2011 "O SANGUIS MEUS" SYRAH
The 2011 vintage is a Syrah co-fermented with Viognier, all from Paradise Road Vineyard. This style of including small amounts of the white grape Viognier into the fermentation vat with the red grape Syrah is traditional in the Northern Rhone region of France called Cote Rotie. Fermenting this delicate white grape with the robust red Syrah brings to the finished wine a degree of femininity, I think, by introducing a softer mouthfeel as well as floral aromas and flavors not found in a 100% Syrah. Paradise Road Vineyard only grows Syrah and Viognier, so the co-ferment style seems a natural fit. The Viognier generally ripens earlier than the Syrah, so timing can be tricky. Luckily, I prefer to pick my Syrah on the early side, so as not to get too high of sugar levels and over-concentrated flavors.
In 2011, the average growing season temperature in the Valley was 85ºf, the hottest day being 100ºf on September 6. This year marked the beginning of the Valley's continuing drought, with the longest dry spell from June 22 to October 4, constituting 105 consecutive days without a drop of rain.
The grapes for the 2011 "O Sanguis Meus" (97% Syrah/3% Viognier) were hand-harvested on September 26, 2011. A handful of great friends and their kids helped us pick the 100 pounds of Viognier ourselves. The fruit was hand-sorted and de-stemmed (but not crushed) into small open top vats and cold soaked for 5 days. The Syrah came in at a sugar level of 24.1 brix. A native fermentation was allowed to start before inoculating with 2 different yeasts. After 9 days of fermentation, the must was pressed off in a small basket press, producing 3 and 1/2 barrels of wine. The wine went through a native malolactic fermentation, and was aged for 30 months in neutral French (50%) and Hungarian (50%) oak barrels.
The wine is a deep garnet in color and has a solid tannic structure for aging. The final pH is 3.83, TA is 6.5 g/L, and alcohol is 14.4%.
The 2011 "O Sanguis Meus" was bottled March 21, 2014. At 75 cases, it is an extremely limited production. This wine is unfined and unfiltered. This means that there may be some small amount of sediment in your bottle. Because of this, I suggest that you let the bottle sit upright for a day or more to settle any precipitate, and decant the wine when you’re ready to drink it. I believe it has another 1-2 years of bottle aging before reaching its full potential.
2012 "the day to shape the days upon" SYRAH
Like the 2011 Syrah, the 2012 is co-ferment of 97% Syrah and 3% Viognier from Paradise Road Vineyard. For wines that are "made in the vineyard", vintage really matters. Every year is different: precipitation (amount, when, if ever), time of bud break, late frosts, length of growing season, temperature highs and lows, length of winter latency, and on and on. So I believe it is important to work with grapes from a particular vineyard for multiple years in a row to learn how that vineyard shows its fruit in different conditions.
The grapes were hand-harvested at night on Sept. 18, 2012. Though another drought year, there were rains on Sept. 6 that helped prolong hangtime another 12 days. The clusters are loosely packed on the vine allowing the berries to dry without mold or rot. The grapes were processed and fermented the same as 2011. The wine was aged for 33 months in 3 neutral and 1 new French oak barrels. 89 cases of wine were bottled from this vintage on Aug.7, 2015. The wine is a garnet color, round and smooth. The final pH is 3.91, TA is 6.0 g/L, and alcohol is 14.5%.
2013 "Paradise Road" SYRAH
The drought is in its 3rd year and Paradise Road Vineyard is feeling the effects. The groundwater at the property has been thoroughly tapped and the wells aren't producing much. So irrigation is very limited this season and we are kind of "dry farming" by default. However, nature can make your best decisions for you, and as the berries get smaller and more concentrated so the fruitiness of this vintage takes a more prominent role in the flavors of the finished wine.
While the Syrah and Viognier were picked, processed, and fermented just like the 2 preceding vintages, the pick was quite a bit earlier (Aug. 24) due to the long, dry growing season. I also decided to barrel age (all neutral French) the wine for 2 years instead of 3 years (as I had with '11 and '12), thinking that this would maintain the fruitier qualities of the finished wine. The final product still has the characteristic sagebrush-like savoriness of 2011 and 2012 but with a greater, more accentuated blackberry fruit. Only 68 cases were bottled from this vintage in Nov 2015. The wine is a red amaranth color, with mild tannic structure. The pH= 3.90, TA= 6.1 g/L, and alcohol is 14.2%
2015 "Qué Será" SYRAH Rosé
This 2015 Rosé is 100% Syrah sourced from 4 vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley: Gainey, Evans Ranch, Brave & Maiden, and Lucas. It was made by the saignée method, or "bleeding" the juice from ripe red grapes before the must takes on too much color. While I admit that picking grapes at an earlier time in their maturity for higher acidity and lower alcohol is the ideal method of making rosé, in this particular case I had an opportunity to to experiment with a lot of different fruit from a number of highly regarded vineyards, and I went with it. The fruit was picked in September of 2015, fermented slowly at 55ºf in stainless steel, and filtered and bottled in November. Only 42 cases were made. The final pH is 3.35, TA is 7.1 g/L, and the alcohol is 13.8%. It is a dry, plush, and brightly acidic rosé ready to drink now and throughout this summer.
Currently, there are 3 other vintages of Azios Cellars wines that are bottle or barrel aging:
2014 is a 100% Syrah from Paradise Road. It was barrel aged in neutral French oak barriques for 3 years and will be bottled in July 2017. It will be bottle aged and released sometime in 2018, whenever it says it's ready.
2015 is a 100% Syrah from Camp 4, a Chumash Indian vineyard (previously owned by Fess Parker Winery) in Santa Ynez Valley AVA. It was barrel aged in neutral French oak barriques for 2 years. It will also be bottled July 2017. This may or may not be released at the same time as the 2014.
2016 I decided to branch out from Syrah and make Sangiovese too. The 100% Syrah is from Camp 4 Vineyard and the 100% Sangiovese is from Cent Anni Vineyard in Los Olivos. They are both barrel aging in neutral French oak, but for how long I do not yet know. Taste will decide.