Sunday, November 1, 2009

Autumn: Changing of the leaves/ Emergence of a new nationally recognized Boutique Winery

Much as the autumnal changing of the leaves portends one month of indescribable beauty, there is also a continual changing of the best wineries in California; in some cases, formerly famous wineries have faltered, and no longer can be depended upon to produce that mouth watering wine they had previously been famous for. In fact, many former wineries have changed ownership, and their quality has declined. Some wineries have just shuttered their doors. In other cases, some new wineries have stepped up and replaced former favorite wineries of wine enthusiasts. The picture above reminds us that as the leaves change, and that odd cluster of unpicked grapes still holds onto the vine, so it is with many formerly "favorite" wineries...who, much like the cluster of grapes above, are still holding on, or clinging for dear life to the fervent hope that their fortunes will change.

Not so Cerro Prieto Vineyard & Cellars. Now, nearing the end of our first year selling our initial bottling, 2006, we can look back and be proud, not to mention humbled. Our reception from clients and especially wine critics, national wine magazine ratings, and the overall recognition of what Cerro Prieto has accomplished this year is indeed gratifying. Cerro's 2006 Merlot took International Gold Medals at the San Diego International Wine Competition AND another International Gold Medal at the Critics Challenge International Wine Competition. Not only that, but our 2006 Paso Bordo (85% Cab/ 15% Syrah) earned 92 points from Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and was mentioned as one of the top "Bold Red Blends" in the October, 2009 Wine Enthusiast magazine. In other words, while many established and well known wineries have struggled, seen quality drop, gone out of business, or sold out, Cerro Prieto has quietly gone about its business of making exceptional national award winning wines, and now, at year's end, is being recognized by retailers, wine critics and especially customers, as one of the truly high caliber California wineries, and a "must" on every true wine aficionado's list.

Yes, this is an exceptional beginning for virtually any vineyard & cellars, but painstaking attention to our vineyard for 7 years finally got us to our goal...growing the "perfect" grape. There are so many variables that have to be considered in growing the perfect grape(see initial blog from early spring), that it is remarkable we were able to do that in such a short time span. Our mountain vineyard has the perfect terroir to which we made all the improvements, adjustments, and changes necessary to produce the perfect grape. It was but a short step from there to attempt to produce the perfect wine. For my tastes, and hundreds of others who have sampled our wines, we believe we have accomplished our goal.

Did we produce a "perfect" wine? Nope, but we did produce two exceptional wines and have been generously honored by critics, sommeliers, and clients alike. Interestingly, Cerro Prieto sits in the heart of Paso wine the proposed Willow Creek sub-appellation, together with L'Aventure, Booker, Linne Calodo, Jack Creek Cellars, and Saxum. All the above share the attributes of vineyards composed of limestone, all have 50+ degree day/nite temperature swings, and all are under the influence of not only Paso AVA's heat, but also the Templeton Gap's cooling effect virtually every nite. All the winemakers subscribe to low yield production of grapes, somewhere between 2 -4 pounds of grapes/vine. In Bordeaux, incidentally, the growers shoot for 1-2 kilograms/vine, which is 2.2-4.4 lbs of grapes/vine. Is that coincidental? No, it is just an acknowledgement that truly great wines must come from truly great terroir, and they must be not only farmed correctly, they must be pruned to low yields/vine. All the wineries mentioned above subscribe to low or very low yields.

Fanatical attention to the vineyard details, immaculately clean winery conditions, extensive and superb attention to detail in winemaking, use of all the best equipment, superb palates...all go into making world class wines. Winemakers at the wineries noted above are in that group, and all have the passion for winemaking. It is the marriage of the perfect vineyard and superb winemaking ablities that have made the proposed Willow Creek sub-app the heart of Paso's best wines. Saxum, 2 hills to the NW of us, just was awarded 100 points for one of its wines. Only four such wineries were awarded this honor worldwide, and being in the same sub-appellation as Saxum means that we are definitely blessed with world class terroir.

So, as in the picture above, there are some wineries(like the grape cluster) clinging to the vine to survive, and others (like the multicolored leaves), emerging to take their places with the best of California's wineries. We think of ourselves as the multicolored leaves...a tiny boutique vineyard & cellars emerging to produce the best grapes that can be made into the perfect wines that California has become famous for. One bottling does not a career make, but with the same attention to detail, the same perfect locale for a vineyard, odds are definitely on our side that we can reproduce year after year what we began this year...perfection.

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