Writer's Block Counoise 2014
Buy a Bottle (750ml)
What is Counoise? Why bother making a varietal Counoise? Well, it’s good, and…it’s good. Counoise is a Rhône varietal, most notably associated with the Châteauneuf du Pape appellation of France, where it finds its way in very small percentages into the red table wines made there. A very small amount of Counoise is grown throughout the world, and not in significant amounts in California. Its importance cannot be underplayed, we think, when considering important Rhône varietals. Jed Steele and General Manager Steve Tylicki are both proponents of the varietal in terms of making California wines that appreciate the tradition and history of viticulture and winemaking cultures around the world. Counoise is a very authentic Rhône varietal, and when used for blending purposes heightens the pleasure of tasting a California wine made in which it’s incorporated. Nevertheless, this is California, and as this varietal has shown itself so well here we have decided to bottle it as itself a varietal wine, using other varietals such as Syrah and Grenache to complement its distinct characteristics. This is a unique and local varietal wine from Lake County, with some very interesting state, national, and international associations. It should be considered a really special offering for anyone who considers themselves a fan of Châteauneuf du Pape wines, or the other varietals associated with this region grown throughout California and the world.
Planted by Jed Steele and Steve Tylicki on the Kelseyville bench area in 2001, this fairly obscure varietal constitutes a small percentage of the Jacobsen Vineyard, an estate vineyard consisting of mostly Syrah. A young vineyard, the fruit is coming into some very good years, and this vintage is exciting evidence of the potential from this vineyard in years to come. The Kelseyville Bench area is close to the winery, and as its name suggests is distinguished by a gentle and consistent slope down toward Highway 29 into the Big Valley area of Lake County. The bench refers to the a topographical transitional area between Cobb Mountain and Konocti Mountain (Volcano) moving from the highest southwest elevations of the area to the elevation of Clearlake, slightly below that of the Big Valley appellation. Elevation is a distinguishing viticultural characteristic of the county, affecting a shorter growing period and greatdistinct transitional soil composition with good drainage with plenty of warm for ripening, while adequate evening cooling to promote a ripe and acid-balanced berry.
The actual winemaking work done to these grapes was fairly minimal; as with many wines of the winery, the quality of the varietals and vineyards speak for themselves through traditional fermentation methods. Counoise as it grows here in Lake County is a varietal we continue to learn about in terms of growing it better, and making better wine from the better grapes we grow. The fermentation process was carried out with warm to hot temperatures, finally reaching around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, while the macerating procedure was traditionally conservative with three manual punch downs (the process of reintroducing the formed cap of grape skins and seeds into the juice for extraction) daily. In this way a medium bodied, flavorful wine is produced, without being overly tannic or bitter. Skin contact lasted approximately two weeks, whereby the Counoise was pressed before settling and then racked to barrel to complete malolactic fermentation and aged with extended lees contact.
The wine was aged in French and Hungarian (15% new) barrels for approximately 8 months. The aging period was carried out with an extended period on the fine lees to both soften and protect the young wine. A fairly low level of SO2 was maintained throughout this period to aid in the development of secondary and tertiary aromatic and flavor components. After 8 months the wine was clean-racked to tank, where small quantities of Grenache and Syrah were blended to the Counoise, before aging another two months in barrel prior to bottling.
The Counoise includes small percentages (approximately 10% total) of Grenache (Fiora Vineyard) and Syrah (Jacobsen Vineyard) that were incorporated in the final blending stages to adjust the profile of the wine with regards to the overall balance, as well as to add some depth of color, complexity, and associate this bottling with some of its traditional Rhône varietals. The Jacobsen Syrah, with which the Counoise grows, has contributed a darker color to the wine, some structural balance, as well as the aromatic complexity of some riper fruits. The Fiora Grenache adds some acidic balance to the wine, freshness of fruit, and minerality.
A light and ethereal red wine, with good complexity of aromatics and a supple mouth-feel. More nuttiness than outright oak on the bright nose, with some different red and darker fruits appearing, as well, a consistent toasted granola or cereal profile (consistent with past vintages). A slight meatiness (pleasant really!) consistent with warm-hot fermentations appears, while a toasted granola or cereal, fruit, and some spice quickly become more dominant. Slightly rustic tannins on the dry finish with an integrated, not outright acidic, supple balance.