Claret | 2014 | $28
Restrained balance. Medium bodied. Refreshing acidity frames the structure with only a light espresso-like tannin grip.
Bright aromas, resinous eucalyptus, red currant and subtle toast.
Barbecued anything, Coq au vin, or white pizza.
Hardscrabble Vineyard (70%), 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 30 years.
Avenius Vineyard (15%), Warren Co. just one 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.
Climate is what you plan for and weather is what you get. This is why the somewhat unremarkable 2014 growing season was so good: we got what we planned for. Every growing season has its personality, and as average as 2014 was, there were three aspects that shaped the character of the wines. A very long cold winter damaged some vines and delayed spring. A late start to spring can end up as a very late harvest. The fear was that late ripening varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot would run out of warmth come October.
We were prepared to reduce our potential yields by removing a significant amount of the clusters in July. A smaller crop would ripen faster. However, July was beautiful. Dry, warm weather slowed the vine’s vegetative growth. Instead of putting energy into producing more leaves, which will happen in a wet summer, the vines put their energy into ripening the grapes. We knew something good was to happen when veraison occurred sooner (and faster) than expected.
Spring and mid-summer lay the foundation of the vintage, but late August through mid-October determine the style, character and quality of the wines. The beginning of harvest started in early September. It was typical of the ‘cat and mouse’ picking strategies that we are all now accustomed to. A few days of sunny delightful weather followed by showers characterized the start of harvest. Mid-September to early October was our big break with very little rain and mild temperatures, although it remained somewhat cloudy. Ripening took its time with lower than average sugars and higher than average acids. Merlot was a bit stubborn. It refused to gain the flesh and fat that it is known for. Cabernet Franc produced wines with a rich mid-palate and forward fruit, but lacking in length. Cabernet Sauvignon, which had very ripe skin tannins, supplied the length. However, its seeds were not fully developed, and the forecast was for significant rains beginning October 10. We picked a record amount of Cabernet and Petit Verdot before the rains and extracted wisely (avoiding pulling out bitter components from the seeds). We were rewarded with plush, energetic Cabernet Sauvignon. 2014 Claret is Italian in style because of the cooler temperatures. It is lower alcohol with some bright acidity. This is a compelling style for the dinner table, but perhaps not for wine writer points.
Double sorting, moderate fermentation temperatures and extraction. Total cuvaison about 21 days. Aged in older French oak for 12 months. 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot. 1,050 cases produced. Drink now through 2019. Alcohol 12.9%.