Ed writes… It is early August, and we are racking the last few lots of 2018 wines that have finished malolactic fermentation—much earlier than normal this year. Our malolactics generally do not finish until December due to their higher alcohols and the cold winter cellar. This is exactly why I love winemaking: however much we winemakers and vineyard growers try to control the process, Mother Nature is much too complex for us simple-minded people to completely understand. We often learn after the fact why wines turned out the way they did—or we just nod sagely and murmur “Ah, terroir….”
As for the 2018 vintage, I have to say it was a very good vintage for quality and quantity in both the Aconcagua Valley and the dry-farmed region of Cauquenes. We crushed 71,000 kilos at the Casa del Magnolio winery in Santa Maria in the Aconcagua Valley, thanks to the valiant efforts of our cellar crew of Juan, Jorge, and Javier, together with Maria Rodríquez, our Galician intern. And a special thanks to a Henry and Caroline, who showed up miraculously during the peak week to pick, load, shovel, and drink beer with the crew. It had to be more than they bargained for—and we are so grateful they showed up when they did!
We have long-term contracts with two vineyards in the Aconcagua Valley. The Redondo Vineyard is located in Panquehue. It has southern-facing slopes and colluvial soils of decomposed granite. The Fortaleza Vineyard in the Ocoa Sector has a more coastal influence and rocky colluvial soils. This is our first year working with this vineyard, and we have high expectations for the future when we will be able to manage the vines from pruning to picking. The vineyard is about 18 years old and it shows fungus wood disease in some of the old blocks, of which we had to drop fruit of affected vines.
Syrah / Redondo Vineyard / Panquehue
Beautiful red fruit, spice, licorice, with lovely textures and length. In a word, delicious—and now we just have to not screw it up before bottling. This will be the soul of the Flaherty Aconcagua blend. I may consider bottling a couple of barrels for the tasting room.
Petite Verdot / Redondo Vineyard / Panquehue
Inky with black fruit flavors and big tannins, which will add backbone to the Aconcagua blend.
Cabernet Sauvignon / Fortaleza Vineyard / Limonal Block
Nice depth of fruit and nerve. I am very curious as to how this Cabernet Sauvignon will develop in barrel and whether it will merit a stand-alone bottling. Cabernet Sauvignon / Fortaleza Vineyard / Old Blocks Has herbal notes spicy cherry flavors with structure and will make solid base for the Magnolio blend…
Syrah / Fortaleza Vineyard
Floral notes, red fruits, with high acidity. Should provide a nice base for the Casa del Magnolio blend and a spicy component for the Flaherty Aconcagua blend.
Carmenere / Fortaleza Vineyard
The grower called me up the last minute and said he thought I should ferment some of the Carmenere. I thought, sure, what the hell—I have space to ferment 800 kilos. Wow! Carmenere fans will be thrilled with the graphite, red pepper, and soy sauce of this wine, with an incredible intensity and rich texture. Alas, we only have two barrels, but I’m plan on bottling this lot for the sales room and Flaherty Friends.
Tempranillo / Huingán Vineyard / Santa Maria
An elegant wine, with berry and cherry flavors. A solid component for our Aconcagua blend and Casa del Magnolio.
Tempranillo / Magnolio Vineyard / Santa Maria
The first vintage from the Casa del Magnolio vineyard has aromatic cherry cough drop and Pez candy flavors. Will spill some into the Flaherty Aconcagua blend.
Our Tequel Vineyard just south of Cauquenes in the Maule Valley is going into full production after seven years, so we will now have more to blend with as well as a few special bottlings in the future. The head-trained, dry-farmed vineyard has deep red clay soils.
Tempranillo / Tequel Vineyard
Intense berry spice, with good volume on the palate and rustic pressy flavors. Barrel aging and patience is ticket here as Tempranillo evolves beautifully in American oak barrels. Will be the base of the Flaherty Cauquenes blend and will use some en Casa del Magnolio.
Petite Sirah / Tequel Vineyard
This wine hits you over the head with intense black fruit flavors, menthol, and vibrant acidity. It needs to age, but I think we will bottle some barrels for the Petite Sirah fans in a couple of years.
País / Tequel Vineyard
Very low yields from this 100-year-old vineyard in 2018. Easy-to-drink wines, but I have been surprised by País after time to settle in barrel….