Hagarty Cellars 2010 Reds Resting Quietly Under Cork

By Posted on Aug 24 2011 | By

Back in February, I posted an update on my 2010 white wine production.  Typical of many commercial wineries, I bottle my whites some six months after harvest so we can begin drinking the fresh, crisp and dry wines.  This year those included Seyval Blanc, Pinot Gris and Viognier.

Only my Chardonnay lingered in six gallon carboys for some additional months while it went through malolactic fermentation.  Even then, it saw no oak aging; naked or virgin Chardonnays are gaining wider acceptance in the marketplace and they comport with our white wine preference.  White wine with oak?  Nope.

Now as we approach harvest 2011, I have bottled the last of my reds.  This year I chose to focus on only two; Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Why?  The quality of red fruit last year was outstanding for these two varietals and my 2009 wine “warehouse” was still in good supply.  If I don’t monitor the capacity of my cellar, I can end up with cases of wine scattered all over the basement.

So what’s the problem?

Good point.

At any rate, even with my self-control in check, I managed to produce some 360 bottles of red this year and they are poring nicely and will improve with age.  Don’t get me wrong.  Making wine in small six gallon carboys using oak chips rather than 60 gallon French oak barrels is not a recipe for producing world-class cult wine.  Yet, these easy drinking reds are satisfying to make and satisfying to drink.  One can’t ask much more from a bottle that costs about two dollars to produce.

My favorite of the two is the Cabernet Franc.  This year I tried something I hadn’t done before…and is typically avoided by the pros.  I co-fermented the Cab Franc with 25% Petit Verdot.  Good decision.

Most professional winemakers produce their red wines by individual varietal and then blend them early in the ageing process, if a blended wine is their goal.  Taking a contrarian tack, I blended the fresh, crushed red fruit together and commenced fermentation as a single cuvée.  The Petit Verdot worked its magic and deepen the color, aroma and flavor of the Cab Franc.  Based on the resulting wine, I intend to pursue a similar strategy this fall.

And how is this year’s Virginia grape crop shaping up?  It’s been a lot of work for vineyard managers.  Heavy rains early in the season, coupled with a hot and humid mid-summer, resulted in excessive vigor in the vineyard.  Throw in the numerous fungi that love such conditions and workers in the vineyard have been very busy this year.  Pruning, leaf pulling, and spraying have consumed much of their work schedule.  Veraison occured a bit earlier than normal and whites such as Seyval Blanc and Pinto Gris were harvested as early as August 13 in some areas of the state.

Stink bugs have also reappeared in some vineyards but not at levels seen last year.  As fall advances that could change.  The little stinkers could leave their forest dwellings and cling to grape vines in abundance.  This is a serious issue if they are harvested along with the gapes and crushed in the winemaking process.  We do not need the aroma of stink bugs in our wines.  All efforts will be taken to avoid this scenario, be assured.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Over all, the quality of the crop this year is shaping up to be excellent.  The one unknown element is the return of heavy rains.  Particularly troublesome is a major hurricane or two that could cause our viticulturists to grab the Prozac.  Let’s hope their emotional well being will not be tested.  A stressed out vineyard manager is not a pretty sight.  It can also turn a normally placid winemaker into a nail biting worry wart.

But this is Virginia.  The classic Eurasian grapes were not intended to thrive here and it’s enormous achievement that our industry’s professionals are producing world class wines in a difficult climate.

And how do we know?   Have you visited a local tasting room lately?


Categories : WINE ARTICLES