Tasting the Future: Barrel Tasting Hawk Haven Wines

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Wine Maker Todd and his handy dandy wine thief.

Winter is a quiet time in the vineyard. The vines are being pruned and are enjoying a well deserved respite after a long growing season. But inside the winery walls, the winemaker and his staff are hard at work making all that grape juice into delicious wine. I managed to grab a few moments with our assistant winemaker, Lou, to talk about all that has been going on.

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Stainless Steel tanks are chilled to about 40 degrees

Since harvesting last fall, the white wines were cold settled to around 40 degrees, then racked into their fermentation vessel.”Racking is a fancy wine word for moving between barrels or tanks,” Lou explains. “For the white wines that are barrel fermented, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, we use the ‘sur lie’ technique.” This is a method of aging where the wine is allowed to hang out with the dead yeast (lees), making sure to stir it up every once in a while until the desired flavor is achieved. “This way we get the full rich body of an oaked white wine but still maintain the desired elements of crisp acidity and fruitiness.”

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Lou racking some wine

At that point, it’s time to age the wine. The winemaker must decide: oak or steel? For the most part, Todd prefers to stick to tradition; wines such as Pinot Grigio and Albarińo are sent to stainless steel tanks, while others like Chardonnay and Viognier are put into oak barrels. But every so often he chooses to break with tradition and experiment, like his 2012 Signature Series Barrel-Fermented Riesling, or the Naked Chardonnay which is aged in stainless steel.

Lou explains: “We do both styles of Chardonnay because we want to have a nice, crisp, refreshing wine (Naked Chardonnay), as well as a rich, full bodied wine (oaked Chardonnay).” We will soon see another variation… the 2015 Viognier. “Todd decided not to barrel ferment the Viognier this year, but rather to cold steel ferment to capture all those big fruit flavors that are indigenous to the grape.”

The wine making staff taste every barrel for "quality assurance"
The wine making staff taste every barrel for “quality assurance”

And what about the reds? After these grapes are harvested, the juice is fermented as Must, which is another fancy wine word for the grape juice, skins, and seeds all mixed together. Then they are pressed and moved into barrels. “The red wines are from the 2014 harvest, so they’ve been patiently waiting in barrel, being racked every 6 months, and finally blended for your enjoyment. Todd and I did the painstaking work of tasting every barrel to make sure the blends were just right.”

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Lou’s favorite part of the job: drinking the wine!

Heartbreaking, I know. It’s not hard to see why this is one of Lou’s favorite times of the year. Tasting the wines is a big part of the job. “It’s like bread right out of the oven. The wines have a perfect balance of oak and fruit. There’s a freshness, a unique flavor. It’s not something that everyone has the opportunity to do.”

Wine Maker Todd Wuerker
Wine Maker Todd Wuerker

That is, until now. Guests at the Hawk Haven tasting room get the opportunity to share the winemakers’ experience at this weekend’s Barrel Tasting and Futures Sale. You are cordially invited for a complimentary taste of wines to come on Saturday, February 20th and Sunday, February 21st. No reservations required! These wines (listed below) will also be available exclusively this weekend for pre-order at significant discount before they are bottled and released at retail.

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2008 White Port (second bottling)
2014 Quill
2014 Signature Series Syrah
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
2015 Chardonnay
2015 Signature Series Viognier
2015 Sauvignon Blanc

Discounts available on futures only:
1-5 bottles: 15% off
6-11 bottles: 20% off
12+ bottles: 25% off
Wine Club Members will receive an additional 10% off