2012 Claret $27.00

Aromas:

pastry shop, Bing cherry, nutmeg

Palate:

Sweet red fruit, moderate body and fresh acidity with some tannin grip.

Food Pairings:

Cornish hens, roasted chicken or Coq au vin

Vineyard:

Hardscrabble Vineyard (75%), Fauquier Co. on top of the Blue Ridge at 1,300 to 1,400 feet with an eastern to southern slope. Deep, well-drained mineral soils give cherry character and good structure. Vine ages from 3 to 25 years. Avenius Vineyard (10%), Warren Co. is just 1 mile north of Linden Vineyards at 1,300 feet contributes good acidity and verve. Vines planted in 1998. Boisseau Vineyard (15%), Warren Co. is located on a bluff above Front Royal in the Shenandoah Valley at an elevation of 600 feet. The vineyard is west facing on light, deep, well drained loam soils. The vines were planted in 2000 and are trained on cordon/VSP trellising.

Vintage:
2012 was back to some welcome degree of normalcy after the freakishly hot and dry 2010 and the rain soaked September of 2011. An extremely mild and dry winter gave us bud break a record 3 to 4 weeks earlier than average. Frost our biggest concern, but the mild winter continued into spring resulting in a frost-free season. A dry, warm April and May was welcomed by older vines, but concerning to young plantings. We quickly installed irrigation in our new Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon planting only to have the rains begin shortly thereafter. Flowering was still 2 to 3 weeks early, but occurred under generally favorable conditions and we were looking at a generous crop across varieties.

Mid summer was hot and precipitation was variable. The vines were never water stressed during the summer. Blocks on clay soils experienced luxuriant and to some degree, unwanted rampant growth. August is usually the time we have finished our work in the vineyard and head back to the cellar. In 2012 tropical conditions in August, beckoned us back to the vineyard to pull more leaves around bunches, aerating the cluster zones as a precaution against rot. Ultimately, clusters were healthy, but berry size was large.

Harvest began about 10 days early under typical September conditions. One day of rain was followed by a week of sun. As far as reds, Merlot was perhaps the star with crunchy red fruit, firm tannins and moderate sugars. Newly introduced Entav clones of Cabernet Franc held up very well as rains became more frequent. Their smaller berries, looser clusters and thicker skins resisted botrytis much better than the older “clone #1” planted in the 1980’s and much of the 1990’s.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot were a mixed bag, as earlier ripening sites with better drained soils matured before there was too much berry degradation. This was not the case with older vines on heavier soils as clusters began to fall apart before they were totally physiologically ripe. The weather became dry, but cool in October and any grapes left on the vines experienced sugar increases due to dehydration, but phenolic ripening had ceased. Harvest was from September 16 to October 8.

Winemaking:

Double sorting, moderate fermentation temperatures and extraction. Total cuvaison about 21 days. Aged in older French and Hungarian oak for 12 months. 43% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Petit Verdot, and 15% Cabernet Franc. 888 cases produced. Drink now through 2017.