1999 Sangiovese Tokalon and Voyager vineyards
The first wine that I ever made, intended only to be home brew, made outside of bond, and so never labled nor offered for sale. Very often served blind at my dinner table, rarely missing from festive dinners.
On a very busy day in late September 1999, Luna was flooded with sangiovese, from at least 3 vineyards at once. Our teacher and leader made a triage decision to devote the winery’s attention to the grapes that seemed most promising—the sangiovese streaming in without apparent end from Game Farm. We parked the few tons of over-ripe sangio from Mondavi’s share of To-Kalon (planted in the 70s) and the somewhat less over-ripe sangio from Voyager just up the road, and waited for breathing room. By 10 am the next morning, we still had not found time to crush the grapes, and more beautiful grapes from Game Farm were coming in every hour. I asked John if I could have some of the orphaned grapes. I had never talked about making my own wine before. John stopped everything: “Abe wants to make wine.” I was guided at every step in my first winemaking by John and by my cellar mates Nicole Abiouness, Drew Neiman, and Kelly Wheat. I truly had no idea what I was doing, even some basic vocabulary was completely opaque to me.
A crew of friends helped me bottle the wine in June 2001: Brigit Favia, Christopher Vandendreissche, Rich Purvis. Rich was the first person to push me toward super-low levels of sulfur dioxide in my wines. The sangiovese came to bottling without any SO2 additions; I (tardily but) prudently began adding SO2 to the wine right before bottling; Rich tasted the wine after the addition to the first of two barrels and damned the results. I was persuaded and bottled half of the wine without any SO2. Both bottlings are superbly funky; but neither one more than the other.
This decision has guided every move I have made in a winery since then.