Last week and this week have been all about Lucienne Pinot Noir, with harvest ramping up as we bring in fruit from each of our Santa Lucia Highlands estate vineyards. The cellar is starting to fill up, and our three-ton fermenters – which we affectionately call “tanquitos” because of their diminutive size – are filled to the brim with hand-picked, hand-sorted Pinot Noir.
These tanks have open tops and punch down devices that allow us to gently push the caps (the solid matter of grape skins and pulp that forms at the top of the tanks) down, submerging them to extract more flavor, color and structure. Punching down the cap of each tank is something we do several times a day as the juice is fermenting to wine, so it’s quite labor intensive. Once the juice has fermented dry, we press it off the grape skins, keeping the “free run juice” - juice released from the grapes as they are squeezed under their own weight – separate from the mechanically pressed wine.
The free run juice is considered the best, and always forms the base of our Lucienne Pinot Noirs. We put these lots into new French oak barrels. The press wine goes into neutral barrels that we keep on hand for blending later on. Press wine can be useful for plumping up the mid palate and enhancing the color and structure of the finished wine.
As we start to barrel down these first Lucienne Pinot Noirs from 2021 we’re getting a better sense of this vintage, and so far we are very pleased. The grapes have had a little more time on the vines, giving the wines good concentration, tannin and acids, even in their youth. The aromas in the cellar are magnificent.
Juan José Verdina