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Aglianico – Aging Beautifully

Aglianico (pronounced “ahl-YAH-nee-koe”) is not a common grape varietal in California. In fact, according to the USDA, only 58 acres of fruit bearing Aglianico vines were standing in California in 2015. Two of those acres can be found at Pear Valley’s Union Road vineyard, where the vines were planted in 2007 with the first vintage harvested in 2010.

The 2011 vintage is the current release. With bold flavors, good tannins and high acidity, the varietal appreciates time in the bottle. Aging beautifully, this Pear Valley wine displays a deep crimson color and offers impressive aromatics of cracked pepper, sweet plum, violets and licorice.  Robust flavors of dark cherry, plum and pepper linger in the mouth.

Aglianico is a varietal with a long history and a promising future. According to a Wine Enthusiast article published by Monica Larner, the grape was  “Cultivated by the Phoenicians, exported by the Greeks, consumed by the Romans, protected by popes and coveted as a blending agent during the phylloxera plague, “Aglianico is probably the grape with the longest consumer history of all,” says Denis Dubourdieu, oenology professor at the University of Bordeaux.”

Regardless of the origin, clearly the grape has thrived in the Southern regions of Italy. Given the bold flavors and high acidity, this is a wine that pairs well with tomato-based sauces and pasta. Although it stands up well to hearty meat dishes, one of the most classic pairings is with Pasta Puttanesca, a classic Southern Italian dish made with anchovies, tomatoes, olives, capers and garlic.

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2013 Tempranillo

 

The Pear Valley 2013 Tempranillo was released in June 2015. This is the first vintage of estate-grown Tempranillo bottled at Pear Valley and it has performed extremely well in competitions. The Central Coast Wine Competition judges gave this wine a “Best of Class” award and a gold medal. At the Los Angeles International Wine Competition, judges declared this wine 93-points and another gold medal. Priced at just $24, this wine is selling extremely well in the tasting room. Click here to purchase on-line (note this wine is the Wine of the Month for July 2015 with an extra 10% discount offered).

It isn’t surprising that this wine is getting high scores with judges and tasting room guests. Made from 100% estate-grown Tempranillo, this wine exhibits a new world style with noteable fruit and oak notes on both the nose and palate. Plum, red & black berries, candied fig, and cherry tobacco along with hints of leather and chocolate greet the senses. The sturdy tannins and delightful aromatics make this wine fantastic all on its own, while the balanced acidity also makes this a wonderful wine to pair with a wide range of food. I recently enjoyed it with bourbon barrel smoked salmon and almonds on a lazy afternoon in the backyard with friends. This wine will pair easily with most cheeses, grilled or braised meat and tapas.

Vineyard Notes

The vines are planted just inside the gates at the Union Road vineyard. The Tinta Roriz clone was graphed to the existing 1103P rootstock and carefully managed in the vineyard. Known as a vigorous vine, fruit was dropped to keep the crop under 4 tons/acre. After dropping fruit, the east wire was raised high for great morning sun exposure. With the vines vigorous nature, the California sprawl on the west side provides adequate shade. The fruit was harvested on September 11th, 2013 and came in at 25.1 bx and 3.9 tons/acre.

Winery Notes

For the wine geeks out there I got the inside scoop from Winemaker Jared Lee. The numbers: pH 3.71  ~ TA .612  ~ Alc. 14.2

Jared bled off 15 gallons/ton (a technique known as saignée) to impart more tannin and color to the Tempranillo. The saignée and natural phenolics of the fruit make this a big, dense wine with aromatics that pop while remaining perfectly in balance. The wine was aged in 100% French oak with 50% being once filled (Vicards and Bel Airs) with no new wood used at all.

 

Pear Valley will now produce a Tempranillo each vintage. The 2014 is aging nicely; however, for this vintage Jared decided to use a little new oak as well as 20% American. We will have to wait to see the result of his new barrel regime while we enjoy the 2013 vintage.

 

 

 

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Pear Valley and Solarponics Turn Sunshine into Wine with Solar Implementation

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Pear Valley continues to lead the way with earth-friendly practices

Pear Valley and Solarponics have successfully implemented a solar system at Pear Valley Winery that generates more power than the winery uses. The new system has a unique design that is visually appealing, serves as a shade structure, and has numerous environmental benefits.

“Our intention from the time we began designing the winery was to have the facility powered by solar. With the existing incentives and tax credits available we felt the timing was right to put this final piece of our sustainability plan in place. Finding the right solar partner who was able to implement a system to meet our needs in terms of both size and design was critical. We were delighted to find Solarponics, a local business with 40 years experience, was able to work with us to build a custom structure that stands above our equipment and exterior working area of the winery,” said Kathleen Maas, co-owner of Pear Valley.

The solar installation at Pear Valley winery includes 545 American-made SolarWorld panels in two arrays rated at 161.2kW DC. Each of the arrays was implemented as a canopy system, over the exterior working area of the winery, capturing the power of the sun while providing shade for winery equipment and workers. The entire project, including construction, was $769,000. The solar system will offset 100% of the monthly electric needs with a payback of approximately 3.5-4 years — without the government incentive program the payback period would have been closer to 7 years.

The benefits of the solar implementation are far greater than the savings from the energy bill. Each year the system will save 257,766 gallons of water, remove 2,828 pounds of sulfur dioxide, eliminate 1,765 pounds of nitrogen dioxide production, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 491,837 pounds — the equivalent to saving 89,879 trees each year.

“Pear Valley was an exciting project for us. It posed many challenges and opportunities to showcase a sizable energy system, maintain full usefulness of the crush pad, and preserve the aesthetics of the property,” says Kristian Emrich, Solarponics president. “They’re our perfect client, a great model of sustainability, from solar to water conservation to building design and construction,” says Mr. Emrich.

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Going solar is the most recent investment by Pear Valley to ensure that their vineyards and winery utilize the most environmentally sound practices to create their estate-grown wines while leaving little impact on the environment.
Additional initiatives include:

  • 22 water recharge/water retention pits were cut through the clay/hard pan layers and are used to collect rain water that is naturally filtered through the alluvial soil.
  • The winery utilizes an ESBR (Elutriate Systems Bio Reactor) to rapidly and efficiently digest winery wastewater. The wastewater system gravity feeds to the bio reactor and in turn the treated effluent gravity feeds to the irrigation pond that is powered with a wind mill. The treated effluent is then used to irrigate the vineyards.
  • 10 soil moisture monitors are installed throughout the vineyard to properly assess irrigation needs, ensuring only the required amount of water is used
  • Pear Valley’s 14,000 square foot winery and 5,000 square foot tasting were designed in partnership with PG&E through their “Savings By Design” program to design buildings that are energy efficient and environmentally sound.
  • Pear Valley achieved Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Vineyard Certification in 2012. Attaining SIP Certification demonstrates dedication to vineyard practices that are environmentally sound, socially equitable and economically-viable.
  • A small fleet of electric vehicles are used including John Deer gators for vineyard workers, a golf cart for guest transportation during events and staff use, and the Maas’ Tesla for transportation to numerous wine functions — all will be charged with a Tesla 240 volt charger using the new solar system.

Pear Valley and Solarponics invite the public to a sustainability open house on May 7th from 6-8pm at 4900 Union Road, Paso Robles. During the open house, attendees will be able to tour the solar facilities, learn more about the winery’s sustainability projects and talk with Pear Valley’s sustainability partners including Solarponics, John Deere, Tesla and Central Coast Vineyard Team. Wine tasting and live music by Soul Sauce will be offered during the event. The winery will be collecting food donations for the Food Bank and ask that attendees make a contribution.

“We invite other winery and vineyard owners to come and discuss sustainability initiatives with our partners. It is important to us that we all do our part to ensure future generations are able to continue farming and enjoying the beautiful Paso Robles wine country,” stated Tom Maas, co-owner at Pear Valley.


The 2014 Vintage

2014 was an interesting year for Paso Robles wineries.With yet another dry winter, the spring began with very little moisture and a warm start to the growing season. In general, most vineyards had a healthy fruit set with moderate temperatures during flowering. The growing season was somewhat uneventful, although many growers reported extra shoot thinning and fruit dropping due to the lack of rain. A heat spike in August had many winemakers scrambling with the threat of an early harvest and many vineyards worried about high pH and sugar levels. End of harvest reports from most winemakers came in claiming 2014 would be a good vintage for Paso Robles.

I decided to get the inside scoop from Jared Lee, Pear Valley’s Winemaker. The highlights from my interview are captured below.

Jared sampling the 2014 Merlot

Q: How long have you been making wine? 

Jared: I began winemaking in 2008. I joined the team at Pear Valley in 2009 and was promoted to winemaker in 2012. One of the benefits of working for an all estate-grown winery is that I have control over all the fruit that enters the winery. Everyone knows good wine starts in the vineyard and I spend a great deal of my time on vineyard management and working with the crew to assist with pruning and harvest. We are currently producing under 10,000 cases annually, so I am able to closely monitor all of the wine from the time the grapes are harvested through to when the wine is bottled.

Q: How did the area wide drought affect Pear Valley in 2014?

Jared: With the lack of rain, the water level in the Paso Robles basin has dropped. Given the importance of reducing water usage, we irrigated using a great deal less water with more frequent sets to optimize the impact on the vines. We also dropped more fruit than we had in the past and, in fact, did two passes through the vineyard this year. The extra time in the vineyard resulted in higher labor costs; however, it was worth it for grape quality. Our average crop size across our estate vineyards was 3.82 tons/acre and we came in 8% under last year’s overall tonnage. The berries were smaller which means a higher skin to pulp ratio, resulting in deeper color, richer flavor and more tannins in our reds. Overall I would say the 2014 vintage is looking good.

Q: What do you feel was the best vintage at Pear Valley?

Jared: That is a really tough question. Each has a different attribute and some varietals do better than others in any given circumstance. If I had to pick just one I would say 2013 for the estate Bordeaux varietals and blends. The 2014 vintage also shows great promise for excellent Bordeaux varietals and blends.

Q: Was the 2014 harvest earlier than in past years?

Jared: The first grapes picked were Muscat Canelli on August 19th. Those grapes were sold to another winery. Our first grapes into the winery were Sauvignon Blanc on August 20th, while the last were the Aglianico on October 17th. The final grapes were pressed on October 24th, so I would not say it was an exceptionally early harvest. The high temperatures near the end of the growing season resulted in sugar levels that were a little higher than in past vintages; however, we were prepared and kept the alcohol levels in check by using special yeast.

Q: How many varietals did you harvest in 2014 and do you have a favorite?

Jared: We have 24 varietals planted in our three estate vineyards and all are now in production. Our most widely planted is Cabernet Sauvignon, with 13 acres planted. My favorite changes each vintage, right now I am having a love affair with our 2014 Merlot. The Merlot is super clean and is an excellent representation of our terrior. We are also making our first stand alone Barbera. It is always fun, as a winemaker, to have new varietals and blends to craft.

Q: What else was new in 2014?

Jared: We are making a new white dessert wine. We haven’t even given it a name at this point. I also added several new barrels this year — one of my favorites is a tight grain with a blend of oak from France coopered by Sirugue.

Q: When will the 2014 be released to the tasting room?

Jared: The white wines will be bottled in February and will be released some time in the spring.  Most of the reds will spend a minimum of two years in the barrel and then at least 3 months in the bottle prior to release.We like to give the wine some time in the bottle prior to release and find some need longer than others. We only release wine to the tasting room when it is ready to drink.

Good wine begins in the vineyard.

Jared spends a great deal of his time checking on the vines since good wine begins in the vineyard.

Well, I have to wrap up this post by saying I was lucky enough to get to taste several of the 2014 wines in the winery with Jared. I was very impressed and believe the wines will be worth the wait. I have to agree that the 2014 Merlot will be exceptionally good and will continue to age well long after it is bottled. – Lisa Pretty