Kenneth Volk Vineyards September 2019 Newsletter
Cellar Door Club Newsletter November 2019
For our November Cellar Door Club we are featuring a great lineup for your enjoyment - three hearty reds and KVV‘s first white port dessert wine, Vinho Doce.

This is the time of year to stock up on libations for holiday enjoyment and gift giving! As an extra incentive, club members will receive 30% off the retail price of full case purchases or 40% off retail of purchases of 2 or more cases!
Featured Wines

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles
Considering that Cabernet Sauvignon did not exist until the early 18th century, it has remarkably become the most planted red wine grape in the world.

Cabernet Sauvignon has been planted in nearly every wine region of the world. Its popularity and fame in the Bordeaux region of France lead to its spread around the globe.

It is also responsible for much of the fame of a four letter word valley in Northern California.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the child of a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

Cabernet Franc is a parent or relative to so many of the world finest grapes.

After several years of working with Tannat and Tempranillo from the Bella Collina Vineyard of Paso Robles, this was the first time we had the opportunity to work with the Cabernet Sauvignon.

The total acreage of the Cabernet Sauvignon block is less than 2.5 acres – considerably smaller than the plantings of Tempranillo and Tannat.

The property is located on undulating hills formed by the Rinconada fault.

The vineyard has a great deal of soft chalk rock derived from ancient sea beds, uplifted by earth quake faulting.

Planted on a south eastern facing hillside, the vine rows run across the slope on small narrow terraced rows. Like many hillside plantings there is considerable variation in the soil depth from the top of the slope to the bottom.

The lower slope has deeper top soil with more organic matter and the top of the slope rows have shallow soils on top of soft caulk limestone with little organic matter.

Even though it is a small planting, the extreme variation in soils makes it as if were two different vineyard plantings.

Fortunately every row has a separate valve to the dripline hose, which made it possible to micromanage irrigation. Even with that option the drought of 2013 made it difficult to have uniformity in the vineyard.

During the growing season the lower rows grew vigorously with bigger canopies, while the upper slope vines grew weaker and exhibited more water stress.

As harvest approached, the variation in maturity in the block was apparent.

Logistically it would be difficult to split pick the block for the total amount of fruit did not justify the expense for the grower.

We aimed to try and target harvesting so the top of the hill would not be raisins while the lower rows would not be under ripe.

The vineyard was harvested on September 25th, yielding 5.2 tons. Despite being 25 Brix, the fruit had high acidity and a low Ph. The hot summer with its episodic heat waves had driven sugars up rapidly before the acids could buffer down.

At the winery, the grapes were destemmed and crushed into an insulated stainless steel open top fermenting tank.

Following several days of cold soaking, a moderately cool fermentation at 78 degrees ensued.

The open top was pumped over several times a day and received a screened rack and return at mid-fermentation.

Prior to the grape cap falling, the tank was drained and the must basket pressed after 12 days of fermentation.

The wine was settled prior to barreling in to French, Hungarian and American oak barrels for aging.

This wine received several barrel to barrel rackings over its nearly 40 months in barrel. Prior to its bottling, fining and blending trials lead to blending 12% Tempranillo from Bella Collina. The Tempranillo softened the substantial tannins and broadened the mid palate. This wine still has firm, gripping tannins and will benefit from an aeration or decanting prior to near term consumption.

This wine has aromas of ripe red and black fruits, barrel toast along with flavors of currant, cherry and black berry. It has firm gripping tannins that have started to round.

2014 Tannat, Bella Collina Vineyard, Paso Robles

2014 Tannat Bella Collina
The Tannat grape is believed to have originated in the Pyrenees Mountains of Northern Spain and Southern France.

Historically this area was considered the Basque Country even after the formation of Spain and France. The rugged Pyrenees Mountains created a uniquely separate area of the world, complete with its own genetics, language, culture and wines.

Several other grape varieties related to Tannat are considered indigenous to the region, such as Petit Manseng and Petit Courbu. Recent DNA studies on the Nebbiolo grape have shown a relationship to Tannat as well.

Tannat is a red-black grape that produces deeply colored wines with distinctively high tannin content and potentially high acid and alcohol.

Tannat is the most commonly associated wine of Madeiran region of France, where it can be produced as a varietal but more commonly blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to soften its aggressive tannins.

The greatest acreage of Tannat exists in Uruguay, where it was brought to the New World by immigrants in the 1800’s. In Uruguay it is called Harriague. The variety has numerous synonyms globally of which Betza, Madeiran, Bordeleza and Moustrou would be the most common.

Tannat is grown in Chile, Argentina, Australia, Mexico, California, Virginia and other areas of the world.

Our 2014 bottling came from the Bella Collina Vineyard of Paso Robles. The fruit was harvested in late September and fermented in two separate 4 ton lots - an open top stainless steel lot and a closed top stainless steel tank lot. The fruit was destemmed with minimal crushing and hand sorted prior to filling the tanks.

The open top tank was chilled to 50 degrees prior to yeast inoculation. The open top temperatures were raised 5 degrees daily during fermentation and peaked at 85 degrees.

Initially the open top tank was pumped over twice daily and as fermentation temperature peaked, it was pumped over four times daily.

The goal of the open top lot was to get warmer temperature extraction and to volatilize alcohol.

The closed top tank underwent a long 6-day pre-fermentation soak at 45 degrees in order to get extraction of flavors and color associated with pre-fermentation cold soak macerations.

After pitching yeast, a long, slow cool fermentation occurred peaking at 75 degrees. The tank was pumped over with a pinwheel must irrigator twice daily. An Australian style rack and return was performed after a 5 degree brix drop and again at 10 brix.

During the rack and returns, seeds and stems were removed (Delestage) through a screened sump.

The racking returns allowed for seed removal, minimizing the seed generated tannin extraction.

It also allowed us to completely remix the contents of the tank and maintain a uniform temperature.

Each lot was basket pressed and kept as separate lots until final blending for bottling.

A combination of French and Hungarian oak cooperage was used to produce this wine, 10 percent of which was new and the balance 3-5-year-old cooperage.

The wine was aged for 28 months and racked once in spring of 2015.

After numerous fining and blending trials, a fraction of Bella Collina Vineyard Tempranillo was included in order to soften its astringency and tannins and to lengthen its mid palate.

Even after years of bottle aging, this wine has firm tannins. This wine will benefit from aeration and its high polyphenol content will insure its age-ability.

In comparison to the 2013 bottling, our 2014 is medium bodied with an earthy minerality when first opened. It has flavors of raspberry, blue plum, ripe berries and sweet oak with a long, persistent after taste and finish.

2014 Tempranillo, San Benito

2014 Tempranillo, San Benito
Our 2014 Tempranillo, San Benito County was produced primarily from the John Smith Vineyard in the San Benito AVA. It was blended with more than 5% wine from other vineyard sources so it did not qualify as a vineyard designate. The blending components will be discussed later in this article.

Tempranillo is often considered to be the finest grape of Spain, which is a high compliment, considering the hundreds of grape varieties that have their origin in Spain.

Tempranillo is the most planted red grape in Spain and has over 30 different synonyms.

Most commonly associated with the wines of the Rioja region, the variety has been transplanted to many other wine regions as well.

Grape genetic researchers have determined that the Spanish grapes Benidicto and Abillio are the parents of Tempranillo.

The John Smith Vineyard is located along John Smith Road in the San Juan Valley, east of highway 101, south of Gilroy and north of San Juan Batista.

Although inland, this is a cool climate grape growing region due to its proximity to Monterey Bay and the Pajaro River gap.

2014 was the start of an unprecedented period of global warming. Although not as warm as the next 5 years, it was substantially warmer than prior time periods.

It was the second year of what would become an extended drought in California.

The Tempranillo is trained to bilateral cordons that are spur pruned. Bloom occurred under favorable conditions but hot dry winds followed, leading to a larger degree of shatter creating loose clusters.

The balance of the growing season was warm with episodic heat waves. These conditions produced smaller than typical berry and cluster weights and an early harvest.

The fruit was hand-picked and shipped in a refrigerated truck trailer to the winery.

Following basket pressing and settling, the wine was barreled into French and Hungarian oak for aging.

Going beyond the Grand Reserva category of Rioja, this wine was aged for over 3 years in barrel to mellow its substantial tannins (Gran Reserva requires 2 years of barrel aging).

Prior to bottling, extensive blending trials were conducted. This Tempranillo had low acidity. It appeared it could benefit from the inclusion of some wine with higher acidity.

We conducted blending trials with nearly every vineyard that we work with in San Benito County. David and Ken tinkered extensively.

In the end, 3.3% Zinfandel from the Enz Vineyard, 1.5% Negrette from the Calleri Vineyard, 1% Gross Verdot from the Enz Vineyard and 0.75% Mourvedre from the Enz vineyard were included. Most of these blending components came from first pick lots with high acidity.

This ambitious blend is distinctly San Benito in its savory character.

This dark wine has aromas of sweet oak, rose and a minerally earthiness. Its flavors are of stewed strawberry and plum, which is complimented with baking spice nuances. It has balanced tannins and a savory finish and will benefit from decanting or aeration prior to serving in the near term.

Vinho Doce, Pomar Junction Vineyard

Vinho Doce, Paso Robles, Pomar Junction Vineyard
Ken has been an advocate of the Verdelho grape for decades, even before his first planting at Wild Horse Vineyard in 1986.

“Verdelho has such intense fruit flavors and holds it acid better than any other white wine grape in Paso Robles that I have produced. I have always been tempted to try to produce it as a Port styled wine.

I have been fortunate to taste many Madeira wines and most have been delicious. I enjoy the caramelized and burnt sugar elements of Madeira but I do not appreciate the overly cooked, sherry-like oxidize flavors that some Madeira wines display. I wanted to try to make a dessert wine that showcases the intense fruit of the Verdelho grape. There are many types of Madeira wines and it is not a uniform beverage. Like many categories of wine it can be very confusing.”-KV

There are some consistent elements of genuine Madeira:

1. A Port style wine of the Island Madeira.

2. Similar to Port, fermenting grapes are fortified with the use of neutral grape spirits or brandy.

3. Madeira receives some form of heating or baking during aging - either in a heated vat or in barrels stored in a warm environment. In historic times Madeira was stored on sailing ships and exposed to the heat of the subtropical sun.

Right or wrong, Madernization has been used as a term for a wine fault when a table wine has been exposed to heat and excessive oxidation. This fault is often created by the Madeira wine making process.

Many terms for EU wine regions are not allowed on American beverage labels unless the producer had prior use of the term before the regulation was established.

Since KVV did not have prior use of the terms Port or Madeira. We could not use those words on the packaging of this bottling.

In an attempt to describe the wine in this bottle, Ken used the Portuguese term Vinho Doce (sweet wine) for the labeling of this wine and describes it as “a modern dessert wine inspired by the dessert wines of the mid Atlantic”. Ken was surprised that he was able to get this labeling approved.

Prior to the Phylloxera insect’s introduction to the Island of Madeira, the Verdelho grape was the most prized grape variety for producing Madeira.

Our Vinho Doce was produced from Verdelho grapes from the Pomar Junction Vineyard from the 2014 and 2016 vintages.

The fruit was handled similarly to our table wine Verdelho. The juice was fermented in stainless steel barrels at cold temperatures. When the wine reached 10% remaining sugar, we added neutral brandy to end fermentation.

The wine was allowed to clarify and then it was racked to one year old French oak barrels for aging. The brandy and wine married and mellowed in our cool cellar, not on a hot boat ride across the Atlantic or in a warm cellar or Estufagem baking tank, which are the traditional methods of creating the caramelized character of Madeira.

Aged for nearly four years, this wine has aromas of apricot, peach, pineapple guava, vanilla, nutmeg and honey.

It can be enjoyed as a dessert wine or with roasted nuts, aged chesses or savory foods.


California on Fire

The wildfires of California have been dominating much of the news for the past several years. It has truly been horrifying experience for many Californians, including the residents of Tepusquet Canyon.
Bomber Plane Extinguishing Fire

Fire Incident

On the afternoon of Saturday, October 5th, the power went out at the winery right as we were starting to close, which not a highly unusual occurrence.

The reason for the outage was a PGE cable had snapped less than 2 miles up Tepusquet Canyon.

The downed power line had started a brush fire adjacent to Rikki Buchanan’s families’ property.

Initially we thought it was a preventative outage by PG&E, until a neighbor alerted us that a fire had started up the Canyon. The rising smoke indicated the fire was close to the winery. Concerned for her family’s home, Rikki went to check the property.

Shortly afterwards a Cal Fire Truck arrived to the fire.

A spotter plane, two water dumping helicopters and a fire-retardant bomber were immediately dispatched from the Santa Maria airport.

Following evaluation of the wind and topography of the narrow Canyon, the Bomber made a precision strike on the fire.

The water bearing helicopters followed up immediately. Followed by bulldozers and hand crews to assure the fire was completely extinguished.

PG&E line crews moved in and had power restored to the canyon later that evening.

It turns out the power line that came down previously had a tree fall on it last winter. PG&E had its subcontracted tree trimers remove the tree branch, however no one from PG&E inspected the power line to check its integrity.

It is hard to believe that these two incidences are just a coincidence.

The PG&E service crews and line crew personal are truly great, however the upper management of PG&E has been criminal in their actions and inactions in maintenance of the monopoly they control.

PG&E had already declared bankruptcy in January 2019 in response to the judgments and law suits from the San Bruno gas line disaster and the wildfire lawsuits of 2017 and 2018.

PG&E is also likely to leave the residents of California the gift of the decommissioning and forever maintenance of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo.

A common link to many of these fires has been the electric utility companies Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison.

Like many utilities in America, these companies have an aging infrastructure of the components of the electrical grid, including but not limited to: power plants, transmission lines, substations, switch gear, transformers, conductors, feeder lines, power poles.

These aging systems in many cases have not been replaced or up graded in decades. During this same time much urban expansion has occurred into fire prone rural areas of California.

The California electrical grid was not engineered for exponential expansion since the 1960’s.

The utility companies as well as the State Government have kicked the can of infrastructure improvement for decades. Californians are now experiencing the price of this negligence with their lives. California has always experienced fires.

Fire is part of the natural ecology of the forests, oak savannas and chaparral plant communities in the state.

California has always experienced fires.

Fire is part of the natural ecology of the forests, oak savannas and chaparral plant communities in the state.

Archeologists have shown this to be the case by studying the layers of charcoal and pollen in the excavations of ancient subsoils.

The Native Americans of California practiced intentional burnings of brush lands and forests for the purpose of assuring the growth of native seed bearing forage plants and game animals, which was their diet. These intentional burns also reduced the likely hood of large scale run away fires.

Sorry Smokey the Bear, managed wild fires are necessary to avoid the mega fires of today.

Wind driven fire storms are as Californian as earth quakes.

Climate change and extended droughts have certainly increased the threat of tornado-like fire storms.

The reality is that most of California’s biggest fires have nearly all been accelerated by high winds.

California experienced the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in its history in 2017 and 2018. Fueled by drought, an unprecedented buildup of dry vegetation and extreme winds, the size and intensity of these wildfires caused the loss of more than 100 lives, destroyed thousands of homes and exposed millions of urban and rural Californians to unhealthy air.

Climate change is considered a key driver of this trend. Warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and earlier spring snowmelt create longer and more intense dry seasons that increase moisture stress on vegetation and make forests more susceptible to severe wildfire.

The length of fire season is estimated to have increased by 75 days across the Sierras and seems to correspond with an increase in the extent of forest fires across the state.

The 2019 California wildfires, which have totaled more than 5,800, have already engulfed more than 162,000 acres and killed three people. Although wildfires are a natural part of California’s ecosystem, fire season has begun to start earlier and end later each year.

Upcoming Events

Christmas on the Trail
December 7th and 8th

Your passport offers you 20 one-once pours at 14 participating wineries along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. Also included is a goody bag, special wine discounts, small bites at each winery on Saturday and special activities on Sunday!

Visit this link to purchase your passport!

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