Hardscrabble Red | 2014 | $50
Lean and taught, all muscle, no fat: the antithesis of a California Cabernet. The aroma has distinct bramble and black currant fruit notes, but also a certain corrupt complexity that keeps drawing one's nose back to the glass. Acidity forms the backbone of the wine's structure with dusty tannins playing a supporting role.
Pastas with meat (hold the tomatoes please), lamb chops, grilled mushrooms.
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 2011. Older vines planted at a density of 600 to 800 vines per acre. Younger vineyards at 1,500 to 2,500 vines per acre.
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 vines’ 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 Sauvignon, which had very ripe skin tannins, supplied some length. However, its seeds were not fully developed. No Petit Verdot or Cabernet Franc made it into this blend. Harvest was from September 22 (Merlot) until October 3 (Cabernet Sauvignon).
This is a selection of the best vineyard blocks at Hardscrabble. Saignée was used judiciously, usually in the 5 to 10% range for fear of overemphasizing tannins. Extractions were moderate with more focus on early timing of pump overs and later punch downs. Fermentation temperatures were kept cooler than normal, rarely peaking above 27°C (80°F). Post fermentation maceration temperatures and lengths were average in length.
The wine was aged in new (50%) and slightly used French oak barrels for 21 months. Bottled August of 2016. 81% Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Merlot. 12.5% alc. Drink 2018 through 2023. 223 cases produced.