Making tasty wine is easy when you have awesome growers and incredible winemaking friends who educate, encourage, and challenge you. And honestly, had we not had both in spades, I am certain that the 2017 Ariya would have been our first and only wine made. The wine was everything we hoped for—marking that wonderful moment when we became parents.
But then we learned that we could have fruit from the Odyssey Vineyard again in 2018, so we took a beat to think on it. And then we had our buddies in the cellar giving us the nudge—practically daring us to run it back for another harvest—pointing out that the first wine turned out so well, why wouldn’t we want to do it again?
So, we set up a visit with Margaret Chastain, owner and caretaker of Odyssey Vineyard. After walking the rows and noting the impeccable quality of the grapes, we realized it would be tough to turn down the chance to make another Ariya wine. The growing season of 2018 had been idyllic, to say the least. While the weather was warm in the summer, there were no extreme heat events, meaning the fruit was able to ripen gradually, allowing for the patient and poised development of sugars and flavors in the grapes. In the final stages leading up to harvest, we were treated to a run of cooler temperatures that enabled final ripening to happen while retaining a lively acidity in the fruit that would prove vital in the resulting wine. And in the last days before our pick, it was the prime physical maturity of the grapes alongside this racing acidity that gave us the thought that we could employ some whole-cluster fermentation with the 2018 Ariya Syrah.
Many producers and friends of ours whose wines we admire have used whole clusters with great success in their own winemaking, but this was different. This was our wine—our one wine of the vintage—and we didn’t want to botch our only batch. But there they were—Adrian, Scott, Patrick, Kristie, Matt, Cooper—buddies, cellar mates, and mentors—giving us guidance and kind words—helping us get better and feel better all at once.
And although we believe fermenting Syrah grapes with whole clusters is what brings out the true nature of the grape, we were still finding our way in winemaking. As such, we decided to de-stem half of the fruit into a larger bin while foot-treading the other half in a smaller bin. The best part of this was having Ariya join me in the bin for some baby stomps before the chill of the grapes got the better of her and she wanted out. But we had a very cool Daddy/Daughter moment, and Mama was there filming and rooting us on as always.
Once the treading was done, we dumped these whole clusters on top of the de-stemmed grapes in a larger bin to begin the fermentation process. In doing so, we would be able to have a semi-carbonic maceration, with the fermenting juices at the bottom of the bin releasing carbon dioxide and leaving the whole clusters on top to ferment within their own skins in an anaerobic environment. And why do this? Because of the incredible expressiveness and freshness that is seen in wines made like this which showcase elegant aromas, enhanced texture, complexity of flavor, and dazzling length.
So, while we still employed our foot treading in 2018, we decided to add a little twist to help our wine really show what it was all about. And the final wine—well, just give it a run and see for yourself.
The Odyssey Vineyard fruit was no longer available to us after the 2018 harvest—and for good reason. It is three acres of pure awesome—small yields of beautiful, complex Syrah fruit that is lovingly farmed organically by a passionate grower. It was of little surprise to us when the vineyard was put under contract with a larger producer the following year, hence the reason we did not make a wine in 2019. But our first two wines from Odyssey Vineyard helped us launch our winery and honor our daughter, and we could not be more grateful.