What we’re drinking: Mosquito Fleet Winery

Mary writes:

This weekend is the second-annual wine release party at Mosquito Fleet Winery in Belfair (21 Od Belfair Highway) and we highly recommend you make the visit. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. the winery will be open for people to taste the six newly released 2010 wines, paired with chocolates, cheeses and listen to live music. The cost is $10 but it’s waived with a wine purchase.

Brian Petersen of Mosquito Fleet Winery invited us to barrel taste these wine twice now, and we’re grateful for this learning opportunity.

Barrel tastings are more about the grape than the final blend in the bottle. It’s wine in a basic elemental state, still showing all of its angular youthfulness. What the final blend will taste like at this point is left to imagination and many months of tasting and blending until the winemaker has achieved the final product.

Barrels are one of the tools that winemakers use to spice up the wine. Barrels, in addition to a few other techniques, are sort of the salt and pepper of the winemaking world.

The staves of the barrel are generally toasted to some degree. Light, medium, medium plus and heavy are the different levels of toast that a winemaker will ask for when ordering barrels. The barrel heads are also sometimes toasted. With “toasted heads” more flavors are imparted in to the wine.

With barrel toasting, strong tannins aren’t as easily extracted while the wine ages in the barrel. Considering some tannic, heavy reds may spend two to three years in a barrel, judicious use of oak is needed.

Our first invite to attend a barrel tasting at Mosquito Fleet was last spring. Brynn was unable to attend because she’d just had the baby, so I went down solo. It was one of nicest, educational barrel tastings I’ve attended. Six months later we were invited back — this time Brynn came along, and so did the baby — and it gave me the chance to taste what six months of aging did for the wine before the final blend and bottling.

The following are notes from the spring and fall tastings:

2010 Pepperbridge Cabernet: We began with this in the barrel which was 100 percent cabernet sourced from Walla Walla’s Pepperbridge Vineyard. Winemaker Brian Petersen planned to eventually blend it with a little cabernet franc before bottling. This medium-bodied wine had a bracing amount of acidity with raspberry fruit. It was aging in a barrel with medium plus toast on its staves and barrel heads.

2010 Syrah: In barrel more body, less chunk; bright raspberry fruit and nice spicy finish. Very bright.

2010 Syrah: This was blended with 19 percent mourvedre and 7 percent cabernet. In puncheon saturated color. Stinky nose, nice up-front fruit; thick with an astringent finish.

2010 Petite Verdot: In barrel with minor amounts of mourvèdre and syrah. Bready nose up front from aging sur-lie. Brilliant purple robe, long legs, spicy raspberry with a hint of herbs and spice. The nose needs to develop.

2010 Cab Franc:From Pepperbridge Vineyard. In barrel there was of raspberry and black berry fruit. Soft. Not the final blend.

2010 Meritage: In the barrel there was 100 percent cabernet from Pepperbridge Vineyard. Pepperbridge fruit adds some bracing tannins that will soften with age. Brix at harvest was 24.2 with a PH of 3.8 and alcohol 13.9 percent. Elevage for 22 months on new French oak with a small amount of  American oak. Beautiful nose of red and black fruits, nice balance, medium-bodied with a red fruit finish and a bit of mocha.

Touriga Nacional Port 2010: Made with two of the six port grapes — 82 percent Touriga Nacional and 18 percent Tinta Roriz from Two Mountains Vineyard on Elephant Mountain. Brix at harvest was 23.5 with a PH of 3.81 and alcohol of 21 percent RRS 8.6 percent. Elevage 24 months on French oak; bottled November 2012. There are 72 demi cases 6/500ml. Black-red color, sweet nose with caramel and alcohol, black cherry. This is a thick rich, well-balanced, fabulous wine.