2014 was an exciting harvest for us at Song Hill. Our farm brought forth its first crop of grapes: table grapes that we made into a delicious jam. We also had the pleasure of working with Martini Vineyards of Anthony Road Wine Company, for the first time.
This year was probably defined more by the proceeding winter (coldest in four decades) than anything else. Not only was there a lot winter damage in the varietals we focus on (Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), but the cold delayed the growing season by a few weeks. This made it our latest harvest yet with harvest work, like racking off lees and barreling down, lasting into December.
However, we are very blessed to work with absolutely fantastic and dedicated growers and, though the growing conditions were challenging this year, they more than met that challenge and delivered us some of the best fruit we have seen.
The season began with the harvesting of Diamond and Pinot Noir for sparkling wine, followed shortly by Chardonnay, also for sparkling. Traditionally, grapes for use in sparkling wine are brought in earlier than for still wine. This is for two reasons: 1) grapes accumulate more sugar the longer they ripen and because we add some sugar at bottling to create carbonation in sparkling wine, we want to have a little less sugar in the grapes; and 2) grapes respire acid over time and sparkling wine needs slightly more acidity than still wines to provide structure for the bubbles and to balance out the small amount of sweetness added when we disgorge.
This year we made three sparkling wines. Our Sparkling Cuvée is a light, yellow colored sparkling wine made in the traditional method (methode champenoise). It is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. The grapes are all gently whole cluster pressed to extract only the highest quality juice and no color from the skins of the red grapes. They undergo a cool fermentation lasting a couple of weeks and will be bottled up in the spring with a little sugar and yeast added. The bottles will age for approximately 3 years before disgorging and release. This year, the aroma profiles of this wine include a lot of peach in the forefront followed by refreshing citrus.
Our Brut Rosé is also a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc; however instead of whole cluster pressing, the grapes are destemmed and crushed and undergo a cold soak for 24-48 hours in order to extract colors, flavors, and aromas from the skins. Then we gently bladder press and start a cool fermentation. We will bottle this wine in the spring with a little sugar and yeast and after nine months of aging, it will be disgorged and released. We noted aromas of raspberry, blackberry and banana this year.
Our sparkling Diamond (a hybrid varietal created in the 1880s specifically for this region) is destemmed and immediately pressed. It then also undergoes a cool fermentation and will be bottled in the spring with a little sugar and yeast. Unlike our other sparkling wines which get just a touch of sugar when they are disgorged to balance them out, the Diamond gets about three times as much to create a beautiful, semi-sweet wine in the “Sec” range. This year, the typical varietal aromas of pineapple and star fruit were shining through.
After the sparkling wine grapes come in, we start to see the grapes for the still wines come in. Chardonnay was first this year, followed closely by Pinot Noir. Cabernet Franc came in very late with the last batch coming in on November 4. We were able to make three still wines this year as well.
Our Barrel Blanc wine is a blend of our three signature varietals: Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. The grapes are whole cluster pressed (like the Sparkling Cuvée) in order to extract no color, particularly from the red varietals. They are then barrel fermented on 100% new French oak. This year the Barrel Blanc promises to be incredibly aromatic with a complexity of fruit flavors ranging from tropical to stone fruit.
We also make a barrel fermented Chardonnay. The grapes are destemmed and crushed, then after a 24 hour cold soak, pressed into barrel on 100% new French oak. A small portion of the Chardonnay fermented on the skins before being pressed.
The Cabernet Franc is destemmed and crushed into small, 3/4 ton containers. We gently punch down the cap 2-4 times a day throughout fermentation and finally bladder press once fermentation is completed. The wine is then transferred to barrel with a blend of new French oak, used French oak, and American oak. Rich aromas of violets and blackberry were noted in this year’s Cabernet Franc.
We are very excited about this vintage as all the fermentations went very well this year and all of the wines are showing incredible depth and complexity already. You can look forward to the first wines from this vintage starting to trickle out late next year.