Wine - 2014 - Anatomy No. 1
Using his memory of previous harvests, Philippe Langner has a fair idea of the type of flavors, aromas and structure the grapes coming from different parcels will produce. He says, “At the beginning of the season I visualize an ideal wine for this vineyard, correcting for the shortcomings I sense in previous work. I then farm the vineyard accordingly.” Langner’s winemaking experience is extensive, and always informed by his profound foundation in viticulture, on three continents.
While it was rare a generation ago in the Napa Valley, the viticulturalist-winemaker—a true vigneron—is still a rarity here today. Philippe has an uncommon advantage. Philippe begins his work by taking a series of additive steps in the vineyard that optimize ripening, hang time, and encourage softer tannins in the grapes. Variable treatments of different blocks create greater diversity in flavors and structures. At harvest, picking small lots and careful triage of the berries are a kind of mise en place. Picking small batches allows Philippe to choose varying levels of ripeness, each imparting different dimensions: some will bring silkiness, others structure (backbone), others acidity, others red fruit or blue or black fruit. Some will announce themselves in the entry of the wine, others the finish, others form the satisfying richness in the midpalate. With this palette in hand, the winemaking process unfolds.
Fermentations are typically somewhat cool to preserve esters and aromatics. New oak is employed judiciously at Hesperian, with rarely more than 50% new French oak employed in the élévage of the wines. The wines are racked according to their need, but seldom more than twice in their upbringing. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered.