Coming Real Soon: The 2013 Single Barrel

2013 Single BarrelWith the final countdown to release day underway (t-minus six days and counting!) the 2013 Single Barrel needs to be introduced.

I have hinted at this for the last year and a half or so. With the 2013 being MTGA’s fourth vintage I really wanted to see what would happen if I pulled the best lot(s) that came into the winery to create a single barrel of awesomeness. I have no shame in stealing a page out of whiskey’s book to create 25 cases or less of one wine. I also think that the word “reserve” is one of the most over used and ambiguous wine terms in the US of A. Plus whiskey is yummy! Not that that has anything to do with anything but it is the truth.

To make this Single Barrel happen there were a few requirements:

  1. The grapes had to be good enough. Without a solid starting point there is no way to have a killer final product.
  2. While it is one barrel it needs more attention than you think. If the components you want to use for that final blend don’t come together for those 25 cases you are up a creek without a boat (much less a paddle).
  3. Contain integrated complexity. Sure you can have all kinds of awesome individual characteristics but if they don’t come together to make each other better, the wine ends up being disjointed and incomplete. Every winemaker looks for balance but it becomes more and more important as you move up the scale from good to great and so on.
  4. The wine can’t be a crazy departure from the rest of the program. This one is more of a personal opinion but if the MTGA Single Barrel doesn’t fit in stylistically with the other wines in the lineup it doesn’t belong. It needs to stand out but not stand on its own.
  5. It has to be a combination of the “yum” factor combined the really geeky wine stuff (all of which tie back into the complexity of the wine). The fact is that it as to be good if not great while painting the corners of drinkability and geeking out.

From that last point now is a good time to get into that geeky wines stuff! The 2013 Single Barrel is Merlot but a combination of different lots to create one awesome barrel that is the best wine that can be made from that vintage. In this case the Merlot is all St. Helena fruit that was aged for nearly 2 years in barrel and another in bottle before release. The biggest reason for this was letting the intensity of the wine settle down just a little bit. With nearly 100% of its time spent in new French oak the 2013 Single Barrel has that rounded toasty goodness that you expect from a big Napa red wine. The small percentage of wine from other lots were blended in to make those delightful fruit characteristics of the Merlot”pop” a bit more.

I couldn’t be more excited to have the Single Barrel finally entering the fray. It has been a long couple of years to get it right where it needs to be but now it is time to let it out into the world!

Remember, if you aren’t on the mailing list there is no time like the present to hop on so you don’t miss out on the release announcement next week! You can click here to throw your name into the hat.


Coming Soon: The 2013 Merlot

The countdown to release day is officially here! With just a couple of weeks to go before release day here is a snapshot of what to expect from the almighty 2013 vintage.

Disclaimer: by “snapshot” I mean me getting a little carried away with how excited I am about the upcoming release of this wine on October 4th.

And away we go!

MTA_0295To start out with, I have been slowly but surely fine-tuning the release process for the MTGA Merlot. Initially I took the “get it out into the world” mentality which meant a quicker release after the wine was bottled. As the years have gone on I have selfishly held onto cases for my 2010-2012 releases to see how they fare as they age. After some careful consideration and tempering of my drive to share these wines I’ve found that it takes two and a half to three years for the Merlot to really hit its stride; hence the slight delay between the release of the 2012 Merlot and the 2013 Merlot. Don’t worry though, it was beyond worth it.

With some extra time in barrel the 2013 Merlot is stunning. While I love the prior releases dearly the 2013 is looking to be a heavy hitter right out of the gate (largely due to that extra aging time).

It is still 100% Merlot, and 100% awesome, from just outside of St. Helena. With a light oak aging regimen the bright fruit characteristics continue to shine with a GORGEOUS acidity and a hint of toasty-ness and tannin to give it some structure. That sounded slightly like a semi-lame back label that tries to convince you that a wine is actually pretty good but I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to describe this release… Sorry, not sorry.

I do believe that 2013 is going to be a combination of what we saw (and tasted) from 2011 and 2012. Take the best of the two prior vintages and throw them into one. Once again if you made a bad wine in 2013 you really REALLY need to rethink your day job.

Racking 2013 MEOn the production side of things I continued with what has worked so well for the previous vintages: “open” top fermentations in macro bins with a couple of different yeast strains, punch downs a couple times a day to mix the grape skins back into the juice and a light pressing cycle once the primary fermentation is complete to get all of that delicious grape juice into French oak barrels. With regular check-ins and a few rackings over the next two years the 2013 Merlot would grow and evolve into what it is today.

It is fairly common, and a huge cliché, for winemakers to say that their favorite vintage is whatever the current one is. While I hate to say it, I completely agree. Every vintage you learn something new and that gets carried over to the next vintage. As time goes on the wines get better and better (at the very least that is our goal). With that I will let you join in on the count down to October 4th when the 2013 Merlot will officially be available.

If you aren’t on the mailing list already now is the time to make it happen! Click here to join part of the craft wine revolution.



Harvest v.2016

MTA_0380You might not believe it but around this time each year those of us in the wine industry are thinking, “Didn’t we just finish harvest?” Time flies I suppose because that is definitely what it feels like. It is hard to believe that the 2016 harvest is here but at the same time the excitement of getting into it is building. It is an insane amount of work at times but you always get what you put into it.

Thus far it has been a slow start to harvest for MTGA, only a little bit of Pinot Noir has come in. Frankly I don’t mind the mellow start after the last couple years which have all felt like whirlwinds. The weather over the last couple of weeks has been PERFECT. The warm days and cool nights are allowing for some awesome flavor and complexity development.

As much as we talk or type about harvest it is hard to wrap your head around unless you actually work one. You really get to see the art and science that goes into winemaking. All of the little things get amplified and if you don’t starting things off on a good note it can make the rest of the production process wonky. For me the first week is always the most nerve racking. When that first lot of grapes hit the deck I always feel the need to take a deep breath and mumble a quick “you can do this” to myself before diving it. It isn’t so much because of doubt but more so for not getting in the way of making a great wine.

IMG_2530The one thing I always try to do is be as non-manipulative (or un-manipulative? Are either of those things? as possible. I am also pretty low-tech; mostly by choice but some times you just have to Macgyver something together… like a 5 gallon bucket with holes drilled in the side, a pallet jack, a pump and two hoses to help drain a bin.

I am a firm believer that a winemaker’s biggest job is not to get in they way of making a great wine but you definitely have to guide it. If we don’t you aren’t going to end up with a great wine. I can be easy to go overboard and make adjustments or give a wine a full makeover instead of just letting it do its thing. This does also depend on the style of wine you are trying to make and the quantity. If you are working with a 1,000,000 gallon tank (yes, those exist) you have to act a bit differently that if you have maybe 120 gallons fermenting between two barrels. Next you get to figure out what is going to be best for those lots depending on the style you are trying to get to.

Realistically the list goes on and on and someone could probably sit here and do it far better justice than I can. What I have come to learn are many of the small tweaks you can make to send a wine in a particular direction. Plus there are always curveballs that you have to work with or around.

So with that many variables how do you prepare for it?

Prior to August I try to take some time off to decompress. Once you get into the busy season it is going to be a marathon so a little bit of R&R does the body good. When I am back and actually gearing up I break out my notes from prior vintages as a quick review of what I like, what I didn’t and how that might be adjusted or changed. Over the last two months I’ve been double checking the 2013-2015 vintages to help make those judgement calls. I’ll make a quick note of anything that stands out and look to build on it from there.
One of my biggest focus points is making sure that one vintage after another is congruent. I don’t expect them to be the same. I am a big fan of vintage variation but still having the ability to tie a wine together from one year to the next. Being able to go through a vertical tasting and see if that is the case is super important to me. When I have a wine that is new, like the Pinot Noir, the second vintage is extremely important. I can take everything I learned over the last year and really dial in the production. For a finicky grape like Pinot I am studying my notes thoroughly to make sure I remember how I went about harvest last year and to see where I can make changes to the process.

MTA_0356There are always things that change from one harvest to the next. You try not to make huge sweeping adjustments but there are always little things that you have to work through. The Riesling this year, for example will be produced at Conn Valley with the rest of the wines instead of in Sonoma, closer to where it is picked. With that comes some logistical challenges but nothing that can’t be overcome.

All in all this season is probably the best and most exciting. It might also be the most exhausting but in the end the hard work is more than worth it.



Release Day is Around the Corner!

2013 BottlingAnd it is hard to believe!

The 2013 Merlot and Single Barrel will be making their official debut on October 4th. Between now and then I will be sharing a few posts on each of the wines as well as prepping the release notice.

If you aren’t already on the MTGA email list be sure to sign up so you are the first to know when the new wines are available. You can click here to jump on board.

For those of you that have placed pre-orders for the 2013 Merlot and/or Single Barrel they will be available on October 4th as well.

I am looking forward to sharing the next round of MTGA wines with you soon!