Check back often for news on harvest, winemaking, events and other fun wine-related things.
For vines, grapes are a vehicle to spread DNA so that they may perpetuate the species and colonize new locations. Co-evolution of grapes alongside birds and mammals has resulted in a mutually beneficial exchange. Animals receive a nutritious and delicious fruit snack as ‘payment’ for dispersing the digestion-resistant seeds within, and the seeds, effectively transported away from the parent vine, are conveniently deposited in fertilizer after passing through animals’ guts.
Véraison heralds the start of the ripening process, which is brought about by the expression and repression of hundreds of thousands of genes. At this time, berries begin their transformation from hard, green, and bitter, with enamel-stripping acidity, to aromatic, sweet, attractively colored, and pleasantly acidic.
Grapes start to accumulate sugars, proteins, anthocyanins, tannins, and flavor and aroma compounds, and metabolize acids and increase pH. The entire process is brought about by the expression and repression of hundreds of thousands of genes. The changes during this time heavily influence the final quality and composition of the fruit at harvest. Physical changes include:
Source: Cornell University
On August 4-5, we went over the mountains to check on how the grapes were growing. Generally, everything is ripening on schedule, with most vineyards starting some level of veraison. Growing Degree Days (GDD) is tracking about the same as last year, a bit cooler in some areas. We discovered a great taco truck and stopped on the way back to refuel with tamales.
What are Growing Degree Days? The following is from WSU: The progression of in-season grapevine development is strongly influenced by air temperature. As such, average heat accumulation is often used to compare regions and vine growing condition. This average heat accumulation is often referred to as Growing Degree Days (GDD). The summation of daily GDD units can be used for a variety of things: comparing one region to another, comparing one season to another, and predicting important stages in vine development (bloom, veraison, and maturity). GDD units can be calculated in °F or °C. Washington State University calculates all GDD in °F, with a base temperature for grapes at 50 °F. Therefore, GDD is the cumulative number of degrees over 50 °F from April 1-October 31.
Through July 31, there were 1,933 growing degree days recorded on the Wahluke Slope. A year ago, it charted 2,023 GDD. During the 2015 vintage, it stood at 2,345 when August began.
At the Benton City station near Red Mountain, there were 2,073 GDD recorded. A year ago, it read 2,081 GDD. In 2015, there were 2,486 GDD.
On Snipes Mountain in the Yakima Valley, there were 1,960 GDD registered. A year ago, the accumulation stood at 1,961 GDD. During the blistering 2015 season, it was 2,436.
Tacos and Tamales. Driving between vineyards throughout Eastern Washington and walking our rows of vines is hard work. El Guero Tacos Garcia in West Richland sustained us Tuesday afternoon with tasty pork and chicken tacos, and chicken quesadillas. There is some seating, but we pretended to be at a Seahawks game and tailgated. Our drive home on Wednesday included a must stop at the James Beard Award winning Los Hernandez Tamales in Union Gap. Hurry to get their asparagus tamales before they're out of season, and be sure to pick up frozen tamales to eat at home. As someone said "it takes a lot of Mexican food to make a good wine".
Blending wine is part art, science, and economics. For this session, we were tasting the 2018 bordeaux varietals and 2019 rhone varietals for bottling in early 2021. All of these wines are very young and will benefit from some time in bottle.
We began with the rhones, which have been in barrel less than a year. The 2019 Grenache that comprises Mistral is fruity, vibrant and juicy. The 2019 Mourvedre will become a Fly Rod Cellars wine that is big, bold and dark, with a little smokiness from a barrel of new oak.
Our Merlot oak experiment resulted in significant differences between barrels. We have three barrels of Merlot: one neutral oak, one new French oak and one new American oak. The American barrel was soft with a hint of characteristic coconut. The French barrel was more smoky, vanilla and almost overpowered the wine. The neutral barrel was fruity and aromatic. All of these will be blended together as the base for Storm Front along with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.
We will physically blend these wines just before harvest begins so they have an opportunity to integrate in barrels. We can make additional adjustments prior to bottling after the blends have a chance to further age.
Judging for the 5th annual Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival was held in late July. Although the actual festival was canceled due to COVID-19, the blind judging of wine entries occurred as planned. A record 274 wines were entered in this year's competition. We entered five wines this year and all five earned medals. Click on each one to learn more about the wine and purchase online.
Due to new State requirements related to stopping the spread of COVID-19, we will be starting outdoor only tastings today, July 25. Moving forward, outdoor tastings will be weather-dependent. Masks are still required until you are seated. Please check this page, our social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) or call us at 425-233-5638 to check whether we are open for tastings.
July is our Summer Wine Release month. Due to COVID-19, we will not be having a release event, but you'll be able to taste and purchase these fantastic new wines at the winery or online beginning August 1 (Sunbreak is available now). Descriptions courtesy of The Review of Washington Wines and Wine Press Northwest.
2019 Convergence Zone Cellars “Sunbreak” Chenin Blanc, Snipes Mountain, Upland Vineyard
Chenin Blanc is an undervalued variety. This version shows a brilliant lemon-gold color and aromas of Asian pear-apple, white peach, honeydew melon, grapefruit, pear blossoms, honeysuckle, jasmine and lemon verbena. The flavors are deliciously juicy and vibrant, with notes of pear and grape skins, peach stone and gravelly minerals. The back picks up poire and pêche liqueurs, melon rind and grapefruit peel, followed by a crisp, faintly honeyed finish. Production was 158 cases. $17.00 retail (Wine Club prices $13.60-$14.45) and you can purchase it here.
2019 Fly Rod Cellars Pink Pollywog Rose' of Mourvedre, Wahluke Slope, Weinbau Vineyard
This features a brilliant copper-pink color and lovely aromas of strawberries, Rainier cherries, red currants. lavender and pink incense. The flavors are vivid and nicely extracted, with notes of grape skins, cherry stones and Wahluke Slope minerals, followed by a pleasingly juicy dry finish. Production was only 20 cases! $20.00 retail (Wine Club prices $16.00-$17.00).
2017 Fly Rod Cellars Salmonfly Syrah, Red Mountain, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
This is another example of Red Mountain's amazing Syrah, and this two-barrel lot is an exquisite expression, offering an experience of black plum, blueberry and Bing cherry, framed by a skillfully presented structure. Production was only 48 cases! $33.00 retail (Wine Club prices $26.40-$28.05)
It was July 2010. After making wine for nearly two years, it was time to open a tasting room. Our first wines (Sunbreak Chenin Blanc, Dewpoint Riesling and Storm Front Red Blend) were well-received and sold out in a few months. In fact we had to close the tasting room for a few months as we ran out of our small quanity of wine.
The brightly colored screen printed bottles were unique and a big hit. The logo stood out and consumers were drawn to something new and exciting. The wine inside was full-bodied, aromatic and balanced. It was the kind of wine that paired well with food with complex flavors, soft tannins and a juicy finish.
It's been 10 years. The world has changed dramatically. Monica and I both retired from our day jobs and are enjoying nature's beauty and more leisure time in North Bend. We've produced 66 different wines and learned a lot along the way. While our winemaking style will not change, you'll start to see a refresh of our brand, beginning with this blog post, newsletter and website.
Other changes coming soon include a new Reserve tier of single vineyard, single varietal and single barrel wines for our Wine Club, new labels and some new back-end system improvements.
Thank you for trusting us to bring you some great wines over the past 10 years. With you continued support, we look forward to the next 10 years!
Scott and Monica Greenberg