The SOMM Journal

August / September 2016

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Page 108 of 148

108 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2016 Chamisal Vineyards Chamisal Vineyards Winemaker Fintan du Fresne tells us frankly, "SIP practices do not sharpen specific sensory aspects of our wines, but we're a little different from other Edna Valley estates in that we use only native yeast and native ML in our estate wines. That's why it's critical to farm the way we do, with no herbicides or synthetic fertilizers. It's our terroir—the fact that Edna Valley has the longest and coolest growing season on the coast—as well as things like choice of rootstock and vine management that give our wines the intensity and brightness typifying Edna Valley, but SIP practices help us get there." Chamisal Assistant Winemaker Mike Callahan adds, "Sustainability has become integrated into our core values. It's an 'efficiency' thing—don't do unnecessary things, don't use water you don't have, turn off the lights when you leave a barrel room, recycle 100% of your waste-water. A lot of these things, you do because it's the right thing. "But while sustainable practices go hand in hand with a hands-off approach to viticulture and winemaking, it can also contribute to quality in an indirect way. By dropping the use of herbicides and going to a Clemens hoe-plow, for instance, we steadily build healthier organic material into the soil. As the result, the soil pH in certain blocks has steadily risen, which translates to higher acid in the grapes. This enhances the hands- off approach in the winery—with more balanced grapes, it is easier to produce wine without having to adjust acid or add nutrients. You get healthier spontaneous fermentations and, in the end, wines closer to our style. Chamisal 2013 Chamise Chardonnay, Edna Valley Named for chamise, the woody, sage-like wild chaparral growing on the hillsides around the Chamisal estate. A densely textured yet admirably restrained style of the varietal that eschews the tropical fruitiness of typical California Chardonnay (including those of Edna Valley); instead, a nose of freshly risen dough filled with anglaise, a tangerine/citrus and sage-like minerality; packed onto a moderate frame (13.5% alcohol) fashioned with a feel of silk, viscosity, and white meat of game bird. Chamisal 2013 Morrito Pinot Noir, Edna Valley Single-vineyard bottling from the estate's higher slope, with shallow, rocky, calcareous Chamise Shaley Loam, making a huge impact on the wine—deep, dark, dense and plummy, yet velvety with brightly perfumed cran - berry/cherry fruit supported by moderate tannin and natural, freshening acidity. Niven Family Estates In Edna Valley's Niven Family Estates we boarded Vineyard Manager Scott William's truck with proprietor John Niven to drive through the sloping blocks of their Paragon Vineyard. With a total of 1,700 acres to manage, they talked about how SIP Certified has enabled them to meet their dual objectives of farming responsibly and increasing grape and wine quality. "Sustainability can be sexy," says Niven, "especially in San Luis Obispo, which I would estimate to be at least 90% SIP Certified. What we like about SIP is that it is extremely progres - sive in lending itself to the latest tools helping us to become more sustainable." Some of the details proffered by Williams: "Over the past two years we have been ridding ourselves completely of soft herbicides like Roundup, which compromises soil quality. Hand-tilling is not the answer, since we don't have the people for that. So now we make use of a small fleet of Clemens tractors to do mechanical tilling under the vines, which also contributes organic matter to the soil. "Water is another big issue in San Luis Obispo. Use of Tule moni - tors [sensor devices installed atop trellises] to track evapotranspira- tion lets you physically measure water usage and needs of each vine in every block, giving you a more precise idea of when to irrigate, or when to stress. You conserve water, but by implementing stress you can also better control fruit sizing—higher skin-to-juice ratios, which directly effects flavor, phenolics, acidity, etc. The impact on quality is tremendous." "Another factor is choice of grapes," says Niven. "We recently increased our plantings of Albariño to 50 acres, which seems tailor- made for SLO's cool coastal climate." Williams adds: "Albariño does not require a lot of manipulation. Its canopy and fruit seem to want to naturally grow in optimal balance—unlike Syrah and Grüner Veltliner, which require aggressive thinning, leafing, more hedging and passes. Neither does Albariño require as much water—by compari - son, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, in the same soil, consume twice as much water. If sustainability means having the right grape in the right place, Albariño is as sustainable as it gets." Tangent 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Paragon Vineyard, Edna Valley From 42-year-old heritage vines—a bracingly tart yet meaty, sleek, contemporary take on the varietal; pungent with citrus, mineral, honeyed melon and leafy pyrazine. Tangent 2014 Albariño, Paragon Vineyard, Edna Valley Steely-tart while bursting at the seams with lavish white peach, lychee, white pepper and palate scrubbing mineral, almost briny sensations. v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v Niven Family Vineyard Manager Scott Williams. Chamisal Vineyards Assistant Winemaker Mike Callahan with Chardonnay. PHOTO COURTESY OF NIVEN FAMILY ESTATES PHOTO: RANDY CAPAROSO

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