Monday, April 27, 2020

New video: Adam Lee of Siduri and Clarice talks about fermenting in concrete

I've been talking -- and arguing -- with Siduri founding winemaker Adam Lee for almost as long as I've been writing about wine. Fortunately both of us enjoy a good argument. Sometimes he shows me I'm not as astute as I think (check out the "before" photo in that link).

I've always enjoyed talking with Adam because he's smart, he's candid, he's willing to engage on multiple topics, and he doesn't hold a grudge. At least not against me. That I know of.

In the last few years, Adam has quietly had a major philosophical shift in his approach to winemaking, which we get into in the video.

Adam sold the Siduri brand to Jackson Family Wines a few years ago and his contract with Siduri expires in June. When I learned he was making a new Pinot Noir for Jackson Family called Root & Rubble that is fermented and aged in concrete, I wanted to talk with him about it.

I'm a fan of wines fermented in concrete, but in the U.S. it's rare for red wines. We talk about the trip he took to Châteauneuf-du-Pape that gave him the inspiration (in that region they call Grenache the Pinot Noir of the Rhône), and what he learned.

We also talk about how aquarium heaters and electric blankets are important winemaking tools. And we learn why winemakers at today's small wineries curse Thomas Jefferson.

At the end of the conversation, Adam talks about his own label Clarice. It's an interesting departure for him. Siduri has always been known for making the wines as ripe as the terroir and season demand. With Clarice, he is using two Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards known for very ripe wines and picking not only earlier: He's intentionally picking several sections of the vineyard at differing levels of ripeness on the same day. He calls it a "purposeful Pinot Noir field blend."

We had this conversation a few weeks ago. I waited to publish it until I could try the Clarice wines. They're good: the Clarice wine from Garys' Vineyard showed a complexity and restraint that I hadn't really experienced before from that very famous source of fruit-forward Pinot Noir.

I really miss conversations like this; they're one of the treats of writing and talking about wine. Hope you enjoy this conversation as well.

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1 comment:

  1. 20-plus years ago while reading an article on French wines in Decanter magazine, I came across a technique that is embraced by some -- but not many -- winemakers in warm regions.

    A small percentage of grapes is picked early, at a lower brix/higher acidity reading. The winemaker proceeds to vinify and store it separately.

    Later -- could be many days or weeks -- the balance of the harvest is completed at a higher brix/lower acidity reading. (Picked at "physiological ripeness"?) The winemaker proceeds to vinify and store it separately.

    The winemaker blends the early picking wine into the second and final picking wine to adjust its sugar and acidity.

    The French have a winemaking term for this. But not a single winemaker friend I have queried can recall what that French term is.

    Any help, Adam?