put it into the press whole cluster, and pressed it until about 60% of the juice was released. We then transferred what was left in the press into the tank, to ferment with the rest of the grapes. So basically we had nearly double the normal skin-to-juice ratio, and about 50% of the stems in the ferment. From there ferment was fairly standard, as the native yeast took over and got things going quickly. In order to manage the tannin and color, we just pumped the must over once a day, and did no punchdowns. The result is a wine of incredibly dark color, yet because it was harvested early and only on the skins for about 12 days, it is not overly extracted or tannic. The wine aged in neutral barrel for four months, and was bottled with no sulfur nor any fining or filtration. With its singular mix of dark color and fresh flavors, this may be our most unique red wine to date.
Incredibly dark purple in color, the 2016 Dornfelder could easily work as ink if you happen to have a quill pen lying around. But ink doesn't have these aromas: smoked meat, black olive, pomegranate, violets and black pepper. In some ways the nose could pass for a cold-climate Syrah. The palate is savory, with olive, grapefruit pulp, blackberry, and a chalky, mineral character. There is considerable tannin to the wine, yet it remains fresh, with lovely acidity and a floral note that lingers on and on. At just 10.6% alcohol, this is a really crazy wine, robust enough to stand up to steak or grilled lamb, and yet refreshing enough that you can keep drinking glass after glass. Maybe we should have bottled this one in magnums.