Production Notes - 2008 Cal Poly Wines

Posted on July 5, 2010

Cal Poly's The Cluster 2010 summer newsletter was just released, including some production notes I wrote regarding the 2008 Cal Poly wines. I've copied these production notes below; enjoy! ["A Winemaker's Tasting Notes for 2008", The Cluster, pg. 5].


I've always thought San Luis Obispo is best suited to growing Chardonnay. My goal was to create a Montrachet-style Chardonnay; a nicely acid-structure wine with just a touch of malolactic fermentation and oak, focusing on the true flavors of the fruit. Excellent weather conditions allowed us to harvest the two blocks of Chardonnay in near perfect condition, requiring minimal adjustment at the winery. Block I was harvested on September 11th at 24.7 Brix, 3.28 pH, and 6.29 g/L TA. Block III came in nearly a month later on October 6th at 25.7 Brix, 3.45 pH, and 5.11 g/L TA. Both lots were whole-cluster pressed. They were barrel fermented in primarily neutral oak barrels, with only 20% one- and two-year old French oak and 10% new Hungarian oak. I used a range of yeasts to increase complexity, including nearly 30% fermented with native yeast. The remainder was fermented with Montrachet, D21, Rhone 4600, and QA-23.

Pinot Noir

Just a few months after the 2008 harvest, the majority of Cal Poly's Pinot Noir (Block 2) was pulled up and replanted to decrease the vineyard's variable ripening conditions. When planning harvest, I decided to split the pick between two days to maximize fruit ripeness. The first half of Block II arrived on September 12th at 25.5 Brix, 3.61 pH, and 6.40 g/L TA. The remaining portion of Block II and Block IV arrived on September 26th at 26.3 Brix, 3.69 pH, and 6.43 g/L TA. My goal was to create a Pinot Noir that was more closely related to a Burgundian style: fruit forward with less oak and phenolic structure. I decided the best way to achieve this was via native yeast fermentation, so a majority of the fruit was allowed to undergo whole-berry fermentation on its own in a small, open-top fermentor. To increase complexity, a small portion was fermented in half-ton picking bins with RC-212. Once fermentation was complete, the must was gently pressed into barrels for eight months maturation. A combination of 30% new French and Hungarian oak, 20% one- and two-year old French oak, and 50% neutral barrels were used to create the last Pinot Noir from these vines.  


The Syrah crop was largely lost due to poor weather during fruit set, but the smaller crop led to increased flavor concentration. My goal was to create a fruit-forward but well-structured Syrah, taking a Rhone-influenced approach. The grapes were harvested at 26.9 Brix, 3.76 pH. and 5.18 g/L TA on the 22nd of October. The entire lot was whole-berry fermented in one-ton picking bins after three days of cold soaking. I inoculated this Syrah with two different yeasts, D21 and Syrah, to bring out the strong fruit flavors for which Cal Poly's Syrah is known. In order to ensure that these flavors were not overpowered, I used just 20% new French oak and 20% one-year old American oak for eight months of maturation.