Category Archives: Wine Maker’s Corner

The King is a Savage …

This month’s club release is my 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Despite its prominence, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape is a relatively new variety. DNA studies conducted in 1997 at Davis by Carol Meredith concluded that Cabernet Sauvignon is the product of a chance crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc which most likely occurred in the 17th century. The name “Sauvignon” is attributed to the French word “Sauvage” which means “savage” or “wild”.

For me the release of my 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is a reason to celebrate. It has taken me a lot of effort to get to the point where I can make a Cabernet Sauvignon with distinctive varietal characteristics that doesn’t taste like green bell pepper. Maybe it’s because I am too fussy. After all this is a flavor that naturally evolves in this variety and there are many Cabernet Sauvignons selling for big bucks from some of the “best” appellations that reek of bell pepper. So what’s the big deal? It’s all about my personal preferences.

How does the bell pepper flavor get into the wine? The culprit is a chemical called pyrazine which is created by the plant in the early stages of the development of the fruit. From my flavor chemistry days I remember that pyrazines are a very prolific family of aroma chemicals. While some members of this family may taste herbaceous, grassy and vegetal, others are nutty, chocolaty, caramel-like and even sweet. On the vine when the grapes ripen the pyrazines are transformed into other compounds eliminating the bell pepper flavor. Since Cabernet Sauvignon is a grape variety that ripens late in the season sometimes in cool climates when the weather conditions are not favorable, the season may progress without materially depleting the level of pyrazines. In that case the wine produced will have bell pepper flavors. Strangely enough the same thing happens in very hot climates. The excess heat causes the Cabernet Sauvignon vines to shut down bringing the ripening process to a halt.

You might ask and rightly so, how was I able to make a Cab devoid of any bell pepper flavor in this hot weather region. The answer is first by appropriate clonal selection (using clones that are less prone to generating pyrazines) and second by shading the fruit that gets a high level of sun exposure. After 8 years of trying I think I have arrived. I like the Cab that I made and hope that you will like it too. Cheers!

Climate Change? No one denies!

Global Warming? Still Arguable! Or is it?

Climate change is progressing at an alarming pace. The arctic sea ice is melting causing coastal erosion and flooding; China experienced the coldest winter in 30 years; the heat waves in Australia triggered massive fires; Jerusalem, that hardly ever has any snow, received 8 inches last winter; this week Death Valley is expected to experience a world record temperature of 129 degrees. Are these individual episodes or do they reveal a trend? Actually, why go so far as the Judean Hills of Jerusalem or the arctic seas of Alaska when you can find these extreme weather patterns right here at home. Within one week in June of 2013 we experienced in our vineyards a temperature fluctuation of 40 degrees. On June 26, the maximum temperature in our vineyard was 68 degrees with a precipitation of over ½ in and on June 29, it was 108 degrees. The big question is whether these erratic weather patterns are going to last another week….. another month….. or will they be a way of life for the future?

An even more important question is how these “erratic weather patterns” are going to affect the grapes that we produce? And this is anyone’s guess! All we can do is set up the defenses to counteract the potential damage of the extreme hot weather. Right now my entire crew is involved in providing more shade to the clusters by moving the shoots away from the trunk of the vine, allowing them to droop over the clusters. On hot afternoons we have two tractors spraying water on the vines creating a swamp cooler effect protecting the fruit from getting sun-burned. Live and learn!

A duet to challenge your senses…… This month’s Gallery Collection Club release is one bottle each of our 2009 Encontro and 2008 Proprietor’s Blend. I purposely chose these two wines which are on different ends of the spectrum. The 2009 Encontro is a crisp and playful wine with loads of black cherry. Take a sip and you will think you are biting into a black cherry pie. The 2008 Proprietor’s Blend is a more serious wine stylistically falling almost in the middle between a new world and old world wine. The 2008 is probably the best one of the 7 vintages of Proprietor’s Blend wines that we released so far.
Learn from the above: Stay in the shade and use a mister to stay cool. Enjoy the Summer!


Chaim Gur-Arieh