a place for chenin blanc
I love Chenin Blanc, and it has a special place in my heart because my late father, Mark Anderson, used to regularly order Chenin with mussels at Brasserie Four, his favorite French restaurant in our hometown of Walla Walla. The first vintage of this wine was made in his honor and I see every subsequent vintage as another small way to remember his impact and encouragement.
The 2022 vintage of Chenin Blanc is a wonderful expression of its fruit and its site. We've taken what we've learned about the ripening habits of this grape from the previous two vintages and honed in on an optimal range of acidity and ripeness. The result is a beautifully tart but fruit inclusive expression of Chenin, and one of my all time favorite pét nats that I’ve produced.
Arete Vineyard straddles the top of Radar Hill, just outside of Othello, Washington. The 250 acres of vines were planted in 1983, and are managed organically and certified by the USDA. The Chenin Blanc is grown and sourced from the North Slope of the
vineyard and managed entirely by hand.
2022 was a year of extremes in the Columbia Valley. A late spring blizzard occurred right at bud break, and was followed by cool temperatures through most of June. This
put bloom two to three weeks behind recent years. Summer seemed to finally arrive in July and August with multiple 100-plus degree days. Then, a miraculous and unseasonably warm Fall came to the rescue. Temperatures were above average for the entire month, creating even ripening at lower brix. With larger yields and a shorter window for harvest, we were challenged for capacity, using every vessel that we had to process the fruit, but managed to get all of our fruit in by the end of October. Overall, it’s a stunning vintage with great structure, flavor, and color.
Chenin has usually been on the earlier side of harvest, and 2022 was no exception. Upon its arrival in the cellar, this fruit went into the press whole cluster. From pressing, it was cold settled for 7 days, then racked into stainless steel for its primary fermentation. Bottled at 1.25bx in December 2022, it aged in bottle for 5 months before hand disgorgement in May.
estate rosé evolution
The only pét-nat made from our estate fruit, the rosé holds a special place in our hearts. We are excited to see the evolution of this wine, as the Cab Franc and Malbec vines continue to mature, we are so excited to see the evolution of these grapes.
In 2022, after tasting the results of our first rosé pét-nat from our estate, we decided we had to make this wine again. Since the Cab Franc and Malbec at Stonemarker are still very young (planted in 2017), we are excited to turn the fruit into a rosé to create a vibrant and refreshing wine. The second vintage producing this wine proved to be very successful, especially in terms of yields, as the Malbec and Cab Franc vines continue to mature. The wine did not see any time in oak barrels this year, a departure from last year’s approach.
Compared to 2021, the fruit was harvested much later and arrived in the cellar in late September. Pressed together, we cold settled this wine for 7 days before racking into a stainless steel tank to co-ferment cold in our barrel room. This rosé was fermented in stainless steel and spent roughly 9 months on lees prior to disgorgement. Racked once for clarity prior to bottling, it was bottled on December 8th and hand-disgorged over two days in August of 2023. Unfiltered, unfined, less than 10 ppm of SO2 added at disgorgement.
Cabernet Franc instantly entices you with its smooth tannins and dark fruit flavors. Malbec brings spicy and earthy undertones to balance the red fruit and light effervescence. Aromas of white florals, green strawberries and watermelon, and soil. On the palate, notes of rhubarb, strawberry leaf, kumquat marmalade, and candied rose with well integrated acid and minerality. It is rustic and rich, but intensely bright and refreshing - an deliciously complex and intriguing sparkling rosé. For pairings think french picnic: country style patés, cornichons, and fresh cheeses, or combine with everyone's favorite app, crab rangoon.
With ferments just settling down, wines going into barrel, and the winery finally back in order from the chaos of harvest, we have been reflecting on what made this harvest- and the upcoming releases- different.
Compared to 2022, harvest started much earlier this year and has moved quickly, with all of our fruit arriving in the cellar by the second week of October. It was a breath of fresh air (literally, less fires!) to have a more “typical” Washington state growing season after the more extreme conditions the last few years. The weather wasn’t too hot or cold, and there wasn’t copious amounts of rain either. The crop is significantly smaller this year than in 2022 with high concentration, intense flavors, and even ripening. By the time that the last of the grapes were picked, we had already bottled several pet-nats, including some new experiments and some secret projects. It is shaping up to be an amazing vintage, with many exciting new projects, partnerships, and collaborations underway.
As always we are extremely grateful for our harvest crew who braved a whirlwind harvest, all with a stellar sense of humor and amazing work ethic.
If we had to assign a word to this vintage, it would be healthy. The impacts of growing and sourcing organic grapes continues to amaze us in the cellar. Every bin of grapes we brought in, whether from our estate vineyard, or from our partner growers across Washington state, were exceptionally robust and healthy. A greater marker for this health is YAN (yeast assimilable nitrogen) - a measure of how much nitrogen is available for yeast to consume during fermentation, essentially indicating how strong the fermentation will be. Nitrogen is a critical grape which affects the rate and completion of fermentation, fermentation bouquet and style of wine. Despite sounding less than exciting, our YAN was incredible this year, with all our fruit coming in at the ideal YAN levels. Our ferments were fast and powerful, with absolutely no supplements of any kind needed.
One of the main pillars in our approach to natural winemaking is a commitment to natural ferments, no matter the environmental circumstances. Each year we have enjoyed the terroir reflected in the subtle flavors released from the natural fermentations, however this year, we cannot wait to taste the hardiness of such healthy vineyards reflected in the wines.
The runner up for the harvest theme this year is patience. While the pét-nats we make are fruit forward, light, and easy drinking, we have typically not aged them for extended periods of time. The past couple of harvest we have been holding a few pét-nats back to experiment with the impact of time and extended aging.
Several wines, harvested in 2020, 2021, and 2022, have benefited from time in bottle, and are tasting better than ever. Joining the 2022 vintage releases next year, will be the reserve pét-nats that we have been holding on to. While they are delicious, it has definitely been an exercise in patience for us over in the cellar. We have been anticipating sharing these wines for what feels like years, and we are so excited to finally open these bottles with you.
a dinner in the vines
Our first dinner celebrating estate wines and homegrown summer bounty set amongst the vines at our estate vineyard - Stonemarker.
At our recent Estate Winemaker's dinner I was able to cook for our guests predominately using produce grown in our garden at Stonemarker. End of season bounty brings us beautiful fruit and vegetables, allowing for simple, fresh food. Like dolmas wrapped in the grape leaves from our vines; fresh and rich potato salad grown in our soil; our peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and zucchini cooked down into a savory ratatouille and more.
I try to extend our approach in the vineyard to the land we farm and to the food I cook- embodying simplicity. Taking care to showcase quality, freshness, and seasonality. It's a lovely feeling to be so well fed, as harvest begins - we are feeling extra grateful for the healthy land these goodies grew in, and are reminding ourselves of the the care required to keep things growing well.
We were also able to pour a sneak peek of our new Estate Rosé pét-nat alongside Foundry Vineyards estate grown selections. Stay tuned for the release later this Fall.
Cheers to harvest, and to many more dinners to come!
pétproject is available for purchase at both of Foundry Vineyards' tasting rooms.
pétproject does not have a wine club, and sells out completely each year.
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