The Real Story Behind Lake William
When Dimitri Tchelistcheff, our winemaker, tasted our new release of Lake William he took a final taste and declared it a Vintage of the Century, certainly the best vintage in his lifetime. As we release this stunning ‘97 Lake William wine it is time to reveal its humble origins and my big blunder. Here is the story.
When we planted our vineyards in 1985 we knew that we wanted to make a classic Cabernet Sauvignon blend, so in addition to the Cabernet Sauvignon itself we planted small acreages of the two most common blending varietals, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. In each of the subsequent 5 years of making wine, we tried blending some of these two varietals into the Cabernet Sauvignon and tasting the results. We followed the classic tradition of blending in small percentages of Cabernet Franc, from 3% up to as high as 8%, and went even higher with the Merlot, from 5% to as high as 12%. The results were the same each year - none of the blends tasted as good as the Cabernet Sauvignon did all by itself. So for the first five years we never bottled any blends at all, just 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Of course, the other thing we learned during this time was how incredibly good the Cabernet Franc varietal itself was in our terroir, but lets stick to our Lake William story for now.
In ‘93 we finished installing our winemaking into our cave but the cave was far from being finished at the time. During pumpovers we had a makeshift way of connecting long hoses from the bottom of the tanks and introducing the juice into a spray jet at the tops of the tanks. We were following the centuries old tradition of wetting down the grape skins. The large amount of Carbon Dioxide generated during fermentation floats these skins to the top of the tank and then dries them out. When the skins are dry and out of contact with the juice they are not doing their job of releasing the color and flavor elements which make a good wine.