Friday, February 11, 2011

2010 Tierce Assemblage: the First Run-Through

By Peter Bell, Winemaker 

Yesterday we (Anthony Road winemakers, Red Newt winemakers, and Fox Run winemakers, plus my guest Ben Peacock of Tousey Winery) met at Red Newt Bistro to taste through 20 tank samples of 2010 Riesling, with the aim of getting started on the latest manifestation of Tierce, our three-winery collaborative Riesling blend. This is something we’ve been doing since 2004, and it’s always a highlight of the year for me.

The Goal of the Tasting... Eventually
At least the cold is good for something.

Before the days of assistant winemakers it was just the three of us huddled in a room, but now our group has grown to true committee size. Good thing we all get along so well.

The Gang's All Here!
Now this is a committee you don't mind serving on.

In between tastes, I jotted down some of the remarks people were making, so as give you, gentle reader, some insight into what kind of dialogue happens when winemakers get together in the same room, and talk not about finished wines but works in progress.

“Boy. Talk about having to recalibrate our palates.”

I said that. We had just tasted through four Fox Run samples and three Anthony Road samples. Moving on to the first of two Red Newt flights, we all found that the aromas and mouth flavors were, at this juncture, exceedingly different from what we’d been tasting. They had their own beauty, but we were temporarily grasping for words to describe them.

“This one is wine like wine we expect from Fox Run.”

Dave said that. Of the four Fox Run samples, one particularly impressed him as being vividly in the Fox Run house style, which I’m afraid I’m not qualified to describe. Something about scented talc, I think.

“I put down ‘sea foam’ and ‘white pepper’ in the finish, which I like, but it might disappear in the blend.”

Kelby said that. He was talking about one of the Red Newt samples. This is one of the benefits of being widely traveled – you can accumulate aroma and flavor memories from a bigger pool of candidates. Sea foam. Landlubbers can only imagine what that tastes like!

Focused on Tasting

Strange, I don't see any sea foam in this glass...

“Very long smoky finish, and that’s fascinating, but I doubt this would work in Tierce.”

Tricia said that. The mammoth difficulty in making a Tierce blend lies in divining which flavors will meld into something unique and fascinating. Here Tricia gave the thumbs down to a wine that was a little too austere to her, post-spitting.

“This wine was one of the most bizarre fermentations I’ve ever experienced. At five or six Brix it developed a distinct candy cane aroma. It was rather disturbing. Has anyone else ever seen that?”

Dave said that. He has been making great Riesling for almost a quarter century, and this is the first time one of his charges has developed a candy cane aroma. Luckily it went away as quickly as it appeared. Five degrees Brix is about three quarters of the way through fermentation, and it’s a time when oddball aromas often pop up. And no, none of us had ever seen it.

“There’s something like cheesecake up front. But I like it.”

Johannes said that. ‘Up front’ means ‘at the moment the wine entered my mouth.’ When wine tasters taste, they pay close attention to how the flavors evolve in the mouth. Early palate (up front) flavors are very transitory, inasmuch as they give way to mid palate flavors and flavors in the finish. Johannes had detected a little burst of flavor that reminded him of something in the dairy realm, not what you normally see in Riesling; but he was not put off by it.

“Dump your 2009 Tierce or drink it. You need that extra glass.”

Brandon said that. We had started the morning’s activities by opening a bottle of 2009 Tierce, which was bottled last August and is not released yet. It was a stunner, and we were reluctant to pour out the remnants from our glasses. We did anyway, after Brandon gave us his to-the-point exhortation. Johannes then took what was left in the bottle, sauntered over to the table of a young couple who had come for lunch, and offered them a taste. They immediately ordered a bottle of the 2008 Tierce from the Bistro’s wine list. Way to go, Mr. Sales Person!

“Evan’s texting us to ask if we’re doing a Tierce Red this year.”

Brandon said that. Our friend Evan Dawson always likes to be kept in the loop when we’re up to something interesting. He’d been a guest observer in a few of our earlier blending sessions, including the one where we put together a red Tierce blend.

“All the wines in this flight are outliers. But they might make sense as a ‘spice’ element.”

Dave said that. One of our approaches has been to identify one wine from each winery that has the wherewithal to act as a ‘central’ character, plus another that is too unusual to play that part but which might add a little interest if we put in one or two percent. That’s what we call ‘spice.’

“In the context of Tierce, both these wines are too smoky.”

Peter Becraft said that. Back to that smoky theme. One of the hallmarks of a classic Finger Lakes dry Riesling is a wisp of smokiness, a flavor that nicely acts as a counterpart to the more overt tree fruit flavors we customarily get. In this case, Peter found a couple of samples that he thought were not subtle enough in this regard.

“I wrote, ‘Wow. Huge pile of papaya, kiwi and star fruit, freshened with lime, drizzled with honey. I want to eat this for lunch. In the mouth, lime, peach, nectarine and melon; brilliant evolution to strawberry, raspberry. Long nectarine/papaya finish.’ ”

Tricia said that. Why we love her.

Why We Love Her, Redux
We can only concentrate so long before we start to crack up.


Those are my notes, in their entirety, for the same wine.

Four hours passed, and we had completed our first run-through of the 2010 Tierce components. We managed to whittle the contenders down to a manageable nine wines, which was really the point of the meeting. March 14, we reconvene at Anthony Road, this time with pipettes and graduated cylinders and calculators and lots of ideas for blends. (Should we sell tickets?) 

A few months from now, we will have our Pretty Ballerina of a wine. She’s in there somewhere.

Music of the Day:
  • The Left Banke - There's Gonna Be A Storm; "Pretty Ballerina":

Support Artists: buy the music you like!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the glimse into an amazing process, that produces an amazing wine!