This page reviews our cellar activities for the 7 vintages cellared to date. Before 2017 we used a spreadsheet to track the sensory qualities, the laboratory results and the actions taken approximately every 1-2 months as we monitor each vessel. In 2017 we switched to a relational database. This page shows the screenshots of the summary tab in the Cellar Batch Reviews for each vintage (note, the commentaries in the database are not yet complete). The laboratory measurements show up only in the later years as we became more diligent with chemical analysis and recording. In summary:
- 2009: with the help of an experienced nose & palate (Aran Healy) we took a minimalist approach (only 2 rackings) and recorded very little of the few lab tests taken.
- 2010: we changed to regular racking to soften the tannins through more oxidation; the young wine was over-extracted in fermentation. We continued to rely on Aran’s tasting experience for monitoring and only recorded very few lab tests.
- 2011: we were challenged by a poor harvest and the departure of the nose. I failed to properly rack and monitor the top-up wines and so introduced wine faults which may have affected the barrels. We ended up bottling a mix of 66% 2011 Cabernet with 33% 2012 Merlot.
- 2012: the harvest was excellent but our cellaring continued to be challenged by the lack of a professional “nose”, poor laboratory analysis/recording and faulty racking practices on the top-up wines. We combined all top-up wines and struggled with the resulting cross-contamination.
- 2013: an outstanding harvest combined with corrected barrelling practices. We welcomed a new nose (David Fenyvesi in late 2012) and significantly improved laboratory practices. There is hope. We decided to extend barrel ageing for this vintage from our standard 3 years to 4 years.
- 2014: the harvest was good in quality but 30% less in volume, so we had to mix in 12 gallons of 2012 CSV topup wine and 6 gallons of Jim Barth’s Merlot to fill the second barrel. Acidity was low, so we added tartaric acid, but it turned out too much, and we struggled through barrel ageing until we cold-stabilised.
- 2015: the harvest was poor, both regarding quality and volume. We could fill one barrel, and that only by adding 8 gallons of the 2012CSV blend to be bottled. We also had to set aside 15 gallons of that blend for topping up. More to come
- 2016: the harvest included, for the first time the Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cab Franc from the upper field; it was plentiful, but phenolics were poor. We free-flowed into 3 oak barrels. More to come
- 2017: the harvest was poor both in volume and quality We free-flowed into one full and one half-barrel. More to come
The following paragraphs describe each vintage.
2009 was our first year of wine-making and cellaring. We continued the minimalist winemaking approach into barrelling. The process remained very basic: On completion of Malolactic fermentation in barrel, we added a 25ppm dose of sulfur and maintained a level above 8 ppm checking quarterly. We racked the barrels only twice, the first time 6 months after harvest, the second time just before bottling. We took minimal measurements and judged progress mainly by smelling and tasting (mostly Aran Healy’s nose and palate). We kept extra wine in a few glass carboys (between 1 and 6 gallons each) and topped up the barrels every 3-6 months.
We used one new French oak barrel (Seguin Moreau Select Cabernet ML), one neutral American barrel (unknown provenance) and a refurbished half-barrel (unknown provenance). We had a recording gap between June 2010 and October 2011 and don’t remember how many times we adjusted SO2 and topped up.
Following are screenshots of the Cellar Batch Reviews for the three 2009 barrels:
After 27 months in the barrel we decided to bottle in 3 separate batches so we could continue to see the effect the different barrels had on the wine:
- Oaked: we mixed the entire contents of the French oak barrel with 30 gallons of the used American barrel and put into 450 bottles labelled 2009 Oaked.
- Unoaked A: we put the remaining 30 gallons of the used American barrel into 150 bottles labelled 2009 Unoaked A
- Unoaked B: we put the entire content of the refurbished / neutral half barrel into 150 bottles labelled Unoaked B.
In contrast to 2009, we became far more interventionist: We decided to rack more frequently (every 3 to 6 months) to expose the young wine to more oxygen. We also decided to fine the wine with 3 1/2 egg whites just before bottling. We used a new French oak barrel (Seguin Moreau Icone) and a new American oak barrel (Saint Martin M+) to evaluate the difference in oak.
We mixed the remaining 2009 topup wine with the 45 gallons of press wine from 2010 and kept the lot in a 50-gallon steel tank with variable top lid. We traded juggling the heavy glass carboys with a steel tank which tended to attract fruit flies and microbial infections at the seal of the variable top lid.
We continued to rely on Aran Healy’s nose and palate to judge progress and did not record the few laboratory tests we took other than the SO2 measurements required to calibrate the sulfur additions. The exception was in May 2013 when we brought samples to Fermentation Solutions for a test panel based on their new OenoFoss spectral analysis instrument.
After 30 months in the barrel we decided to mix the wine from the 2 barrels; tame the excessive tannins with an egg-white fining and bottle in a single lot of 48 cases (570 bottles). The flavour profiles of the French and American oak complemented each other. The wine was over-extracted during fermentation and will take a long time in the bottle to mellow out.
Following are screenshots of the Cellar Batch Reviews for the two 2010 barrels:
2011 was a difficult harvest (low yield, not fully ripened fruit). The challenges kept compounding in the winery as the Aran Healy’s nose and palate, on which we relied on to judge progress, departed in early 2012 (together with Aran himself) and left me struggling without the support of an experienced winemaker for over a year. We used a French Oak barrel (Radoux Blend Evolution R), and we set the second barrel (Seguin Moreau Icone), we had already purchased, aside for next year. We combined the little amount of 2011 excess wine with the leftover 2010 topup wine. After 1 ½ years in the French oak, we racked the wine into an American oak barrel (Saint Martin M+) to cover up the green apple character (pyrazine).
In retrospect, the trouble started when I forgot to rack the topup steel tank in 2012 and did not pick up any fault until July 2013 while using that wine all along to top up the 2011 barrel. We then compounded the problem by adding to it the bulk of the contents of the 2012 topup tank which had similar problems. As a result, we lost half the topup wine and may have polluted the 2011 barrel.
By February 2014 we concluded that the 2011 Cabernet was not strong enough to stand on its own and decided to mix it with half a barrel of the 2012 Merlot from Bargetto (see next paragraph). The problem with that Merlot was that it did not complete its malolactic fermentation (even after a second inoculation). So we ended up with a weak Bordeau mix (Anthocyanins at 93) with a high level of malic acids. As we store the bottles at 55dF, the risk of a late ML fermentation in the bottle is minimal.
2012 was an excellent vintage, both regarding quality and yield. We produced two barrels of Cabernet from our fruit, we purchased half a ton of Merlot grapes from Bargetto to yield another barrel, and we traded in a carboy of Merlot wine from Jim Barth. The idea behind the Merlot purchases was to get an option to for blending down the road. By mid-2013 we had introduced a solid quarterly cellar review process which produced reasonable laboratory figures, we got started to benefit from an experienced nose and palate of our new live-in winemaker, David Fenyvesi, and we introduced phenolic analysis in the 3rd quarter.
Merlot: We put the Bargetto Merlot first into a neutral french barrel and changed 6 months later to a French barrel used for 2 years (2011 Radoux Evolution R). We only noticed in early 2014 that it never went through malolactic fermentation. We treated it with 225g of potassium bicarbonate to increase the pH to 3.5 and re-inoculated with Viniflora CH16 bacteria. In the summer of 2014, we used half the barrel to blend with the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and moved the rest to a neutral half-barrel. By September 2014 that half-barrel proved to be problematic – the wine developed a bad smell and high Volatile Acidity; so we decided to discard that half-barrel and move the Merlot to a pressurised steel keg and carboys.
Cabernet Sauvignon: We barreled the wine into two French oak barrels, one new left over from 2011 (Seguin Moreau Icone) and one used previously for the 2009 vintage (Seguin Moreau Select). We had 24 gallons of topup wine which we merged with the remaining 10 gallons of the 2011 topup wine; then we moved the topup wine from the variable top steel tank into two new pressurised steel topup tanks. Again we made the mistake of not checking the SO2 levels in the topup tanks, and we missed to rack it for the first 9 months. As a consequence, we may have polluted one of the two barrels, but the rotten egg smell disappeared after another racking of the barrels and KMBS additions. For bottling, we merged the two Cabernet barrels with the remaining 15 gallons of the 2012 Barghetto Merlot. Because by then we were running out of the top-up wine we moved 15 gallons of this mix in a pressurised topup tank as 12CSMerCHBargTopup and bottled the rest in 45 cases as 12CSMeCHBargb.
2013 was splendid vintage with good yields and excellent berry quality. This is the first year we tracked the phenolics from the start (see Winery section) and thus have a better understanding of its evolution. We used a new French oak barrel (Radoux TR M+) and recycled a 3-year-old French barrel which was used for 2 years (2010 Seguin Moreau Icone). We had 20 gallons of extra press wine which we kept in the 200-litre variable-top steel tank. We detected a slight off-nose in the second barrel which may be a result of a microbial infection from its prior use. So we racked the wine into a steel barrel while treating the empty barrel with a KMBS solution and sulfur fumigation.
By February 2014 malolactic fermentation had still not progressed, so we decided to re-inoculate all wine with Viniflora CH16 while keeping the temperature elevated at ~70dF. By July 2014 we noticed a slight decrease in malic acid and a slow buildup of lactic acid which gave us hope that malolactic fermentation was restarted, albeit weak. We kept the barrels at close to ~70dF. By late 2014 the malolactic fermentation looked complete.
We found significant film in the 2013 top-up tank in late January 2014 which we scooped out judging it as dead yeast brought to the surface due to the slight vacuum in the headspace created by sampling. To protect, we added 15 ppm of SO2 as a preventative measure although malolactic fermentation had not completed and we moved the topup wine into a freed-up pressurised steel tank. By April 2014 the 2013 topup wine had developed a strong rotten egg smell, and we decided to treat it with a heavy dose of KMBS and move it aside into carboys; after that, we used the leftover 2012 topup wine for topping up the 2013 vintage. The 2013 topup wine recovered by the end of 2014 and we used it to fill up the second barrel in the 2014 vintage which was a little short.
The Bound Anthocyanin levels peaked in mid-2015 at slightly over 380 (ppm ME), a record. By late 2015 the wine developed well, except for the relatively high level of Volatile Acidity at 0.8 g/L.
On September 24, 2016 we bottled 42 cases as 13CSCHb and kept 15 gallons into topup tank 13CSCHTopup
2014 was an average year, quality-wise, and poor on volume as we continued to fight the Eutypa infection. We could barely fill the second barrel by adding 12 gallons of the 2012 CSV top-up and 5 gallons of the 2012 Merlot from Jim Barth. The Malolactic fermentation was again slow, probably a cause of the relatively high acidity. The more diligent cellaring routines showed good results: compared to previous vintages we had hardly any microbial infections in either barrel. After 9 months, we decided to rack and switch the new and the 3-year-old barrels to even out the impact of the new oak. The Bound Anthocyanin levels seem to have peaked at around 250 (ppm ME) after 1 year in the barrels.
More to come here.
In September 2017 we put the two barrels into Mixing Tank, added 1 lbs (1 ppm) of Potassium Carbonite to adjust the pH up to 3.55, then bottled 42 cases as 14-13CSCHb and leaving 14 gallons for topup as 14-13CSCHTopup. Unfortunately, we failed to stir the wine in the Mixing Tank properly so early bottles came out with pH of 3.7 and late bottles with pH of 3.35!
2015 was a poor year both regarding volume (less than a ½ ton of fruit) and quality (a fair amount of shrivelled berries due to a mildew infection). We could fill one barrel, and this only by transferring 8 gallons of the 2012 CS bottling blend. We also had to put aside 15 gallons of that blend for top-up wine as we had exhausted other top-up sources.
More to come
The 2016 vintage included for the first time the Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cab Franc grapes from the upper field. The yield was above expectation and the fruit somewhat overripe. We fermented in 7 separate batches and free-flowed into 3 barrels. The first barrel had a mix of Long Row CS plus half the Me-PV-CF crop; The second had a mix of Short and Long Row CS plus the other half of the Me-PV-CF crop. The third had mostly Short Row CS.
More to come
The 2017 vintage was poor in volume and quality, mostly because of mildew and severe heat-spikes in the summer. In the lower field, We abandoned the Short Row block and picked only the Long Row Cabernet which yielded one barrel. The upper field yielded a half barrel of Me-PV-CF mix. All fermentations were done with indigenous yeast.
More to come