Monday, April 11, 2011

BACO NOIR OLD VINES 2009 It was recently made clear to us that the real story about the Baco Noir Old Vines was never clearly expressed. This has been a long term project, that began some time ago, and so I thought I would put pen to paper in an effort to explain more about the grapes, the wine, and the concept. To begin with, we are moving our wine program more and more toward a vineyard designate label direction. Each wine will tell you where the grapes came from – by vineyard and some instances by block. This is about the dreaded French word, terroir. It’s only now, as a grape grower and proprietor that I am truly starting to understand what terroir means. I can read about it all day long, but I guess I’m more of an experiencial learner. The same grapes in one vineyard, don’t always taste like one another, and the wines, absolutely taste different. That is what gives the wine its sense of “somewhereness” to use a phrase from wine writer Matt Kramer. I’m finally starting to really experience it and appreciate those variations. The more you grown your own foods (we grow rye, raspberries, blueberries, and grapes) the more you begin to taste your own dirt. Knowing the dirt where you plant things is so important. I taste our raspberries and I taste other people’s. Ours are much more tart and flavorful than many others. That’s not pride. That’s simple truth. I wish I could tell you why it I so, but it just is. Baco Noir Old Vine comes from the Masson Place Farm, the Pultney Vineyard. The Masson Place Farm is a huge property, and it is really an amalgamation of smaller farms. Pultney Vineyard is the spot where our block of Old Vine Baco is grown. The vines are beyond old. They are gnarly, twisted, and look like old witches hands. But they produce big, luscious bunches of dark, ripe grapes. We let the grapes hang as late as possible. Almost until they begin to burst. This worries the vineyard manager, whose job it is to deliver the grapes to the winemaking facility. He doesn’t want to deliver soup, he wants to deliver grapes. Each year it’s a lot of conversation. How much crop loss are we experiencing as we let the fruit hang? How much of the grapes are being eaten by birds, or deer? How much longer can we let them hang to see if we can get the brix up? (Brix are the units by which the sugar concentration in a grape is measured.) The winemaker, the vineyard manager, myself, and the local crush facility all talk every other day for a week or two while we discuss back and forth. Finally the picking day comes. We use a local crush facility. We’re waiting on these grapes so long, that they are fragile by the time we pick them. Transporting them all the way to our facility would be insane. It doesn’t make sense to truck it that far. So we crush very nearby to retain the freshness of the fruit. Our winemaker, Steve Casscles will talk with the local crush facility to make sure things go smoothly. He’s been in contact with them for a week or two ahead of time, so they’ve had a chance to discuss things, and decisions are made. Either he’ll go to the facility the day before, the day of, or the day after. He wants to see the fruit. He wants to taste it, and see where the grapes are. He’s been making Baco Noir his whole life. Steve is like a chef. Everything must be tasted and savored. The flavors tell him what’s going on with the grapes and with the wine. Chemistry is important, but the most important thing is the dialogue between Steve and the grapes. After this dialogue Steve will taste the wine, and determine how many days he wants the wine on the skins. The final juice will be pressed, and we will pick it up from the crush facility within 10 days of picking, or so. From there the wine is stored in French Oak barrels. The wine is racked in April or May, and then bottled in September or October, and released in November. We produce 150 cases of this small artisanal wine. The wine is never filtered, never fined, never manipulated beyond what you’ve already read. During the winter and spring we’ll do a series of trails, making sure the wines are progressing properly. Everything is done by hand, even the labeling. The result is Hudson-Chatham Baco Noir Old Vines Masson Place Farm, Pultney Vineyard 2009, an exceptional wine, a bold and big, flavorful Burgundy-styled wine, with lots of black sour cherry, dark raspberry, and hints of vanilla, saddle leather, and dusty earth. It is meant to be a food wine, and compliments our local Hudson Valley cheeses extremely well. It is tremendous with roasted chicken, grilled meats, game meats, grilled Portobello mushrooms, and spicy pasta dishes. Hudson-Chatham Baco Noir Old Vines Masson Place Farm, Pultney Vineyards 2009 has recently won bronze medals at the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition 2011 and the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition 2011. If you would like to read about the day we went to see the vineyard for the first time, please go to:


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