With 2012 coming to a quick conclusion, we sat down with Winemaker Darice Spinelli for a year-end wrap-up. As you will see, harvest 2012 is still a vivid memory.
What stands out for you about 2012?
Definitely the abundance of this vintage—that was phenomenal. We were up 31% from what I was expecting, and we were up by 73% over last year’s yields. And the quality appears to be exceptional.
Were there any changes or enhancements brought to the winemaking process this year?
For the last two harvests, we have used the optical sorter. This machine allows us to identify color as a tool to remove anything that is undesirable. In our case, we were removing things that were green and brown (stems, leaves, shot berries) and keeping anything purple. We had a team hand sorting, too, but the optical sorter almost doubled our ability to process the grapes. Our ability to work faster is exactly what we needed given the tonnage from the 2012 harvest . That’s how we were able to keep our quality high.
View our optical sorter in action in this recent harvest video.
What characteristics are you seeing in the 2012 wines?
The wines are very well balanced. They’re still going through fermentation and still changing at this point, but they have really nice structure, great fruit flavors, incredible color and nice aromas, so it’s looking like it will be a great year. The vineyard characteristics are really showing through.
Is there anything else that stands out for you about 2012? Anything you’re looking forward to in 2013?
I’ve been thinking about harvest for the last few months, but earlier in the year we bottled our 2010 Cabernets. [Mark your calendars for the official release on August 10, 2013.] Again, these are good, solid wines. We just tasted through our spring releases—also really balanced wines. These Chardonnays, Merlots and Syrahs taste wonderful at this early age, so it will be exciting to show everybody these wines in 2013. We also have a new Chardonnay coming out next year from Stiling Vineyard that we bottled this last year. It has a beautiful minerality that can’t be beat.
Our annual Futures event is something we always look forward to. This year we’ll taste the 2012 Cabernets, and you’ll have the opportunity to purchase these wines at current release prices. It’s a fun, popular event and I guarantee that you will enjoy this vintage.
Wishing you and yours a very happy New Year! See you in 2013.
We’ve given insight to the unique aspects of this vineyard, those which contribute to the single-vineyard Cabernet that only this vineyard can produce. (For the previous posts see here and here.) Today, Winemaker Darice Spinelli describes the characteristics which define the John C. Sullenger Cabernet Sauvignon.
For me, Sullenger is about the beautiful fruit and coating palate feel. The wine has a rich texture, beautiful Oakville tannins and a lot of complexity. There is opulent fruit with earthy notes and a coating middle palate that leads into a long finish. Truly, it’s the complexity and layering that are the Sullenger signature.
What lends to those characteristics? It’s the vineyard. I cannot create Dragonfly Vineyard Cabernet here. So that’s true terroir. It’s the sun, the climate, the soil, the rootstock, the vine—the combination of all these things creates the overall character of this wine. The flavors themselves are the expression of this vineyard.
To enjoy the last of the 2009 Sullenger Cabernet, click here.
You may be familiar with our home vineyard, the John C. Sullenger Vineyard, and we hope you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy our Cabernet Sauvignon from this Oakville vineyard. But you may not know what it is, exactly, about this vineyard that sets it apart from other vineyards in our collection.
By location alone, Sullenger is distinct from other Nickel & Nickel vineyards. “Sullenger is positioned in the center of the Napa Valley, whereas most other Nickel & Nickel vineyards are on the eastern or western sides of the valley,” says Viticulturist Aaron Fishleder. This site on the valley floor offers plenty of sunlight and uniform soils that promote consistent vine growth.
Sullenger is also the vineyard that has shown the biggest changes since we began farming it. When we purchased the property in 1998, the vines were big and leafy, shading the clusters. With careful pruning, canopy management, drainage and replanting over the years with the optimal combination of clones and rootstock, Sullenger has really come into its own and is producing fruit at a very high level.
Because of the vineyard’s location and soil type, we don’t irrigate this vineyard much, which promotes moderate vine growth, giving John C. Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon that great, concentrated flavor we know so well.
Take a look at our recent harvest video, which compares Sullenger Vineyard with the hillside Quarry Vineyard in Rutherford.
The 2009 Nickel & Nickel John C. Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is extremely limited this year and will sell out soon. Click here to acquire the last of this vintage.
And click here for the previous post about the John C. Sullenger Vineyard, which includes an aerial photograph of the vineyard site.
Enjoy this short video featuring Chef Trevor, a beautiful leg of lamb, colorful vegetables and State Ranch Cabernet. This visual feast will surely inspire you to make your own! For the complete recipe, click here.