2011 W.S. Keyes Merlot 3 Bottle Gift Pack
Hello from Howell Mountain and from the historic W.S. Keyes Vineyard. I hope this letter finds you well and excited for the release of our 2011 vintage of the La Jota W.S. Keyes Merlot.
Over the years many people have asked me about this very special section of the W.S. Keyes Vineyard where we source the Merlot for this wine. Planted in the late 1970s this vineyard block could be some of the oldest and most unusual Merlot on Howell Mountain. Oldest because most of the Merlot planted on Howell Mountain in the 70s was planted to AXR, the rootstock that ultimately failed because of its susceptibility to phylloxera. Unusual because it was planted to AXR in the 70s and still survives to this day, producing some of the best Merlot I have the great pleasure to transform into wine.
Typically with sites that were planted on AXR, vineyards would produce well enough into their teens, occasionally into their early twenties, but at some point there would be a series of changes one would observe preceding full failure of the vine. Those changes could be a combination of the discoloring of the leaves, a decrease in the length of shoots, a decrease in the volume of fruit, and strange tannin effects on the palate.
Of all of these effects the only one that we have observed is a decrease in the volume of fruit. Though typical for AXR rooted vines this is also a very common occurrence as vines get older.
So what could be going on? There are several possible explanations. The easiest would be that the vines were not planted on AXR. Maybe a mistake was made at the nursery and the wrong rootstock was sent out. The only way to determine this would be to look at the DNA of the rootstock and see if it matches. The other likely explanation is the volume of the phylloxera insect in the soil is at very low population levels which give the vine enough time to develop back the root-hairs that are being fed upon. This could be a very real possibility as we look at the soil profile. Mostly a very fine volcanic based profile, these soils may be so “light” that the insect cannot stabilize its environment enough to establish a large population.
Whatever the circumstance we are lucky to have this block of vines and in a vintage like 2011 which was another cool vintage, having a low output of grapes on the vine at the quality level we demand helped us to dial in the exact wine we wanted to share with you. Enjoy!