Winemaking is a futures art. A vineyard is planted years before it’s ready for its first harvest, and in the case of fine Bordeaux-style wines, it’s at least two years after harvest before the wine is ready for release.
Earlier this summer, my team and I created the final blend for our 2011 Proprietary Red. As long as I’ve been making wine, I’ve never seen a Napa Valley vintage like 2011– the coolest, wettest on record. Some vineyards that tend to over-ripen were perfectly ripe, while some that typically ripen late didn’t ripen at all.
Because all of our fruit comes from mountain or hillside vineyards, including our estate vineyards, the soils drain fully and quickly, translating to wonderfully concentrated fruit. In a wet year like 2011, this is especially important, and still there are challenges. Having estate vineyards and contracts with highly sought-after vineyards, we have the luxury of selecting only the best fruit, and blending accordingly.
Blending is a powerful tool, particularly in a challenging year. But rather than going by varietal, I look at the character of the lot itself. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a Cabernet Sauvignon from Stagecoach Vineyard or a Merlot from Rancho Chimiles. I follow my palate without preconceived notions of what the final blend should be.
Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red is normally comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec in descending order of proportion. The 2011 blend includes more Cabernet Sauvignon and less of the other varietals than usual, particularly Merlot. In fact, some blocks that have been showcased in prior vintages were left out completely.
I characterize 2011 as a Bordeaux-lover’s vintage: silky, smooth, with a fine balance of power and delicacy, and very good natural acidity. Well-crafted wines from the 2011 vintage (like those from Pahlmeyer) will age especially well. For those who appreciate more Bordeaux style wines, this is the vintage for you.
Look for the release of the 2011 Proprietary Red next spring. Meanwhile, we are excited to release our phenomenal (though scarce) 2010 vintage to our mailing list members next month. As for 2013, the fruit on the vine suggests a great vintage, but as we all know, only time will tell.