The SOMM Journal

August / September 2018

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Page 75 of 124

{ } 75 B y the early 1980s, J. Lohr's cool-climate vineyards in Monterey's Arroyo Seco district were firmly established. Jerry Lohr was anxious to add top- flight Cabernet Sauvignon to his growing portfolio and knew he needed to look to warmer climes for more Bordeaux-like conditions. In his quest for a new location, he and his winemaking team tasted hundreds of Cabernet Sauvignon samples from throughout California. Lohr preferred the dominant fruit character and softer tannins found in the Cab - ernets from Paso Robles, so a decade after he first entertained expanding beyond Arroyo Seco, he planted his first vineyard there in 1987—directly next door to one of the properties whose wines he most enjoyed. Fast-forward to 2018, with J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines now farming more than 2,300 acres throughout Paso Robles with Cabernet Sauvignon as its primary focus. The company's properties span six sub-appellations in the region, enabling it to integrate flavors from a broad palette of fruit profiles while taking advantage of its extensive portfolio of estate- grown vineyards and history of long-term grower relationships. J. Lohr produces three tiers of Cabernet Sauvignon: the Estates Seven Oaks, its en - try-level wine that makes up the majority of its production; Hilltop, from its Vineyard Series, which originally began as a single-property offering and has since expanded to include a selection of multiple sites; and Signature, a very-limited release personally overseen by Jerry Lohr which focuses on the best lots in any given vintage. Plush Fruit and Supple Tannins Crafted to be drinkable upon release, all three tiers of J. Lohr Cabernet share a pro- file of lush fruit and supple tannins thanks to a combination of farming techniques, fermentation management, and individual oak programs. In the vineyard, controlling irrigation is key. Winter rains make up the foundation of the vines' water needs, with additional hydration provided as needed through June. By then, the canopies are healthy and there's a reasonable amount of moisture in the soil. The winery then allows the vines to "dry down," avoiding irrigation as long as possible and closely monitoring the vines' stress levels all the while. "By doing that, we're preventing the production of possible vegetal pyrazines by restricting their formation in June and July so that we're not relying solely on hang time in Octo - ber to burn them off," explains Steve Peck, Red Wines Winemaker for J. Lohr. This method encourages fresher fruit character with a lower alcohol content. "It's very intentional and part of the house style and flavor profile we're targeting," Peck adds. In the winery, softer tannins are achieved in part through fermentation tech- niques. Peck says the aim is to get the temperature to 90 degrees Fahrenheit "early" before Brix drops below 20. This drives the extraction of anthocyanins from the skins, and once that's done, the winemaking team decreases the temperature and reduces the number of punch-downs/pump-overs. In doing so, they limit the extrac - tion of tannins later in the fermentation process when alcohols are present. With each year, they're conscious of tailoring the oak profile to suit the vintage. In 2015, for example, the region experienced a cooler May with a large amount of shat - ter and an uneven bloom. This led to berry variation and more savory tones, so to accent those characteristics, Peck selected a lower toast to better match the wines. When describing J. Lohr's approach to each tier, Peck explains that the winery's "goals are the same, but the tools [it uses] to execute on them are a little different." And while all three wines share similar traits, they're each characterized by grape sourcing and cellar techniques. Read on for a full breakdown of each of J. Lohr's Cabernet Sauvignon–based tiers: SIGNATURE J. Lohr introduced Signature, its first luxury-class Cabernet Sauvignon, just last year to honor Jerry Lohr's 80th birthday. The winemaking and viticulture teams col- laborated to create this bottling, identifying three premier blocks as possible contend- ers and ultimately deciding on Cabernet from Beck Vineyard's Block 2. Located in the Creston sub-appellation, the 115-acre vineyard is, according to Peck, best described as "a westside ranch on the east side" due to its high level of limestone and calcareous soils resembling crushed white chalk. Block 2 sits at an elevation of 1,700 feet above sea level and is planted to clone 337 on 110R root - stock, a combination Peck calls "amazing," as it epitomizes the "tortured vine" to produce extremely low yields, tiny clusters, and exceptional quality. The high eleva - tion, meanwhile, allows for early ripening, which results in crisper fruit flavors with improved acid retention. The grapes are harvested by hand and berry-sorted before crush; at this stage, Peck uses the Pellenc Extractiv', an innova - tive piece of equipment that slingshots The limestone-calcareous soils of Beck Vineyard.

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