15 Year Vertical Tasting – Part II

Back in November of last year, you may recall we posted about the 15 year vertical tasting of all vintages of Curly Flat Pinot Noir and Chardonnay dating back to our first vintage in 1998.  If you wish to know more about that initial tasting, please click here.

For the first vertical we were joined by several prominent wine writers, but with pace of the world, let alone the world of wine, it is almost impossible to organise an event like this where the timing works for everybody.

Our response to this was to host another tasting, this time in Sydney.  Here we utilised the professional tasting room of the wine man himself, Peter Bourne.  Peter’s tasting room provided us with a setting where great light and no distractions could avail, allowing for the wines to take centre stage.

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From left to right: Phillip Moraghan (CF Vigneron), Wine Writers; Huon Hooke and Angus Hughson.

For this second tasting we were thankful to be joined by wine writers Huon Hooke, Angus Hughson, Peter Bourne, Rob Geddes MW and Stuart Halliday (Tetsuya’s Manager & Sommelier).  To give the wines a voice, Curly Flat co-owners Phillip Moraghan & Jenifer Kolkka were on hand with insights and anecdotes that have been gathered over each of these 15 vintages.

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From left to right: Wine Writers; Peter Bourne, Rob Geddes MW & Stuart Halliday.

From our last tasting we learnt that outside obvious TCA taint, there was marked variation throughout the wines under this closure, which these days could surprise only the few (well at least in Australian circles).  But in the time since that first tasting, we discovered something quite pleasing. Going back to the first vertical last year, to our surprise, it seemed that the 2003 CF Chardonnay was over the hill.  We opened 4 bottles that day with each to be met with the same dull, flat experience. This was not in line with the other vintages as even the older vintages CF Chardonnays still had a pulse of acid, so that got us thinking something wasn’t right. We decided to try a magnum of the same vintage, and we were absolutely blown away.  This is the wine we remember!

This cause of this anomaly falls (again) on the shoulders of the justifiable whipping boy that is cork.  Within our 750 ml museum stock of this vintage there must be a whole batch of bad corks, explaining the alarming strike rate.  Saying that though, all of our magnums are under cork, but that too eventually, will be changed over to screw cap.  We are looking at moving towards screw cap magnums in the near future, probably starting with our 2012 CF Chardonnay which will be bottled around October.

On the whole we were happy to say we had a pretty good run on the wines under cork, with only a few (still unacceptable!) victims of soul sapping cork taint and random oxidation.  But that’s enough cork bashing for now!

The wines themselves were in fine form, as each wine has the stamp of its season also the evolution of its handling is clearly on display, with the more recent vintages showing more assuredly in terms of structure and complexity but without the suggestion of overplaying the subtlety that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are synonymous with.   This is brought about not only our continual improvement program, but of course the vines are also getting older.  But there’s still a long way to go…

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The inaugural 1998 vintages of Curly Flat Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; still standing up after 15 years…

We took notes for all the wines tasted at both events, so we’ll get them up on our website/blog in a meaningful context for those wanting a guide of how our wines are currently looking and what the drinking future holds for them.  In the meantime here are some of Phillips notes on our wines from the 1998 vintage, tasted last Thursday (14/2/13).

1998 Curly Flat Chardonnay:Mid gold, clear; generous with white stonefruit, cashews, mealy; viscous, moderate acid, good fruit and texture, lots here, nutty; medium plus finish.”  

1998 Curly Flat Pinot Noir: “Deep ruby, tanning at the edges, clear; generous lifted nose with spearmint with underlying dark fruits; still fresh & alive, mocha dusty oak; medium plus weight with viscous, lightly textured, good acid, lively and long. 

In relative conclusion, with any meaningful review, more questions are asked than answered, but we have learnt several things none the less.  Such as less extraction in Pinot Noir, can mean more in the glass.  This is found in our 2010 Pinot Noir, where we no longer use enzymes and employ a gentler cap management whilst in ferment.  We can go on, but maybe its best to make the visit out to Curly Flat where can explain the myriad of elements in context!

What we have learnt is that the journey will never end, as the term perfect is really a metaphoric castle within a kingdom of fools, these tastings announce the quality of our site, its soils and the vines that grow older and wiser within it…   Hopefully we do too.

Steady as she grows…

Since our last post, the first blushes of veraison have now begun to cast its hue upon select areas of our vineyard.  Currently, and for the last several weeks, our vineyard team have been fruit thinning.  The warm dry conditions over November-December were favourable for flowering and so led to a high rate of pollination, giving our canopy a healthy crop.  We are now reducing that yield to not only increase quality, but to also balance the fruit load to the canopy so as to give optimal opportunity to ripen by (around) April.  Fruit thinning before veraison serves the vines resources better as they don’t then waste energy ripening fruit that is going to be dropped anyway.

Our team have done a great job of keeping ahead of the building wave of varietal colour and therefore helps the vines by lowering vine stress and increasing potential leaf retention for next 8 weeks plus of ripening.

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Some the Vineyard Team in action, thinning out the Pinot Gris. When asked what the key phrase was here, the reply was “there’s heaps!”

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Veraison now underway in our 95 block Pinot Noir.

The canopy itself bears mentioning as its greenery bears a stark contrast to the parched landscape that not only surrounds us, but also runs its drying fingers throughout our vineyard’s inter rows.  Check out this video to see what we’re on about.

Looking at that footage, we have to stretch to recall the record breaking rainfall back in 2011 and the accompanying good winter rains of 2012, but if we needed a reminder, it is here now in the evidence of the canopy.  But this alone still would not have been enough, it goes much deeper than that.  Great soil health continues to increase due to the now 7 year absence of herbicides, effectively timed fertigation, successive years of balanced pruning, an alert team and responsive management have all weaved together to manifest into the canopy we see today.  Nothing good comes easy!

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Every drop is precious!

But the challenge to keep this canopy has only just begun.  Looking at the 3 month rainfall (Feb-Apr) outlook from the Bureau of Meteorology, there is a 75% chance of exceeding 50 to 100 mm for that period (in our area).  Our long term average rainfall figures for the same period is 144 mm, but with current drying trend, that figure seems unlikely.   On the other hand cooler days and nights are also predicted, and if this is true, it will take some evaporative pressure off the vineyard.  But maintaining the health of the canopy is one thing, the next is protecting the fruit!  Due to the extremely dry conditions, bird pressure has started early this year, so our bird radar system is now in effect as well as the usual myriad of avian counter measures.

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Vineyard Manager Lisa and team member Ron, fire up the bird radar towers, in preparation for the potential avian invasion!

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Lisa makes the securing ropes for the radar ‘Hare Proof’, as they like to chew the ropes which can bring down the radar system!

In the meantime we are beyond motivated to do all we can to bring in one of, if not the best vintage to date… but as always only time will tell and there’s still plenty of that until harvest. So while the dry spell looks set to continue, there’s (at least) two things to remember about weather; you never know what will happen & careful what you wish for!