2012 Hardscrabble


Fresh, elegant entry with a slow evolution to precise fine grained tannins and a cleansing acidity.


Red currant, dark cherry compote, forest floor, tandoor smoke, and dried herbs.

Food Pairings

Spring lamb, steak on the grill, summer sausages.


Hardscrabble Vineyard (100%), Fauquier Co. on top of the Blue Ridge at 1,200 to 1,400 feet with an eastern to southern slope. moderately shallow, well drained rocky, mineral soils give depth, structure and length. Vines planted from 1985 to 2009. Older vines planted at a density of 600 to 800 vines per acre. Younger vineyards at 1,500 to 2,500 vines per acre.


An extremely mild and dry winter gave us bud break a record 3 to 4 weeks earlier than average. A dry, warm April and May was welcomed by older vines, but concerning to young plantings. 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.


This is a selection of the best vineyard blocks at Hardscrabble. At the winery, sorting tables were running slowly as rot and uneven ripening were often issues. Straightforward, minimalist winemaking, especially when oak was involved seemed to be appropriate.

The reds had good, fresh material, but were only barely phenolically ripe and in some cases lacked concentration. Saignée was used judiciously, usually in the 10 to 15% range for fear of over emphasizing tannins. Extractions were moderate with more focus on early timing of pump overs or punch downs. Fermentation temperatures were kept cooler than normal, rarely peaking above 27C (80F). Post fermentation maceration temperatures and lengths were cautious for fear of over extracting more bitter seed tannins.

Fermentation begins naturally (no added yeast) in small one-ton fermenters. Punched down and pumped over averaging two times per day. Malo in barrels. The wine was aged in new (30%) and slightly used French oak barrels for 21 months. Bottled July of 2014. 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. 14.4% alc. Drink now through 2021. 446 cases produced.

Red WinesJim Law