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Happy New Year! This is my first blog post for Presqu’ile, so I hope you will read on. I’m Anna, the youngest Murphy sibling to catch the Presqu’ile bug. During the past harvest, I left my job in Arkansas to come to help out, and like Matt and Jonathan before me, became absorbed in Presqu’ile and the wines we are making.
Over New Year’s, Amanda, Matt and I joined our winemaker Dieter on an adventure to his home in South Africa.
One of the highlights of our trip was visiting wineries of course. At Hamilton Russell in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley appellation, we tasted with winemaker Hannes Storm, the brother of Ernest Storm - a friend of Presqu’ile who is assistant winemaker at Curtis Winery and also makes Storm Wines. Small world!
At Edgebaston in Stellenbosch we had the pleasure of tasting with viticulturist and assistant winemaker Mark Goldsworthy, a good friend of Dieter’s who also did a stint in Santa Maria. After the tasting at Edgebaston, he and his wife Kelly took us on a very cool tour and tasting at Quoin Rock Winery just up the road.
With its dramatic cliffs and endless vineyards that stretch from the mountains to the sea, Stellenbosch has to be one of the world’s most beautiful wine regions. Its sophistication and great wineries reminded us of the Napa Valley, but instead of jackrabbits and hogs in the vineyards they have baboons! These strangely human creatures run through the vineyards and hang out on the posts, baring their giant teeth at onlookers while chowing down on ripening grapes.
Back at Presqu’ile, our big news is that we’re opening a tasting room in Los Olivos. It’s a dusty construction zone right now, but it’s going to look great and be a fantastic place to taste our wines and make new friends. Our official opening is planned for March 1, but we’d love for you to come by the week prior to get a sneak peek and let us know what you think. Hope to see you, and stay tuned for more details.
It is widely accepted that 2011 was one of the most challenging growing seasons of the last two decades. The cooling trend of the last three years continued and manifested itself as our most European vintage to date. It was a very unpredictable year with extremely low yields, yet it turned out to produce pure and controlled wines with bright acidity, just the way we like it!
It was a very exciting season at Presquile Winery considering that Anna Murphy (the youngest of the Murphy-three) joined us to deal with this very unique vintage. We also harvested some of our new blocks for the first time. Even at a very young age these vineyards (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah) are showing true varietal character and great balance with a distinctive identity, a very promising sign for years to come.
In general, the berries were very small with concentrated flavors due to the smaller ratio of skin:pulp. The acidity found itself in balance at a much lower level of sugar (ending with lower alcohol) than in previous years. This type of season, even though not typical for California, really assisted our preferred style of lower alcohol balanced wines.
Due to the low tonnage it was actually a fairly slow vintage, the grapes trickled in without any rush or need to process quickly. This gives us the opportunity to ensure every load of grapes receives as much attention as possible. The Pinot Noir started on 9.6.11 and lasted till 9.24.11. The Chardonnay started on 9.28.11 and went till 10.8.11. The Sauvignon Blanc arrived on 9.20.11 and finished on 10.8.11. The only lot of Syrah grapes arrived typically late in the season on 11.5.11.
Unfamiliar weather patterns and young blocks made for an educational yet necessary vintage. With climate changing across the planet, I am sure we will see another vintage like this, probably more often than not, and those who paid attention this year will have some experience to work with. It might not be what the Santa Maria Valley is used to, but there will be top quality wines from the SMV in 2011, there just won’t be much of it…….
Keep drinking Balance,
Over the last few weeks we have been working away here at Presqu’ile, sampling clusters of Pinot and Chardonnay, harvesting, sorting, cleaning equipment and more cleaning followed by a little more cleaning. It has been an interesting growing season and start of harvest, to say the least. Most of the country has been under attack by a heat tsunami not seen in 75 years but here in the Santa Maria Valley we have had one of the coolest summers on record. While Presqu’ile was spared from the April frost that decimated many vineyards in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, we had a windy spring and very cool foggy summer. This has put our yields between 25 – 50% below normal in all of our vineyards. The yield reduction is primarily a function of smaller berry size and, to a lesser degree, what we call “hen and chick” or shatter. Shatter happens when we have the aforementioned conditions during the clusters flowering stage, which for us is around mid May. This leads to uneven ripening and slows the sorting down considerably since we do not want any under ripe grapes making their way into the tanks.
We began harvesting August 29 (my birthday!) with 1.3 tons of Pinot for a special, not so top-secret project. We have had a trickle of Pinot beginning September 8 and we are expecting full throttle harvest mode in about a week and a half. Even with the smaller cluster sizes, harvest is about three weeks late.
Long growing seasons like 2011 promote balance between acidity and alcohol, smaller berry size will lend concentration and our minimalist approach in the winery a strong sense of place…lots to look forward to with the 2011’s from Presqu’ile!
Rosé has seen a huge surge in popularity over the past few years. I recommend it to everyone! It's bright and refreshing and there is nothing better on a hot summer evening (at a recent tasting, a gentleman at our table called our 2010 Rosé of Pinot Noir "grown-up koolaid"). I often get asked what I like to pair with it. My standard answer is "everything" but I recently stumbled upon this recipe in Wine Spectator for a great oyster recipe (our favorite!) perfect for pairing with Rosé. It would make a great appetizer for a group or a lovely family lunch or dinner.For the oysters:
Oyster Sliders with Lime Aioli, Pickled Onion and Baby Arugula
• 12 large oysters (we order from Morro Bay here in Santa Maria or Gulf Coast if you can get them!)
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 eggs, lightly beaten
• 1/2 cup bread crumbs
• 2 cups canola oil
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 12 small brioche or similar rolls, sliced
• 2 tablespoons soft butter
• Lime aioli (recipe below)
• Pickled onions (recipe below)
• 1/4 cup baby arugula or similar green
For the pickled onions:
• 1 red onion, sliced thin
• 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
• 1/4 cup sugarFor the lime aioli:
• 2 egg yolks
• 2 small cloves garlic, peeled
• 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
• 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 2 tablespoons kosher salt
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 1 cup canola oil
In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine the egg yolk, garlic, mustard, lime juice, paprika and salt, and puree. With the motor still running, slowly drizzle in both oils, continuing to blend until the mixture is emulsified. There should be no visible oil pools or puddles. If, while processing, the mixture becomes too thick, use a little cold water to thin out then continue with the oil. This can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Makes about 2 cups.
On May 14th we held our first annual MayFais! at Presqu’ile Winery. A delivery of 90 pounds of live crawfish from our friends at the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society kicked off the days’ festivities. Our crawfish master Madison Murphy got the boil started with our special guest (and Baton Rouge resident) Beaux Jones while the rest of us helped get the winery ready for the festivities (including a few more of our willing and eager houseguests, Pete and Amanda).
Our pourers lined the bar to welcome our first MayFais-ers.
Guests RAVED about the great tunes from Cuesta Ridge. These guys are awesome!
Full of life Flatbread served up plates of oysters (delicious with our Sauvignon Blanc!) and four varieties of their always amazing pizzas.
Crawfish newbies got lessons from our experts.
Staff and friends relaxed after our long day. Our first annual MayFais! set the bar pretty high. We can't wait for FaisDoDo - our harvest party!
Here on the Central Coast winters are usually wet and springtime generally dreary and despite having lived here for years, I still find myself complaining about the lack of defined seasons. This year Santa Maria received an uncommon (apocalyptic!) amount of rain so you can imagine our collective glee at the warm sunny days that Spring has sprung on us.
[sunrise over Presqu'ile]
Construction is humming along on the cave that will connect the new winery and tasting room.
[Santa Maria morning fog]
Our current winery facility got a facelift just in time for the bottling of our 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and our 2010 Rose of Pinot Noir. Both of these new wines will go out in our Spring shipment in May along with our 2009 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir and 2008 Santa Maria Valley Syrah (available only to club members). You can try all of these wines at our first annual MayFais! on May 14.
World of Pinot is my favorite event of the year. Producers from all over come to my backyard to pour my favorite wine for me.
For winemakers, it’s a chance to share their hard work with their peers as well as their fans. For Pinot lovers, it provides a rare opportunity to try new wines (like Presqu’ile!) as well as new vintages of their old favorites while talking to the passionate people behind them.
2011 marked the debut of Presqu’ile at the World of Pinot Noir. Matt, Dieter and Jonathan poured our 2009 Santa Maria Valley Pinot and 2009 Presqu’ile Pinot at the Friday afternoon tasting to rave reviews. The Prince of Pinot, Rusty Gaffney, had some especially kind words for the new wines (read his bog post here).
The next day, my girlfriends and I did the Saturday afternoon tasting. It has become sort of a tradition for us and we look forward to it all year. The number of wineries represented can be intimidating. Two hours in, we realized we had only made it to the Fs. I think we may have lingered too long at the immense cheese spread. And then there was the 20 minutes I spent explaining the oddities of biodynamic winemaking. We’ll have to work on our focus for next year. But the event was, as always, a great success. We left the beach at sunset after a beautiful 75 degree afternoon and, unlike some other red varieties, with only slightly purple teeth.
Recently we started to prepare our 2010 Sauvignon Blanc for bottling on April 14th and the delicious aromas inspired me to write a little about the grape in general, for those who might be interested.
This white variety originates from the legendary Bordeaux valley in France and received its name from the two French words sauvage (wild) and blanc (white). Somewhere during the evolution of Sauvignon Blanc it was crossed with Cabernet Franc to produce the now dominating red variety in the Bordeaux region, Cabernet Sauvignon. This grape is native to South West France but is currently cultivated all over the world, New Zealand, Chile, California and many others. The Sauvignon Blanc world is basically divided into two different styles, “Old World” (north of the Equator) and “New World” (south of the Equator). Its original makers being the “Old World” use warmer fermentations and more oak to create more mineral flavors and the “New World” use more Stainless Steel and cooler fermentations to enhance the fruit and grassy flavors.
During the 1880’s Charles Wetmore, founder of Cresta Blanca winery, was the first to bring Sauvignon Blanc cuttings to California. So 139 years later we are still enjoying this wonderful variety at Presquile Winery. We put our various components of the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc into tank on the 18th of Feb, onto 4% fine leese. These components consist of 22% Stainless Steel, 33% Concrete and 45% neutral oak fermentation. We decided to do a little more neutral oak fermentation this year, to gain some weight on the pallet. All the fermentations were completed with Native yeast. In addition to White Hills Vineyard our 2010 includes some new clones from Riverbench Vineyard, which has added a significant tropical tone to this wine. The current blend of vineyards are 34% White Hills and 66% Riverbench. Over the next few weeks we will be stabilizing this wine on 4% leese to make sure we deliver a fresh balanced wine.
Looking forward to have this one in bottle!
As the warmer months approach this Sauvignon Blanc will drink well by itself or with some seafood next to it.
Sign up for the mailing list to stay updated on the release of this wine.
“Life is too short for drinking bad wine”
It has been an exiting start to the year here at Presqu’ile. We’ve been busy preparing for our second release (expect something from Amanda on this shortly!) and our first wine club shipment April 25. First out the door will be our 2009 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and the first of four new additions to the line up, 2010 Rose of Pinot Noir. Our second phase of the release will happen August 29th with the release of two new Pinots, one made exclusively from Presqu’ile’s estate vineyard and a 2008 Syrah. I should note that the Rose and Syrah will be available only through our website and wine club. Incentive? I think so!
I am pleased to announce that Presqu’ile will be available in a few more states this year. Look for our wines soon in Cleveland, Cincinatti and Columbus as well as Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield, Missouri. Keep an eye on our Facebook page and your email inbox for details on exciting events in Cleveland, Little Rock, Fayetteville, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Houston starting mid March. We’re also working on events in Dallas, Austin, Kansas City, St. Louis and Oklahoma City to take place early summer.
As a great sommelier once told me, stay thirsty for balanced wines.
Robert Louis Stevenson once said: “wine is bottled poetry.”
This makes me wonder if he or any other that has romanticized about the drinking of wine, had taken the “bottled” part into consideration when doing so. What was the wine before it was bottled? I think a better way to compare the two would be to say: wine is to the bottle as poetry is to the cover of the book. Making a wine or writing a poem is one thing, but managing it into a product that can be released, or for this matter published, can be a stressful and tedious process. Make no mistake, I agree with the author of ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.’ I just look at it a little different. Wine is indeed poetry, delivered to the people in a bottle.
So after a few delays we set off to finish 1850 cases in a single day. The 9th of December dawned on us with all its glory, the first time estate produced Presquile wine would be bottled on a bottling line. Essentially bottling is divided into two sections. The first part is to fill and cork the bottle; this determines quality more than anything and went extremely well for us this year. The second part is to label and capsule the bottle, all aesthetics orientated. It is here that we found the always-expected delays throughout the day. Our capsule spinner stopped spinning every few hours and the temperature fluctuation outside provided some condensation on the bottles, which hindered labeling during the middle stages of this long day. A little elbow grease solved the problems as always.
Whether you hand-bottle or use a bottling line, this is the point where all the work and financial investment comes together. Even though it’s very pleasing to see the wine reach its end point, I doubt any of us at team Presquile really had the time to stop and appreciate it until the day was completely done. At around 10pm we shut it down, aching bodies appreciated the silence and marveled at the little mountain of case goods we created. Very satisfied and almost to tired to see through the eerie mist that had settled in, we went to go grab some well deserved sleep.
As for which aspect of wine production actually contributes the most or least to the pleasure of consuming it remains a personal opinion, but a bottle brings it together, it provides all the memories with an identity. I agree, liquid poetry is best when poured out of a bottle
I would like to thank everybody that helped us make this day a reality.
Keep on Bottling