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Lotus is the most adapted of our vineyards to heat. Over the last decade we have been moving toward dry-farming, forcing the vines to look deeper for water. Through the hot, dry season we kept one block of Lotus completely dry- farmed. This caused some nervousness and second guessing through the 105F plus temperatures September 8-10th. But we were rewarded with small, intense berries that weathered the heat with little dehydration. We started harvest during a cool spell on September 12th when peak temperatures had dropped to a more normal 88F, just before another heat spell. The clone 337 ripened a bit slower and was harvested on September 23rd. We paired the fruit and structure expressed by the different clones with three different fermentation tank types; concrete, oak upright, and barrels. The wines were fermented with native yeast and macerated on skins for 31 and 46 days. The clone 15 had the most structure and took the longest for the fruit and tannin to integrate.
Out of the three Dana Estate owned vineyards, the Lotus vineyard located on St. Helena hillsides, stands at 1200 feet above sea level with a beautiful panoramic view of the Napa Valley floor.
This steep hillside vineyard is spread over the rocky, low-yielding soils with Western exposure. Thanks to the influence of the afternoon sun, the wines shows ripe and rich fruitiness while the three to twelve inches, fractured grey bedrock soil generates the marked mineral structure to the wine.
“This is incredibly dry, well-drained soil that has very low water holding capacity and in dry, warm vintages it reflects outstanding a level of grape ripeness,” Vawter sums up.
The 2015 vintage produced excellent fruit quality. Our vineyards received slightly less than average rainfall, but compared to the previous years of drought conditions the vines started the growing season with ample water in the soil. The winter and spring were among the warmest on record, and pushed bud-break two to three weeks ahead of 2013 and 2014, setting up for an early harvest. The warm dry spring led to less vine growth with shorter than average shoots. However, the much smaller than average crop with small berries and loose clusters created balanced vines. The warm spring gave way to a summer that was hot and dry, causing some challenges with numerous heat spells that lasted multiple days. The small vine canopies and our dedication to minimal irrigation over the last decade paid dividends in 2015 with exceptional fruit integrity, even after prolonged 100F+ days with extremely low humidity. This gave us the flexibility to harvest based on flavor, not desiccation level. The vintage will be remembered as an early, low-yielding, hot vintage, with focused, intense wines of defining quality.