Wines & Vines

October 2014 Bottles and Labels Issue

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p r a c t i c a l w i n e r y & v i n e ya r d O c t O B e r 2 0 1 4 67 O ne Napa Valley red wine that has a long production his- tory and consistency in style and taste is Freemark Abbey's Bosché Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. With an average case production of 2,500, the vineyard-designate wine comprises about 5% of Freemark Abbey's annual production, which includes 30,000 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon. How do the viticulture and winemak- ing practices come together to create the final wine? An interview with Ted Edwards, director of winemaking at Freemark Abbey of St. Helena, Calif., sheds light on the practices. Brief history of Bosché Vineyard Bosché Vineyard is located in the heart of the Rutherford AVA of Napa Valley, south of St. Helena and snuggled close to the Mayacamas Mountains on the west side of Highway 29. "It is 22.5 acres," reports Edwards, "with 19.3 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and 3.2 acres to Merlot. It sits in the middle of an alluvial fan and represents a true taste of Rutherford dust." The soil of Bosché Vineyard is com- posed of a 2-foot-deep top layer of grav- elly Bale clay loam, with the second 2 feet being small pebbles, followed by 2 feet of gravel. "It is incredibly well-draining," says Edwards, "with sunny exposure, and it ripens second in Napa Valley after Calistoga." Elevation is 175 feet, with average July temperatures in the mid 80°s F during the day and lows in the mid 50°s F at night. The vineyard was purchased by John Bosché in the 1950s, but it is not clear if there were grapevines on the property at that time. In 1961 Bosché planted Cabernet Sauvignon, which was sold to Beaulieu Vineyard and blended into their Georges de Latour wines. In 1968 Chuck Carpy, one of the found- ing partners of Freemark Abbey, bought some Bosché grapes and made three experimental barrels. Carpy believed the resulting wine to be so excellent that he made a handshake contract to purchase half of the 1970 harvest, while the other half continued to go to Beaulieu Vineyard. In 1971 the contract was renegotiated, and since then Freemark Abbey has pur- chased 100% of the fruit. The Bosché family still owns the vineyard, though John Bosché has died. Farming opera- tions are outsourced to Oscar Renteria, but Edwards is still intimately involved in many decisions including sustainable practices in the vineyard. For example, a petiole analysis is con- ducted during bloom to determine if soil amendments are needed. "In gen- eral," reports Patrick Tokar of Renteria Vineyard Management, the Bosché Vineyard has an excellent natural bal- ance, and we rarely need to add any- thing to the soil. Four Course Compost (that does not include grape waste) is a banded application under the vines most years, but the potassium and other nutri- ents are fine." Edwards' perspective on Bosché Vineyard On a foggy September morning, Edwards walks the rows of Bosché Cabernet Sauvignon vines sampling berries from ripe purple clusters. The vines rise tall on both sides of him with two clusters per shoot (5 to 6 tons per acre average yield). Row orientation is east/west to ensure the canopy has ample sunlight to ripen the fruit but not sunburn the clusters. "I like to taste from three sections within the cluster," he explains, "the top, the cen- ter and the bottom. That way I know how the flavors are developing and how ripe they really are." He pops a grape into his mouth, chews it slowly and then spits out the seeds to examine the color. "See how nice and brown the seeds are? The fla- vors taste perfect. I think this is probably around 25° Brix, and we will need to har- vest this block tomorrow or the next day." Edwards continues walking down the 10-foot-wide tractor rows, sampling grapes. The foothills of dark green Mayacamas Mountains rise nearby, and wisps of fog swirl through the vineyard. "I usually do all of my own sampling here on a daily basis before harvest." Harvest of the Bosché Vineyard typically begins in the second week of September and runs through the first week of October. w i n e G R O w i n G Dr. Liz Thach, MW BY Freemark Abbey sustains grape and wine quality BoSchÉ ViNE yaRD Leaf removal from the y trellis occurs seven weeks post-set.

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