Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pruning. It is just one of those things. With all the other stuff going on in the world, it feels pretty good to walk out in the frosty morning and prune your vines until the sun falls. I was a cook for a while, and every week I would make the stocks, never the same way twice. Every Monday was a hopeful day, and stockmaking set the week into motion with a sort of savory hopefulness, the dream of a solid foundation on which to build something great. This the the pruning analogy. It is the most hopeful moment, the hands are on each and every vine, balancing spurs, thinking about the moment and years into the future. We will try a few experiments as always, but with the drought-like winter and 70 degree days, budbreak looks like it will be early, and the better we prune, the less we need to adjust the canopy later, the less water the vines waste, the happier the grapes, the better the wine. Simple, right? This year every single vine will be touched at least four times - the magic number for a conscientious vigneron. Needless to say, even with the economy frozen, I am very hopeful.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Refosco dal Peduwhat???

Very soon we will be be releasing our first bottling of Refosco. With only thirty cases, please refrain from pushing or shoving. A bit of history:
Refosco is grown primarily in Friuli, it is also found in Slovenia, Istria, and Greece. Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso is regarded as being the superior strain, but Refosco Nostrano, d'Istria and del Terrano are recognized, as well as the possibly related Cagnina in Romagna. The big story though is that DNA testing has refuted the claim that it is related to Mondeuse Noir in the Savoie region of France (however, it has been linked to the infamously mediocre Marzemino). The most promising zone is Colli Orientali in Friuli, and now, Rosa d'Oro Vineyards.
At the turn of the century, Refosco was well known to California. Famed To-Kalon vineyard was half planted to Refosco (though this may have actually been Mondeuse Noir). It was a major part of Beaulieu Vineyards "Black Burgundy" wine after Prohibition. In 1971 there were 396 acres recorded in California, and in 1985 it disappeared from the radar. The true heritage of Californian Refosco is certainly in question.
But today, Foundation Plant Services has cleared only one clone of Refosco as FPS 03. What was thought to be Refosco FPS 02 turned out to be the Mondeuse Noir relative. We will be receiving 200 vines of FPS 03 (VCR 05) "Refosco Nostano" on St. George rootstock this summer. Our bottling was picked from Nova Vine's mother block which propagated our clonal material, so a comparison in the future should be quite interesting terroir-wise.
Refosco is a fairly light cropper with, as you can see, nice open bunches that are rot resistant. It has (in warmer California anyway) a plummy unctuousness, with a twist of licorice and nice fine tannins. We didn't adjust the acidity, leaving it a little richer and less acidic than our other wines. It produces a vividly purple wine with a touch of Syrah/Mourvedre lightness on the nose. It will be available through our tasting room soon, and we are looking forward to getting our 200 vines in the ground. The last figure I heard was maybe twenty acres still planted in California, now we can make that twenty and one half!