The soul of the viñatero (vigneron) is tested every year in our high mountain desert vineyard region of Mendoza, and the 2010-11 season was no different. After a small but very good quality harvest in 2010 (there was low set related to cold spring temperatures and Zonda winds) we were all hoping for a plentiful and uneventful 2011. As you may know, the viñatero quickly forgets the ravages of hail, frost and El Niño rains, every year hoping for a plentiful and healthy crop. The 2010 winter was quite dry and cold – not a good skiing season at Las Leñas! – but we somehow managed to get by through a combination of mountain stream water and underground aquifer wells. And our hearts rested easy, knowing that the probability of hail was lower in this dry climate – in fact, this was one of the lowest hail years that we have ever seen.
However, on the dreadful day of November 9th, a fierce frost hit Mendoza, cold air travelling fast along the low valleys of Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. The lack of humidity made things even worse: frost-cans were lit all night and prayers recited by all. We could not believe our luck the next day to see that our La Piramide vineyard in Agrelo (Agrelo and nearby Ugarteche were the worse affected) had been mostly spared. Our Angelica Sur Vineyard, a newer vineyard in El Cepillo, in the Southernmost part of the Uco Valley, was not as lucky – out of 150 Hectares we only harvested 30.
In February, the water situation became critical because the vines were in full photosynthesis mode and harvest was approaching. Towards the end of February, the rains arrived with noisy thunderstorms. The mountains became so white from the snow that it looked like winter. The initial elation at the arrival of water turned into fear towards beginning of March. The harvest of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir was coming about 2 weeks later than usual so we had almost no juice in the winery. But just when we started seeing some pockets of botrytis in the whites, the weather calmed down, the rain virtually stopped and we saw 2 more months of cooler-than-usual temperatures with a perfect mix of scattered clouds and sunny skies. The later ripening reds, such as Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon were harvested 2-3 weeks later than usual in perfect condition with good concentration and perhaps due to the cooler climate, heightened aromas. Natural acidity was optimal, even in some of the lower altitude areas.
2011 will be a year of perfectly balanced wines with a rich expression of individual vineyard terroir and site.
NICASIA VINEYARD: Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon - Altamira, Uco Valley, Mendoza, 3593 ft elevation
“The quality of the Nicasia grapes this year is exceptional: high concentration of ripe tannins, good structure and remarkable elegance”. Belen Iacono, Viticultural Engineer.
100% whole cluster and 90% whole berry fruit is hand-loaded into 225-500 liter new French oak barrels for a 100% barrel fermentation for a period of 15 days, allowing seamless oak integration. The fermentation temperature is kept low, extracting intense aromas, and the cap management is done by hand to ensure soft, gentle flavors and tannin extraction. Wild yeasts. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in barrel leaves considerable lees and sediment.
The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 18 months, followed by 24 months of aging in bottle before release.