by Organic Wine Journal
on Nov 7, 2013
The 2013 vintage is characterised by particularly late ripening dates, 2 to 3 weeks after those in a typical year. For example, we did not pick the last Cabernet and Mourvedre grapes in the Cevennes until around 20th October. This phenomenon can be explained by the particularly cold spring which delayed flowering until mid-June. After that, unlike other French regions that were hit by bad weather, we were lucky enough to benefit from a hot summer without anyhydric stress and a very good end to the season, with cool mornings and fine afternoons providing ideal conditions for harvesting. We were therefore able to wait for the grapes to reach perfect ripeness.
Temperature ranges were particularly high this year in our winegrowing regions (foothills of the Cevennes and the Pyrenees), suggesting that the red wines are likely to boast very good tannin quality. Unusually for the Languedoc, we managed to keep excellent natural acidity levels that should produce good colour in the rosé wines and some nice fresh whites.
Domaine Saint Felix Des Toureilles
Here in the region around Beziers, there were no hydric stress problems this year (the main issue here in dry years). The storms in July and August were most beneficial, although with a little hail in July on some plots (Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) without any great consequences.
We started with the Chardonnays on around 10 September, followed very quickly by the Sauvignon Blanc. The investment in a pneumatic press and enhanced protection of the grapes against oxidation produced excellent juices with very good acidity levels.
The rosés came next, keeping transport time down to the minimum to try to keep the wines as pale as possible. The reds, meanwhile, were only brought in in October, with good harvests of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This year’s climate conditions may well have reminded them of their native Bordeaux.
For the Languedoc and St Chinian AOCs, phenolic ripeness was achieved with lots of patience and a certain amount of risk, but the result was worth it, allowing long maceration. Very intense colours, even on the Grenache. Currently very promising.
Domaine Mon Reve
It was a baptism of fire for the estate’s brand new winery: 1,000 HI of concrete vats and a pneumatic press (one of the best!). All the grapes were farmed organically this year and have been certified by Delinat.
The harvests were late here too, and also of good quality. There was a big flower problem on the Grenache vines, which reduced yields considerably, although not the quality.
Amazingly, the white wines in the area had to be picked at the end of the harvests, with excellent quality on the Vermentino-Viognier that is well worth discovering, with lots of fruit and freshness.
The Terrasse du Larzac AOC red will be gaining in character and concentration this year, as some magnificent old Carignan is added to the blend, some of it after carbonic maceration.
As for the Syrah and Grenache, their quality is true to the style of the Domaine: high natural sugar levels and very pronounced garrigue scents. The best wines are being left a little longer in the vats and we are starting the maturing.
Clos Du Romarin
The harvests were late here, too…. Unfortunately with a lot of flower abortion on the Grenache vines in St Paul and berry shot on all the Muscat vines, due to the cold spring.
We decided to make the most of pronounced acidity on the Muscat grapes to launch a dry wine. It boasts an intense bouquet and very fresh sensations on the palate, making the ideal aperitif.
The high-end process that proved its worth last year was repeated, with hand picking in small trays followed by storage in refrigerated containers before going to the sorting table. The winemaking process was monitored closely and meticulously by Fabien, a young oenologist who has learned his trade in New Zealand and Languedoc.
The ripening process was completed, with close monitoring and some hydric stress on a few Syrah vines, which will be kept apart (they will not go into the Cotes du Roussillon Village). The Grenache grapes in the Maury area and the Carignans are superb, in particular one plot (La Faun del Bosc) of old Carignan on black schist soils at the foot of Queribus, which is looking most promising.
Cabirou and Tiradou (Grenache) were among the top 5 batches this year, once again.
Domaine Jardin Des Iris
Jean de la Fontaine said “Patience and time do more than strength or passion” and the saying could be said to summarise the vintage. We pushed over-ripeness to its limits, as this was probably the only effective way of avoiding the vegetal hints on this late-ripening terroir this year, but the healthy condition of the grapes meant that it all went without a hitch. We can look forward to some excellent Syrah and Merlot and to Cabernet Sauvignon with red-pepper hints.
The grapes are still macerating in the vats at the moment, and we will have to wait a little to taste the reds, some of which we will be maturing in casks.
by Paul White
on Nov 4, 2013
Sonoma has a new AVA, not a big deal for a County with over a dozen; but for the bushy bearded mountain man who planted and maintains many of its vineyards, it’s huge. Phil Coturri now has an opportunity to showcase the area he helped create – Moon Mountain.
The Moon Mountain District AVA consists of 40 vineyards, approximately 1,500 planted acres, and 11 bonded wineries. Phil Coturri has farmed almost half of these properties at one time or another during his 40 year vineyard management career, with all of his work being certified organic by the CCOF or Biodynamic by Demeter.
Located alongside the western slopes of Mayacamas Mountain, the range that separates Napa from Sonoma, Moon Mountain rises from 400 to 2,200 feet. It is an aptly-named arid, remote, lunar-like moonscape so pocked with deep hollows and craters that being there feels like standing on the moon.
The rocky red soils of Moon Mountain have excellent drainage and are primarily volcanic ash – called Sonoma Volcanics – which were formed from 5 million year old prehistoric lava flows of andesite, tufa, obsidian and basalt with a thin top layer of clay loam. A molten magma mille-feuille or Napoleon cake of distinct mineral layers chock-full with red powdery goodness.
Rainfall drains down the Sonoma Creek’s eastern tributaries thru the wetlands into San Pablo Bay. Like most mountain sites, the vines are less vigorous and really need to work hard by throwing down deep taproots to sip water and receive nutrients, as such yields are low (2–4 tons per acre) but the fruit is very concentrated with smaller berries and intense mineral rich flavors.
The Moon Mountain District is a perfect place to grow Zinfandel and Bordeaux varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. It has a distinct microclimate marked by temperature inversions, so when it’s chilly on the Valley floor it’s significantly warmer on Moon Mountain.
Frost risks are mitigated by southern Bay influences mixing with dry inland air from the north. A dogleg-like bend in Sonoma Valley’s topography on the northwestern side of Sonoma Mountain thru Bennett Valley creates a gap that funnels temperate west winds from the Pacific Ocean which blend with south breezes coming up from San Pablo Bay.
It All Started At Monte Rosso
Moon Mountain is historically significant and cradles one of California’s most important estates, the Monte Rosso Vineyard (“Red Mountain”) which was originally planted in 1886. Many, many harvests ago, Phil Coturri spent his salad years as a farm hand at Monte Rosso, learning about nurturing vines from the fabled old school vineyard master Joe Miami. The area had a specific gravity for Phil and he never left her orbit.
Since the 70’s, Phil has been active sculpting the Moon Mountain landscape, planting and replanting hundreds of thousands of vines, conserving her forests and preserving the Mountain’s majesty. Phil staked his claim, developed his business reputation, and even built his personal residence within the AVA’s designation – on Norrbom Road, 5 miles straight up above Sonoma Plaza.
For four decades now, Phil has been ahead of the organic curve and pioneered large scale cultivation of organic and Biodynamic viticulture in California. Being poisoned himself is what made Phil turn towards holistic methods and changed the way he approached farming. He was accidentally dosed with the widely used herbicide Paraquat and was sickened by its toxins.
This was during the age of the Apollo missions. America was searching for new possibilities, and the EPA had just formed after the harmful impacts of Monsanto’s Agent Orange were exposed. A movement was underway and brought with it new reasoned voices: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the Rodale Institute and Earth Day calling for regulation and examination of the environmental costs these products were having on the earth. It was out of this that Phil made it his personal mission to do his part in conserving biodiversity on his section of the planet.
At great financial and career risk, Phil dared to navigate a different course in the vineyard world and chose a path away from commercial techniques of farming with harmful petrochemicals. This was not an easy decision, especially without any support from the wine industry for natural winegrowers. He needed an owner to start with, and in 1974 Myron Frieberg of Dos Limones Vineyards partnered with him and commited to be totally organic.
To be a client of Phil’s today means that the vineyard owner must be on board and fundamentally agree that the land and the surrounding countryside is a living organism. The farm, whether big or small, is managed and run as an ecological whole. He adapts his operations to accommodate the uniqueness of each individual property. There are no innate size limits to being sustainable and successful; as long as the unique needs of the earth, the critters and people who live on the farm are adequately addressed.
Without a doubt, the single most important person in the process of making wine is the grape grower. You must have high quality ingredients. No matter how modern your winery facility is, or how talented the winemaker is, without amazing grapes it is impossible to make great wine.
They underwrite the risk of dealing with the vagaries of mother nature; unpredictable weather, drought, heavy rains, fire, pest pressures, mildews, plant diseases and frost concerns are ever present.
A viticulturalists responsibilities and worries grow exponentially during the fall. The best are grizzled veterans who have just about seen it all and mark their lives around the harvest, which is easy for Phil Coturri to do because his birthday is the first week of October.
A vineyard manager never retires, it is a completely consuming occupation that it takes precedence over everything else in life. Don’t ever count on Phil attending your wedding, kids Bar Mitzvah, or anything else during autumn. Anything other than picking grapes isn’t on his schedule.
Illustrious & Esteemed
At 61, Phil is finally receiving the recognition his lifetime of work deserves. Against the odds, through bullheaded persistence, hard work, common sense, and some luck, he defied the conventional farming industry and persevered. In August 2013, Phil was honored by the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction for his deep commitment to organics and vital contributions to the community of Sonoma. And on October 1st, 2013 the Moon Mountain District was officially approved.
by Organic Wine Journal
on Oct 30, 2013
So says The Gray Report:
I think the point of the natural wine movement is not in the wines it makes today, though like the original Velvet Underground songs, some of them are fragile tinctures of frightening pain and beauty.
Rather, I think the natural wine movement today will be viewed in 2035 as Velvet Underground was viewed by 1990. Just about every good and talented winemaker will have been influenced by it.
The story of wine in the 20th century was the story of the advance of technology, and this has been a tremendous boon for wine lovers. The fresh, fruit-driven wines of today simply would not exist without many of the technological advances that some natural winemakers shun.
Most of today’s wine is high-fi. But there’s a tiny, unpopular undercurrent of low-fi, and one day it might prove more important than any wine that’s selling stacks of cases in Costco.