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.