The thrill and angst of harvest is in the air! The valley is filling with pick-up truck and tractor buzz. Crews are filtering in and out of the vineyards applying bird nets, removing green, lesser ripe clusters from grapevines (“green drop”), and winemakers are tasting and sampling and are eager to set the pace for the new vintage. Grapes are “coloring up”, flavors are evolving, and many of us are picking for sparkling wines – a wonderful “warm-up” event – which are harvested at a much lower sugar level than still wines…typically 17-18 Brix, compared to 21-25 Brix. We had our first pick on Friday!
Our vineyard and winery equipment has been inspected and fine-tuned. Our bin dumper is on the forklift, and our 2012 Fiddlestix Pinot is racked and resting in barrel. The picking bins are being cleaned, our press and fermentation vats are being cleaned, new rubber boots have been ordered and we are breaking in our seasonal harvest cellar rats. And to top it all off, we entertained with our final pre-harvest event …WINE and FIRE in the Sta. Rita Hills this past weekend! Whew!
It has been a curious growing season, with the lack of rain having the greatest impact. In 2013 we received only 6.9 inches of rainfall at Fiddlestix. For comparison, in 2012 we got 13 inches, 32 inches in 2011 and about 28 inches in 2010. The dry growing season means necessary micronutrients typically carried in the water are less available to the plant, resulting in grapevines that struggled with shoot growth. Stunted shoots don’t have as many leaves for photosynthesis, and therefore can ripen only a smaller crop. Thank goodness for irrigation as we were able to replenish many of the micronutrients that were missing from our normal rainfall. As the season has progressed, we now have a relatively even canopy which helps promote even ripening within a vine row.
We love visitors in September, but beware…we may give you a pair of rubber boots and put you to work! Night harvesting starts at 2 am! But we throw a heck of a lunch party for our harvest crew.
Cheers to vintage 2013!
We began with a meticulous wine selection –vetting the world’s major Sauvignon blanc regions with an eye for regional distinction, exceptional quality and availability, of course. (Unfortunately, I was on the road and missed much of this difficult work!)
These are the wines that were decided upon:
2011 Greywacke Sauvignon blanc, Marlborough, paired with the Fiddlehead 2011 Goosebury Sauvignon blanc, Santa Ynez Valley.
2008 Alphonse Mellot Pouilly-Fumé par Emmanuelle Mellot, paired with the Fiddlehead 2009 Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara Sauvignon blanc, Santa Ynez Valley.
2008 Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac Leognan, paired with the Fiddlehead 2007 Hunnysuckle Sauvignon blanc, Santa Ynez Valley.
The tasting was fantastic. Nearly 50 people participated, many with personal tasting connections to one or more of the International regions featured. The pairings were spectacular – both for their contrasts and for their similarities!
All three of the Fiddlehead wines are produced from our grapes grown in the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA, the part of the Santa Ynez Valley with the warmest daytime temperatures. This region is quite unique for its ability to fully ripen our Sauvignon blanc fruit while preserving the acidity and freshness due to that ever-present evening coastal fog. Pear and white peach notes take center stage, with rich floral and tropical fruit notes provide layering in a most seductive way.
On the first flight, the New Zealand wine showed layers of wet slate and herbaceousness, whereas the Goosebury’s minerality was more limestone in character and the fruit much more expressive and floral. Both had striking acidity, but the luscious fruit notes of Goosie stood out markedly.
The Loire pairing with the Happy Canyon was more enlightening. Both wines had a richness that was quite alluring, with the Pouilly-Fume showing more melon and green bell pepper and the Happy Canyon centering on the peachy-pear. Great pairing, and testament to our assertion that the Happy Canyon is truly inspired by the wines of the Loire!
The wine pairing of the night was the third, with the ’08 Larrivet Haut-Brion showing many of the well developed characteristics that we celebrate in the Hunnysuckle. Still with vibrant fruit and acidity, both wines have developed well in the bottle and showed a glycerin-y richness with nuance of fig, citrus, and dried herbs. It was a coin flip as to which I liked better, until I looked at the retail price. The Bordeaux retails for $80 and the Hunnysuckle for $34!
It’s amazing that we take winemaking options and vintage variablility to craft 3 unique wines grown in this very special place. More significantly, I am awed with the creativity and willingness of the Fiddlehead team to “stick our necks out” and show these wines along side the great SB regions of the world. This event served to entertain, to enlighten and educate our friends who attended. I’m certain each will remember the evening for many years to come.
One additional out-of-the-box twist was the second phase taste pairing of our 3 styles of dry Sauvignon blanc with Talenti gelatos and sorbettos. Typically we don’t think of our wines as dessert wines, but the range of gelato flavors made for a fabulous tasting. Here were the favorite picks, and worth checking out for yourself!
- Goosebury Sauvignon blanc and Lisbon Lemon
- Happy Canyon Sauvignon blanc and Mediterranean Mint Chip (This one blew me away!)
- Hunnysuckle Sauvignon blanc and Tahitian Vanilla
National Sales Manager
Where will you be drinking "728" Fiddlestix Pinot on the magical date of July 28th?
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, gather your friends and join our virtual toast to this signature wine.
Submit your comments and best "cheers" photos for prizes and recognition! (submit either via our Facebok page our via email at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Our favorite 3 photos win a prize.
And if you find yourself in Santa Barbara County that Saturday, then be sure to join us at our "land-based" party at our Lompoc Tasting Room for a celebration of this wine! The Tasting Room will be decked out for the day and library vintages of "728" will be available for taste and purchase.
Of course it will need time to rest in our temperature-controlled warehouse to ensure that, when it is released in 2013, it will have our signature elegance that we promise to deliver to your glass.
We believe bottling is a most critical step in the transfer of the fruits of our harvest labor and the barrel aging process to the wine in your glass.
Follow our process and check out our videos of the bottling in action…
1. Throughout the wine's maturation in barrel, we devote time for extensive blind tasting of each barrel to
determine our barrel blends - that is, the best fit barrels for "728", "Lollapalooza" and "Doyle".
2. During its aging process in our French oak barrels, the wine has naturally clarified and the natural
grape solids have fallen to the bottom of the barrel.
3. The crystal-clear wine is racked (or decanted) off the sediment (natural grape and yeast solids) to our
stainless steel tanks to marry together the nuances of each barrel into one master blend. This ensures
every bottle is exactly the same.
4. Now that the wine is prepared with the utmost care to not introduce excess oxygen, the bottling
6. The wine is transferred to the filler bowl, and the bottles are then fed into the filler wheel where spouts enter
each bottle and deliver 750 ml of wine (plus a few extra drips!)
7. The filled bottles are fed into a vacuum that removes any volume over 750 ml plus the oxygen in the
headspace, just before a cork is mechanically squeezed and plunged into the neck of the bottle, leaving
the top of the cork exactly level with the top of the bottle.
9. The corked and capsuled bottles then pass an electric eye that triggers the release of the back and the front
labels (which are vacuum held onto a belt until the bottle passes by), at which time the adhesive on the labels
grabs the bottles in a very specific, electronically set placement.
12. With our equipment we can bottle about 2,000 cases per day of one wine and one bottle size.
Changing the bottle size requires changing all of the feed wheels on the bottling line and definitely
slows down the process.
13. 3-Liter and 5-Liter bottles are filled, corked and labeled by hand….and so are some of our magnums!
It is a lot of hard work to get it right, but our wine is ALWAYS taken care of and our meticulous and energetic crew ALWAYS gets a great lunch! Team work is the name of our game!