It’s difficult to talk about the 2019 harvest without mentioning the Kincade Wildfires that swept through rural Sonoma County. The heroic efforts of firefighters and first responders helped keep the fires at bay, saving lives and structures in beautiful Sonoma County wine country. The smoke has cleared and California is finally receiving some much needed rain as things return to a sense of normalcy. With the calming of life in Sonoma County, we’re able to take a step back and review the 2019 harvest and start to analyze the resulting wines.
Thanks to spring rains and cooler weather, the 2019 growing season got off to a later than average start. Some late season rain continued into May, bringing a small amount of shatter to vineyards throughout Sonoma County. Fortunately, this slight decrease to quantity only enhanced the fruit’s quality. Cooler weather continued to prevail throughout the season, resulting in concentrated flavors at lower sugars levels. The resulting wines should prove to be well balanced with full flavor and acid at lower alcohol.
Our goal for Drive Wines in the 2019 harvest was to make three distinct wines that would be representative of the vineyards they come from.
Comstock Vineyard Rosé
The 2019 Comstock Vineyard Rosé of Zinfandel was picked on September 9, picking at lower brix (22.1) allowed us to retain acidity and freshness at lower alcohol levels. The grapes went directly into the press, in the vin gris style of production. Resulting juice was settled in tank and then fermented in neutral french oak. The wine finished fermenting on September 25 and continues to rest in barrel until we bottle this winter. Early on the wine is giving impressions of strawberry and tropical notes while maintaining a touch of roundness from the neutral oak.
Canihan Vineyard Syrah
A new addition to Drive Wines, our 2019 Canihan Vineyard Syrah comes from a cooler climate located within the Sonoma Coast AVA. The vineyard is certified organic and dry farmed with a small amount of Viognier planted. It was our goal to make this wine in the Cote Rotie style of the Northern Rhone in France, known for the cofermentation of Syrah and Viognier resulting in notes of pepper and cured meats, while receiving an aromatic lift from the inclusion of Viognier.
The grapes were picked on October 10, during a blackout in Sonoma in which we picked the grapes under the light of the full moon. We picked 2% Viognier out of the 4 tons of fruit. Fermentation included 5% whole clusters to give us added complexity, structure and earthy characters in line with the “old world” style we were going for. The must fermented over 9 days with once daily morning punchdowns and afternoon pumpovers. We pressed over early to avoid any astringency as Syrah has a tendency to become overly astringent with too much time on seeds and skins. The resulting wine has great dark fruit and cured meat flavors. We’ll age this wine in 30% one-year-old french oak and the remainder in neutral French oak to not overshadow the delicate flavors of this elegant wine.
Puccioni Ranch Zinfandel
Our 2019 Puccioni Ranch Zinfandel targeted 24-25 brix, depending on flavor development to determine pick timing. This year, we pulled fruit from the old block (planted 1904) which brings incredible concentration and the Mule Hill block (steep hillside) to pull in expressive fruit and tannin. Fruit was hand picked, sorted and crushed the morning of October 18. After a 3 day cold soak, the must fermented over 8 days with twice daily punchdowns before being pressed into barrel. The pressed wine has early impressions of baking spice, bramble, with a nice balance of fruit, tannin and acid. To develop a more “new-world” style wine, we’ll be aging this wine in 20% new American oak and 20% 1-year-old French oak, the remainder in neutral french oak.
All things said, we made it through the chaos like much of Sonoma County, unscathed and stronger than we were at the beginning of the Fall. We hope you all have an amazing holiday season and look forward to sharing these wines with you!