Hello there!  Spring has sprung at Belden Barns, and here’s how we've been keeping ourselves busy….

 

Belden Barns Wins Double Gold(s)!

The American Fine Wine Competition recently presented their 2016 awards and Belden Barns

received the following:

 

Double Gold: 2014 Estate Grüner Veltliner

Double Gold: 2014 Estate Pinot Noir

Double Gold: 2013 Estate Syrah

Gold: 2015 Estate Sauvignon Blanc

 

These four wines were the only wines that we submitted from our portfolio. 

 

More Buzz

We’re used to tectonic shifts here in the Bay Area, and one wine-related shift recently hit Sonoma.  Robert Parker, famed wine critic who has been both lauded and villainized for his impact on the wine industry due to his influential wine scores, has handed over the Sonoma tasting/scoring reins to Lisa Perrotti-Brown, current Editor-in-Chief for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.  Because we primarily sell our wines directly to people we’ve met and poured for in person, scores don’t play as important a role in our success as they do to other wineries that depend on retail distribution.  And as we’ve always communicated, you shouldn’t purchase wines on scores, but rather make decisions based upon your individualized taste.  Nonetheless, we care about scores because they are a barometer of how we’re doing in the eyes of qualified critics.  Lisa Perrotti-Brown is massively qualified, and it will be interesting to watch how her tastes align with, or are different from, Robert Parker’s, and what impact that may have on the broader US wine industry.  We were very pleased with our first pass in front of Lisa, which garnered our highest Wine Advocate rating to date and some complementary words on the value of our wine.

 

92+         2014 Serendipity Block Pinot Noir

Pale to medium ruby purple colored, the 2014 Serendipity Block Pinot Noir reveals some whole cluster on the nose with stemmy/sappy notes over a core of black cherries, pomegranate and black raspberries, plus hints of mossy bark and underbrush. Medium to full-bodied, with tons of expressive black and red berry flavors complimented by earth and herbal notes, it has a solid backbone of grainy tannins and lively acid, finishing long and layered.

 

90           2015 Estate Sauvignon Blanc

The 2015 Estate Sauvignon Blanc spent four months in 50% neutral French oak with the other 50% in stainless steel. It is therefore a relatively restrained style with less of the overt vegetable and herbal characters, and more of a honeyed stone fruit and the lemon curd character with some grapefruit in the background. The medium-bodied palate has a nice satiny texture and plenty of citrus flavors with the faintest suggestion of herbs coming through on the long, honey-laced finish. Great value!

 

From The Old Guard To The New

The Wine Guys are the modern day version of the Wine Advocate with a 50,000 person following.  We were excited to receive a 95 point score from them and be named their top value of the year with our Sauvignon Blanc.  You can read their comments HERE

 

Here They Come - 2017 Wine Release

We bottled our upcoming release of wines on February 23rd and are just now trying them for the first time.  We are very excited about our first-ever bottling of Grenache.  Grenache (or Garnacha) got its start in southern Spain, before migrating to southern France and up to the southern Rhone where it famously became the primary grape for Châteauneuf-du-Pape bottlings.  Now one of the most widely planted varietals in the world, Grenache has found many welcome homes.  Grenache is generally a warmer climate grape.  We’ve mentioned in the past how Syrah is on the edge of getting ripe at our Sonoma Mountain site.  Grenache is even more of a nail biter.  The style of Grenache we prefer is nuanced and high toned, not big and boozy.  By employing meticulous viticulture practices and very low yields, we are able to get our Grenache to the perfect level of ripeness to create a very distinct wine.  The only problem is, that our first effort produced only a mere 45 cases.  This will be allocated as wine-club only upon first release.

Beyond the introduction to our first Grenache, It’s been fun to taste the common thread each bottling holds from prior vintages.  They all have their characteristics that make them, like family members, recognizable.  We are still working to tease out what exactly defines this latest set of wines.  The majority of them come from the 2015 harvest, which was the most distinct of any vintage in our young life as a winery.  Due to a cool wet period during that year’s spring flowering, we had what is called “shatter” in the clusters.  Shatter is when weather disrupts the pollination of a meaningful portion of each grape cluster’s flowers.  In turn, those flowers don’t become berries.  In some cases (Serendipity Block), shatter reduced our yield to one third of normal.  The good news is that shatter concentrates the vine’s efforts on fewer berries and can result in very high quality wines.  The 2015 Belden Barns wines have a depth and seriousness unique from prior vintages and, as always, are just plain yummy.  We can’t wait to hear what you think. 

 

Wine Travel

Nothin excites us more than opportunities to combine two of our passions, in this case, wine and travel.  Spurred by a close family member’s wedding in Australia, we packed our crew across the pacific and used it as an excuse to explore New Zealand wine country.  From Central Otago, to Nelson, to Marlborough, we hit the primary growing regions on the south island and came away impressed by wineries in each.  Here are a few favorites:

                Burn Cottage (Central Otago) – Established on a 70-acre farmstead with 28 acres of grapes, Burn cottage shares a vision with Belden Barns of chickens, sheep, traditional vegetable crops, and beehives in co-existence with wine making.  Teamed with Ted Lemon of Sonoma based Littorai wines, and just three vintages older than Belden Barns, Burn Cottage first released wines in 2009.  While we weren’t necessarily blown away in general by the Pinot Noirs we encountered in New Zealand, the Burn Cottage “Moonlight Race” Pinot Noir truly left an impression, and reminded us of our own Serendipity Block.  Our affinity for this label was enhanced when we learned that they too were using some Grüner Veltliner in their mix, in this case to produce a Grüner/Riesling blend that we found quite tasty. 

                Rippon Vineyard (Central Otago) – Sitting above the stunning Lake Wanaka with a view of New Zealand’s southern “alps,” we have to admit that Rippon could make a strong argument for owning one of the world’s most beautiful winery settings.  First planted to some initial vine experiments in 1975, the Mills family planted out their first commercial blocks in the early 1980’s, and had their first commercial release late in that decade.  Like many stops we made in New Zealand, the white wines were what stood out to us at Rippon.  An old vine Riesling was one of the best Rieslings we’ve ever tasted. 

                Neudorf Vineyards (Nelson) – The Nelson area has a laid back vibe with rolling hills of vineyards planted amongst apple orchards, hops, and sheep farms.  Established in the late 1970’s, in a converted 1850’s era stable, Neudorf is one of New Zealand’s oldest wineries, and also one of its most well respected.  Producing only 14,000 cases, Neudorf’s reputation reaches much further than its production.  Because Nelson sits a little further north, their Pinot gets a touch more ripe resulting in added depth and complexity.  Yet again, the whites were what really stood out here.  In particular, their Chardonnay, a varietal that doesn’t get a lot of love in NZ, was absolutely beautiful.  Paired with sheep cheese made three kilometers up the road – we couldn’t have asked for a better way to enjoy the afternoon. 

                Cloudy Bay (Marlborough) – Marlborough was the “Napa” of our New Zealand experience.  Large, often ornate hospitality spaces plopped in a valley of manicured grape vines.  Lauren has a soft spot for Cloudy Bay, as it was her family’s go-to for celebratory events.  We weren’t necessarily planning on visiting, but a trip to another winery brought us to Cloudy Bay’s entrance and we decided “why not?”  We were happy we made the stop.  Of course, we tasted the ubiquitous flagship Sauvignon Blanc that you can find most anywhere, and it was good as expected.  But we also tasted the same flagship wine aged 10 years in bottle, and it was divine.  Throw in a couple of small lot pinot noirs, and we had a very memorable stay.

                Hanz Herzog (Marlborough) – No winery we visited on our trip reminded us more of Belden Barns than Hanz Herzog.  Successful wine producers and Michelin-starred restaurant proprietors in their native Switzerland, Hans and Therese Herzog were looking for another challenge and a place to grow warmer climate varietals than Zurich allowed.  That search led them to New Zealand where they’ve built a great reputation for serious, hand-crafted wines.  In an apple orchard converted to a vineyard in 1996, Herzog works with 29 different grape varieties to produce less than 3,000 cases of wine (and you thought we were crazy!).  What stood out to us was the individuality of each wine.  Set amongst a sea of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, the Herzog’s take is very, very different.  Picked at the riper end of the spectrum, with extended lees contact and the allowance of Malolactic fermentation over 15 months of barrel age, this was a different animal and possibly the most memorable wine of our entire trip.  The food produced at the estate was equally scrumptious and the entire experience is highly recommended.

For pictures of these travels and daily happenings at Belden Barns, check out our Instagram feed HERE

 

Screwcaps

For our 2016 Rosé, we decided to use screwcap closures.  As a young winery, we’re always experimenting in small (and sometimes big!) ways.  The Rosé is a perfect candidate because it is built to drink immediately and after hearing how many of you enjoy it pool and seaside, we felt like the value of convenience might do this wine a service.   We want to hear what you think, so let us know if you prefer to use a corkscrew or simply twist off a cap. 

 

Farmstead

Jenny & Vince Trotter are continuing to developing the farmstead at Belden Barns.  While weather has delayed spring planting, more permanent farmstead crops have been getting their due.  If blossom count is any barometer, we’ll be seeing a large jump in apple production this year (we’re hoping to have enough to do an experimental cider batch).  We were delighted to have asparagus grown on site join the mix at our first-ever winemaker dinners hosted by 18 Reasons in San Francisco this spring, which highlighted the highly talented Michaela Rahorst who recently took sabbatical from being Chef de Cuisine at Frances.  On Cinco de Mayo, we will have more of Jenny and Vince’s farming efforts highlighted as The Spinster Sisters restaurant in Santa Rosa hosts a Belden Barns Spotlight Dinner.  If you’re interested in joining, make reservations soon - each of the 18 Reasons dinners sold out within 24 hours!

Our newsletters regularly highlight how weather can impact our wine grapes, but the farmstead efforts get their fair share of ups and downs via Mother Nature as well.  Many of you have enjoyed pantry goods produced on site by Jenny and Vince.  Two of those items involve corn:  Floriani Red Flint corn used to mill into polenta, and a special variety of popping corn.  Each of these varietals is distinct and, if grown near each other, can cross pollinate, which creates a not so tasty hybrid.  So, they are planted at different times in the season to avoid a period when both are pollinating at the same time.  Unfortunately, the later planted popcorn did not get to maturity before the rains made their appearance in the fall of 2016.  As a result, no popcorn this year.  Further, the damp weather has delayed the drying of the polenta corn, which delays its milling.  All lessons to be learned and issues to be mitigated as we improve our knowledge and infrastructure on site to provide healthy, great-tasting produce. 

 

Weather

As most of you know, we have experienced an absolute drenching in Northern California this year – we’re talking record level precipitation.  Though our particular water situation at Belden Barns has been relatively neutral during the drought due to our rain catchment reservoir, for the sake of California, we do love to see as much winter rain as can safely fall prior to the stage of the vines flowering (when rain can have an adverse effect on pollination, which happened in 2015).  Many of you have asked if the vines are at all damaged by all of this water – some of those inquiries coming after seeing a widely distributed picture showing Russian River vines submerged during one particularly large storm. 

Because vines are dormant in the winter, the fact that they’ve been inundated by, and in some cases submerged by, water doesn’t really impact them.  A high spring water table will add to a vine’s vigor, which we will manage in the vineyard.  The real impact of water will be felt from this moment forward.  If we continue to have wet cool weather, there is a likelihood our yields will be negatively impacted via a reduced fruit set (shatter).  Cool wet weather can also initiate the development of mold that can take over late in the season. 

 

New Placements

Sometimes you go on a run of good fortune, and that's been the case in regard to our recent placements of Belden Barns wines.  The quality of these placements gives us such pride.  All of these establishments are reaching a high bar, and more than a couple are viewed as some of the best restaurants in the entire nation. 

 

Al's Place, San Francisco

Bar Covell, Los Angeles

Foreign Cinema, San Francisco

Leo's Oyster Bar, San Francisco

Octavia, San Francisco

Sonoma’s Best Market, Sonoma

Tawla, San Francisco

West Coast Wine + Cheese, San Francisco

 

Until Next Time

As always, please keep us in mind when you're heading up to wine country.  We love to host private tastings for six or more people, share our vision for the farmstead, give tours of our site, and have you hang a wish on our (super powerful) Wishing Tree.  For those of you who are wine club members - Spring Shipment selection emails will be coming your way shortly!

 

All the best,

Lauren and Nate

 

 

 
Belden Barns
5561 Sonoma Mountain Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
415-577-8552

 

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