"Old Is New Again"
Harvest season is here, and we are officially smack dab in the middle of my favorite time of the year. The 2018 wine program for Paskett Winery is proving to be another exciting season. It marks the 48th year of winemaking for our family’s private label and the 7th harvest year for Paskett Winery. As growers and multi-generational winemakers, we are still experimenting with new varietals, new farming techniques and now, with the help of friends, bringing back some old favorites. The Lodi region at one time had quite a bit of Chenin Blanc planted. Then, in the 1980s Chardonnay became the queen of wines and farmers ripped out the Chenin to make way for Chardonnay plantings. I remember the wonderful crisp, honey suckle, floral qualities of Chenin Blanc and searched until I found some left in Lodi. We did not have to look far; we found some down the way at our neighbor and fantastic farmer, Tom Hoffman’s, field. He has more than 25 varietals planted on his 180-acre plot that meanders along the banks of the Mokelumne River, including plantings of my beloved Chenin Blanc. We are about a week away from harvesting it and the Chenin will be the first to come in for Paskett Winery’s 2018 harvest.
Red Wine Program
2018 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
We will continue to make our Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard the centerpiece for our winery, producing both a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine and a Cabernet Sauvignon based red blend for our customers and wine club members. This vineyard was overhauled last year by Herb Paskett and his grandson Thomas Remlinger (Cellar Master at St. Amant) to preserve the healthy vines and replace those that have run their course. It was a tedious process, but worth it. Thank goodness I didn’t have to get out there for that work! Our best vintages from this vineyard were crafted when we let the grapes ripen until October and the Brix did not get above 24.5-25. We are hoping for that result this year – weather permitting.
2018 Estate Charbono
In the 8 months since we released our 2015 Charbono vintage, this wine has been a crowd pleaser, flying off the shelf (or off the wine rack). We continue to refine the farming practices of this field and the wine-making approach as we learn more about the vines, the grapes and the structure of the wine. The first vintage year, the vines were stressed from lack of water, but the wine proved to be divine. Because this vineyard is old (estimated to be planted in the late 1960s by Inglenook) and has been through a lot, we’ve worked to bring it back slowly. The process of caring for the vineyard – watering it and removing dead plants – has resulted in a broad range of grapes, and also a broad range of Charbono vintages. This year, we thinned the fruit by removing 50% of the clusters and all the 2nd growth. We pulled bottom leaves for better air circulation. These old head pruned vines need more air circulation to keep the remaining clusters healthy and rot free. The Charbono bunches tend to be tight and prone to rot in this vineyard. Because we brought the fruit in early in 2016, that vintage proved to be lighter in tannins, with a brightness to it and less earthy, less robust mouthfeel of the 2015 harvest. The 2017 wine (which is still in barrel) came from fruit that we let hang to the bitter end. It looked tired and at its edge, but the wine is more like the 2015 with superb rustic flavors, rich mouthfeel and pallet complexity, while still having amazingly low alcohol. This year, we plan to do the same if the weather allows – let it hang to the bitter end of the season. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the weather holds.
2018 Bordeaux Blend | Meritage | Super Premium Red Wine
The vision for the winery evolves. As I thought about, planned it, and began to create Paskett Winery over that past 15 years, the Bordeaux Blend or “Meritage” was always top of mind. It proved to be difficult to find many of these varietals in the Lodi AVA. Thus, I assumed I’d have to plant them myself. I planted Cabernet Franc on our Mokelumne River property in 2017. It will not be ready for a few years. We have available the Cabernet Sauvignon from our estate vineyard in west Lodi (Clones 6 and 7) and from John Bischoff’s vineyard on Mayer Road (Clone 337). We are sourcing Bischoff’s Petit Verdot again this year. We are adding Espinosa vineyard’s Malbec this year. And, luckily, we are now sourcing Cabernet Franc from Tom Hoffman’s vineyard. The vision is finally coming together. It’s difficult to source so many small lots from all over Lodi, then to make individual wines and later evaluate the best blend ratios to create the Meritage. But, it will be worth it. Nothing is more satisfying for a winemaker than to execute all these wines well individually and then create a Meritage that is greater than its individual parts. For hundreds or years, these Bordeaux region varietal originals have been married together to create heavenly wines. We are in pursuit of that tradition with this part of our wine program.
Paskett Vineyards Mokelumne River East End
White Wine Program
2018 Chenin Blanc
My all-time favorite white wine grape as a girl is finally back in the Paskett Winery program. I’ve looked for good Chenin Blanc fruit since we launched the Paskett Winery wine program in 2012 and opened the tasting room doors in 2017. It’s nice to finally find it again, after my family tried growing it many years ago. Chenin Blanc has its origins from the Loire Valley in France. It has high acidity and is a versatile fruit that can be used for champagne to desert wines. It can be a very neutral wine depending on the terroir or have beautiful honey and floral notes if grown in a warm climate and if the vine’s aggressive growth is controlled. Hoffman’s vineyard benefits from rich soil near the river’s edge, warm days and cool nights and is tightly controlled for a small cluster yield. It has all the right factors to produce an exceptional vintage
2018 Viognier "Full Circle"
(Our 2016 Viognier was aged in oak; this year we will go with stainless steel ferment.)
We’ve farmed Viognier, and, by sheer dumb luck, we have come full circle. Fifteen years ago, my dad, Herb Paskett planted Viognier, with the help of Richard Ripken, who is another exceptional Lodi grape grower. We planted the varietal because it is one of my favorites. Ripken helped us by graciously coming to our farm, giving us a small lot of Viognier cuttings and planting them in our field through grafts. In 2016, I had the good fortune to harvest John Bischoff’s Viognier for Paskett Winery’s first Viognier offering. We produced a very small amount of oak-aged wine – 25 cases. As I continued my search for more Viognier, Klinker Brick owner, Steve Felten, sent me to Ben Kolber, who farms 3 different clones of Viognier. Ben happens to be Ripken’s son-in-law. Alas, I’ve come full circle in my quest for Viognier. The blocks we will be harvesting this year are from Kobler’s “Under the Sea” Vineyard in West Lodi on Guard Road, which Ripken also had a hand in planting. This clone tends to have peach and apricot notes with mild citrus undertones. I love Lodi, for so many reasons. The vineyards. The beautiful fruit. The wonderful long-time farmers who never cease to help.
With this harvest season, we could not be happier. Our wine program is exactly where we want it to be. We continue to stay committed to our core wines and stretch ourselves to add interesting, beautiful new wines and work with more wonderful farmers in the region. I can’t wait to share these wines with you in 2019 and 2020 when they are released. For those of you who are farming and harvesting, or who are beginning the wine making process, stay healthy and happy. For those of you who support our industry and drink our wines – there are exciting times ahead.
That’s it for now. Happy harvest season!