I am on my way back home to New York City. I’m excited to go back to my apartment. I long for my Frette sheets and down pillows; I’ve missed my pillowtop mattress. Unfortunately, I’ll only be home briefly as one of my closest friends, Stephanie, is getting married in Somona this weekend. I am excited for her; it her second. It will be fun to see many old friends from my days at Berkeley. Stephanie lived on my floor, the third floor, my freshman year of college in a campus dorm called Spens-Black. She is marrying Tony, who lived on the second floor. We had a tight knit group of people who lived on together. Some of my closest friends still come from that very precious time in my life.
Today I am leaving Lyon, where I arrived after Turin. I tentatively thought I might rendevous with man I was interested in, a charming Swiss man who lives between Geneva and Dubai. Instead, I decided to spend some time with friends in Cote-Rotie. On Friday, I took the train to Vienne and a cab to Ampuis, the heart of Cote-Rotie. I knew that I would be drinking so renting a car for my return trip was not a prudent option. I worked at Domaine Michel and Stephane Ogier during vintage 2007 and I looked forward to seeing my friends there.
In lieu of a Halloween bash on October 31, I attended the Pressage party, the post pressing party to commerate the end of pressing with those who contributed to the vintage plus friends and family. I arrived early so that I could catch up with everyone. Michel, Steph’s dad, was the first person that I saw. “Oh, Elisa!” he smiled and greeted me. Mr. Ogier does not speak any English but my French is good enough so that we do understand each other. Helene, his wife, greeted me with an equally generous reception. There was much new news. Thy had built an extension to the cellar, filled with cement tanks and extra barrels. Stephane had broken up with his girlfriend and had moved to the new property in the south end of Ampuis. Julie now had a boyfriend. The Ogier’s daughter had a new addition, Charlot with another on the way early 2009. However, some things did not change. Helene bustled about making sure that all the details were handled and importantly, that there was plenty of food for her guests as Michel watched. Julie came over to lend a helping hand. There was a lot of imbibing.
The 2008 vintage, like elsewhere in Europe, was difficult. Additional information can be found from reports by Philippe Guigal, who wrote a good summary in Decanter and Stephane Ogier, who wrote on a harvest blog in Wine Spectator. As such, there was much more work in the vineyard and winery. In the vineyard, viticulturalists were more judicious about green harvesting, spraying, and leaf plucking. A more rigorous selection of fruit was necessary to remove rot. Interventionist winemaking such as saignee(a bleeding of the must to concentrate), higher sulfur dioxide levels(a necessary antioxidant and antibacterial), added oenological tannin(color stability), and DAP(diammonium phospate, a nutrient for the yeast), were added. With fruit that is not entirely clean, it is necessary to monitor the fermentation more diligently to ensure that the ferment occurs as smoothly as possible. Hiccups in the process could lead to loss of flavor, fruit and complexity and the possible occurance of hydrogen sulfide or volatile acidity.
Stephane poured two wines to start: the 2007 Viognier(which I helped to make!) and the 2008 Cote-Rotie, newly pressed. I am not a fan of drinking unfinished wine although when making wine, it is necessary to try the wine at least once or twice a day to monitor its development. In additional to being a softer vintage, the wine had not undergone malolactic fermentation or secondary fermentation. It had finished yeast fermentation, otherwise known as alcoholic fermentation or primary fermentation. Most winemakers will drain and press the wine at zero relatively density although some winemakers in Australia and elsewhere leave some sugar to allow alcoholic fermentation to finish in barrel in order to get a more softer, more integrated wine. Wines that have not undergone malolactic have a more abrasive acid. Malolactic fermentation is the bacterial conversion of the harsher malic acid to the softer lactic acid. I prefer drinking my red wines with malolactic completed. Thus, I had a taste of the 2008 vintage but waited until vintages of 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2001, and 1999 Cote-Rotie were opened in 750s, magnums, and jeroboams. The 2003 magnum was my favorite to drink although it did not have enough structure for long term cellaring. The party ended around 4am. Stephane and I struggled the next day.