Côtes (de Tablas), Côte (d’Or) and the pleasures of aged wine
How to make the most of trade and consumer tastings

Notes from the Cellar: Assembling the 2009 reds, and getting ready for harvest 2010...

By Chelsea Magnusson

The cellar has been an absolute mess this week.  And for good reason - veraison has begun in the vineyard, and we are slowly wrapping our heads around the fact that another harvest season is right around the corner. 


It looks like a disaster, but I promise, it's actually progress!

In preparation, we sat down to take a look at the 2009 reds we had in the cellar.  At this point, they were all in barrel, still separated by varietal and lot (where they came from in the vineyard, when they were harvested, etc.).  Ryan and I pulled samples from each of the individual lots and put them in bottle so we could taste through the entire vintage blind and take tasting notes (while we’re being straight here, I might mention that I’m still blown away by the fact that I actually got paid to taste through 28 spectacular wines!  What an unbelievably cool job.) 

The cellar crew, consisting of Ryan Hebert, Neil Collins and myself, was joined by General Manager Jason Haas and National Sales Manager Tommy Oldre.  After tasting through the vintage and sharing our thoughts, we were able to make decisions on where we thought each wine fit in best.  The lots that carried themselves with power and grace were positioned into the Panoplie program, wines with elegance and depth were paired with like-style lots for the Esprit de Beaucastel, and wines with a unique juiciness and affability were placed with the Cotes de Tablas family.  Obviously, that is an extremely simple generalization, but when tasting though each lot, everyone had a pretty clear idea of where they thought the wine should be used.  We also set aside lots for a varietal Grenache (sadly, there will be no Syrah or Mourvedre from the tiny 2009 harvest).  After finalizing the decisions, Ryan marked each barrel with an “E” for Esprit, “P” for Panoplie, “C” for Cotes, or “G” for Grenache.  Our last 2009 red, the En Gobelet, had already been assembled as a blend and put into foudre for aging.  


A barrel destined for Esprit, with two Panoplie barrels in line behind it.

One thing I would like to mention (especially for those of you who attended the Harvest Seminar last year, or are planning to attend this year) is that the three barrels of Grenache that you harvested and processed went into the Panoplie – kudos! 


From there, the wines were racked off their lees and put into stainless steel tanks as finished blends. They'll settle here for a week or two and then we'll move them to foudre for a year of aging.


The barrels have been cleaned (they are steamed, rinsed with ozone, and hit with a dose of sulfur dioxide) and are now stacked and lined up, ready for harvest.


Ryan cleans the lees out of barrels before they are washed.

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Clean, happy barrels ready to be filled with the 2010 vintage.

So far, we're anticipating that our harvest season will start around mid-September.  It is important to remember, however, that agriculture is unpredictable.  We're steadily getting the cellar in harvest shape so we're ready when it begins - because when harvest hits, it hits hard.