To start with, it means lower alcohol, less ripe, less wood, balanced, finesse-driven, mouth coating wines.
The whole point of Rotie Cellars is to make traditional Rhone Blends with Washington State fruit. So what do traditional Rhone blends mean to me? To start with, they mean lower alcohol, less ripe, less oak, balanced, finesse driven, mouth coating wines.
So how is this done? As with most vague questions there are complex, lengthy answers but without writing a book, here are the basics:
- The Best Sites: Finding vineyard sites that mature as late as possible with brix levels no greater than 24.5.
- Smart People: Understanding that 90% of making wine occurs within the vineyard. For me this means finding smart vineyard managers that listen to my goals and do everything in their power to achieve my vision. For me, tasting grapes on the vine, while plotting data points of Brix, Ph, and TA every week plays a crucial role. Then as pick times near, I continue to plot the same points every other day, making it easy to see patterns.
- Don't Get in the Way: Not messing up the 10% we, as winemakers, control. For example, I like Grenache that tastes like Grenache. Grenache by nature is light in color, lean, bright, and spicy. So, I am not going to disrespect it by co-fermenting it with Syrah to extract color and mess up its beauty. All of Rotie's vineyard sources possess a unique beauty. I believe that it's not my place to alter this beauty. The finesse of winemaking is making complimentary blends from contrasting sites. Subsequently, the addition of wood also needs to enhance the profile rather than overpower it. Personally, I like 15-20% new oak on dark syrahs and only second fills or less on lighter Grenache or Cinsault. Finally, temperature of fermentations, lees management, and stems need to be utilized in most cases for added viscosity and mouth feel.
- Let the grapes teach you: Understanding that wine-making is a constant learning process, where no vintage is the same. Each year the weather patterns dramatically affect the outcome of the vintage. My knowledge and skills as a winemaker are ever-evolving, and I love the challenge each vintage brings.
These wines are not meant for grocery store shelves, but rather they need to be cellared as they are still evolving in bottle. I will never sterile filter these wines.