Blending + Veraison July 2021: Ventura County Vineyards + Beyond

Blending trials at Clos des Amis: Bruce Freeman, Chris Dunn, Jade Dunn (Bruce’s daughter)

While harvest is crazy busy for farmers, so are the days and weeks leading up to harvest.

The more preparation that can be done NOW means less to deal with THEN.

Because many wineries are cramped for space, emptying barrels by bottling and then cleaning the barrels for the new vintage is key.

What to put in the bottle is the big question, complicated by COVID delays in getting glass and other materials. Hence blending sessions like this one at Clos des Amis to determine their “GSM” blend. The challenge is to find the best way to use the available wines to make the most delicious final product.

blending trials at Clos des Amis

We stopped by Clos des Amis a few weeks ago where we joined din the tasting trials. First, each of the component wines, and then the possible blends, and finally we compared with a previous vintage… which we took to a beach BBG to enjoy along with an estate Syrah paired with burgers.

While we didn’t get up into the Clos des Amis vineyards that day to see verasion as planned, Gretel Compton posted photos of the Pinot Noir which is getting quite dark in color, as well as Grenache. They’ve been busy bottling sauvignon blanc too and hopefully the GSM before the winery is knee deep in grapes.

Once the wines are out of the barrels, they have to been thoroughly cleaned– truly back breaking work.

During my visit with Paul Bargetto at Soquel Vineyards yesterday, he proudly showed off his new toy– a pressure washer that uses simply water for five minutes to clean the barrels as demonstrated by his cellar rat, a Cal Poly sociology major (class of 2025!)

It’s not like you can schedule when the grapes are ripe! Signs now indicate that in Ventura County anyway, it may be an early– and an easy– harvest. As I’ve been traveling the state for Slow Wine Guide, everyone I have talked to in Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, Santa Cruz County, Lodi, and El Dorado County have mentioned both the drought — and how impeccable the fruit is in the 2021 vintage.

Which is awesome after last year’s challenges with smoke taint in Santa Cruz, and other Northern California regions, and 2019’s powdery mildew plague in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. At Soquel Vineyard in the Santa Cruz mountains, because of the potential smoke taint, all of their estate Pinot Noir became rose. While it may not be winemaker Paul Bargetto’s favorite wine to make, it’s lovely, and a good use of the fruit.

I share this bottle with friends at a pool party the day after our winery visit because it was clear that the meal would pair so perfectly I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Everyone had heard about our visit to Soquel Vineyards and they were all eager to taste it… less eager to focus on tasting notes unfortunately…

2020 Soquel Vineyards Estate Grown Pinot Noir Rose Santa Cruz Mountains
ABV 12.8%
sample for  my review 

Color: Pink lemonade, pale salmon pink, catches the light nicely

Nose: Strawberry, gardenia, grilled vegetables and fruit on rosemary skewers with fresh mint, honeysuckle

Palate: Strawberry elegance with lots of layers like a fine painting, minerality and fresh minty herbal notes .

Pairing: Potluck pool party with pizza, fresh fruit on arugula with feta, and loaded nachos with roast chicken, cheese, salsa all paired wonderfully with this wine.

Not a snobby wine… wine can be fun was the overall reaction, and everyone was impressed with how versatile it was. When in doubt, choose rose!

People at the party who are not fans of rose in general loved it because it paired so well with the food. They felt it stood up well with the heat of the nachos, and texturally worked wonderfully with the black beans. They even went so far as to say non-wine drinkers even beer drinkers would like this wine.  With the salad, the bitter greens and the salty feta balanced the sweet in season fresh local ripe fruit and allowed the fruit to pair well with the wine.

I often add smoked trout to this salad and that would have been fantastic with this rose as we have found smoked foods and rose are great together and with the light smokiness in this wine, even better. Now I need to buy another bottle so I can try this pairing!

Overall, everyone wanted to drink more and buy bottles for themselves!

Read more about Clos des Amis and Ventura County wineries and vineyards in this mostly monthly series:

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