Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Haut Tube Goes Mainstream (Part 4)

We exited harvest in 2007 with basically the same plan for the Haut Tubee we had in 2006. It was a single barrel of wine and we were not entirely sure what we would do with it. We had made that single barrel the same way we had done the 2006 and the way we continue to handle the small lots that come into the winery.

Each lot comes from a tiny vineyard with high quality fruit. We process the fruit as we would any of our larger lots, except it goes in a small fermentation bin and gets extra argon to protect it as fermentation slows. Each lot is pressed in the small wooden basket press and transferred to a stainless steel tank. When the tank has enough wine to fill a barrel, the wine is transferred to barrel.

By the summer of 2008 we knew we had a problem. Word had gotten out on the 2006 and we were expecting high demand for the 2007. The problem was we had just a single barrel or about 25 cases. There was no way 25 cases would meet demand.

It turned out we had a lot of things we didn't know what to do with from the 2007 vintage. We had ended up with 3/4 of a barrel extra of Harvest Moon Cabernet. We also had a 1/2 barrel of Elandrich Vineyard Merlot/Cab. There was a single barrel of press wine from Chaine d'Or that we didn't want to use in the final blend of the Estate wine. We also were conducting barrel experiments on our Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah. We had decided to use three new barrels out of the nine. We were trying a Sequin Moreau Burgundy Barrel, a Sequin Moreau Bordeaux Barrel and an Ermitage Syrah Barrel. We wanted to see what one matched the wine best. If any of them didn't work out, we had still another barrel without a home.

Some point in that summer of 2008 a plan came together for all the extras. The press wine was broken up. Some went in to beef up the SCM Cab blend, a tiny bit went back into the estate wine, and some went in to the Haut Tubee. We then decided to blend together the Elandrich and Harvest Moon. This solved the problem of the 3/4 barrel, and the remaining amount went into the Haut Tubee.

Later we would add some of the Chaine d'Or into the SCM Cab and a little of that would also end up in the Haut Tubee. We now had two barrels of Haut Tubee instead of one. We were ready to go forward with that and make 50 cases of wine.

Then it came time to taste through the Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah. We had made that wine at Big Basin Vineyards and we had the assistant winemaker there pull us a sample from each barrel. Stefania and I tasted them blind. One really stood out. It was smokey and rich with pepper and dark fruit notes, almost brooding. It was a great Syrah, but it was totally different from all the other samples. It turned out that was the new Ermitage barrel.

The folks at Big Basin recommended we bottle that barrel separately but I really didn't want to create a one time only wine. We decided to put it in the Haut Tubee instead. I think you could have argued that that barrel was the best of all nine, but it was also the most different. We also choose another barrel that stood out and that joined the Haut Tubee as well.

That was what we ended up with for 2007. Four barrels of really great wine, blended together and including about 35% new oak for $20. It really is a bargain, but the way we're keeping the books on the wines, most of our costs are falling under other wines. We released that wine in 2009 and it took off again. The highlight was a Gold Medal at the Chronicle Wine Competition.

The 2007 Haut Tubee barrels after bottling.

Next Up - The Haut Tubee Gets a Plan

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