The 2014 harvest has kicked off in the Willamette Valley as fruit pours into wineries as we speak. We’ll start bringing in grapes for the wines sometime next week and we’re currently prepping the winery for the hundreds of tons of grapes that will passing through over the next few weeks. However, our harvest always begins a couple weeks before the “actual” harvest with grapes coming in that are destined for our verjus.
We get asked quite often what verjus is in the tasting room. Essentially, it’s the juice of grapes that were picked while the grapes were very low in sugar (usually around 10% sugar; as a comparison, we ideally harvest Pinot Noir when it’s between 21-25%) and high in acidity. As the grapes continue to ripen and develop sugar, the acidity drops, so there isn’t a large harvest window for verjus.
Verjus itself has been used since ancient times in the preparation of sauces or as an additive that requires any acidic ingredient. That’s still seen as its primary purpose today, but it can be so much more. My preference is to use verjus as a cocktail ingredient, mixed with a dram of whisky (if I’m not drinking wine, you can usually find me drinking whisky). Here’s a few cocktail ideas from the Wall Street Journal (the article even features our verjus).
We’re all going to be very busy over the next few weeks with sorting fruit, cleaning tanks, moving wine here and there, and all of the other (un)glamorous tasks that the creation of wine entails. We’ll come up for air occasionally, keeping you updated on the progress of #Harvest2014. In the interim, try your own cooking/mixing experiments with our verjus; we only have a small amount of the 2013 vintage remaining, so get it while you can!
Less than a month ago we saw what a warmer growing season could do for Chardonnay in the Willamette Valley. But how did that same year affect the Pinot Noir on the vine? This vintage deserves further investigation.
The 1994 vintage itself, when compared to the vintages surrounding it (1992, very hot; 1993, very cool and wet; 1995, hot; 1996, hot), seemed to be a miracle vintage, where the season progressed perfectly and sugar levels, acidity, and ripeness levels were all in balance.
What’s the thinking behind creating a “reserve” wine and what does it mean? Just like the term “late harvest,” there’s no legal definition for what constitutes a reserve wine. Every winery’s definition differs, but Montinore’s has historically been defined by its structure and dark fruit characteristics in comparison to the Estate Pinot Noir: the more-structured vineyard blocks are nurtured for a little more time in their French oak cradles after fermentation to highlight the tannins and create a wine that drinks well upon release but has the potential to age magnificently. Ideally, we’re trying to create the most complete wine that we can from a particular vintage.
Twenty years later, the initial impression of this wine is the density of its deep garnet color; I would have expected a bit more color loss, but still very concentrated. The initial whiff gives a dusty aroma of black cherry and blackberry with a pronounced gamy note of smokiness. The fruit has integrated on the palate, revealing secondary earthy and leathery notes while a distinct peatiness lingers on the finish.
Just last month we released our 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir, which already shows great potential. Delicious now, but I believe it can be cellared for a minimum of ten years and most likely longer; patience will be greatly rewarded.