June 12, 2010

Look What the (Siamese) Cat Dragged In

Is it more racially insensitive that I find it fun to make puns with colonial-era Asian place names? Or that I use them interchangeably, as if Thailand and China were just one big "Asialand"?

While you form your views on that, I'm happy to report that even before we've officially opened the doors of the Lab's new Ghaungzhou facility, we have welcomed our first visitor.

In town for Altaya Wines "Passion for Pinot 2010" event, Pyramid Valley Winery's Mike Weersing dropped by the Lab's HK executive suites carrying a bottle of the current release of his Earthsmoke Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2008.

The wine is unfiltered, unfined and only modestly sulphured, and so is a light, cherry red and a little, dare I say... murky. The nose is a delicate mix of chalky soil, orange -- blossoms and oil -- a late rush of red fruits and a green note that I would have previously associated with stems.

Mike mentioned that he gets that comment often about this wine, but the truth is they do not press whole cluster, but fastidiously de-stem all the fruit by hand and so press whole fruit. He thinks the aroma may have something to do with the fermentation that starts inside the berry before being crushed.

The wine tastes much like it smells, with sour cherry and currant layered in. It is distinctly linear, taut, and pulsing with a tensile energy.

When I tasted the first vintage from this vineyard, 2006, it reminded me much of the Burgundy made by Michel Lafarge in Volnay. But the more experience I gain with this wine, the more it tastes like itself. I still think the flavor profile and structure is reminiscent of the French counterpart. But the profoundly earthy note that forged the link on my original impression seems, in this bottle, to be less like Lafarge's newly turned soil and more chalky and dry. Perhaps more like Canterbury dirt?

A final note for the big geeks out there (you know who you are): This wine is very high pH. Something like 4.2 (with 3.6-3.8 being "normal"). As part of his evolving non-interventionist philosophy, Mike eschews acidifying his wines now. Preferring to take them as they come, as it were. In spite of the high pH, this wine was fresh, youthful and lively. It offered more than sense of acidity than actual acidity.

Curious to see what this drinks like in five years time.


max said...

I would be interested to know what his total acidity numbers were -- I know that sometimes you can have a high PH but good TA numbers and avoid the need for acidification. Also interesting is the low sulfur and high Ph combo. I was always taught that sulfur is less effective at higher ph numbers, meaning you need more for the same preservative effects. It would be interesting to see how this combo effects the aging potential and the variability bottle to bottle. Fascinating/

Director, Lab Outreach said...

Hi Max,
I'll try to find out the TA and also have Mike remind me of his views on pH and sulfur (he does use sulfur as necessary, but tries to use as little as possible and I remember thinking his views on this to be contrarian). I do know he doesn't acidify at all, regardless of the numbers (hence the high pH this vintage).

On a limited sample, I've seen very little (none) bottle variation in any of PVV's wines.


CabFrancoPhile said...

Whoa, 4.2 pH. The proof is in the pudding, though. It'll be interesting to see where the wine goes in a few years.