Donelan Open House Aug 7th

Anyone going?


Well, I did. Was an interesting event. Tyler Thomas did a seminar on terrior and the winemakers part that was was real informative.
During the seminar they poured a 1998 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes alongside the 2007 PAX Moriah in a comparison. Afterwards they were pouring a lot of PAX and a couple Donelan wines.
PAX Kobler vertical '06, '07 Donelan '08 and an '09 barrel sample.
PAX '07 Obsidian, Donelan '07 Walker Vine Hill, '07 Richards Family vineyard, '08 Donelan Rose and the '07 Venus.

Good turnout and some good deals. I picked up a mixed case '06 Alder Springs “The Terraces” and '06 Eastern Ridge for $30ea along with some other good buys.

Anyhow, I asked if anyone was going so I could look for faces to match some of the names here. Oh well.

Thanks for the debrief Brian. The 06 Terraces at $30 is rediculous. I paid $90 on release. That’s too rich for me in today’s dollars, but I’d have taken down at least a case at $30. I love that wine.

How did Tyler’s wines compare to Pax’s? I think the 08’s were his first from the vine to bottle.

Joe Donelan pulled me aside when I walked in and showed me a couple cases over on a table away from the crowd. He pulled the Terraces and said “I paid $7,500 a ton for these grapes. This is a great deal.” The box had 7 Terraces and 3 Eastern Ridge for $300.
I opened one of the Terraces last night. Boy, it’s heavy on the sour cherry. My mouth was puckering over an hour later. I’ll have to try some different decant times and see what it does. Overall I enjoyed it. My wife didn’t.

How did Tyler’s wines compare to Pax’s? I think the 08’s were his first from the vine to bottle.

Surprisingly they only poured 3 of his wines. The '08 and '09 Kobler and the Rose. I’ve purchased and tried the Christine and the Venus which has a 10% more Viognier than the PAX version. I enjoyed both. I haven’t popped any '08 Moriah yet.

From his talks I see him moving backward from the fruit bomb trend and harvesting at lower brix. He thinks the over-ripe berry hides the terrior, if there is any there in the first place. He’s experimenting to find optimum harvest times based on what he believes are important criteria which may stray from common practices in the US. He cited a study by UC Davis wherein they took 30 winemakers and had them blindly taste grapes picked at 6 different times over a two week period of the harvest. Then they had them taste wine made from those grapes. Afterwards they polled them.
The grape they thought was optimum: Harvest: #6 Sweetest
The wine they thought was best: Harvest #3.

Anyhow, look for Donelan wines to still be big but the style will be changing moving forward.

That’s fascinating. I’ve always thought that many winemakers who say they pick only on “flavors” are kidding themselves into believing they can accurately predict how a raw grape will turn into finished wine. Of course, the more vintages a winemaker has under his belt in doing this, the better he will likely do, but there are an awful lot of young winemakers out there, producing from young vineyards, that like to say this.

I wonder why? My guess is that they want to sell through more of the Pax wines knowing they now have big Parker scores to help move the Donelan wines as the market recovers. Doing verticals to establish that the overall quality is on par with before is wise. In other words, retain skeptical customers familiar with or left over from the Pax years while gaining new ones over time later on. Still, only pouring 3 current releases is surprising.

They had piles of PAX product to move and this open house was more about selling off old inventory than it was about new. They didn’t offer 1 Donelan for sale wine during the event. They are releasing the 07 Walker Vine Hill and 07 Richards Family Vineyard soon. I could have sworn they were both wearing PAX labels.

They raffled off a couple large formats that I was drooling over. One was a 5 Liter 2005 Alder Springs Emerald Pool. They gave that to one of the seminar attendees. The other was a 9 liter 2002 Obsidian that went to one of the people who purchased over $250. Sadly to say I didn’t take home more than I purchased. Heck I could have thrown a beserkerfest with that one 9 liter bottle.

On another note I got to chat with some of the growers who were there. That was fun as well. Among them Dick Keenan from Kick Ranch (Cuvee Christine) who was an amicable fellow. We were talking about the winemaker visiting the vineyards and the issue of what grapes and vines to check such as every other row or every fourth row. He mentioned how he sells his grapes by the row rather than block . I thought that was a unique approach. [cheers.gif]

Hi Brian, thanks for joining us yesterday. Just to clarify we poured 5 Donelan wines: the 2009 Rose, 2008 and 2009 Kobler Vineyard (as a part of a 4 vintage vertical), the 2008 (not 2007, its sold out) Walker Vine Hill, and the 2007 Richards (which will officially be released this Fall).

The 2008 Griffins and Obsidian have already been sold out. Previously policy held keeping a little more library wine so we reopened the library on several items (including 2007 Obsidian which was poured as well) and that was the motivator for much of what was offered.

As far as the seminar, I should say that the study from Davis is currently unpublished and while data was collected for 2 vintages, with regards to the wine rating result it was only from one vintage when I saw the results. It is interesting though and to Alan’s point demonstrated something I’ve long suspected and practice myself: not picking simply by flavors. In fact, I would argue that many winemakers tend to pick at numbers where they feel comfortable…but that wasn’t really my point for the seminar. (Though that fact may make some people uncomfortable with this cool year!). My point was that there are many factors that influence a harvest decision and one of the most influential is philosophy.

For those who were not there: I was contending that philosophy dictates the approach to several cellar processes that can influence the expression of terroir positively or negatively. I was then outlining harvest timing as one example. I don’t really think about brix that much to be honest. With some of our vineyards high brix is of no concern and low brix are simply all you can get. However with others higher alcohol wines (14.8-15.5%) are likely to be a product of making wine from these places in SOME years, but I think that is different than making over ripe crowd pleasers…which is not my goal. However wines with unique characters that also deliver enough broad appeal and pure pleasure are wonderful and I don’t think those two broad attributes are mutually exclusive if you have the right variety on the right site.

Just thought I’d throw in my two cents for clarification.

Alan, we’ve missed you the last couple of times…have you given up on us? [cheers.gif]

Drink more Syrah!


Nice to be missed :wink: Unfortunately, I’ve been doing more traveling. This week I was in Tampa, and only got back late Friday night, just too tired, and too many things to catch up on at home. Hopefully next time, I’d love to see what the wines are like now after the transition.

Ha ha, stay sane amidst all that travel. You were one of the first people to come to the winery in 2008 and we’ve had a few nice trenchant dialogues on the boards so of course you are missed. All the best and until next time…

Tyler - Sorry I missed the open house. Thanks for the great time you showed us in July on our tasting visit. We had a blast. Just had the 04 Christine this weekend and it was fantastic. Hopefully Joe will let you make a Cab some day. I keep working on him every time I talk to him.

Cool! I hypothesized about this in another thread, but Peter Cargasacchi replied poetically in the non-affirmative. Essentially it seems to me picking for phenolic ripeness and picking by flavor should often be two different things. With ~25% sugar, it’s not hard to believe that the sweetness might obscure some of the other flavors present, much like sugar in coffee hides bitterness. I suppose winemakers may mean they pick by flavor based on experience, but I often take that to mean they pick by when the grapes taste best to them. Most often I understand it to mean flavor=phenolic ripeness, and that is something I have trouble believing in most cases.

Thanks for clearing that up Tyler. I was [gulp] obviously too [gulp] busy navigating [gulp] the crowd to [gulp] notice those labels being yours. [thumbs-up.gif]

Brian, I’m pleased you enjoyed yourself [gulp]!!

Greg, I’d even question phenolic ripeness. Now I understand what people mean by the term, but I’m much more concerned with flavors in the grapes (whether I can taste them or not) than phenolic maturity. I highlighted the study NOT to discredit winemakers but simply to show that it is very difficult to simply go by just flavors. Almost all of us use other reference points to make what can be a difficult and risky decision. Additionally the point was to emphasize the incredible pyschological factors involved in a pick call that have less to do with actual maturity evaluation.

However as you work with a vineyard longer it certainly is easier to be dialed into maturity by taste or numbers alone.

Keep trying Peter, keep trying. See you next time you’re up our way.

The 07 WVH is a PAX label, the 08 is Donelan. Not sure it really matters as both are excellent.

How was the 07 Richards? Have some 06 and 04 but have yet to dig into them. Love the 03 Alder Springs Terraces and WVH.

Nice little article in Wines and Vines about Tyler’s talk - nicely done, my friend!" onclick=";return false;


Very nicely done as was the original presentation.