Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Delaplane Springlot Vertical Tasting

On Sunday, Ann and I went to Delaplane Cellars to participate in their Springlot vertical tasting. I like doing these retrospective tastings; in many cases, they can help me hone in on the singular characteristics of the vineyard and/or stylistic preferences of the winemaker.

Ann's Favorite: 2007 Reserve
We arrived about 11:28 and a half for the 11:30 am tasting and were among the last to arrive to see a much more formal setting that I had imagined. I was expecting to have a very informal tasting upstairs, but the staff had cleared the tasting room (and were not opening to the public until 1pm for that reason) and had set the room with six tops with 8 glasses of wine at each place, one for each vintage from 2007 to 2014.

8 Pours of Springlot for Each Person
Jim Dolphin led the tasting and spoke about each vintage as we tasted it. Winegrower John Everson was also in the room and contributed his thoughts. His Springlot Vineyard is 3 miles due west of the winery up at between 1200 and 1400 feet (which is high for Virginia). The two-acre vineyard is planted to 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 12% Petit Verdot, and 10% Merlot. All these red grapes go to Delaplane Cellars for vinification.

Stylistically, I am not sure what Jim is aiming for in this wine, but I have always considered it more of a Right Bank blend, especially in later vintages in which Cabernet Franc is the dominant component. I am more of a Left Bank kind of guy and it should be no surprise that my two favorite vintages were the 2008 and 2009 which are the anomalies, the Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant wines.

Because the blends were not consistent through the vintages, I did not take away a whole lot about the terroir of this site except that it produces wines of good to great acidity. The wines, however, said a lot about vintage variation here in Virginia. I could taste the ripeness in the hot years of 2007 and 2010. I could taste the thinness and acid of the disaster year of 2011. And I could taste the restraint of the cooler years of 2008, 2009, and 2012.

2013 and 2014 were (obviously) barrel samples. While it is clear that the 2013 (the entire barrel of it, not even 25 cases) is going to be a very nice wine, there is not much to be said for the 2014 which may or may not even be through its malolactic fermentation.

Detailed notes follow.

2007 Reserve: 50% Cab Franc, 32% Cab Sauv, 13% Merlot, 5% PV. Bricked garnet with a clear meniscus, slight funk and earth on the nose, red plum and bramble on the nose, slight hint of cooked blackberry jam on the palate, coffee notes in the finish, high acid (surprisingly for very hot 2007; blame it on 1200-1400 feet of elevation), spicy finish, pretty structure. Drinking very well now. Most 2007s are shot now. Drink up.

2008: 44% Cab Sauv, 25% Cab Franc, 19% Merlot, 12% PV. Garnet with a clear meniscus, very transparent, bright black raspberry on the nose, dark fruit on the palate, plums and spice cake, fruit comes across sweet, less acidic and less tannic than 2007, much more restrained and a prettier wine. Will continue to age.

2009: 42% Cab Sauv, 39% Cab Franc, 11% Merlot, 7% PV. Deep ruby with slight bricking, clear meniscus, black fruit, cassis, tamarind, and mint on the nose, dark fruit on the palate with firm fine tannins and detectable new oak influence, a few licorice and herbaceous notes on top of the black fruit.

2010: 47% Cab Franc, 33% Cab Sauv, 20% Merlot. Deep burgundy with a hint of bricking, throwing sediment, nose of eucalyptus and black cherry, sweet red fruit with some black on the palate, ripe and weighty, very Californian in style, 14.5% (very hot for Virginia) without tasting it, abundant fruit with moderate tannins. Hold this wine. It's only going to improve as the baby fat recedes.

2011: 38% Cab Franc, 29% Cab Sauv, 19% Merlot, 14% PV. Ruby colored and slightly cloudy, musty leather, tar, a touch of funk, and a little plum in the nose. Plum fruit with leather on the palate, moderately high acid. Really not a bad wine considering it rained 33 of 35 days during harvest. Worked very nicely with cheese: tamed the acid and popped the fruit.

2012: 48% Cab Franc, 32% Cab Sauv, 12% Merlot, 8% PV. Burgundy with a clear meniscus, red and black fruit with persistent notes of caramel apples in the nose. Overall the nose and wine are dumb now compared to prior tastings. Fruit is primarily red but there are some blackberry notes as well. Very good acid and medium tannins suggest that when this wine comes back around, it should be very nice.

2013 barrel sample: 43% Cab Franc, 40% Cab Sauv, 12% PV, 5% Merlot. One barrel made. Ruby with a clear-ruby meniscus, slight funk and a lot of black pepper in the nose, beautiful plum fruit and decent acidity. This is going to be a nice wine in a few years.

2014 barrel sample: 32% Cab Franc, 25% Cab Sauv, 22% Merlot, 21% PV. Bright ruby with a clear meniscus and stained tears, still hints of ML (touch of spritz), low alcohol visually, bright grapy nouveau nose, but seems quite balanced.

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