A lot of you often ask what we do in the middle of winter and before the growing season has begun. From the outside it must look like quite the sleepy part of the year, but we're here to assure you in reality it's not at all.
Yes, the chaos and the 3 month non-stop adrenaline rush of harvest are behind us; and yes - for the most part, the fermentations are complete and so is their incessant need for our focused attention and for making the right decisions at the right moments - fingers crossed.
The energy in the cellar shifts from the hectic and violent tumble of mountain rapids to the meditative rippling of a calm ocean - at least on the surface that is. The new wines settle in their homes and continue growing. We taste them often, trying to understand what they want to tell us, trying to taste if we've made the right decisions. It's always a fascinating process: you encounter familiar things, and yet you're continually surprised by new expressions, by new ways of seeing what you thought you knew. You taste, you think, you discover, you try to connect the dots or tussle with your own inability to do so just yet. It is exactly now, in these precious months, we get a sense of how much we've learned in the past year, how much we know and how much we don't. It is exactly now, when strings of singular ‘a-ha’ moments start coursing through us that we suddenly see all the years that have passed in richer and deeper detail - the illumination of knowledge. It's not the wines themselves that've changed, they've always carried everything we now see and understand. It's only us being just a little bit less blind. It's inspiring and it keeps us sane.
There is another, parallel process to this. Just as our youngest characters from the previous vintage start to get comfortable in the cellar, there's a slew of other wines, eager to leave it. After years of nursing them and thousands of tasting sessions, we decide which are the ones and then start preparing them for bottling. It is a long, very intricate and methodical process, informed both by intuition and precision. You taste, you measure, you wait - and again, and again, and again. Until one day everything's agreed on and we handle these wines for one last time with the deep care, attention and gentleness that an imminent parting of ways implies. And, of course, with a little bit of sadness. This also keeps us sane.
People don't often talk about bottling, but believe us: it is just as stressful, complex, heart-wrenching and nerve-straining a process as Harvest is - if not more so. It only lasts a few days, but it brings a certain finality with it that Harvest doesn't carry. Harvest is a beginning. Bottling is the end of a raising process that has sometimes lasted a year, sometimes 2 or 3, sometimes 6. It is THE separation. Once it's done, the wine is what the wine is, and we will never know it again in the ways we've known it so far.
Until now, the communion between it and us has been a fluid and intimate exchange of light-bulb moments and discoveries - the flux of getting to know, of attempting to comprehend. But now, the wines are on their own. They'll carry their singular messages and grow independent of our care. The letting go is hard, but unavoidable. What keeps us sane as we go through this process twice a year, is the anticipation of meeting them again in the future – when we’ll recognize the characters we knew in the cellar, and start to know their subsequent metamorphosis. They'll be richer in their expressions - and hopefully finer; they'll be more eloquent with their message - and hopefully wiser. They'll be grown up, carrying not only our joint past, but also their own present. And maybe, just maybe, if we're lucky and we've done our job well, somewhere in there we will also catch a glimpse of ourselves, the way we were in the birth vintage of each cuvée.
The moment the first of these encounters happen is when we're ready to release the wines. They've been bottled a while back. We've made a point of forgetting about them, regardless of how excited we've been. We left them sleeping and now we open the door to the world outside of our farm. It's always a thrill to introduce them to you, to tell their stories, to hear your thoughts and learn about your emotions after you taste them. It is even more exciting when we introduce 3 completely different wines from the same vintage, 2 of which for all intents and purposes are completely new.
2018 Fougue is the second vintage of this cuvée. Most of you, however, will be seeing it for the first time. The inaugural 2017 vintage was in very small production - just over 100 cases.
It is a funny thing about Chardonnay - when it is a great one, it leaves you without words. Not because one is unable to describe it, but because, really, what is there to say about a wine that flows with elegance, effortlessness and pleasure? A wine that doesn't ask for your attention, but gives itself freely while illuminating your day. It is hot on the heels of our Dix-Neuvième Chardonnay for complexity and nuance. It also has its own, distinctive character. It is round yet zesty and filled with light. It's supple and lush, yet pulsing with vibrant energy. The unmistakable combination of rich fruit and soft salinity we’ve come to know from the Home Farm vineyard is also present. Its name - "Fougue" - denotes enthusiasm, verve, fiery courage – you will find these very same qualities in the bottle. Yet, they weave through the wine with tenderness and soothing grace, instead of being forceful and unbridled.
It has been said that beauty, even if unnecessary for our survival, is what we need most in our lives. It is this first encounter with the lucid beauty of the grown-up Fougue that keeps us steady. It has power to make sense of the senselessness we are all living through.
The essence of this wine is the taste of sanity itself.