2000 Les Tenebres Los Olivos Vineyard
«Les Ténèbres» signifies deep, nearly liquid, shadows; shadows so substantial that the word also means “ghosts”. The wine captures and preserves the sunny ripeness California fruit, but only as a ghost. The fruit is not present in the wine, it haunts it.
The grapes originated in the same remarkable vineyard that is the source of Maldonado Los Olivos Chardonnay. This wine is in fact the result of the growers' first collaboration with their new winemaker to investigate the nature of a single-vineyard wine from their vineyard.
The grapes were harvested late in a year that already favored long, slow development in the vineyard. The harvest, from several old California clones, occurred on October 10–after many red grapes had already been picked and crushed. The wine was fermented in barrel, slowly and regularly, solely at the hands of native yeasts. The fermentations finished late in the spring, and the wine remained on its lees, unsulfured, and rarely topped, for nearly two years. It was not racked or blended until bottling, in June of 2002.
This mode of fermentation and maturation brings the primary fruit tastes and aromas typical of California chardonnays. to a different realm. Instead of fresh pineapple, ripe pear and sliced apples, we find the secondary and tertiary aromas of the fermentation itself, of the yeasts, and of their joint home in barrel. Because of the infrequency of topping, wine is exposed gradually to oxygen in its vigorous youth; it becomes adapted and so resistant to it. Fresh tropical fruit is thus transmuted into dark figs, rose petals, dried fruits, baked nuts, bread crust. Denuded of rich fruit, the wine’s skeleton of minerality and acidity shines through.
This is the strange shining of ghosts, and the local reflection of very old and distant winemaking.
[Written in 2005]