Visit the vineyard here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjcAUGx7xHI&feature=youtu.be
Introduction: Tenbrink Family Vineyards' Pinot Noir
By: Ashley Berman
Tenbrink Family Vineyards is located in the Suisun Valley of northern California, just south of Napa. It started out as a small, 6-acre family farm growing peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries. The farm was started by Steve Tenbrink and his wife in 1982. As the fruit and vegetable business grew, the opportunity came for the Tenbrink family to purchase the 10,000-acre ranch across the street from their fruit stand. Thus, the Tenbrink Family Vineyards were born in 1996, beginning with chardonnay sauvignon and cabernet sauvignon. The topography of the vineyard includes three valleys, which are all in different climate zones. This allows for the cultivation of many different wine grapes on this same ranch. For example, the pinot noir grapes are grown in the lower valley where it is windy and cool. Steve is known for the great care of his crops which results in sensational grapes and excellent wine.
When asked what makes his grapes so special, Steve says "the amount of work that I put into the [viti]cultural practices of raising the grapes." He attributes much of his success to the farming techniques used on the vineyard. Steve uses a trellising system to split the grapes into groups, some with direct sunlight, mid-sunlight, and indirect sunlight. This prevents the berries from burning. This trellis system also allows for the fruit to be spaced apart to maximize growth. Another technique used on the vineyard is "shoe spacing" which separates the bunches by removing certain shoots in the spring to reduce over crowding of the vines. Later in the season, leaves are pulled from around the bunches to allow more indirect light on the bunches. However, it is preferred not to have very direct light on the berries all day long. Next, as the fruit grows the berries are watched and those that are behind in growth or are overabundant will be removed to ensure the success of the healthy fruits. Finally, the vineyard is only watered one or two times a year. The grapes do not require too much water and water from the soil helps to maintain healthy fruit. Each of these principles helps to ensure a bountiful crop that is also ideal for winemaking.
While on the subject of winemaking, Tenbrink Family Vineyards grows many different grape varieties for different wines. Today we are focusing on pinot noir. The pinot noir grapes are grown in a 4-acre section of the vineyard, with hopes of increasing this acreage in the future. Steve also grows three different clones of pinot noir grapes; 115, 777, and 667. The 115 clone has higher tannins than the other two clones while the 777 is very fruity. The 667 is the most popular amongst winemakers as it falls in the middle of high and low tannins. The climate zones of the vineyard also play a part in the success of the pinot noir grapes. Pinot noir is planted in the lower valley of the vineyard because it has a thinner skin and therefore, can burn easily. The cooler climate of this valley allows for a healthier crop and a better tasting wine. This cooler climate also allows for a better balance of acidity in the grapes. Let's discuss some more in-depth winemaking from here.
When asked if he had any tips regarding winemaking with his pinot noir grapes, Steve recommends paying attention to the pH and making sure to balance the acidity. While his grapes often provide the perfect amount of acidity, it is important to double check and correct if needed. Also, Steve recommends a very long cold soak for the pinot noir grapes, at approximately 45°F or less. Once the grapes show signs of fermenting then they should be inoculated immediately and begin a slow fermentation process. It is also suggested that the wine be pressed immediately after fermentation to control tannins in the wine. Keep these tips in mind and you can create your own successful batch of pinot noir.
This year is a wonderful year for winemaking with Tenbrink Family Vineyards' grapes. When asked about crop development so far in 2018, Steve says "I'm excited about this year." Since this year has been a cooler, milder year, the crop has benefitted, and the vines are "very happy." So, if you are looking to make a great red with a balance of tannins and acidity, look to Tenbrink Family Vineyards grapes and produce a perfect pinot noir.