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.
It’s a cold morning out on the canyon. The Autumn weather has definitely arrived. A thick fog blankets the landscape. Oaks are shadowy figures and the vines become pathways leading into the unknown. The winery is quiet. The vineyard crew are picking this morning and Joe and Bingo are silently working on punch downs, while Billy & David make preparations for the coming day. The quiet is suddenly disturbed by forklifts starting up. There is an urgency in the movement of the machines loading bins onto the truck. Fruit is coming in today, the first of the Syrah from Williamson-Dore Vineyard and Pinot Noir from Riverbench Vineyard.
It’s quiet again now and the sun is just starting to break through the fog. The anticipation of a big day can be felt on the crush pad. We’re moving into the next phase of Harvest. So far our sorting tables, fermentation tanks, press and barrels have been overloaded with Pinot Noir. We have been busy so far, and it’s only going to get busier as the Rhones and soon the Bordeauxs begin to become ready for picking.
Bodies and minds are tired. Hands are chapped and stained with juice and dirt. Fleeces layered to fend off the chill of the Fall morning. These quiet moments will be the last of the day. Once the fruit arrives all that is forgotten and the fruit becomes all that matters. The fruit is all that matters this time of year, and it’s worth it.
Have you ever wondered where all the lees and sediments in the bottom of wine barrels go? No? Well, we bet you’re wondering now!
Here at Foxen we take the leftover yeast, grape skins, and other sediments that come out of our barrels after being cleaned and we spread them in our adjoining Rancho Tinaquaic field. The barrel sediments provide nutrients for the soil, plant life and even the local fauna!
Yesterday morning our field was invaded not only by an elderly Coyote, but three Doe, and a huge flock of wild Turkeys! They all came for one thing, the wine sediments that we spread in the field! It’s incredible to be surrounded by so much wildlife out here in the canyon and to be able to give back to the environment in more than one way!