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The big news around the Central Coast last week was the start of the California wine harvest, with Pinot Noir leading the charge at a handful of wineries.
However, here in Paso Robles, “soon” is the operative word—although at our estate Margarita Vineyard, you might say “later.”
That’s because we enjoy some of the latest picking dates across the region. In fact, some of our fruit is still undergoing veraison, the process whereby the berries turn color and transition from the growth phase to the ripening phase (see accompanying photo taken 10 days ago).
So while some of our earlier ripening varieties can expect to come off the vine starting in a few weeks, we’ll still be harvesting grapes well into October and possibly November depending on the autumn weather.
Such relative lateness is a hallmark of Margarita Vineyard, where a strong marine influence creates one of the region’s coolest growing environments. The result is an elongated growing season with longer hang times. When people taste our red wines, they typically notice the common threads of structure and balance—two qualities that are directly related to the longer, later growing season.
Consequently, we’ve learned not to be anxious about the start of harvest, because good things happen when the fruit hangs out.
We rarely talk about the summer weather here in Paso Robles because there’s usually nothing to talk about.
After all, it's typically quite predictable--warm to hot days followed by reliable marine cooling in the evening. It's an ideal winegrowing climate that usually unfolds just like clockwork.
But on Sunday, the clockwork was thrown a curveball in the form of a sustained thunderstorm that dropped as much as 3.5 inches of rain in parts of the region, shattering previous rainfall records for the month of July. The lightning was abundant as well (local photo above by Jon Berezay).
So what did this weather disruption mean in the vineyard? Thankfully not a lot, beyond bringing some much-needed water to the land during this extended drought.
Now, there are plenty of times of the year when a sustained rainstorm such as this could cause serious viticultural trouble--such as the delicate flowering phase of the vines in the spring, or later in the harvest season, when wet conditions can create mold problems and logistical issues.
But right now, the grapes are as bulletproof as they’ll ever be. They have yet to undergo the process of “verasion,” whereby they begin to gain color and grow softer and become sweeter. Instead, at the moment, they are just firm green berries (see below). If you pop some in your mouth, you will find them crunchy and bracingly tart. So they’re pretty hardy at this stage in their development.
There was another upside to the summer rain, as co-owner and viticulturist Doug Filipponi noted, "This was a good test for everyone to find the weak spots in the vineyard roads and culverts. It was a reminder of what we used to take for granted."
Of course, any time you get rain followed by humid conditions in the vineyard, you have to keep an eye out for mildew pressure. But all things considered, this was okay—if bizarre—timing for some much-needed rain here in the Central Coast wine country.
Just in time for summertime, we have released two new limited-production wines that are a perfect fit for the flavors and spirit of the season—specifically, the 2014 Rosé and 2014 Blanco.
Both of these wines hail from our estate Margarita Vineyard, and are emblematic of the vineyard’s pronounced marine influence, which enables us to grow cooler climate grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Both wines were also cold fermented in stainless steel to retain the natural fruit freshness coming from the vineyard.
The 2014 Rosé is a blend of Pinot Noir (75%) and Syrah (25%). Modeled after the refreshingly dry rosés of Europe—as opposed to the simple sweet blush wines that once dominated here in California—the 2014 Rosé offers summery aromas of strawberry and watermelon, followed by fresh flavors of tangerine, pink grapefruit and lime zest. This is the kind of wine that you will want to enjoy on a warm festive evening with grilled seafood, barbecued chicken or carnitas tacos.
The 2014 Blanco is a blend of Muscat (62%) and Chardonnay (38%). This unique blend greets the nose with suggestions of jasmine, honeycomb, papaya and lemon zest, followed by lush, ripe flavors of pear and tropical fruit. This is a perfect wine for classic picnic fare.
We invite you to come out to our tasting room this summer to try these seasonal wines, as they won’t be around for long.
When we opened our little tasting room in tiny Santa Margarita seven years ago, we never imagined that our traffic would grow to the point of needing a major renovation and expansion.
Yet that’s where we find ourselves right now, swinging hammers to create more space, expanded outdoor seating, a new kitchen and more.
On that note, we ask you to pardon our dust when visiting our tasting room during this period. We are still open daily. No need to bring a hard hat, just be prepared for cozier environs and a little noise through the rest of this month.
We believe that you will be blown away by the transformation once we are done later this summer. In the meantime, we appreciate your patience.
On certain wines, such as our Petit Verdot, we make note of aging the wine in “tightly grained” oak barrels, which may raise the question: why does oak grain matter? Let us explain…
The notion of tightly grained wood is fairly self evident. Most woods, including oak, come in different grains, depending on the species and where they are grown. Some are more widely grained, others are more tightly packed.
Now, in the wine aging process, wide-grained oak tends to produce a wine that has a more pronounced oak and wood tannin character. In other words, if you want your wine to taste more oaky, or if you have a powerful wine that needs a more assertive oak balance, you might veer toward wide-grained oak.
On the flipside, tight-grained wood is more restrained in its influence. So if you want the oak character of the wine to be more subtle, then you will choose tight-grained oak for aging.
One example is our aforementioned Petit Verdot. In the words of Winemaker Stewart Cameron, “Petit Verdot has some unique varietal flavor profiles that no other Bordeaux varieties have, and we want to keep those at the forefront of the wine. We don’t want it to taste like French oak, so we choose wood with a tight grain and lighter toasting to produce a wine that is varietally true.”
On a more powerful wine, however, such as our Petite Sirah, Stewart might loosen the reins on the grain to ensure that the oak influence is sufficiently present.
And therein lies the significance of oak grain. Ultimately, it’s just one of many arrows in the winemaker’s quiver for guiding the style of a given wine.
We view our wine club members as part of our extended family, which is why we go all out to offer them some of the best benefits and festivities in the industry. Click here to see some of the many experiences we offer to members.
One of our latest club initiatives is to solicit questions from members about each wine club shipment, and then get thoughts on them from winemakers Mike Sinor and Stewart Cameron.
The result is our new "AP ClubCast." Even if you're not a member, you might enjoy the winemakers' insights on a range of topics, including how long to age wines and what distinguishes our reserve bottlings.
Our next AP ClubCast will be pegged to the September club shipment. Stay tuned...or better yet, join the club and join the fun!
In warmer climates, Sauvignon Blanc veers more toward a riper, more tropical character (think Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc). In cooler climates, it becomes more racy and pungent (think New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc).
Generally speaking, Paso Robles Sauvignon Blanc typically exhibits more of a warm climate character, but there are exceptions. Which brings us to our new release 2014 Sauvignon Blanc…
As with previous vintages, the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc reflects ample qualities that you might associate with cool climate Sauvignon Blanc, including notes of gooseberry, lime and mineral.
This is a direct reflection of the vineyard’s pronounced marine influence, as the Pacific Ocean is just 14 miles away. In fact, the vineyard occupies one of the coolest growing areas to be found in the entire Paso Robles region.
At the same time, this wine isn’t quite as racy as its New Zealand brethren. There are sunnier aspects of pineapple and melon that speak to the dry and early Paso Robles growing season of 2014.
We invite you to come sample the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc at our tasting room. It also happens to be our first release featuring the brand new look for Ancient Peaks wines!
It’s reasonable to assume that what you see in the photo above is a little grape cluster, but there’s more than meets the eye.
Yes, it’s a cluster—but not yet a grape cluster. Before it becomes a true grape cluster, it must undergo a process known as “flowering,” which typically takes place in later May through early June.
During flowering, the young clusters shed their hard green caps, revealing blooms underneath. These blooms are designed to self-pollinate. Once fertilization occurs, that’s when you actually have grapes to grow.
This photo was taken a few days ago at our estate Margarita Vineyard, specifically in Block 7, which is planted to Merlot. So what you see here aren’t baby grapes, the rather the hard caps that will soon be shed to reveal the blooms and begin flowering to create new Merlot grapes.
Flowering can be a delicate process. Harsh winds or extreme temperatures can disrupt the pollination process. So during flowering, you hope for steady, mild weather. This fosters a thorough grape “set” for a full, healthy crop.
We invite you to join one of our Paso Robles vineyard tours every Saturday for a close-up look at flowering and other growing phases at our estate Margarita Vineyard.
It’s always nice when one of your wines racks up a towering score of 94 points in a major wine magazine—and even nicer when the accompanying review does poetic justice to what’s in the bottle.
So we are excited to share that we are the happy recipients of one such review as our 2011 Oyster Ridge cuvée racks up 94 points in the latest issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine.
In their words: “From the Margarita Vineyard at the relatively cool, marine-influenced southern edge of Paso Robles, this wine is named for a ridge of pale, sandy soil mixed with prehistoric oyster shells…It’s a wine that channels Paso’s abundant sunlight toward precision and purity rather than richness and concentration…Its bright, compact structure is poised to gain complexity with another eight to ten years in the bottle. Still, it’s already pretty.”
In that short span, the magazine pretty much nailed what sets our estate Margarita Vineyard apart while articulating exactly what we are aiming to achieve with our Oyster Ridge. It’s one thing for us to say it, but quite another to hear a prestigious reviewer echo the sentiments.
Each year, we craft the Oyster Ridge cuvée to honor the rare array of soil types found across Margarita Vineyard. Select blocks are meticulously farmed to meet the standards of the Oyster Ridge program, and the final blend is assembled from only those barrels that exhibit exemplary complexity, structure and aging potential.
We like to say that Oyster Ridge is our finest winemaking effort—and this latest review suggests that we have hit the mark.
Get ready to rock for a good cause as Ancient Peaks and must! charities team up to host a benefit concert on May 17 at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch, in tandem with the Paso Robles Wine Festival weekend.
This concert is all about having a good time for a great cause, and it offers a relaxing conclusion to an action-packed weekend.
The concert will be headlined by The JD Project, known for their upbeat original songs and classic rock sounds. The Haute Skillet food truck will be on hand to provide scrumptious fare for purchase, while we will offer our estate wines by the glass and bottle.
The concert takes place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The entry cost is a minimum donation of $5. The setting will be the ranch’s beautiful Estrada Gardens, which features broad lawn seating. You are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets.
Net proceeds will benefit must! charities, a local nonprofit dedicated to improving quality of life in San Luis Obispo’s North County by offering hope, compassion, and resources to those in need.
Click here for more details, we hope to see you there!