Today as I was tucking the shoots of the Frontenac vines with my son Isaac I started thinking about some of our first vintages from these vines.
It was mid-September 2009, one of the coolest growing seasons we have ever had at Parallel 44. I was frustrated that the Frontenac grapes were not going to have the ripeness I needed to make another great vintage of a port-style wine that we called Meditation Wine.
After racking my brain for a few days I decided to take a cue from some California winemakers when in the late 1970’s they encountered a similar problem when harvesting their Zinfandel grapes. They decided they would pick their slightly unripe grapes because there was no more growing season to utilize. Instead of fermenting the Zinfandel on the skins to get the richer and darker and full bodied Zinfandel that they typically produced, they immediately pressed the juice off the skins before fermentation began. The result was what they called White Zinfandel which became the one of the nation’s most popular wine styles for at least a decade.
So in September 2009, we pressed our slightly under ripe Frontenac grapes as they came off the vine. I started a very slow and cool fermentation of the juice. About 48 hours later there were unbelievable aromas of strawberry shortcake and tart cherry filing the winery. I was in awe at how aromatic and crisp the wine was tasting as it slowly fermented in the tanks!
We were so proud that we turned a frustrating growing season into a wine that exceeded any expectation that we had. Mother Nature has a way of guiding you on a path that leads to pleasant surprises. Maria and I wanted the world to know that this amazing wine was the result of what Mother Nature can create in a place that we fondly refer to as the Frozen Tundra, hence the name Frozen Tundra Original.
The popularity of this wine led us to create in the following years, two other members of the Frozen Tundra Family of Wines, Frozen Tundra White and Frozen Tundra Red. All three of these wines have won high acclaim in state, national, and international competitions over the years. That frustrating season has led me to fully understand that you don’t really make wine as much as you grow wine.
For me one of the joys of wine is to discover, enjoy, and share the unique expressions that Mother Nature puts on each vintage.
So as we finished tucking row 29 of the shoots, with Isaac by my side, I smiled and once again realized that every wine we make has a story to remember and pass along from year to year. Every year is a little different, which leads to a never ending experience of what wine can offer your senses.