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Larkmead Blog

2010 Red Wine - "Kate's Label" 
Posted by {Erinn Schwass } in Blog

On March 16 we bottled a wine which we have dubbed "Kate’s Label" because the design harkens back to the mid-1980's when Cam and Kate Solari Baker bottled some red wine for "in-house consumption only". The slick, handsome update to Kate’s original design truly represents the wine which we feel is classic in its form. Andy has described the wine as reminiscent of the 1997 and 2000 Larkmead in its youth because of its ease in drinking coupled with its nuanced fruit, floral and herbal notes that are signature Larkmead.

The composition of the wine has Larkmead stamped all over it. Not only is the wine composed of all five red grape varieties from the Estate, but also is one of the most complex wines that we have ever blended - it includes 14 of the 23 red grape clones we have on the property and was a barrel selection of over 80% of the fermentations we produced in the 2010 harvest. The wine, a blend of 54% Cabernet, 31% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 4% Malbec, is truly the epitome of Larkmead Vineyards from the 2010 vintage.

The 2010 "Kate’s Label" was lightly oaked in its aging (30% new French oak barrels) and was bottled un-fined and unfiltered. It is expected to see an early release this summer in our tasting room and will offer a preview of what is to come from the 2010 vintage red wines. We’ll be making the final blends of the Firebelle and Cabernet in short time and will be bottling these wines in July. We'll send an update from the cellar when those wines are in bottle. Prior to that we owe you a peek under the covers of the 2011 vintage red wines as we are now beginning to evaluate the wines as they have finished maloactic fermentation and are resting nicely in barrel.

Daniel Petroski, Associate Winemaker

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2011 Harvest Recap 
Posted by {Ryan Clark } in Blog

The 2011 vintage is over. The young wines are now in barrel and have given us a peek under the covers of what to expect from them; and I can happily say that Twenty-Eleven vintage would make the old-timers - Larry Solari, Louis Martini, Robert Mondavi, George de Latour, Charlie Beringer and Andre Tchelistcheff - swoon.

Twenty-Eleven as a vintage started out brilliantly – long, cool growing season, some late Spring rains thinning out the potentially robust crop, near average summer temps with no elongated heat spikes – the vines were happy. Almost immediately post verasion in late August we began to see mature flavors in grapes that we all hope for in a vintage. Temperatures remained average in September, vines remained healthy, there was an incredible purity to the fruit flavors and balanced ripening (sugar, acid, tannin) was in front of us. At Larkmead we were excited about the prospect of harvesting at our own schedule; anticipating the year to follow a trajectory like 2006 when red grape harvest was spread out over a period of more than a month.

However, two and a half inches of rain over the course of one week in early October changed our plans. Up and down Highway 29 there was a bit of cautious optimism; the un-spoken question was whether we would be able to harvest before the next potential rainfall. Thankfully that wasn’t an issue as the next two weeks saw higher than average temperatures with a few days peaking above 90F. On October 20th we began picking Cabernet. Six days and a 120 tons later we took a break to focus on winemaking.

Those first three weeks of October made for a tough vintage; no one knew for sure what to expect from the potential wines. But, in the cellar, it wasn’t long before we were enthusiastic about what was before us. The fermentations were text-book healthy; temperatures trended nicely to a peak 86F and sugars converted to alcohol at an even pace. We averaged about 22 days on the skins and secondary fermentations are currently taking place in barrel.

The early read on the wines is exciting. The balanced flavors we saw early on in the vineyard are present throughout the wines we put to barrel. The vintage will be characterized by its ease of drinkability – bright, balanced red wines that will find a place at the table in their youth and will gain weight and deep nuances in their mid-life (think the 2005 wines right now) before returning to their red fruit dominant, dried-herb, tobacco and refreshing acid and tannin (think the 1998 and 2000 wines right now) structure that will hold them for aging of 10+ years. We’ll be fully evaluating the wines in January when they have finished maloactic fermentation. A further write-up and an update on the bottling of the 2010 vintage in barrel will be posted then. In the meantime, have a great Holiday season, everyone here at Larkmead wishes you health, happiness and good drinking.

Daniel Petroski, Associate Winemaker

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Summer Update 
Posted by {Ryan Clark } in Blog

2009 Wines: At the end of June we put the 2009 LMV Salon, Solari and The Lark into bottle. Collectively, these three wines reach the epitome of our Estate vineyard. The LMV Salon is what we believe to be the truest expression of Larkmead’s vineyard – from the composition of the blend (which typically mirrors the vineyard being planted to 60% Cabernet) to the aromatic and textural profile of the wine.

While LMV Salon is a complete picture; Solari and The Lark bring Cabernet into focus. Since its inception in 2001; Solari has been made from a blend of two or three of the parcels that most reflect the nuanced power and structure of Larkmead Cabernet in any given vintage. Since 2007 certain parcels have reached vine maturity and have anchored Solari’s production. This makes us extremely excited to be working with these parcels given annual vintage variation.

The Lark is made of a barrel selection from one of our prized parcels that resides in our rockiest soils prior to the vineyard sloping into the Napa River. That is all I want to say about the wines right now, as a full report will trickle down the pipe when the 2009 LMV Salon releases in early 2012.

2010 Wines: On these pages back in April I jotted some notes about the 2010 wines. The wines were in early stages of development and showing well. Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to revisit the wines in barrel and consider some final blends before we head into harvest.

First off, the 2010 Firebelle, a wine that always presents its future potential early, is near stunning and if representative of the entire vintage, we will be quite pleased overall. The Estate Cabernet had been holding its cards close to vest during the long Winter and Spring. We made an early blend back in March and held out some components that we’ll blend in later this year that truly fill out the density of the wine while maintaining its vintage character –highly perfumed aromatics with bright red and blue fruit freshness and persistent acid and tannic structure to complete the wine.

The parcels we had designated early on for LMV Salon and Solari expressed themselves true to form – darker, denser, more powerful wines that elevate the vineyard signature. Next week we will be blending these wines in the cellar and can’t wait to revisit them after the 2011 harvest.

2011 Growing Season: There is a story that Larkmead’s proprietor, Kate Solari Baker, told at a dinner party when I first started working for the winery that resonates with me daily during the growing season. Kate’s dad, Larry Solari, was a pioneer in wine sales and marketing during the middle of the 20th Century; he was friendly with Robert Mondavi and on more than one occasion Mondavi referred to Larry Solari as his mentor. In 1979, Mondavi partnered with Baron Philippe Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild to launch Opus One in Napa Valley. This was a momentous occasion for Napa Valley’s wine industry which was riding the high of the famed “Judgment of Paris” tasting in 1976. The Solari family was invited to the opening celebration for the winery; in attendance was Kate and her mom, Polly Solari. In fashion with the Royal Court, there was a greeting line to meet the Baron. When Polly was introduced to the Baron, he politely asked what it is she does for a living. Polly replied, “I’m a farmer.” Without breath or hesitation the Baron responded, “so am I.”

When we think of the great estates of Napa or Bordeaux, the cult wines and the fabled classics, lest we forget, wine begins with farming. With Mother Nature dictating our fate, we’ve watched the 2011 growing season begin with a slow start - an extended wet Winter and late Spring. Unfortunate cold temps and rain during bloom have been devastating to some vineyards in Northern California and Larkmead has been effected as well but we’re optimistic that this vintage shows promise. Mother Nature’s natural selection on the vine has done some of our farming for us and we’re anticipating as the old saying goes, only the strong (most flavorful grapes) shall survive. I’ll keep you posted with an update on our Sauvignon Blanc harvest in about six weeks time and what the 2011 reds are looking like in early September. Until then, drink well.

Daniel Petroski, Associate Winemaker

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