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Halleck Blog

Ross Halleck
 
February 25, 2015 | Ross Halleck

Tasting 14 Vintages!!!

AWESOME!

To describe making wine on the Sonoma Coast and in Russian River Valley as a privilege would be a gross understatement. Further, it would be vastly minimizing if I merely said I was grateful.

It is challenging to describe one’s inner journey. Being a traveler, both outwardly and inwardly, I have found the poems of Jalaluddin Rumi, the Persian Sufi mystic of the 13th century, to be the closest I have come to approximating life experience in words.

I have been honored to work with Coleman Barks, one of the worlds great poets, and the man primarily responsible for translating the works of Rumi for the Western World into close to a dozen volumes. A Rumi poem that we worked on translating together, published in his recent book, Soul Fury, begins to unwrap the essence:

“There is a time in the making of wine

when the must rises off and goes out across town

with a fragrance that wakes the heart.

That scent comes from the great soul-source

and returns to that, within each individual heart.”

Last week, my family, our Wine Club members, and friends, had the opportunity to taste through a yet unfinished life’s work of making wine. It was a party. Or two, really. We began with a single bottle of our 2001 Tandem Winery, Halleck Vineyard, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir at our intimate dinner at Restaurant Picco in Larkspur.

Two days later, at the release party of our 2012 Halleck Vineyard Estate Grown, Pinot Noir, we opened over 21 more wines. Leading with our 2002 Estate Grown, we continued through a selection of library Pinots from Halleck Vineyard up to and including our 2014 Saralee’s Vineyard Dry Gewurztraminer.

Music was provided by Matt Silva and the Silvatones. Oysters were served by our neighbors from the Bodega Bay Oyster Company in Bloomfield, just down the road. Gourmet Chicken Tikka Masala Tacos and Steak Tacos were developed, prepared and served by my son Adam, and his friend, Cooper. Both also work at K&L Bistro in Sebastopol.  

Certainly the Pinot Noirs, up to 2012, stole the show. But I include our 2013 Sauvignon Blanc and 2014 Dry Gewurztraminer to describe the breadth of what a short era as a winemaker can contribute. 14 vintages, 25 representative wines. I may be approaching my half-life as a vintner. 

 

When we spread the bottles across two cloth laden tables, it was impressive. We had done this before at our Harvest Party, held at Pat Kuleto’s home, in November. But our planning and timing did not allow me to take notes on the individual wines prior to the party ensuing, so it was an opportunity lost. This time, we did not allow people to begin partaking until I completed tasting all the wines and taking note. There were guests awaiting, chomping at the bit. 

What follows are my notes, taken on my back deck, overlooking a picture-perfect panorama of Sonoma County to the northeast, with Mt. St. Helena of Napa towering in the distance. It was 73 sunny degrees on a mid-February afternoon.  I was in a t-shirt.

1.

2001 Tandem Winery, Halleck Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir

Color: Bright garnet, translucent without a hint of ambering at the edges

Nose: Shades of red fruit, earth, and the gentle aroma of “wet sex” giving hint to Burgundy

Flavors: Red fruits, strawberry, tart raspberry, pomegranate and still bright acids, declaring youth and vitality. These were balanced by very fine tannins, still crisp but refined, deep earthy tones of forest floor, mushroom, and a long finish of fruit complemented by white pepper. Breath-taking to drink our first wine. Even more so that it is expressing beautifully with years ahead. Gorgeous!!

2.

2002 Halleck Vineyard, Estate Grown, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir

Color: Rich ruby with a lightening toward the edges, perhaps hinting at moves to amber.

Nose: Red raspberry with earthen tones

Flavors: Bright red raspberry and strawberry leading. Crisp acidity with balancing earthy notes of forest floor. Fine tannins mid-palate with a long lingering finish of fruit and white pepper.

3. 

2003 Halleck Vineyard, Three Sons Cuvee, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir

Color: Beautiful ruby red with gentle lightening at edges to a translucent pink.

Nose: Red cherry with earthy undertones, suggesting a perfect balance of fruit and earth, leaning toward earth

Flavors: Earth and dark fruit, fresh. Minerality mid-palate with clove and earthtones with a long fine pepper finish

4.

2004 Halleck Vineyard, Estate Grown, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir

Color: Slightly cloudy, deep garnet

Nose: Earthy with gorgeous complement of seasoned fruit; not at all stewed

Flavors: Bright acids with great red fruits and fine tannins. Long finish of white pepper and lingering crisp fruit notes.

5.

2004 Halleck Vineyard, Three Sons Cuvee, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir

Color: Bright ruby-garnet, translucent with hinting at amber toward edges, but not quite there yet.

Nose: Super bright fruit of red cherries and tones of spice

Flavors: Bright fruit and red cherry, crisp acids and minerality mid-palate. Structure of mellowing tannins, hints of cinnamon and gentle forest floor. Long lingering finish. 

6.

2005 Halleck Vineyard, Three Sons Cuvee, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir

Color: Bright red luminescent, slightly ambering toward edges.

Nose: Touch of fruit, caramel and vanilla with earth undertones

Flavors: Bright acids, dark fruit and earth leaning toward Burgundy. Finely grained tannin structure with mid-palate minerality. Long finish of fruit and tartness.

7.

2005 Halleck Vineyard, Hallberg Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir

Color: Bright red luminescent, gemlike, lightening to pink edges

Nose: Bright cherry with touch of earth

Flavors: Stunning! Crisp acidity and minerality with perfect balance of fruit and earth notes. Long finish of earthy spices.

8.

2005 Halleck Vineyard, The Farm Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir

Color: Translucent shimmer of garnet color

Nose: Spicy with red fruit and earthy hints

Flavors: Bright red cherries, acidity, and smooth silky tannins. Soft earth undertones with gentle spice notes. Long finish with balance of earth spices and red fruit. 

9.

2006 Halleck Vineyard, Three Sons Cuvee, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir

Color: Bright gem-like ruby to garnet; no ambering

Nose: Hints of carmel and cherry

Flavors: Explodes with bright cherry fruit and crisp acidity. So youthful! Silky tannins with hints of earth, but definitely fruit-driven. Long lingering finish of fruit and spice.

10.

2006 Halleck Vineyard, Hallberg Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir

Color: Deep garnet, slightly ambering toward edges.

Nose: Hints of cherry and deep earthiness

Flavors: Rich mouthfeel of cherry and dark fruits with great acids and refined tannins. Long finish of earth, spice and fruit.

11.

2006 Halleck Vineyard, The Farm Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir

Color: Brilliant opalescent, leaning from garnet to purple. Clean to edge.

Nose: Dark cherry to earth-tones

Flavors: Cherry lead, but mid-palate of forest and minerality, complemented by earthy spice tones. Long finish and rich mouth feel. 

12.

2006 Halleck Vineyard, Estate Grown, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir

Color: Pure red to ruby gem

Nose: Bright pomegranate to cranberry with earthiness of wet-sex

Flavors: Stunning!! Red fruit with bright and crisp minerality mid-palate. Deep complement of earthiness and fine tannins for profound complexity. Long spicy finish of white pepper, fruit and earth combined

13.

2007 Halleck Vineyard, Three Sons Cuvee, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir

Color: Deep red to purple, bright and shimmering

Nose: Cherry and earth

Flavors: Perfect balance between earth and cherry notes. The fruit is fully present, as the scent of forest floor and gentle mushroom give way to flavors of clove and pepper on the palate. Neither leading. Long lingering finish.

14.

2007 Halleck Vineyard, Hallberg Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir

Color: Deep luminescent purple and garnet.

Nose: Hints of cherry and deep earthiness

Flavors: Rich mouthfeel of cherry and dark fruits with great acids and refined tannins. Long finish of earth, spice and fruit.

15.

2007 Halleck Vineyard, The Farm Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir

Color: Ruby to purple. Clean to edge.

Nose: Earthy and fruit nose hinting of wet sex

Flavors: Cherry lead, great mid-palate of acid and minerality, complemented by earthy spice tones. Long finish and rich crisp mouth feel. 

16.

2007 Halleck Vineyard, Estate Grown, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir

Color: Pure red to ruby translucent

Nose: Bright pomegranate to cranberry with earthiness of wet-sex

Flavors: Brilliant!! Red fruit of fresh cranberry, raspberry and pomegranate with crisp minerality mid-palate. Deep complement of earthiness and fine tannins for deep complexity. Long spicy finish of white pepper, fruit and earth combined

17.

2008 Halleck Vineyard, Three Sons Cuvee, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir

Color: Deep garnet to purple, bright 

Nose: Cherry and earth

Flavors: Perfect balance between earth and cherry notes. Crisp with bright acids. Deliciousness across the palate, front-to-back. Long lingering finish of black pepper.

18.

2008 Halleck Vineyard, Hillside Cuvee, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir

Color: Deep garnet/ruby, bright 

Nose: Red fruit and earthtones

Flavors: Perfect balance between earth and red fruits: fresh cranberry and raspberries. Crisp with bright acids. Brightness and luscious across the palate, front-to-back. Long lingering finish of white pepper.

19.

2008 Halleck Vineyard, The Farm Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir

Color: Bright deep reds. Clean to edge.

Nose: Carmel and vanilla with gentle cherry nose 

Flavors: Cherry lead, mid-palate softening fruit, complemented by earthy spice tones. Long finish and rich feel.

20.

2008 Halleck Vineyard, Estate Grown, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir

Color: Pure red to ruby translucent

Nose: Bright pomegranate to cranberry with earthiness of wet-sex

Flavors: Gorgeous!! Red fruit of fresh cranberry, raspberry, strawberry and pomegranate with crisp minerality mid-palate. Deep complement of earthiness and fine tannins for Wow! complexity. Long spicy finish of white pepper, fruit and earth delicately balanced, but a powerhouse of a wine.

21.

2009 Halleck Vineyard, The Farm Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir

Color: Deep, dark, purple almost opaque, but revealing light when held up

Nose: Black cherry nose mixed with spice, elements of white pepper, vanilla, clove

Flavors: It has balanced acidity with brightly polished high notes of dark cherry, yielding to fine-grained tannins, superb structure,  crisp acids and subtle forest floor in the mid palate. The acidity carries into the finish combining sweet fruit with earth and white pepper to give a long, luxurious finish.

22.

2011 Halleck Vineyard, Hillside Cuvee, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir

Color: Translucent ruby to garnet.

Nose: Bright fresh cranberry, red raspberry and strawberry mixed with spice notes of white pepper and earthen floor

Flavors: The brightness carries through to the palate, filled with flavors of pomegranate mixed with a panoply of red fruits, spices, white pepper with a subtle rich minerality. The mouth-feel integrates earthiness with the fresh fruit and fine tannins in the mid palate.  The finish is long and rich, revealing silky tannins combined with emerging cherry, gentle minerality, lustrous acidity and white pepper.

23.

2012 Halleck Vineyard, Three Sons Cuvee, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir

Color: Bright gem-like ruby to garnet, translucent

Nose: Deep cherry with complement of earth-tones

Flavors: Probably our finest Three Sons Cuvee to date. Well structured, a perfect blend of earth and fruit flavors.  Bright cherry notes lead with brilliant acids that peak your palate, and decked-out with complementary oak. Mid palate expresses with cinnamon and cloves with fine tannins and hints of forest floor. It ends with black pepper spice and a long silky lingering finish that will last minutes if one can wait that long between sips.

24.

2013 Halleck Vineyard, Little Sister, Russian River Valley, Sauvignon Blanc

Color: Light hay, luminescent with brightness and clarity

Nose: Neutral citrus, floral with hints of fresh sea breezes over a beach

Flavors: Bright acidity, neutral and broad citrus notes, offering a mid-palate of flinty minerality, a hint of  tart pineapple, passion fruit and tender salinity on the back palate. The finish is crisp, long and lingering, for which Halleck Vineyard wines are noted.

25.

2014 Halleck Vineyard, Saralee’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Dry Gewurztraminer 

Color: Luminescent blond with brightness and clarity

Nose: Lychee, rose petals and a hint of vanilla

Flavors: Gentle acids that blend with minerality on the mid-plalate, offering flavors of lychee, rose petals, and a touch of floral, vanilla and ginger with a lingering cleansing finish of fine spice.

Ross Halleck
 
February 3, 2015 | Ross Halleck

Preparing for War

With the warm weather lingering and the ground still moist, we are in preparation for bud break. We like to do this when the ground is soft because, as the rain abates (which appears to be early again this year), the earth becomes like cement. Any work that requires digging is tripled in difficulty and time. At this time we are pruning, doing trellis maintenance, irrigation inspection and repair, and critter control.

Many do not realize, but critters are the bane of all farmers, not the least of which are we vintners. Our pesky intruders include starlings, wild turkeys, gophers, yellow-jackets, and worst of all put together: RACCOONS.

Each intruder requires its own adaptation to keep our babies safe from harm.

For starlings, we net the vineyard. For many, this simply means draping every row with plastic bird netting, knitting them together with clothes pins and plastic eating utensils woven between the nets to hold them, and pinning them to the ground.

Because of the turkeys, however, our approach must be more drastic. Since turkeys can walk at waist height through the vines, they can easily peck through the bird netting, walking down individual rows and grabbing grapes with little impedence. This requires, instead of just draping the rows, tenting the entire vineyard in netting, pinning the nets to the ground to block every row. If we did not have to get into the vineyard throughout the growing season, this would not be such a big deal. But because we do work in the vineyard weekly for one thing or another, the effort at lifting and climbing under the nets to access every of over 50 rows is more than a nuisance. Further, the nets are just below standing height. So work is always semi crouched. It is expensive and uncomfortable. 

Yellow jackets were a conundrum for a decade. These aggressive insects, known as wasps in the midwest, pierce the fruit and suck out the innerds. They leave hollow grapes in their wake. Some years they are negligible in impact; others, they can take 20-30% of a crop. We used to buy disposable traps over the internet and hang them throughout the vineyard at relatively close intervals, perhaps 2-3 per row. They are not cheap, but when purchased in bulk, a reasonable cost for the crop that they save.

A few years ago, however, we were entirely out-gunned. We were swarmed with these creatures and could only watch powerlessly as they filled our traps and wasted our crop. 

Fortunately, in Sonoma County, there are resources for befuddled farmers. We were directed to a private service, licensed by the county to serve farmers with weekly trapping services for yellow-jackets. They start early in March with specific traps baited with pheromones to attract the queens. The theory is that if you catch a bunch of queens, the nests will not produce the workers that invade the vineyards. But it is impossible to catch them all. So by June, other traps are distributed to catch the workers. This is DEFINITELY not cheap. But they have been effective at diminishing crop damage to single digits. 

But our greatest nemesis has been the raccoon. Our vineyard, nestled in the woods adjacent to a riparian environment, has become a major attractant in our neighborhood. Raccoons have come, multiplied and set up permanent homes all around our vineyard and even under our decks. They are intrusive, fearless, vicious, intrepid, and voracious vermin. They carry spores that are dropped in their scat that can kill house pets just by sniffing. And they deposit everywhere, seemingly for spite. We literally wake up every morning with droppings at our doors, on our outdoor dining tables, on the seats, and on the tops of our garbage cans. 

If we leave a door open, they are not shy about coming in the house. They invade the garage in search of animal food. They tip over and spill our garbage cans foraging if they are not locked tight.

But worst of all is the damage they have done to our vineyard. We lost the entire crops of 2010 and 2011 to raccoons. We trapped and relocated them, spread mountain lion and coyote scat (predators), layed lion urine-soaked hay all around the vineyard, and shot them. But we were so out-numbered that our efforts were fruitless. Even ones we drove to distant locations of almost an hour's drive returned. And I became scarred by all the death I perpetrated. What had previously been adorable creatures who I felt privileged to share the earth with became monsters I wanted dead. It was war.

Finally, in 2012, I called the County. I had not heard stories of crops being annihalated by raccoons, so I did not expect any answers. And I really did not get any, except to learn that some of my tactics were illegal. Though it is encouraged to trap raccoons, you cannot let them go. Especially somewhere distant. If they carry disease, you infect healthy populations. You are supposed to kill them. But the only legal way is thru euthanasia by the County. And it costs plenty per animal. Imagine loading a cage with an angry vicious animal in the back of your truck and driving 30 minutes each way to a county location to have the animal killed. I sometimes caught two a day. It seemed ridiculous.

So I was referred to an outfit called Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, headed by a kind and soulful woman named Doris Duncan. She adopts, nurses and releases orphaned and injured animals of all ilks, including bats, foxes, skunks, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, rabbits, weasels, owls, hawks, vultures, and, yes, even raccoons. You can imagine how she must have felt when I shared my story of trapping and shooting raccoons enmasse. But, compassionate as she is, she didn't hint of her sentiments other than care for me.

She sent out a young man, Michael McGuire, to assess the situation. Michael was a precocious 19 years old. We talked; then he walked the property, inspected my basement, under my decks and all around the vineyard. The following day he arrived with bags of coyote and mountain lion scat, spread them around the vineyard, and shared an idea. He suggested that I install wiring around every row, attached to chargers, to deliver low amperage shocks to any vineyard intruder. His idea seemed to have merit and I believed it came from authority. So I asked for an estimate.

He provided an estimate the following week and we were off. I did not realize at the time that Michael had never done this, nor had it been done anywhere before. Further, Doris, his boss, knew nothing about it.

After several weeks of tried and failed attempts, and a heartful come-to-Jesus meeting between Michael, Doris and myself when she discovered how much time and money he was spending without her knowledge, Michael's idea saved Halleck Vineyard. It was a true odyssey with a happy ending.

We now employ Michael annually, supporting the great works of Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, to keep our vineyard free of raccoon infestation. He is responsibile for our waging passive war: inspecting the lines, freeing them of shorts and impedence, maintaining the chargers, and rewiring when necessary.

This year we are entirely retooling, now that we have a solution, and replacing all the wooden stakes that hold the wires with metal ones. I should have known this would be a problem, but Michael was SO confident :-)

 

 

Time Posted: Feb 3, 2015 at 8:39 PM