Category Archives: Talks with Todd

Vintages Uncorked: A Cellar Tasting with Hawk Haven’s Winemaker

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One thing we always say at Hawk Haven is that every great wine has a story. And every once in a while, we get the opportunity to replay those stories when we uncork a bottle that we’ve kept hidden away for a certain period of time.

I don’t know about you, but I find it very difficult to hold on to a bottle of wine. I bought it because it was good, I want to drink it now! And most of the wines here at Hawk Haven are just right to open and enjoy. But there are a few that benefit beautifully from some additional cellaring, some up to 10-15 years.

Luckily our Winemaker Todd had the foresight to stash away a few bottles for all of us. That means YOU too! And we (the Hawk Haven staff) got the chance to try some cellared wines a few days before they will be released to the public for two days only during our Cellar Wine Tasting on January 16th & 17th, 2016.

2012 Signature Series Chardonnay

Cellar6Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Aging: 7 months French Oak
Alcohol: 13.5%
Bottle Date: April 2013
Production: 495 bottles
Tasting Notes: When this wine was first released in 2013, flavors of dried mango and vanilla filled the palate. Todd had carefully chosen specific clones of the Chardonnay grape, known as “Dijon clones,” as he was looking for a lower-yielding, more flavor-concentrated cluster of fruit. He definitely chose well, because almost three years later this wine has really blossomed. Those vanilla notes gained a pleasant creamy quality, and the mango evolved into caramelized pineapple and lemon creme brulée.

2008, 2009,  & 2010 Merlot

Cellar10Blend: 100% Merlot
Aging: ’08- 21 months French Oak
’09- 20 months French Oak
’10- 23 months French Oak
Alcohol: 13.9%
Bottle Date: ’08- July 14, 2010
’09- August 5, 2011
’10- July 2012
Production: ’08- 119 cases
’09- 84 cases
’10- 130 cases
Tasting Notes: Plum, cherry, and strawberry were all common denominators when these wines were originally released. The ’08 was marked by rich fruit and soft tannins. The ’09 was more aromatic with a peppery finish. And the ’10 was a nice balance of berry and spice. Tasting the 2008 Merlot now, the jamminess is stillCellar24 there on the nose, but now with an earthiness and notes of chocolate and cedar spice. But on the palate the fruit gently fades into elegant tannins. The 2009 still has some opening up to do, so now is a great time to get a few bottles for cellaring. Where the ’08 is more refined, the ’09 is bold and vibrant. The body is heavier, with more lush black fruit, a finish of mint leaf, and an oaky thread throughout. And finally, the 2010 Merlot is “super fruity” (that is very advanced wine terminology right there) with notes of strawberry preserves, leather, and bright fruit. The ’08 and ’10 vintages are prime for drinking now, but the ’09 will definitely benefit from additional aging.

2008, 2009, 2010 Talon

Cellar20Blend: ’08- 50% Merlot, 50% Syrah
’09- 47% Sangiovese, 34% Merlot, 19% Syrah
’10-33% Sangiovese, 33% Merlot, 33% Syrah
Aging: ’08- 24 months French Oak
’09- 20 months French Oak
’10-23 months French Oak
Alcohol: 13.4%
Bottle Date: ’08- December 14, 2010
’09- August 5, 2011
’10- July 2012
Production: ’08- 85 cases
’09- 122 cases
’10- 208 cases
Tasting Notes: The wines in our Talon label have always been known for being bold and jammy, and time has only improved on these qualities with an added elegance and smooth palate. Looking through the winemaker’s original notes when these wines were first released, I see a lot of words like blueberry pie, strawberry jam, cherry, and spice. Fast-forward to theCellar21 present and those somewhat astringent qualities have softened; we perceived leather, nuttiness, and caramel. The 2008 Talon has cherry and sweet spice aromas with a full palate spectrum of mint leaf to strawberry jam with a bright rush of tart cherry towards the finish. The berry notes in the 2009 are more on the tangy side; think blackberry and raspberry, with a leathery front palate of cranberry sauce. The ’10 has a softer nose, not quite as aromatic as the Merlot, but the palate really builds through the finish with nice tannins and a hint of sour cherry.

CONCLUSION

IMG_7275There was a definite consistency in the vintages with the Merlot and Talon. “You can find the terroir from year to year,” says Lou, our assistant winemaker, “These wines are alive.” The 2008 vintages are now more elegant and refined with softer tannins while the 2009’s are bigger and more robust. For all of the wines, from the Chardonnay to the Merlot to the Talon, you can absolutely sense the passage of time. When they were bottled, the fruity notes were packed in tightly with more pronounced qualities from the barrel. Once the wine got used to its new home, the fruit lost its inhibitions and rushed to the forefront. Now, time has allowed the flavors of fruit and oak to marry, and what a beautiful marriage it is!

We hope you will join us this Saturday & Sunday (January 16th & 17th, 2016) for our Cellar Tasting featuring all of these wines plus a bonus wine from our Signature Series collection! The Cellar Tasting is $20 a person and includes a souvenir glass. All of the wines will be available for purchase at the tasting room this weekend only. These wines are in limited quantity and won’t last long so be sure to get them while you can!

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50 Shades of Green: A Very Veraison Affair

Recently, veraison was in full swing at Hawk Haven and you know what that means, right? No? You don’t? Oh… well… this is awkward…

Not to worry, most people have no idea what “veraison” is, let alone how to pronounce it. Todd says it like the word “version” but with an “ay” between the r and s. But fancy Lou pronounces it the French way so it sounds like “vera-ZON” (say it with a French accent). I say it like… well, mostly I try not to say it at all, so instead I’ll just tell you what it is and show you some pictures.

Simply put, veraison is what is happening when the grapes turn from an opaque green to whatever color they’re meant to turn when they’re fully mature. That means your red wine grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are turning different hues of purple, violet, and even blue. Similarly, the white wine grapes like Riesling and Chardonnay are changing to a golden tone, or a more translucent shade of green.

Below are some photos of our grapes in transition. You’ll notice that some varietals are farther along than others. The best way to see them, though, is on our Vineyard & Winery Tour where you’ll get up close and personal with the vines. You can also see more photos of veraison from our 2009 harvest by clicking here.

Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio
Merlot
Merlot
Merlot
Merlot
Gewurztraminer
Gewurztraminer
Tempranillo
Tempranillo

 

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Talks with Todd: Filtering the Wines

The Hawk Haven tasting room is not a bad place to work. We get to meet new people every day, they all come in with a smile on

Lou and Todd discussing the filtration process.
Lou and Todd discussing the filtration process.

their face (or if they don’t, we know they’ll be smiling after a few sips), and we’re surrounded by delicious, locally made, award winning wines. Sometimes, however, it’s nice to get out of the tasting room and check out what else is happening, and there’s always something to see. On weekends it’s the folks outside enjoying crepes and live music on the crush pad. During the week sometimes we’ll see Todd or one of his guys out in the vineyard. And since the other day I had such a fun and informative visit to our winery building while they were blending, I figured I would stop by again to see what Todd and Lou were up to. On this day’s agenda: filtration.

The wine pump moves the wine from the tank, through the filter, and into a new tank.
The wine pump moves the wine from the tank, through the filter, and into a new tank.

During filtration, the wine is pumped out of its tank and pushed through layers of pads in a process called “depth filtration.”  This process removes lees (dead yeast), tartrates, and other particles that might be hanging around in there. While I was there, they were pumping wine they had blended last week  through the filter and into another tank. Todd said the whole process can be a lot like a sliding puzzle, where you have one empty slot and you have to move all the pieces around to form the final picture. “You always have to have at least one empty tank, and it should be the biggest one.”

That seems like such a waste, doesn’t it? Those tanks are not cheap! But

Todd and the handy dandy filter.
Todd and the handy dandy filter.

when you have to pump 1,320 gallons of Riesling through a filter, you’re going to want to be able to put it into something that will hold it all. On this day they were filtering Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, QUILL, and a red blend that will be part of our new Flying Press series, all in preparation for bottling. Once bottled, we just have to wait until the wines get settled in their new homes, before it is finally time to move out of the bottle and into your glass.

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Blending In: Our 2012 Reds

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Pumping Wine out of French Oak Barrels

It’s been nearly two years since the red varietals, which we harvested back in the fall of 2012, were first put into the French oak barrels where they began the aging process. While they sat in there soaking up all the flavors that the oak lends to the wine, like vanilla, mocha, and caramel, we waited patiently for them to finish. Well, somewhat patiently, since this past February we eagerly dug out the wine thief for some barrel tastings. They were so good then that I brought over any container I could find in the hopes of bringing some home, but Todd said no, they need just a little more time. He also was very against the idea of pouring his precious Cabernet Franc into a tupperware container.

But now that the bottling date is finally approaching and the wines are more than ready to go, we have started moving them out of the barrels and into stainless steel tanks. Meet Lou, our wine maker Todd’s new assistant.

Hi Lou!
Hi Lou!

Lou is using the wine pump to transfer some Tempranillo into one of the tanks you see in the background. The tanks will be sealed shut until we are ready to bottle (August 4th, come see us in action!), and once in the bottle we will let them rest for a few weeks to allow them to settle and to allow any instances of bottle-shock to dissipate.

Taste-Testing the Blends

We will have several standalone varietals like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, but this is the time when we will also do any blending that Todd has planned. For instance, yesterday he and Lou were working on blending a NEW wine from our NEW Flying Press series (it’s NEW!). They basically get a bunch of glasses, put different amounts of wine into each glass, and taste them all to see which one was best. Those of us working in the tasting room that day were lucky enough to try some as well, and I’ll just say we cannot wait for you to try it.

By now you’re probably wondering, “When???? WHEN do I get to try these delicious wines!?” Some of you may have even pre-ordered them at one of our barrel tastings earlier this year. Todd says that we will start releasing the reds in mid to late September. I know, it seems like forever, but just remember that time always flies. And in the meantime, there is plenty of good wine to be had here in the tasting room! We are open daily for wine tastings and tours, and visit us on the weekend for Saturdays on the Crushpad and Sangria Sundays!

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The Rutgers Research Project at Hawk Haven

Something exciting is underway at Hawk Haven (in addition to our regular, everyday exciting) that we wanted to share with you. We’ve been calling it “The Rutgers Research Project at Hawk Haven” (or Rutger’s Project for short) because it is headed by Dan Ward, the Assistant Extension Specialist, and Peter Oudemans, the Associate Professor, both of Rutgers’ Plant Biology and Pathology department. Together with the Outer Coastal Plains Association, they developed a four year trial to see how two rare and unique varietals grow here on the East Coast.

It all began a few years ago when Todd’s quality management of the vineyard caught Dan’s attention. He saw a guy who really cared about the plants and worked hard every day to bring each vine to its full potential. So Hawk Haven Vineyard was chosen, along with three other vineyards throughout the state, to participate in a mutli-year study of the different growing climates of New Jersey. Each vineyard was chosen based on their location as well as the dedication and commitment of the vineyard managers to their land. In that respect, we were very honored to have been selected and look forward to seeing the results.

Lagrein varietal
Lagrein varietal

We were provided with ten vines each of two different varietals. The first, Lagrein, is a red grape native to Northern Italy, known for its full body and high acidity. Besides Italy, it can also be found growing in Australia and New Zealand, and it is related to Pinot Noir and Syrah. The second is a relative of the Lagrein grape, another red Italian varietal called Teroldego, an even more rarely found grape. Teroldego is known for producing a deeply pigmented, fruity wine. Both varietals are almost nonexistent here in the states and have been quarantined at UC Davis for several years to test for inherent diseases and to see how they stand up against any diseases and pests that are native to North America.

The experiment also involved the installation of a weather station out in the vineyard that will record various factors like wind, humidity, precipitation, and temperature. There are even these little “leaves” that are placed within the canopy among the real leaves and will record leaf wetness. This information is uploaded via cell tower to a website that Dan & Peter will use to study all these factors at each of the four vineyards. The best part is that we also get access to this information which will be extremely useful to us going forward in planning future vineyard maintenance.

teroldego
Teroldego varietal

We planted the vines earlier this spring, the weather station is all set up (you can check it out during our Vineyard & Winery Tour), and we also hired an intern who has experience in plant physiology. She will be helping Todd with petiole sampling to monitor nutrients, testing the sugar content in the grapes (°brix), and other information recording for this Rutgers Project. And get this: once the grapes are grown, we get to keep the fruit! So in a few years you might see some blends featuring Lagrein or Teroldego in the racks of our tasting room. In fact, we should probably start practicing how to properly pronounce those varietals.

By the end of the experiment, Dan and Pete will have collected enough weather information to see the difference in climate across the state and how it affects the vines. We think this will be really great for the New Jersey grape growing industry because in addition to producing award-winning wines, we will have cold, hard facts to support NJ as an excellent growing region.  So stay tuned, we will continue to give updates on the progress of this experiment, and we can’t wait to see how these varietals grow here and if they will produce good wines for us.

A lot of new varietals were planted this year in addition to Teroldego and Legrein.
A lot of new varietals were planted this year in addition to Teroldego and Legrein.
The weather recording station (left) and anemometer (right, in vines).
The weather recording station (left) and anemometer (right, in vines).
Leaf Wetness Sensor
Leaf Wetness Sensor