records the library of wines

the eventual reward for a successful bottling: david ayala's quinceanera band.

On April 4, we will bottle nine wines. We will complete the harvest of 2005 by bottling the last of its wine; and will march to the half-way point of the elevage of our 2006 harvest. Four 2006 whites will remain in barrel, two of them still completing fermentation; and three brilliant reds will continue in their slow development. Everything else in the cellar graduates this Spring:

This wine is much lighter than in the past with very bright acidity. The wine reminds me of the base wine of Champagne. It is completely defined by its acidity and length. I hesitate to say this about such a special vineyard, but I think that the quality is lower than in 2004 and 2005, and I blame the winemaker's picking decision. If the wine were not fine, I would blend it away-- it is fine, but you would not mistake it for its older siblings. 19 cs

Barrel-fermented and -aged Verdelho, pressed after crushing with brief skin contact.; the less decorous twin of fresh and clean Naucratis. Orange blossom, marmalade on toast with salty butter. More minerality than last year's wine, still rich and saucy. 155 cs

This wine too is a twin: it is the juice from the Sauvignon Blanc destined for the 2006 LSB, but from the bottom of the post-pressing settling tank. We racked the tank to fill the LSB barrels the day after pressing, and as we got lower and lower, we discovered a stratum of juice completely different from the bright clear juice with which we began. This juice was darker, slightly smoky, richer with much less acid than the lighter juice. We tasted, looked at each other and stopped filling the LSB barrels. This wine was immediately designated on its own, barrel-fermented it separately in neutral oak; it finished very quicklky, while the lighter SB is still ticking. We did nothing to arrest malolactic, and did not top the barrels. This wine is richer and less severe than the LSB, and very powerful. Its power is curvaceous, not angular. and so it bears the name of the great Latin warrior Camilla, who made Aeneas pause. 76 cs

A skin-fermented Pinot Grigio, crushed into a new 500 liter puncheon like a fancy Cabernet, punched-down 3-times per day, and macerated for 3 weeks before pressing. The wine is a dusky plum-skin but will fade in a few months to burnished gold. A tannic, very salty white wine, named in honor the hillside town in Italy that is home to Radikon and Gravner , where white wine is King, and skins undergird its rule. 21 cs

A wine born from a spreadsheet error. In calulating the number of bottles needed for the December bottling of the 2005 Cena Trimalchionis, I somehow erred by about 40 cs. When the bottles ran out, we put the remaining wine back into barrel, called the printer, and now we are bottling the same Cena, but with 3 more months of barrel age. This has turned out to be a wonderful experiment: the exuberant Cena consumed the additional months of barrel age without hesitation or variation. This second wine is almost identical to the first, but it seemed only fair to distinguish them by name. 38 cs

From the same remarkable 1-acre, 25 year-old backyard vineyard that produced the 2002 Sylphs. 2005 was our first year back in the vineyard (I did not have sufficient funds to purchase the fruit in the intervening years), and as wonderful as it was to receive the fruit again-- it was a difficult year for the vineyard. Chardonnay was hard-pressed by mildew all over the North Bay in 2005, and this vineyard was bit deeply. We put more than two-thirds of its fruit on the ground, and harvested very very slowly, comparing each cluster to samples of acceptable fruit that I had fixed to a board at the foot of the vineyard. Combatting the mildew stressed the vines severely, which was good and bad for the fruit. The perfect clusters that we harvested were intense in flavor, with beautifully defined acidity-- they tasted like hillside fruit, not the usual rich, thick-skinned grapes from this vineyard. The wine resulting wine is very complex, with extraordinary length, and an a pyrotechnic finish. Since it does not have the richness or startling power of the 2002, I have given it a new name: Nereides, the female sea-spirits of Ancient Greece. The 2002 was marked by its yeast; this wine by its sea-side iodine character. 76 cs

We experimented for the first time with whole cluster syrah fermentation in 2005, inspired mostly by the wines of Alain Graillot. The results were superb and left us with some regret that we had not fermented all of the Hudson grapes with their stems. On the other hand, the experiment, such as it was, was not perfect, since we also had the opportunity in 2005 to harvest fruit from two sections of the vineyard: the same one that had produced our wine from 2004 through 2004, and a new section on somewhat rockier soil. The whole cluster fermentation came from the new section. The 2005 Iseult is a blend of all of the whole-cluster fermentation from the new section, with about 1/3 of the destemmed fruit from the old section. The wine is beautifully smoky, not like the torrefaction of coffee, or the richness of smoked fish, but the piercing, serious smoke of a desert campfire. The wine has the charming poise of the 2003 Iseult rather than the ferality of the 2002 and 2004 Scheria, thus the return to this name. 50 cs

This is our first blended wine. It is a second wine, as the 2004 Sandland was-- not quite up the standards of our first wines. It a blend of a several wines. The first, a learning wine-- the 2005 Margit's. It did not measure up to the extraordinary promise of the vineyard, and so could not be bottled in the usual way. Next, a Syrah from a vineyard that did not merit single-vineyard release. Each of these last two wines was very soft and fragrant; each one reminded me the rather cool-climate fragrance of Piemontese Barbera and some Nebbiolos; the Margit's had the power and softness of Chateau-Neuf. but neither was well-balanced, attractive, forceful. . . . I had despaired of what to do with them until it occurred to me that it was wrong to think that each wine needed to be firmer or harder-- rather, each, in its softness and alluring fragrance, was waiting for the other. The unexpected is so much the rule in our cellar: the blended wine is firmer than either soft component; the tannins, seemingly absent from the Margit's cabernet, came back; the whole suddenly developed an excellent salinity from its components' undisturbed barrel age. But still-- there were more orphans to adopt. 100 gallons of very late harvest Glos merlot, intended for a Quintarelli Alzero study? But not even close in complexity and nobility? Its beautiful aroma of Marrakesh now dominates the blend's nose. And a barrel of 2005 Tenbrink that did not have the requisite intensity for
Babylon? The long-stringed bass that now underlies and gives some discipline to quartet. 252 cs

The prize jewel of the 2005 harvest. This wine is perhaps less astonishing than the 2005 Cena, but it is much more beautiful, much more direct. It is our best Babylon yet; the clear culmination of our effort and learning in the vineyard. We managed to grow the grapes in 2005 without irrigation, in the midst of a very vigourous cover crop, and the vines responded by thinning their own fruit. We had to witness the terrifying phenomenon of clusters spontaneously shrivelling on the vine, day after day, as we waited for perfect ripeness in the vineyard. Not shrivelling from heat, sun, drought-- this would have affected every cluster nearly evenly. Rather, one cluster among four or five or ten would suddenly stop ripening, begin to dimple, then lose all turgor, and within a few days, look like a dessicated corpse. It was not beautiful-- except that we knew that every remaining cluster would be stronger, perhaps had been stronger from the beginning-- that the vine had chosen for us, and had chosen according to the most exacting, and deeply hidden, criteria. How could we not make good wine? 572 cs

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