Yesterday I did a little time traveling.
Nothing so mundane as going back to Spain in 1492 to sail with Columbus or to 1776 Philadelphia. No. I went out to the very edge of the future with the wines that will become the 2013 LINEAGE | Livermore Valley!
One of the profoundest joys of this business is being at a point in the fermentation continuum when the must in boxes has gone over that cataract that separates juice from wine. At near-dryness my wines have reached a point where they have gained enough structure and flavor; aromatic complexity and length that I can begin to think of how each fermentor fits into the larger picture. I am close to being able to say that the best lots of Cabernet this year are X, Y and Z and that they need to go into certain barrels destined for a specific offering while other wines will fit better (because of more or less complexity) into a blend, for example.
Yesterday, while going through our Clone 30 and Home Ranch Cabernets, I started making very rough mock blends, taking certain boxes and putting them together in different configurations (click here to hear me talk about the process). Even same-variety blends that are comprised “only” of different vineyards or clones contain an infinite potentiality, and it is my job to take away the elements that muddy the picture that I have in my head and mouth of what that wine can become. Is there too much tannin? Is the fruit too red?, enough acid?, does that one curtail length? Does that box – with that yeast – fill out the mid-palate sufficiently? How will that blend react to these barrels?
There are a bunch of different elements that I am seeking when I’m putting blends together, and like someone’s definition of pornography, I know it when I taste it. The wines must have life; they must be vital and elegant. They must show a time and place and site. They have to be delicious and provoke thought and have the capacity to grow and evolve.
The wines that I tasted yesterday are already different this morning. They have changed in texture and flavor, girth and mouthfeel. So the exercise that I started at 5 in the morning on a Tuesday will be recreated again and again until the final decision has to be made. My vision of what that ultimate wine can be will have changed subtly as well.
While the Platonic ideal of my ideal wine is clear in my head, the season and the multitude of minute winemaking reverberations that occur each harvest (and each day within it) will allow me ultimately only to chase perfection.