Chapter 11: Vines and Wines
This year is exciting for us at the Keating Family Vineyard because it is when our first vintage (2020)
leaves the French oak barrels and is bottled and labeled. It is also the third harvest for our vineyard which means we should be arriving at a sweet spot with the grapes.
The vines are presently cut way back to begin the 2022 growing season at square one again. After six years, the main trunk is increasingly more sturdy and the canes have been trained to follow the horizontal wires. Last year the shoots reached and filled out so beautifully to a height of about 5-6 ft.
Forcing vines to struggle is part of the strategy in vineyard management and wine making. Limiting irrigation water to ensure that the roots search downward for ground water is the best way to develop hearty vines with long roots that will eventually survive on ground water alone to produce fruit. In the first few years irrigation is necessary to establish healthy vines. It is our plan to “DRY Farm” as soon as the vines are able to reach ground water below the soil. We have been in a drought these past few years in California, so it has been necessary to provide irrigation. Every single vine has a drip tube so no water is wasted.
Each year the structure and body of the wine produced will adjust slightly with the maturity of the vines and the various growing conditions. Wine from young vines has a unique and interesting quality; usually it has fruity characteristics. Wine from older vines (7 to 15 years) typically has more forward tannins, which generally soften with bottle aging and over time develop a smooth and integrated taste on the pallet. Since Pat and I have been collecting fine wines for years, we now have
some older bottles that have had time to age. When we choose an aged wine from the cellar we notice how time has allowed the tannins to soften giving a smooth and velvety taste on the palette. Although our 2020 vintage seems more fruit forward, compared to some of the older wines we typically drink, it has a beautiful color and is more lively than a wine that has been aged for many years.
Pat and I have had the opportunity to do three barrel tastings of this vintage while it has been aging in the oak. Our initial concern was smoke taint because 2020 was a year of fires in Sonoma. Luckily, our vineyard wasn’t too close to the fires that year and we were able to pick the fruit quickly to avoid leaving the grapes out in the smoky air. There doesn’t seem to be any trace of smoke taint in our wine. When we tasted it a few months later, we gathered our family to experience the tasting together. We all agreed that it was fine and none of us left a drop in the glass.
Young wine is very drinkable and often preferred. In December 2020, Dr. Vinny from Wine Spectator wrote:
"The idea that these wines “improve” as they age is really more a matter of taste: A young wine and a well-aged wine taste very different. Unless you are someone who likes the taste of older wines (and unless you have proper storage conditions for a wine to age), storing wine for long-term enjoyment might not be for you.
If you like wines for their bold fruit flavors or fresh acidity, drink them young. Most of the wines I drink are within a few years of their release. But I’m lucky enough to have a storage space with cool, consistent temperatures and good humidity for stashing special bottles to visit later. There’s something magical about revisiting a bottle of wine and finding it aged gracefully, just like an old friend.”
We are planning to do a blind tasting this fall when the 2020 Quail Run is released. Blind tasting is the process of tasting and evaluating wines without having information about the individual wines. Our wine will be offered alongside similar wines to judge for yourself, and your personal favorites. Our tasting notes and conversations around our personal favorites will allow us to better understand our individual pallets. Our friend Jim Bushee will lead it. He is is a qualified FWS (French Wine Scholar) and he suggested a blind tasting to introduce us to Quail Run wine. You may enjoy reading his blog. I love his writing and follow his blog. It can be found at : https://wineconcepts.net/feed/.
We look forward to sharing this first vintage with you if you are interested. We will ask you to let us know if you’d like to try it when it’s time. Stay tuned for fall 2022!