2013 Blueline Estate 36-24-36
Current Vintage Overview
2013 constitutes the second year of California’s current drought cycle, replicating conditions of the mid 1970’s. Some of the mid ‘70’s vintages remain legendary for their longevity and freshness due to the wines’ classic structural core. As we learn more about the fascinating chemical nature of wine, we are coming to the understanding that ageability is related to structure. That good “tightly knitted” structure is a function of a relationship between tannin and color. And that the tannin/color relationship may take some hormonal cues from soil conditions, especially soil moisture availability. If true, this certainly would explain the great vintages of the mid 70’s and why we are so excited about a series of great vintages between 2012 and 2015. This may also explain why rocky well-drained vineyard sites have long been coveted as the premiere sites. Wine is complex, and there are no doubt other factors at play, but it appears that drought has at least one silver lining.
2013 was a very dry, warm vintage, but the abnormally cool nights (a must for great vintages) allowed for development of phenolic compounds at levels that our winemaker, Tony Biagi, has never seen in 20 years of winemaking. “With so much phenolic mass in the grapes I had to be careful with how I extracted during fermentation. The mistake of over extracting in 2013 had a high probability if you weren’t careful. Aggressive early pump-overs to free up color and then quickly rolling into very gentle macerations at the peak and end of the fermentation allowed us to avoid the massive tannins that could have been problematic. That said, by the end of harvest I was convinced 2013 was the best vintage I’d ever experienced. Tannin and color levels were high and at proper proportions, leading to wines with great structural integrity. The cool nights also preserved acidity and fruit freshness, despite deep extraction of rich flavors. It’s sort of a best of both worlds scenario.”
If all of this sounds a little technical, suffice it to say we believe this to be one of the greatest vintages we have witnessed in our 17 years making Hourglass wines and one that should rival the best of the mid 1970’s.
Though we do a little blending in various vintages to refine certain wines, the estate wines tend to be driven by their varietal character expressed by the difference in the two estate vineyards. In 2013 Tony Biagi decided to attempt something we have not done in the past and conceive a classically blended wine. He picked the best barrel of each of the five Bordeaux varietals from the Blueline Estate. From those five barrels he culled down, then assembled a two barrel blend of all five varietals. The result is an amazingly complex and layered wine that is densely packed. Toasted hazelnut and mocha weave with the pure black and red cassis high tones of ripe Cab Franc, constituting a complex mosaic of integrated and nuanced aromatics. Where as the Estate varietal wines tend to be infused with a nervy energy, 36-24-36 is all about texture and explosive mouthfeel - as wide as it is long, as deep as it is rich. It possesses a concentration of core structure associated with Cabernet, then numerous fruit layers from Petit Verdot and Malbec and the racy “glide” associated with Merlot. Though it is silky and sleek, a result of refined tannin, the finish is long and haunting. The approachability as a young wine might lead some to conjecture it may not possess a long aging arch. We beg to differ, as this is one of the most structured wines we have ever made, leading us to believe it will have long aging cycle.
~Jeff Smith, January 2016