Tempranillo from Emerald Slope in Idaho
August 07th, 2019
They say that a glass of red wine a day is good for you, and they also say that drinking eight glasses of water a day is good for you. I have this theory that if you switched the water for wine and the wine for water, you would be a picture of perfect health. I’m starting this new experiment this fall when we release our four new Tempranillos. I will keep you all updated on the results— or maybe I won’t. Have you ever tried to write a blog post after drinking 8 glasses of wine? Well, I’m sure it will be entertaining and difficult to read.
As you can probably tell from the experiment I will be conducting, I love Melanie’s Tempranillo, so you can imagine my excitement for this upcoming Fall Release. We have a 2016 Reserve Tempranillo, which we held on to for an extra year to get some additional age in the bottle, and then we have our highly anticipated Tri-State Tempranillos. So why three 2017 Tempranillos from different states? Well, I’ll let Melanie share some of her thoughts on these three individually unique and fantastic wines—
To review the basics: we lost about 70% of our Snake River Valley grapes for the 2017 vintage because for two days in January 2017 temperatures dropped to below -15 F. Some low spots in the valley got below -20 F. Grape vines go dormant in the winter, and can withstand temperatures as low as -10 F if the temperature decreases gradually. However, below -10 F, even a well-acclimated vine will start to have bud death and may experience cordon damage. The reason bud death reduces our crop is because the grape cluster is produced the previous summer and sits in microscopic form inside the buds (the knobby parts of the shoot). If the bud dies, the grape will not be able to reform fruit for that summer. The plant itself isn’t likely to die under that situation because its energy is stored in its roots. In order for the plant to die, the soil temperatures have to drop very low, which requires long periods of extreme cold with no snow on the ground. Snow is a good insulator and we had plenty of it that year.
So, summer of 2017 saw many of our growers cutting down and retraining blocks that they knew would have no fruit and they deemed to have too much cordon damage. And I spent much of the summer arranging to buy alternative grapes and checking on them in person in Oregon and Washington.
Why She Picked the Grapes:
Oregon: I have admired the Tempranillos made from the Fault Line Vineyard (Abacela Winery near Roseburg, Oregon, Umpqua Valley AVA) for as long as I’ve been interested in this variety. I had met the owner, Earl Jones, at several industry events and could tell he is a scientist at heart. I suspected that if we could buy from him, we might learn a lot along the way. I called him and explained our crop loss and my interest in his grapes. Selling grapes is not something that Earl normally does but he agreed to sell some to me, only the second time he’s sold grapes in 25 years from Faultline Vineyard. Joe and I toured Faultline Vineyards with Earl where he described many of the viticultural trials he has done through the years and the experiences he has had with different Tempranillo clones. In keeping with the spirit of exploration, we brought home 5 different Tempranillo clones to Idaho and fermented them as a clone trial (all the same winemaking so that we could taste the difference the clone is making). We tasted the five wines with the Abacela winemaker, Andrew Wenzl, alongside the same clones made by his team. By doing this we were able to refine our opinions about the clones, which will help us make planting decisions for future blocks of Tempranillo in the Snake River. The knowledge gained from this experience is definitely going to make us better Tempranillo makers.
Washington: Buying grapes from Washington feels natural to me not only because I learned to make wine there, but also because the climate and soils are the most similar to what we find in the Snake River Valley. I worked with one vineyard manager, Phil Cline, to source grapes from four interesting vineyards in and around the Naches Heights AVA, near Yakima Washington. I chose this area because it has some of the highest elevation vineyards in Washington, which I thought would likely lead to similarities with our Snake River grapes. Phil is a meticulous vineyard manager with an interest in understanding how grapes grow on different sites. He lead us to some killer sites including a vineyard planted into cobblestones and a vineyard planted among sagebrush steppe. The vineyards we bought from were Conley, Strand, Greenwald, and Mary Evelyn.
Idaho: Only one block of Snake River Valley Tempranillo made it to harvest in 2017, the oldest block of Temp in Idaho, planted at Sawtooth Vineyard. The Tempranillo at Emerald Slope made it through the winter only to be destroyed by a hailstorm in June which stripped every piece of green off the vines and even some of the bark. Grateful to have any Idaho Tempranillo, we made 6 barrels where normally we make about 40 barrels.
Melanie’s Thoughts on The Wines:
Idaho: Approachable now. Clean precise fruit aromas. Elegant, long finish with precise tannins. Will age well but quicker than the other two. Drink now or age up to 10 years.
Washington: Great combination of fruit aromas/flavors and rich tannins. Warm, sweet fruit aromas. Round, luxurious texture. Drink now or age up to 15 years.
Oregon: Powerful tannins that need aging. Aromas are mostly of oak right now, warm spice notes. Fruit closed now, should come out after several years of aging. Cellar this for 5-20 years.
That’s it for now on the Tempranillos. Fall Release is just a few weeks away, and we’re so excited to be able to share these wines with you all. If anybody would like to join me in my Tempranillo experiment, let me know, it’s going to be a great time!
P.S. I am not a doctor, so please DO NOT drink 8 glasses of wine a day. HR told me to say this.