' Pinot Winemaking - Kendric Vineyards

Pinot Winemaking

The main pinot doesn't have a set protocol, as I've found myself rolling with the punches the last several years. Plus, as a general principal, I like to skin that cat as many ways as possible, fermentation-wise, for the sake of complexity. In a year without any vintage constraints, I like to do one early pick fairly soon after the rosé, hopefully around 21-22 brix, to produce a bright red, low alc, high acid blending component that I dub the "Red Fraction." I want to end up with a balance between red fruit and darker fruit with the flagship pinot, and having the Red Fraction on hand ensures that I can cover the red end and punch up the verve in the final blend. Whatever part of the Red Fraction doesn't go into the main pinot can happily slide into the Loup Solitaire pinot, which leans harder toward the red end of the flavor profile.

The main part of the flagship pinot comes from the upper parts of the rows of clones 115, 37 and pommard. This part of the vineyard has shallower, sandier soils and tends to produce more earthy, savory notes than the deeper, heavier soils at the bottom of the vineyard. This upper section also tends to produce more lignified stems and seeds at lower brix. I like to accentuate the earth, spice and depth of many of the lots off this part of the vineyard by including a lot of ripe stems (50-75% whole cluster), running peak fermentation temperatures up pretty high (93F) and letting about half these lots run through extended maceration (up to 40 days on the skins). A smaller part (maybe 30-40%) of the main pinot lots will follow a more typical protocol of destemming, fermenting cooler and pressing earlier that is meant to preserve pinot's more fruit forward qualities. All the fermenters are unsulfited and allowed to start fermentation on their own with whatever mix of native/feral yeasts (hopefully, a cascade of several successive strains) manage to kick things off, followed by inoculation, in the majority of cases, or letting indigenous yeasts finish fermentation in others.

There's a lot of adjustment to the vintage. Heat spikes during ripening in 2017 and, to a lesser extent, 2019 produced skins that ripened faster than stems and seeds. Consequently, I cut back on both stem inclusion and fermentation duration. Riper skins both give up their contents more rapidly in in the fermenter and are less able to hang together through extended maceration. Less ripe stems can stick out in too obvious a way. And less ripe seeds are poor candidates for extended extraction in an alcoholic liquid. In 2020, there were smoke issues that argued against a lot of stems and any more ambitious extraction techniques. And in 2021, the drought induced me to pick a little earlier than usual -- the skins and stems were sound, but the seeds were greener than I really would have liked to leave in the fermenter for an extended period. The best laid plans of mice and winemakers ...

I'll usually keep later press wine separate from free run wine. The press wine can sometimes help fill out the mid-palate of the pinot. If it's not additive to the quality of the main lot, it might go to the Loup, if it fits there, or to bulk. I like to retain a pretty good dose of lees, and so I don't settle the wines very long before barreling down. Lees help guard against oxidation, can soften more aggressive tannins (especially in extended maceration lots) and can help soften the impact of new oak on the wine. On this latter point, I'm usually around 25% new French oak on the pinot. You'd tend to think that, as a lighter red, pinot would be easily overmatched by new oak, but I've found it can absorb more than the syrah or sangiovese can handle. I used to use more like 40% new oak on the pinot, but I've come to feel that stems and oak seem to occupy a similar space in the pinot palate and that stems do so with more aromatic finesse. To the extent possible, the lots are kept separate in barrel for most of the first year while I figure out how they fit together. Part of the reason is that extended maceration lots may be candidates for tannin fining (egg whites, most commonly); I know going in that the tradeoff for the extra length/earth/depth of the extended maceration lots is that they can be too grippy on their own.

In a typical vintage, I might produce about 40 barrels of still pinot, and about 13 of those will go into the main pinot that will stay in barrel for the better part of two years. The barrels that go into the Loup Solitaire will be those with less structure and more up-front red fruit, and those will get bottled early -- before the next vintage. The barrels that don't fit in either of those two programs will go to the bulk market. In 2020, I didn't keep anything for the main pinot bottling, put together a pretty good Loup with grapes that should have gone to the main bottling, and sent a lot of wine to the bulk market. In 2021, the biggest chunk of the pinot harvest was relegated to the bulk market. I've kept 9 barrels that showed more depth and potential and have yet to decide whether those will got to the main pinot bottling or the Loup.