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Vintage 2023 Updates & Visit to Japan

Hi all, 

I can't believe it's almost the end of the year and 2023 was quite eventful. The year went by so fast that it feels like we just finished harvesting grapes yesterday. I returned from a trip to Japan over Thanksgiving and resumed my winemaking business. I checked all the ferments before the end of the year, and everything tasted so lovely!

Vintage 2023 Updates:

Steve Matthiasson has once again spared his chardonnay from Linda Vista Vineyard for Six Cloves this year. We picked the grapes quite early in mid-September. Both primary and secondary fermentation went well, but this harvest took a long time to ferment. I tasted it from the barrels the wine tastes amazing, as good as ever! This vintage Chardonnay is as close as it can get to the style of Chablis that I love. I can't wait for the wines’ finishing next summer.

The second vintage from Buf-Wehr Ranch, a Pinot Noir, was harvested later than the previous year. However, it was perfectly restrained in style and ripeness. The primary fermentation was sluggish due to low yeast assimilable nitrogen, known as "YAN". However, the secondary fermentation was very quick. Although it has a paler color than the 2022 vintage, the texture and aromas are as good as ever due to its being a  Pommard clone of the same vineyard. I am excited to see how the wine will evolve during the aging process this winter.

Finally, the Zinfandel was slow to start during the primary fermentation process, in contrast to last year's vintage, but the fermentation was consistent. It is taking a little longer to complete the secondary fermentation (ML), but it should be complete after the New Year. This year's vintage has less bitterness than the previous one. The wine displays excellent fruit characteristics from the vines of organically farmed vineyards, which should offer more complexity over the next few months. These casual, low-alcohol Zinfandel wines from the Redwood Valley are expected to have a pleasant complexity due to the whole cluster inclusion.

Post Harvest Trip to Japan & Japanese Wines:

I made  a promotional trip to Japan, which was a great success thanks to my importer's extensive efforts in arranging multiple events in Tokyo and Osaka. We had a couple of winemakers' dinners in Tokyo and served library wines to share with my clients. It was an amazing experience to try almost all the wines I made, except for the 2019 Primitivo and 2018 Sonoma Coast Pinot, along with great dishes prepared by the chefs and with great company! The most fantastic wine during the trip was the 2018 Chardonnay from Linda Vista Vineyard. Six Cloves wines tend to showcase their characters in very different ways. However, I was thrilled that this first vintage from the vineyard, which I had fermented through trial and error, showed wonderfully during my trip.

During my recent visit to Nagano, my hometown, I had an opportunity to meet with many aspiring wine growers at a seminar, hosted by my Japanese winemaker friend. We had an interesting discussion about the differences between the wine industry in California and Japan. We tasted more than 15 varieties of wine, mostly from Nagano. I was particularly impressed with the wines made from “Ryugan,” a type of vinifera grape imported from the West and grown locally in Nagano as table grapes.

Over the last decade, Japan's winemaking industry has undergone a significant transformation, with the number of wineries increasing rapidly. The number of wineries in Nagano has surpassed the number of Sake breweries. However, growing wine grapes in Japan, a country with a subtropical climate, is not an easy task, and the wine style in Japan is quite different from what we are used to in California, where the Mediterranean climate is favorable.

I hope to see more growers doing well and look forward to seeing Japanese wines in our market someday! 

Cheers to you all!!

Sonoe Hirabayashi

Six Cloves Wines



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