It never get’s less exciting or humbling to receive such wonderful praise for our wines. Wine & Spirits Magazine’s upcoming February issue will be focusing on positive changes and growth in New World wine and the wine industry as a whole. Wine & Spirits have honored Foxen by selecting us to be apart of this kick off celebration.
Best of all, they have named our 2011 Syrah Tinaquaic Vineyard “Year’s Best Syrah,” and they have also selected the 2012 Chardonnay Bien Nacido – Block UU to celebrate as well. We couldn’t be more thrilled!
Thanks to our family, friends, and fans for the support. We couldn’t do this without you!
94 Points from Wine & Spirits Magazine
91 Points from Wine & Spirits Magazine
Renowned wine critic Josh Raynolds, of International Wine Cellar, recently reviewed our wines and the scores are beautiful! We are so proud of our wines and we are thrilled at how well received they all are!
2011 Pinot Noir Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
Bright ruby. Sexy, oak-spiced cherry-cola and spice cake scents, along with a suave vanilla quality. Smoky, penetrating bitter cherry and smoky mineral flavors are sweetened by a mocha nuance and show impressive precision. Supple and seamless on the clinging finish, which features velvety tannins and an echo of vanillin oak.
2011 Pinot Noir Sea Smoke Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills
Ruby-red. Heady aromas of black raspberry, cherry-cola, potpourri and smoky minerals, with a sexy incense nuance in the background. Smooth, palate-staining dark berry and floral pastille flavors are lifted and braced by juicy acidity that adds back-end cut. Shows superb clarity on the mineral-tinged finish, which features supple tannins and lingering florality.
2011 Syrah Toasted Rope Vogelzang Vineyard Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
Deep red. High-pitched red berry and rose scents are given depth by suggestions of wood smoke and licorice. Sappy, penetrating red fruit flavors are full of verve and sharpened by a palate-numbing black pepper quality. There’s a litheness here that reminds me of Pinot Noir. Closes tangy and long, with impressive clarity, silky tannins and lingering smokiness. This intriguing wine, modeled on Cote-Rotie (mission accomplished), was bottled unfined and unfiltered.
2011 Pinot Noir La Encantada Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills
Vivid ruby. A highly perfumed bouquet evokes fresh raspberry, Asian spices, rose and wood smoke. Sweet, sappy and focused, with impressive clarity to its red fruit and floral pastille flavors. Becomes spicier and smokier with air and shows very good balance, in a Chambolle way. Finishes very long, with fine-grained tannins adding shape and grip.
2011 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills
Brilliant ruby-red. Fragrant, spice-tinged aromas of raspberry, cherry and rose pastille. Smooth and fleshy on entry, then tighter in the mid-palate, offering sweet red fruit flavors and hints of orange zest and smoky minerals that add vivacity. Finishes on an appealingly sweet note, with smooth tannins shaping the fresh red berry and rose flavors.
2011 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido – Block 43 Santa Maria Valley
Brilliant ruby-red. Spicy red fruit and floral scents are complemented by notes of Asian spices and musky herbs. A sweet vanilla note comes up with air and gives depth to sappy raspberry and rose pastille flavors. Becomes spicier on the finish, shaped by smooth, harmonious tannins. This Pinot benefits a lot from air and should be even better in a couple of years.
2011 Pinot Noir Melville Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills
Bright ruby. A heady, complex bouquet displays dried cherry, blackberry, sassafras and wood smoke, with a hint of spice cake gaining strength in the glass. Sappy and penetrating on the palate, with very good depth and energy to its dark fruit flavors. Closes smoky and quite long, with slow-building, chewy tannins and a hint of candied licorice.
2011 Syrah Tinaquaic Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
Inky ruby. Smoky dark berries and cherry compote on the perfumed, floral-accented nose. Supple, sweet and broad on entry, then tighter in the mid-palate, offering spicy cassis, cherry-cola, candied violet flavors and a touch of cured meat. Rich but lively and focused, with a smooth, gently tannic finish and lingering florality. Very Syrah but also distinctly Californian as well.
2011 Syrah Williamson-Doré Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley
Inky ruby. Textbook Syrah aromas of dark berries, olive tapenade, floral oils and cracked pepper. Fleshy, sweet and smooth on the palate, offering smoky cassis and blueberry flavors and a hint of vanilla. Surprisingly lithe for its power, with the peppery nuance adding bite to a very long, vanilla- and violet-tinged finish. This would be a great choice to serve alongside a smoky, pepper-crusted grilled steak.
2012 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard – Block UU Santa Maria Valley
Light yellow. An exotically perfumed bouquet displays Viognier-like scents of peach nectar, violet, honey and white pepper. Sappy and fine-grained on the palate, offering intense pit fruit and orange flavors and a suave floral quality. Lively, focused and spicy on the finish, showing good energy and closing cut. This wine has a relatively low pH of 3.21.
2011 Cuveé Jeanne Marie Williamson-Doré Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley
78% Grenache and 22% Mourvedre. Inky ruby. Black and blue fruits on the perfumed, pepper-accented nose and in the mouth. Rich but energetic, with good juicy lift and an exotic floral pastille nuance. Youthfully taut tannins give grip to a long, spicy and persistent finish. This wine benefits considerably from an hour or so of aeration.
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Vogelzang Vineyard Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
Opaque ruby. Oak-spiced cherry and cassis on the nose, along with notes of licorice, pipe tobacco and vanilla. Plush and open-knit, offering powerful dark berry compote flavors and a hint of bitter chocolate. Stretches out with air and picks up a subtle floral quality that carries through a long, youthfully tannic finish. By all means give this one some air.
2012 Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley
Vivid red. Fresh red berry and floral scents show very good clarity and pick up a spicy nuance with air. Silky and seamless in texture, offering gently sweet raspberry and cherry flavors and a touch of florality. Closes silky and long, with gentle tannins and lingering spiciness.
2012 Chardonnay Tinaquaic Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
Light yellow-gold. Waxy aromas of dried pear, citrus pith and anise, with a subtle smoky overtone. Fleshy but dry, offering bitter pear skin, quince and lemon zest flavors and a deeper suggestion of buttered toast. Finishes on a suave floral note, with very good cut and length.
2011 Pinot Noir John Sebastiano Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills
Ripe aromas of musky dark fruits, licorice and wood smoke. Full, fat and sweet, with chewy texture and serious heft to its cassis and bitter cherry flavors; definitely in a rather masculine style for Pinot, but not missing balance. Closes with firm grip and slow-building tannins, leaving a dark berry note behind.
2011 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard – Block 8 Santa Maria Valley
Bright ruby. Powerful, heady aromas of dark berry preserves, vanilla, mocha and wood smoke. Opulent and emphatically fruity, offering black raspberry and vanilla bean flavors that coat the palate. What this Pinot lacks in delicacy it makes up for with heft and decadent fruit. Finishes sweet, smoky and long, with a strong echo of vanilla. Fans of large-scaled Pinot will go nuts for this one, while those in the proverbial pursuit of balance will no doubt demur; I suspect that both camps will disagree with my score.
2012 Sauvignon Blanc Vogelzang Vineyard Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
Pale gold. Fresh peach, poached pear and honey on the fragrant nose, with gentle herbacity building in the glass. Sappy and focused, with chewy pear and pit fruit flavors showing good depth and breadth. Turns spicier on the long and juicy finish.
2012 Chenin Blanc Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
Pale yellow. Aromas of honeydew, pear skin and ginger, with a hint of white pepper adding lift. Shows a slightly dry edge to its melon and orchard fruit flavors and becomes spicier with air. Closes on a tactile, chewy note, with good focus and cut. Could use a bit more succulence.
The upcoming “Best of the Year” issue from Wine Enthusiast features their Buying Guide for California. We are proud to say that we received some more awesome scores and reviews from the magazine!
92 Points Foxen 2011 Toasted Rope Syrah Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
Vigorous in body, this Syrah comes from on of Foxen’s warmest vineyards, the well known Vogelzang. It’s riper and higher in alcohol than their Tinaquaic Syrah, making it richer, rounder and tastier. With blackberry, orange peel, red licorice, and cola flavors. It’s balanced with fine tannins and acidity. Drink now.
91 Points Foxen 2011 Syrah Williamson-Doré Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley
What a pretty Syrah this is. With moderate alcohol and subtle oak influences, it’s dry and stylishly elegant in the mouth. The flavors veer toward ripe cherries and blackberries, sprinkled with cinnamon, cocoa and finely-ground black pepper. Drink now-2015.
89 Points Foxen 2011 Cuveé Jeanne Marie Williamson Doré Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley
With 15% alcohol by volume, this is the headiest of Foxen’s new 2011 reds. A blend of Grenache and Mourvédre, it’s fruity and almost to the point of sweetness in raspberries and cherries, but turns dry and crisp on the finish. A delightful red wine to drink now with almost anything, and you can even put a little chill on it.
Here at Foxen we are moving into a time of transition. We’re pressing off the last of the fermentation tanks, and next week marks the last days of our harvest interns time at Foxen. The 2013 Harvest is near its end.
This is not to say the work is finished, far from it actually. With all of the wine going into barrel, some important wine making techniques come into play. The one we’re going to focus on today is “topping.”
Topping is when you take your highest quality or choice wine and use it to top off the rest of your barrels. There are a few reasons why you want to do this. Oak barrels are porous, and over time the water content in the wine will evaporate. This is part of what leads to a more concentrated flavor in the wine, but at the same time it leaves a head space which can allow too much of the wine exposed to air. By topping off the wine you eliminate the air space and create a nice seal in the barrel.
The rate of evaporation is generally about 2% a year, but that number varies depending on humidity. In bourbon or spirit production they call this evaporation the “Angel’s Share.” There is no topping done in bourbon production, which leads to the concentrated alcohol and flavor content of the spirit. In wine production, topping is essential because if there is too much air or head space in the barrel it can lead to over oxidization or spoilage. At Foxen we top our wines every two weeks, and as time goes on we will get that lovely complexity and concentration from some of the evaporation.
It never fails to amaze just how much care and attention goes into wine making. We hope you learned something new today, and now you can impress your friends and family with your knowledge of the Angel’s Share. Cheers!
Last Thursday marked the last day of fruit coming into the winery (with exception to the late harvest dessert wines) for the 2013 Harvest. So now that all the grapes have been sorted, destemmed, pressed, or put into tank…now what. Is all the work over?
Far from it! Now is the time when key wine making techniques come into play.
With the juice and berries (for red wine) are in the fermentation tanks there is what’s called cap management that needs to be done along with inoculations, yeast nutrient additions, brix sampling, alcohol readings, along with a host of other lab work. Once the fermentation slows down and the sugar has been consumed, we then “barrel down” by letting free run juice go into barrels and then we press the remaining berries for more extraction of juice, flavor, and tannins to be blended with the free run juice later, and then we bottle!
How long does work like this go on for and what does that all mean?!
There are many cap management techniques, at Foxen we practice punch downs and pump overs. There are many different opinions on the ways to do these, but here at Foxen we punch down our Pinots, and we pump over our Bordeaux and Italian varietals. These processes are a very important step in the wine making process. As the juice and berries settle in the fermentation tank, the carbon dioxide pushes berries up to the top. With the berries exposed they can dry out, which can lead to mold or other nasty invaders. By punching down or pumping over you keep the “cap” nice and moist while also adding the needed oxygen for the yeast to survive and thrive off of. Our policy at Foxen is to do punch downs twice daily, in the morning and evening, and we pump over in the mornings for about 15 days or until fermentation slows or the brix reach zero.
So how can we tell when fermentation has slowed, and what are brix anyway? Brix is the sugar content of a liquid solution. One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution. We know that fermentation is slowing by checking the Brix levels every day, and we know it has finished when the Brix reach or go below zero. Another way of thinking about this is the yeast has finished its work by consuming all the sugar and has now turned it into alcohol and carbon dioxide! Personally, here at Foxen yeast may be our favorite part of the wine making process. This wonderful little creature not only helps us make the alcohol in the wine, but it provides a lot of the lovely, complex flavors that we experience in the finished product.
Alright, so our fermentation has slowed or finished what is the next step? We need to get the juice and berries out of the fermentation tank and into barrel to continue the aging process. This step is known as “barreling down.” The first thing to do is to allow the “free run” juice to go into barrel then we have to get the berries out of the tank and into the press to squeeze out the remaining juices. By pressing the berries, we get more tannins, color, and intense or complex flavors into the wine. These two different juices will go into barrels to age and complete malolactic fermentation, then we will blend them together later on in a process called “racking.” Racking is moving the wine from barrel into a large tank to get everything evenly blended and then we will move them back into barrel to finish the aging process. The timing of this depends greatly on the varietal and style of wine. Our Rosé is in barrel for only 5 months, while our Bordeauxs will be in barrel for 24 or more months.
Now that all the wine is in barrel the work is over? Nope! We still have topping, barrel rotations, racking and barrel sampling to do (but we’ll save all that for another post). The beautiful thing about wine is that it is a living and ever changing thing and it requires patience, attention, and care from the dormancy of the vines, to the first buds, all the way through verasion, and into the Harvest season. Harvest may be the most exciting and intense three to four months of the year, but the work is never finished at a winery. Honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way!
Wine Enthusiast has honored us once again with amazing scores and reviews for our Foxen Pinot Noirs and Whites. We are so humbled and proud of how well received and loved our wines are. Thank you Foxen friends and family for all your support, and thanks to the Wine Enthusiast for such beautiful words and scores for our wines!
November 2013 Issue:
This issue highlights our Pinot Noirs, of our 9 vineyard designates 7 scored beautifully. We are particularly excited about how the Fe Ciega and the Bien Nacido Pinots were rated and written up.
94 Points Foxen 2011 Fe Ciega Vineyard Pinot Noir
An exciting wine, dry and silky with balanced restraint overall, the power is evident in the controlled explosion of cherries, currants and cola, wrapped in firm, smooth tannins. A great success, and worthy of extended cellaring. Begin to drink this beauty after 2018.
93 Points Foxen 2011 Block 43 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir
A great success, especially given the difficulties of the vintage. With a modest alcohol reading of 13.8% by volume, it’s exuberantly ripe in cherries and umami-filled red currants, with oak adding just the right notes of toast. Delicious now, but this is a Pinot that wants some age.
92 Points Foxen 2011 Block 8 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir
These’s a severity of acids and tannins that limits this Pinot’s immediate enjoyment. It feels tight and hard, despite a core of black and red cherries and the sweetness of toasty oak. All indications point to the cellar. Give it 6-7 years and could still be going strong after 2020.
92 Points Foxen 2011 Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir
Enormously rich, showing cola, black cherry pie filling and even some dark chocolate notes. There’s a soft sweetness of the fruit and oak that suggests drinking this lovely wine now. You can’t go wrong with a grilled steak, or carne asada.
92 Points Foxen 2011 Sea Smoke Vineyard Pinot Noir
A streak of bright acidity cuts through the ripe red cherry, currant and cola flavors of this full-bodied, young Pinot Noir. It’s aggressive and immature now, with the oak unintegrated with the primary fruit, but has a great future. Give it a minimum of six years in the cellar to knit together.
89 Points Foxen 2011 John Sebastiano Vinedard Pinot Noir
The most forward and drinkable of Foxen’s many new 2011 Pinot Noirs. It’s soft and juicy with raspberries and cherry flavors, plus subtleties of cola, sauteed wild mushrooms and sweet, toasty sandalwood. A pretty wine that’s perfect with lamb.
December 2013 Issue:
The upcoming December issue focuses on whites, very appropriately, and we are proud to announce that we have the top two Chardonnays, the top Chenin Blanc, and our Sauvignon Blanc comes in at number three for the state of California. It has been a very good year for us and it’s only getting better.
92 Points Foxen 2012 Bien Nacido Vineyard Block UU Chardonnay
Foxen’s UU bottling is practically an insurance policy for great Chardonnay in any vintage. With 2012, the winery was granted a balanced, even harvest, with the resulting wine showing brisk acidity and subtle fruit and mineral flavors, touched with sweet oak. It defines a cool-climate style of Chardonnay in a most delicious way.
92 Points Foxen 2012 Tinaquaic Vineyard Chardonnay
With mouthwatering acidity, a stony minerality, modes alcohol and complex peach, green apple and tropical fruit flavors, this Chardonnay shows a Burgundian approach despite its California origins. Bone dry, it has a precise, chiseled elegance.
91 Points Foxen 2012 Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard Old Vines Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc is a difficult variety to get right in California, but few wineries do it better than Foxen. They have a solid track record, going back for years, of wrestling the wine’s difficulties into elegant submission. With the 2012 vintage, Foxen has crafted one of their best ever. It’s dry, moderate in alcohol and crisp in acidity, with complex peach, citrus, green apple, wax bean and herb flavors.
90 Points Foxen 2012 7200 Vogelzang Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
This bottling by Foxen has been consistent over the years in producing a wine of great varietal purity. The 2012 vintage is dry, crisply mouthwatering wine with gooseberry, grapefruit and peach flavors. Goat cheese comes to mind as the ideal pairing, perhaps in a salad of bitter greens and grapefruits.
We’ve been suspecting for the past week that the Fall weather may have arrived here on the Central Coast, bringing with it chilly mornings, crisp air, and the need for a few extra layers. We didn’t have any idea how cold it was until one of our cellar workers noticed some white crystals developing on his fingernails. Upon closer inspection the team realized that they were Tartrate Crystals!
What are Tartrate Crystals?
“Tartrates, affectionately known by industry professionals as “wine diamonds,” are tiny, crystalline deposits that occur in wines when potassium and tartaric acid, both naturally occurring products of grapes, bind together to form a crystal. Tartrates are scientifically known as potassium bitartrate, which is the same thing as cream of tartar used in cooking. They are completely harmless and natural. The formation of wine diamonds is less common in red wines, as their level of tartaric acid is lower, and crystals tend to fall out naturally during the longer barrel-aging process.” – Ronn Wiegand, Master of Wine/Master Sommelier
So why do Tartrates form and why were they on our crews fingers on the sorting line? Tartrates, by nature, are a normal byproduct of wine as it ages, but if the wine is exposed to temperatures below 40°F these crystalline structures will form as well. With the onset of the colder weather, more Tartrates have been forming on the machinery, fermentation tanks, hoses, as well as the crew’s fingers.
The next big questions are “how do you keep Tartrates from forming” and “do they have a negative effect on the wine?”
One technique that winemakers will use is a process called cold stabilization. What winemakers will do is cool the wine down anywhere from 28-40°F for a number of days just before bottling the wine. This process is purely for aesthetics in the hope that the wine diamonds won’t form later on down the road. Here at Foxen we cold stabilize our whites at 30-32°F for 2-3 weeks.
To answer the second question, no, Tartrates have no negative effect on the wine itself. Many would argue that the presence of Tartrates in older vintages is a sign of quality wine, indicating that the wine was not over processed. Another bonus is the crystals do not impose any flavor on the wine as well.
So everything on our end has been done to prevent the crystals from forming, what can you do at home? Store your wines in moderate temperatures ranging from 55-60°F and if serving a delicate white, chill it down to 45-48°F just before serving and avoid keeping them in a refrigerator that gets below 44°F.
Hope you enjoyed these fun facts, and now you can impress your friends and family the next time you come across these pretty, little wine diamonds.