As summer gives way to autumn, the vines signal the beginning of the year’s harvest, the cellar buzzes in anticipation, and the thought of holiday shopping percolates in the backs of our minds. We have lots of wonderful happenings and helpful tips to share with you this fall. Meier on Merlot kicks off a new series of enlightening articles from Jeff Meier, senior vice president of winemaking. We have a 2007 harvest update from our vineyard manager and our viticulturist, rounded out with a great roasted butternut squash soup recipe and events you won't want to miss.
Meier on Merlot
As part of an exciting new series of articles, we were pleased to sit down with long-time J. Lohr winemaker Jeff Meier to get his thoughts on Merlot, and its place within the J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines portfolio. Look for new interviews with Jeff on an array of subjects in the months ahead!
Let’s start with a tough question. Ever since the movie Sideways, there has been a backlash against Merlot. Why do you believe it is still a relevant varietal that should be appreciated by wine enthusiasts?
First of all, for those paying close attention, in the movie Sideways the main character Miles ends up drinking his most coveted wine out of a paper cup in a Carl’s Jr. at the end of the movie. That wine is a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc from the St. Emilion area of Bordeaux, which interestingly enough is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. If you look at some of the most sought-after wines from Bordeaux, they are largely Merlot-based blends (be it Château Pétrus, Le Pin, or Château Pavie to name just a few). I personally believe that Merlot has a huge upside in California. Potentially, it has more structure for aging than Cabernet Sauvignon with less greenness, and it has delicious fruit – think blueberries and raspberries. It is also one of the great all-around food wines.
2007 Harvest Update
Arroyo Seco Vineyard Manager Agapito Vazquez and Viticulturist Carrie McDonnell share their thoughts on the 2007 harvest from early September:
Arroyo Seco Vineyards
Harvest in our J. Lohr Arroyo Seco Vineyards launched September 6 with roughly 33 tons picked of our French clone Chardonnay. “Despite the low rainfall this year, it will be a normal harvest season,” states Agapito Vazquez, J. Lohr Arroyo Seco vineyard manager. Along with the Chardonnay, hand picking of the J. Lohr Pinot Noir will also be the first varietal to be harvested. “We’ll pick at 25 degrees Brix (sugar content measured in degrees), all 100% hand harvested. The yields are low but flavors will be more intense,” said Agapito. With brix currently still low and berries still green, Agapito anticipates good flavors from the Valdiguié and White Riesling which will be the last to harvest.
Paso Robles Vineyards
“The key thing this year is that harvest came earlier than the last few years,” states J. Lohr viticulturist Carrie McDonnell. “We picked our first lot of Syrah before Labor Day, which is unusual, due to the low winter rainfall and warmer summer temperatures. To date all but 2 blocks, over 50%, of our Syrah has been picked. Merlot is on the ripening front, with picking starting the week of September 10. Cabernet Sauvignon is the last to harvest with our Hilltop Cabernet most likely being picked in about 2-3 weeks. “Although we’re experiencing lower yields than in 2006 and 2005, the grapes still display substantial quality with smaller berry sizes and increased color intensity,” states Carrie.
MCVGA 11th Annual Great Wine Escape Weekend
Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association
The 11th Annual Great Wine Escape Weekend will be held November 9 through November 11, 2007 at locations throughout Monterey County. The Great Wine Escape Weekend is the hospitality event of the year for Monterey County featuring over 45 Monterey wineries, local and national celebrity chefs, and the ultimate travel experience in the unparalleled setting of Monterey Wine Country. Events throughout the weekend include wine and food pairing sessions on Friday afternoon at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, wine country open houses and tours on Saturday, a hidden gem and boutique wine tasting on Saturday afternoon, over 20 winemaker dinners by world-renowned chefs on Friday and Saturday evenings, and The Great Wine Escape Grand Finale at Quail Lodge on Sunday.
J. Lohr Winemaker Dinner
John Pisto’s Whaling Station
Friday, November 9 - 7:00PM
Meet the master behind the bottle at the J. Lohr Winemaker Dinner, a highlight of Monterey County’s biggest wine weekend. Jerry and Carol Lohr will share their stories and thoughts as guests sip, sample and socialize. J. Lohr's award winning Monterey wines will be paired with John Pisto's fabulous fare, creating a spectacular marriage of food and wine.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
From Cahoots Cookbook by Lisa Jones and Jim Subject
“This is a simple soup to make. In the fall I start craving winter squashes-whether they are in a soup, ravioli or pie. We have served this soup (as well as the Pumpkin Corn Chowder) at the J. Lohr Wine Center for their fall open house, and we had so many requests for the recipe we agreed to publish it in their newsletter. I like to serve it as an appetizer in a little teacup or demitasse cup as guests arrive; it helps “break the ice.” - Lisa Jones
1 head of garlic, trim top and peel off loose outer skin
1 onion, unpeeled and quartered
2 pounds butternut squash (about 1 squash), carefully cut into 8 pieces, seeds removed
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
½ cup cream
1-3/4 cups chicken stock, warmed
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (300 degrees convection).
- Place the garlic, onion and butternut squash on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and thyme. Bake for about 60 minutes or until tender.
- Scrape squash off the skin, discard skin. Peel the onion and squeeze garlic cloves out of their skin. Puree in food processor with pan juices. Add puree to a 4-quart saucepan.
- Warm pan with puree over medium heat. Add cream and whisk in warmed chicken stock. Heat through. Season with salt and pepper
The Team at J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines