Tim's Musings Spring 2023
Finding the right block of dirt for the right grape variety is a maddeningly cryptic undertaking.
At Huntington, many plantings have changed - soil that once nurtured merlot now holds grenache. But the best blocks are over 50 years old and have been left untouched. Blocks 1 and 2 contain vines on their own roots, sourced from the same clone. As their names suggest, they were the first vines planted back in the 1960s.
Their soils are a mix of yellow and red podzolic clays that lie shallow beneath loamy and gravelly soils on a gentle slope. Right next to each other, when I stand between them I struggle to see any major differences. In the winery, each yield distinctly different flavours. Block 2 is deeply coloured, rich in dark fruit characters with a spicy edge and a long finish. Block 1 is equally dark but has a chocolate edge underpinning an ostentatious mid-palate. You would swear they were from different vineyards miles apart.
In Italy and France, they talk about the age of a vineyard not in years, but in generations.
They plant a particular variety in a particular soil, wait for it to fully grow, make the wine, and then try again with a different variety or in a different spot. In rare cases, after many generations, the best combinations are found. The greatness of the wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Barolo have been built slowly on the legacies of generations.
When the Roberts family planted Huntington, scientists knew which soils and climates best supported different varieties in a very general sense. Our site was chosen for the best chance of success and in the knowledge that some plots would work better than others.
Thankfully, they chose wisely and created a legacy of great varieties in great soils. This wisdom led to the capricious outcome of Blocks 1 and 2.
We the Stevens generation face two ways to approach the question of which one is better than the other. We’ve chosen an approach that is authentic and progressive. Each block has its own remarkable personality to nurture independently, with a view to making each excel, providing rich learning that can be banked for future generations to build on.
Maybe in 100 years the future vigneron will know what makes them different - I've wasted too much time trying to work it out. I now accept their differences and try to get the best out of each block. Up until 5 years ago both blocks were fully blended at harvest time. Now they are kept separate, and I have a yearly chance to make each differently, tailored to their best characters. I reckon I am a fraction of the way to discovering their finest route to bottle.