Tag Archives: Windy Oaks Estate

Windy Oaks: Love and Tragedy

‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Alfred Lord Tennyson

Windy Oaks Estate 2001 Pinot Noir, Proprietor's Reserve, Santa Cruz Mountains, Schultze Family Vineyard

Windy Oaks Estate 2001 Pinot Noir, Proprietor’s Reserve, Santa Cruz Mountains, Schultze Family Vineyard

We opened and drank our last bottle of Windy Oaks Estate 2001 Pinot Noir, Proprietor’s Reserve, Santa Cruz Mountains, Schultze Family Vineyard last night. We went out to dinner locally, Café Esin in Danville, and brought our last bottle with us. We’ve written about Windy Oaks in general, and this wine specifically, in the past. Maybe because this was our last bottle of this wine, or maybe because it is continuing to get better as it ages, but this was one of the best wines I’ve ever had. Wow!

When wine ages — when really good wine ages — it comes together in this whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts sort of way. A young really good wine has the nose, fruit, acid, finish; all the different components of the wine. And each of the components is really good. As it ages though, and if the magic and chemistry happens, all those components come together like the different sections of an orchestra playing together. Certainly that’s what happened with this wine.

We first visited the Windy Oaks winery around 2003, about the time this wine was being bottled. The winery and vineyard sit at the southern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains, in the Corralitos area. From the peak of the vineyard (about 1000 ft elevation I think) you can see the town of Watsonville, and out to the Pacific Ocean. With that location and altitude they get early bud break, minimal fog, and relatively low daytime temperatures. What this means is long hang time for their grapes, which are typically harvested later than Pinot Noir grapes in Napa and Sonoma counties. And long hang times translate to a lot of time for the fruit and flavors to develop, without getting a huge amount of sugar. I’d put this Pinot Noir up against the Carneros, Sonoma Coast, Oregon and Burgundy wines without hesitation.

The good news as well was that we treated this wine to a very nice dinner at Café Esin. Our meals were excellent. While I’ve had their fish quite often in the past, last night the lamb shank with Turkish spices spoke to me from the menu, and it was wonderful. The spices were not too strong, and went with the Pinot Noir in a great way. The even better news is that we shared the wine and dinner with close friends who also love and appreciate wine. The salmon (had by two of us) and the pork were also great. 4 empty plates went back to the kitchen.

That may have been the last bottle of that vintage, but we’ve got more Windy Oaks Pinot Noir in the cellar. Still, this was such an outstanding wine, it will be missed. I guess we should go try, and buy, some of the more recent vintages.

By the way, how many of you thought, as did I, that the opening was a Shakespeare quote?



2014 Harvest Wrap-Up

We went up to the Russian River and Dry Creek Valley area in late October to see the kids and grandkids, and check on the 2014 harvest. That weekend was the end of harvest for Winemaker B, and he was taking a few days off. We went to Armida anyway, to show my cousin the winery and taste some of the wines. It was a beautiful day, as you can see from the photos below. We also went to Arista, as we were invited by Kim, wife of Winemaker B and manager of Arista’s “A-List”, to their pick-up party. While we weren’t picking up any pre-purchased wine, we did come away with a few bottles of the 2012 Arista Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Two Birds Vineyard, which was our favorite from the day.

Here are the key points from the harvest:

Start early, end early. Harvest started early this year, as previously mentioned in our Harvest Update post. It’s not surprising then that harvest ended early too. From the winemaker’s perspective harvest starts when the first grapes come in, and ends when the last tank is emptied, and the wine moved to barrels. From the winemaker’s wife’s perspective, harvest starts when the first grapes come in, and ends when the winemaker gets his first day off. In between, the “harvest widow” gets to deal with the winemaker leaving the house by 6am and getting home around 8pm (if lucky), for about 9 weeks in the case of Winemaker B and family.

The drought had minimal effect. A lot of the vineyards are “dry-farmed”, not irrigated, and those handled the drought just fine, with a slight decrease in quantity. Irrigated vineyards also had a slight decrease in quantity, as water cutbacks were required in most areas. However, quantities were going to be down a bit no matter what, as the 2012 and 2013 harvests were near record volumes.

The grapes/juice/wine are tasting excellent. Throughout the process, from harvesting the grapes to the initial juice to the initial post-fermentation wine, everything is tasting great. We’ll see how things taste in a few months, when the first whites like Sauvignon Blanc will be bottled, but right now Winemaker B reports that everything is going great. He is in the medium high maintenance mode on the wines, not quite working on every wine every day, but the wines don’t go unattended for long. Those wines that are getting a malolactic (ML) secondary fermentation are starting that process, some doing it on their own and some with help and tight control from the winemaker. The ML fermentation on these wines, which takes a lot longer than the primary fermentation, should be done by about the same time as those first wines (which don’t go through ML) are bottled, so early next year is the next major checkpoint for the 2014 wines.

As to where the 2014 vintage will sit compared with recent vintages, it’s too early to say. We’re still not sure about the 2012 and 2013 vintages, although they seem so far to be quite good. In the Russian River and Dry Creek Valleys, probably the best recent vintage was 2009, with 2007 close behind.

Since we were up there seeing kids and grandkids, we brought up a couple of bottles to share with the family. We opened up a Windy Oaks Estate 2001 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains, Proprietor’s Reserve, Schultze Family Vineyards, and a Failla 2009 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Keefer Vineyard. The Failla justified the general feeling that 2009 was an outstanding vintage in the Russian River area. The Windy Oaks was our second to last bottle of that wine. We have opened bottles for family and friends, and even for business associates. (There was one interesting dinner with an associate from France, who I didn’t realize was a Burgundy aficionado and had a 1,000+ bottle cellar. He thought the Windy Oaks would stand up nicely to some of his best Burgundies.) This has been a great wine every time we’ve opened a bottle, and this one did not disappoint. Beautiful.