It has been busy the previous five weeks in the cellar. Starting April 14 we racked and blended our 2009 Estate Cabernet and on April 19 racked and blended the 2009 Firebelle. Following that, we laid our '08 Firebelle and Cabernet down for bottle racking and on May 19, 20 and 21st we bottled the 2008 vintage Firebelle and Cabernet.
The preliminary 2009 Cabernet is quite distinctive with only 80% of the wine comprised of Cabernet. The remaining wine is split between Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. This is only a preliminary blend at the first racking, but it is a wine that we feel, like its sought after siblings, Salon and Solari, truly is an expression of Larkmead’s unique parcel of land in Northern Napa Valley. Larkmead Vineyards' distinction lies in its inherent richness in the front of the palate while maintaining freshness at the back; a sought after balance in all wines. In this particular blend of the 2009 Estate; we are impressed with the wine’s lift on the nose and broad mouth filling appeal that finishes with a gravelly tannin structure that makes you sit up and appreciate what Cabernet is capable of.
We find that blending wines allows for greater depth and nuance in the finished product. Especially when you are dealing with a vineyard that has three distinct soil types, a varied selection of rootstock combinations for each soil type and 12 Cabernet and five Merlot clones. That being said; in this blend of '09 Cabernet; you’ll find five Cabernet clones from nine parcels of Larkmead’s vineyard. The Petit Verdot is from two parcels of the vineyard and the Cabernet Franc is from another. Twelve lots created this one wine. To maintain the diversity during the wine’s elevage we used five different cooperages for our barrel program. Five of the cooperages provided the “new” French oak component and the same five cooperages provided a “once used” influence on the wine (these once used barrels were prior used with the 2007 wines).
The 2009 Firebelle is one of our most serious efforts in the wine’s short history. Due to its Merlot focused composition, Firebelle is logisitically formed in our heads before any of the other wines. Merlot is also the first red fruit we harvest each year; thus it is one of the first to finish fermentation, be barreled down, finish maloactic fermentation and typically be ready to show itself in the early Winter months. The rich, creamy Merlot tends to be seductive on the nose and in the palate. In a supporting role, Cabernet Sauvignon will give the Merlot a grandstand to continue to present itself; from there the final components of the blend are based on the best available secondary varieites form the vintage. In this parituclar year, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc all take the stage in the preliminary blend. In the 2009 wine there is a bright nose of red and blue fruit, hinting at black, almost saying, I am not your typical Firebelle. From there the wine hides behind a deep, dense, dark cloak of brambling forest floor scents and flavors. The wine is quite intriguing for its seriousness than its youthful flamboyance. This backwardness excites us about the wine's future development because Firebelle can be a gauge on how the remaining wines in the vintage will show themselves. The total composition of the 2009 Firebelle is a blend of 53% Merlot, 29% Cabernet, 10% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec and 3% Cabernet Franc.