Q: When was the last time Foxen did a straight Merlot?
A: Before the 2016, it must have been the 2006 – also from Vogelzang vineyard in Happy Canyon AVA. Before that, 2001 from Carhartt vineyard. We sourced from Carhartt for quite a few years – when their vineyard was mostly Merlot and a little bit of Syrah. Before they started their own label and they were just farmers.
Q: How do you feel about it as a varietal?
A: You look at Merlot as it sits on the Right Bank in Bordeaux – it’s such an important grape. Especially for the wines of Pomerol and Saint Emilion. Over here, I think the movie Sideways did it some harm, but it’s a great workhorse of a varietal. It’s versatile because it has softer tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. Not necessarily as thin-skinned as the Pinots but much softer than the other Bordeaux varietals. Merlot also brings that nice, plummy fruit together with whatever we’re blending it with. We use it for five different wines at Foxen – Range 30 West with Cab Franc, Pajarito with Petit Verdot, Volpino and Volpino Rosato with Sangiovese and now the 2016 100% Merlot.
Q: Why 2016?
A: It was an abundant year. We knew from the get go that we were going to be able to do it so we treated it differently. We used newer barrels to add some spice – the same French Taransaud barrels that the Vogelzang Cab goes into.
Q: Pairing ideas?
A: Again, it’s versatile. Cheeses, meats, vegetables. It doesn’t have a lot of acidity so I wouldn’t pair it with tomato elements necessarily. It’s all over meat and sauces. Crispy chorizo tacos with some nice sharp cheddar and shredded cabbage.
Q: Any Sideways anecdotes? Were you at the filming?
A: Yeah, it was awesome! They filmed the scene at the Shack in about 45 minutes. Paul Giamatti is very into wine. He was renting a place here with his family while they were filming so I would run into him occasionally and talk baseball. The crew hung out quite a bit since they were filming elsewhere in the area. When it came out, we saw it in Buellton and everyone in the theater had been around the filming so it was like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was nuts.
Q: How did 2018 harvest differ from previous harvests?
A: The main difference as far as the growing season was concerned was that the ’16-’17 season had 23.75 inches of rain compared with 9.85 inches for ’17-’18. Because of that, yields were a little bit lower, but the quality was exceptional. Another big difference was the low-and-slow, later part of the growing season. We had a nice mild beginning of spring, without any high winds, and then there was a heat spike toward the end of July that brought things back up to par. The friendliness of this weather pattern was especially evident in Happy Canyon with the Bordeaux varietals. Typically, when we pick these varietals in their ripe and mature state, they need help with their pH levels. Because of that, you’re usually having to add acidity to the wine to bring it back into balance. This year, we didn’t have to add anything. As the wine’s custodian, the less you have to manipulate anything the better.
Q: What were the biggest challenges?
A: The biggest challenge this year was being patient with the longer harvest. In the previous four or five harvests, we’ve had a narrow window to get everything done. This year was like a huge engine revving up to go nowhere in a hurry. So, stepping back and letting everything happen on a normal timeline was actually a bit difficult. The upside was that we got to spend SO much time with all the ferments. For instance, what I’m emptying right now – the Cabernet Franc from the Tinaquaic Bajita vineyard – was able to ferment for a whole month before going to barrel. Also, with the cooler weather in October, we had no stuck ferments – everything went nice and smooth. For a winemaker, that’s a huge sigh of relief.
Q: How are the estate vineyards doing?
A: The Tinaquaic Alta vineyard is doing surprisingly well. We’re getting two and a half tons to the acre of dry-farmed Chardonnay! I’m convinced there’s an aquifer under it somewhere – either that or it’s a miracle. Tinaquaic Bajita is also doing great thanks to a new well. During the heat spell, we were able to give that little bit of water to the vines to keep wilting to a minimum. We’re starting in with some watering now as well to get a head start on next year’s crop. Should have even bigger buds and thicker canes because of it. As soon as we get some rain, we’re going to disc and plant nitrogen-fixing cover crops in both vineyards to keep things as sustainable as possible.
Q: Final thoughts on the 2018 harvest?
A: I think 2018 is going to be known across the board as being one of the most spectacular harvests that California – especially the Central Coast – has seen in a long time.
2014 Pinot Noir, Fe Ciega Vineyard
You can taste this wine in our tasting room, as it is now available on our Pinot Flight, offered at 7600 Foxen Canyon Road.
“Spice box, sappy herbs, bright acidity, rose petal, black cherry and currant notes all emerge from the 2014 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard. This medium-bodied, supple, layered and charming effort has fine tannin, bright acidity and a good finish, all suggesting it will evolve nicely. Note, this spent 17 months in 40% new French oak.”
“Reserved on the nose, this bottling by Billy Wathen and Dick Dore from their friend Rick Longoria’s vineyard offers cranberry, fennel, lavender and a touch of smoke on the nose. It’s delicate in its approach, with tightly woven strawberry, red plum and cranberry fruit lifted by dried sagebrush and more of that wildfire smoke.”
“This is also quite deeply pitched yet attractively cool with its admirably pure aromas of plum, violet and dark cherry where an interesting note of dried tangerine peel can be found. The energetic medium weight flavors possess a highly sophisticated mouth feel thanks primarily to the notably fine-grained tannins shaping the delicious, dusty and complex finale. This should benefit from a few years of bottle age yet it’s not so tightly wound that it couldn’t be enjoyed on the younger side if that’s your preference.”
Now until the end of the year, Foxen will also be donating $1.00 for every bottle of 2013 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills sold.
Anchor & Compass Club Price: $32.30
Master & Commander Club Price: $30.40
91 Points – Tasting Panel Magazine
90 Points – Wine Enthusiast
90 Points – Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Advocate
Click Here to Purchase
Our first ever Starlane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
The Starlane Vineyard sits on a series of mesas (also known as “potreros” in Spanish) against the backdrop of the San Raphael Mountains, on the eastern edge of the Happy Canyon AVA. We source Cabernet Sauvignon from Block 28 at Starlane, which sits high on the property, and has a 30-35% slope with southerly exposure.
Anchor & Compass Club: $42.50
Master & Commander: $40.00
Lamb Chops with Moroccan BBQ Sauce
Moroccan BBQ Sauce