2015 Joseph Swan, Young Kent ChardonnayUdsolgt
When Ritchie Vineyard was first planted it was very much old school with 12’ between rows. For years Kent looked at what he viewed as wasted space that could have and should have been planted to grapes. Not wanting to remove and replant perfectly good grapes, he came up with an unusual solution: plant another row between the existing rows. The problem was that 6’ row width would entail buying all new equipment as the spacing would be too tight for his existing tractors. His ingenious solution was to split the difference and plant a row three feet out from the existing rows, leaving 9’ for tractors. Being close to the other row meant that when spraying the distance was small enough that the spray would be able to reach the other vines from either side. When these vines were still young, they had a bit of second-class status and he priced the fruit at a lower price for the first couple of years. The first year we made wine from Ritchie Kent offered me some rows of the old vine fruit along with some of the newly planted younger vines. We kept them wines separate which pretty easy as they ripened at different times. The younger vine rows we worked with were all planted to an old Wente selection, one that produces small clusters of uneven sized berries. From that first vintage it was apparent that while the younger vines carried enough of the hallmark Ritchie character, they were different enough to warrant separate bottling. Partly due to vine age but also possibly due to their location in the vineyard, they ripened earlier with lower sugar levels and a brighter, less lush mouthfeel more focused on minerality than opulence. Jump forward to this vintage and as a winemaker much wiser than I once said, site trumps everything!
As true as that is in 2015 the vintage character gave her a run for her money. The telltale character of the vines is still there but it is much more opulent than usual with some ripe peach and a toasty note joining the usual citrus rind and wet stone character. Although not as big and rich as the Ritchie Old Vines it is still a mouthful. The winemaking did not change. Whole cluster fermentation to limit extraction from the skins followed by fermentation in French oak (for KTY we only used barrels with enough age to virtually limit the barrel character but still impart roundness and richness), a complete malo-lactic formation and aging sur lies for many months. The additional time in bottle has allowed it to showcase a lot of complexity. 124 cases bottled in September 2016.
Appellation:Russian River Valley