Monday, November 22, 2010

Report from ... Cattail's Riesling Clonal Project tasting - November 16, 2010

Take a young winemaker with time on his hands (37), give him lots of grapes to play with (100 acres), and out comes "Collaboration" the newest line of wines from Cattail Creek.  Maybe by calling this effort "having time on his hands" might sound a little flippant but in truth a creative winemaker needs time to figure out what he's gonna do with the current vintage.  Winemaker Colin Ferguson joined the Cattail team in August of 2009, which means he shepherded the '08s into bottle but nothing really became his creation until the '09 vintage was picked, plucked, pressed and put into tank or barrel.

Cattail Creek has some 100 acres of grapes at their disposal and while not all of them make their way into bottles marked with the Cattail logo, they have the opportunity to play with different varieties, clones and ages of vines.  Collaboration is what happens when a young winery (celebrating 5 years) and a young winemaker meet up, and they give him some free reign to improvise.

"I've always wanted to make a Fume Blanc," says Colin, "so I did."

"I had no idea Colin was making a Fume," says Roselyn Cieszkowski, owner, "until he put a glass in front of me and told me to try it.  I sniffed and sipped and said 'This is not barrel fermented Chardonnay'."  This marks the first time Cattail has made a Fume (Sauvignon Blanc with oak treatment - be it aged, fermented in barrel, or both).  The story of the Wild Ferment Gewurztraminer is just as interesting.

"After inoculating the first [big] batch in a large tank I had some left over in a small tank," recounts Ferguson, "I left it to see what would happen to it.  If it didn't ferment on its own, or if something went wrong I could step in, but I wanted to experiment."  And like a mad scientist he watched and waited as his creation did spontaneously begin to ferment.  With some excellent results - a very floral and spicy G-wine on the nose and a dryness on the palate that might surprise those fans of a sweeter style Gewurzt.

The jewel in the "Collaboration" crown is the Riesling Clonal Project.  Cattail grows 20 acres of Rieslings (that mean that 20% of their field is Riesling).  They have vines whose age stretch back to 1976, making them some 37 years old; plus they have a variety of different Riesling clones in the vineyard:  Clone 21 (the Weiss clone), Clone 239 (from the Mosel) and Clone 49 (the only Riesling clone permitted in France).  According to the fact sheet handed out by Cattail (and researched from Bundessortenamt 2000) there are some 96 Riesling clones, registered in the National Variety List, in the world, these are but three.

The Riesling Clonal Project is comprised of 5 wines, all from the Riesling-friendly 2009 vintage: Clone 21 Young Vines; Clone 21 Old Vines; Clone 239; Clone 49 and a Riesling Clonal Blend.

The wines were made in the same manner: first the grapes used were all grown within a quarter mile of each other and the yeast used was a specifically designed strain created by a German company who was developing yeast strains specifically for cool climate regions ... all these Rieslings were inoculated using the same strain of yeast and each wine was bottle on July 21.  The grapes were all hand held from picking to packaging and only 32-34 cases of each wine was made.

Each wine showed its own characteristic and had its own personality and all were quite good, scoring between 3.5 (good) to 4.5+ (excellent +); my top three were the 2009 Riesling Clone 21 Old Vines; 2009 Riesling Clone 49 and the 2009 Riesling Clonal Blend - you can link to these individual reviews.

The Clonal pack will come with 4 bottles, each retailing at $25.20 (or $100.80 for the pack) though you can purchase them separately if you know what you're after.  The only wine sold by its lonesome is the Clonal Blend, also selling for $25.20

For those interested in tasting these 4 wines side-by-side-by-side-by-side you'll have to wait till Cuvee 2011 when they'll be Cattail's special treat for passport holders.

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