The SOMM Journal

August / September 2016

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Page 109 of 148

{ }  109 Wrath Wines "How do I define sustainability?" asks Sabrine Rodems, Winemaker of Santa Lucia Highlands' Wrath Wines. "Like the Prime Directive in Star Trek: Don't mess with anything, but don't lose track of it. SIP is different from organic programs in that its approach is holistic. We never make wine in a vacuum anyway—everything we do affects the outcome, especially in the vineyard. Steve McIntyre does our farming for us, and I agree with his approach of minimizing passes and not tilling at all. To do that, you might make use of organic herbicides or pyrethrins for pest control, but the ideal of Prime Directive is to not utilize any - thing that messes with the soil. The more you allow it to remain in its natural state, the more you allow grapes to express themselves naturally." McIntyre—who farms Wrath's estate planting, San Saba Vineyard, while also widely respected for his own McIntyre Vineyard—elaborates on this less-is-more approach to sustainable farming: "Our non-till permanent cover crop system is an important component to our terroir, which I define as everything we can't control. It provides a permanent home for our mycrorrhyzal fungi and beneficial bacteria, which facilitate the uptake of important minerals and micronutrients." Speaking of how permanent cover cropping also helps to meet the challenge of Santa Lucia Highlands' extreme winds, which frequently shut down vines half-way through sum - mer days, McIntyre adds, "Permanent covers also increases ambient air temperatures in the vine row during spring, which accelerates the growth of the vines early in the season." Rodem talks more about her Prime Directive: "We source from eight vineyards to produce 26 different wines. Six of those vineyards are SIP Certified because it makes sense in this environment. The goal of our winemaking is always to let the vineyards to the talking. I wouldn't describe our approach as minimalist, but sustainability tends to take you there. The end-result is that our San Saba Pinot Noir tastes like a San Saba Pinot Noir—dark, structured, spicy. Whereas our Boekenoogen Vineyard Pinot Noir, coming from a less wind-stressed site a good 500 feet higher in elevation in shallower, rockier soil, has more of a floral, luscious, Popsicle- stick fruit, which is what we like about Boekenoogen." Wrath 2013 Pinot Noir, Boekenoogen Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands Pinots like this remind you why Santa Lucia Highlands wines are such show-stoppers: "Opulence" is an appropriate word, and so is "explosion" of fruit falling on the dark side, while the feel on the palate is full, phenolic, yet balanced, fresh, vibrant with natural acidity. Wrath 2013 Pinot Noir, San Saba Vineyard, Monterey Also a lavish, voluminous style of dark berry and splash of black cherry, toasty spice and sprigs of leafy greens; the multiple sensa - tions couched in a luxurious texture sharpened by heightened acidity, adding levity to the palate despite a voluminous (14.7% alcohol) feel. Timbre/La Fenêtre Joshua Klapper—a former sommelier who founded his La Fenêtre and Timbre brands with his partner Alex Katz eleven years ago—brings a very specific agenda to his winemak - ing: picking grapes at the lowest sugars possible to produce moderate alcohol wines with maximum food compatibility. Standing in a block in Santa Maria Valley's Presqu'ile Vineyard, Klapper told us, "It's not so much a phi - losophy of lower alco- hol; it's also because I really think wines like this tend to express more terroir. We first became interested in SIP Certified when we started work - ing with Hilliard Bruce Vineyard a few years ago. We'd also been working with Presq'ile as well as Bien Nacido, both SIP Certified, and it became apparent that there is a correlation between sustainably farmed vines and terroir-expressive fruit, and SIP has set the industry standard for that. "So now, by focusing on SIP Certified vineyards, we feel we're more likely to get the kind of wine we're shooting for—lower alcohol, higher acid, food friendliness—at the lower sugars we want. In Bien Nacido, for instance, we find an Old World charm, some funk and even weirdness, with floral, spicy or herbaceous qualities, sometimes so nuanced that the uniqueness can be lost on a lot of Pinot Noir lovers. "Then when we get into Santa Maria vineyards on the west side—Presqu'ile, Dierberg or Solomon Hills—we get slightly denser qualities, darker fruit, more weight, often deeper spice complexity. When you bring in fruit with those enhanced qualities, this allow you to do a little more whole cluster fer - mentation, which adds more power or grip to our style, which otherwise would have a tendency to be very understated." Timbre 2013 The Headliner Pinot Noir, Presqu'ile Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley While a little fuller than the typical house style (13.9% alcohol), still fashioned with a svelte, fluid, finesseful feel, notable crispness and moderate tannin perme - ated with mildly earthy, plummy/raspberry per- fumed fruit—subdued by apparent design—with herb y/leafy underpinnings and a touch of boot leather coming out in the palate. Timbre 2013 Lead Vocals Old Vines Pinot Noir, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley Transparently pigmented, slender, feminine frame, with understated yet bright clarity of cherry/berry perfume tinged with faintly herby, sweet kitchen herb spices. 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 Sabrine Rodems is Winemaker at Wrath Wines. Joshua Klapper of TimbreWinery and La Fenêtre with Presqu'ile Vineyards Pinot Noir. PHOTO COURTESY OF WRATH WINES PHOTO: RANDY CAPAROSO

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