A wine barrel is much more than simply the work of a cooper turning up the heat to medium or high on American or French Oak. It really comes alive when the wine comes into contact with it and stars its metamorphosis during those long months in the barrel room. However, while there is so much care and attention to the storage of the wine during that time, the real energy begins literally at the root level, in the fields. It’s here that the growers spend endless hours watching and cultivating the vines, making sure that the grapes are the best that they can be when they are finally cut, processed and their juices poured into the barrel.
At Dutcher Crossing, it was the growers time to shine this past weekend. The winery held a barrel and tank tasting complete with the growers themselves holding the wine thieves (the tool used to sample wine from a barrel). This was something I’ve very rarely experienced.
I found it immensely pleasurable to chat with the ones who tended to the very grapes that I now have in my glass. They were enjoyable to chat with, learning about how each one cared for the grapes in a different way, depending upon the conditions they were in.
I found it fascinating how the Bernier-Sibary Zinfandel was a true field blend— a replica percentage planting of the grapes. While that is the true definition of the term “field blend”, more often than not wineries are using it more in conjunction to simply indicate a blend.
Some of the wines surprised me, as was the case with the ’08 Cabernet Sauvignon. I would have guessed before even tasting that the tannins would have been charging towards my taste buds faster than a sports car. However, and to my enjoyment, the tannins were immensely subdued, to which the grower also concurred.
A great sampling of tank and barrel sampled coupled with scrumptious food made my wine tasting at Dutcher Crossing one I will not soon forget. If you’re in Dry Creek, take a trip north to Dutcher Crossing. The stories, if not only the wine, will surely excite you!
Haydn Adams is the author of the book, Wineries Beyond Napa Valley: Dry Creek and Alexander Valley, an insider’s tasting guide to the hidden gems region. He also contributes to the Beyond Napa Valley Wine Blog, writes for vinvillage.com, and can be found roaming the hills of Sonoma County (and at times, Napa Valley) looking for the next hidden gems. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.