The Trousseau vines, or as the Portuguese call them, Bastardo; grew vigorously in only the second year after grafting. Rajat Parr assured us this was the nature of the varietal, as it produces less concentrated, light-colored red wines and roses.
Weeks ago, we picked the first two tons to make Pet-Nat (Petillant Naturel), a naturally sparkling wine that will partially ferment in tank and then finish fermenting in a sparkling wine bottle. The fermentation will create a naturally bubbly wine without disgorgement or adding a dosage.
On August 27th, Ruben selected only a handful of veteran Cuadrilla members to carefully pick the remaining fruit. First, in the pre-dawn hours, the crew pulled all of the leaves from the fruit zone. Once the sun illuminated the work at hand, the crew carefully inspected each cluster for botrytis, dropping any moldy fruit on the ground. In the winery, our crew carefully sorted the grapes again, to make sure everything we ferment is clean.
D A M N E D I F Y O U D O, D A M N E D I F Y O U D O N ‘ T
The Botrytis claimed about 30% of the crop within 3 days of first noting it. The Cuadrilla members quickly became alarmed, as in arid Ballard Canyon, rot or mold is seldom an issue. Seasoned from years of farming their own Cuadra, they told Ruben he should have pulled leaves long ago. Ruben pointed to the few unshaded clusters where the berries hung sun-burned and dehydrated. If he pulled the leaves away, the delicate fruit would fry, if he left the leaves mold would develop. Ruben and La Cuadrilla were left shaking their heads. “Bastardo!”
W H Y B O T H E R W I T H B A S T A R D O ?
Rajat Parr persuaded me to plant this one acre because the delicate, complex wines refresh the fatigued sommelier’s palate. In a modern wine world, concentrated and dark wines have become the expectation. It is far rarer to create a light, interesting wine where the nuance can shine through, rather than get blocked by massive ripe flavors.
W H A T A R E W E G O I N G T O D O W I T H T H I S B A S T A R D O ?
Thankfully, we have a full-time crew that commits itself to sifting out las uvas feas to give us only the pretty grapes. We picked the Trousseau at 21 brix, extremely early, and it is unclear if we will ever be able to pick prior to mold. That being said, we now understand why farmers in the Jura make pale wines low in alcohol. In the far rainier region, mold must arrive even earlier, and the grapes need be picked before the entire crop is destroyed.
We are eager to taste the end result of this Trousseau/Bastardo experiment and we might very well pick even earlier next year. This year, the plan is to de-stem one third of it, and place that portion on the bottoms of concrete fermenters. The other two thirds will remain whole-cluster with intact grapes, and we will pump over the juice crushed on the bottom. We will attempt to ferment and age the wine without any sulfur addition to avoid hiding the delicate flavors.
To further acclimate the winery crew with the Trousseau taste profile, Rajat pulled out several bottles from the cellar. The Jean Francois Ganevat Pleain Sud and Sandlands Vineyard stood out as the best of the flight. Tasting the fruit in the winery with Rajat, he pointed out the transparent juice of this unusual pale red varietal. I look forward to checking back in on this experiment post fermentation!