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Donelan Family Wines: Fall Release Update

At long last, I am excited to present to you my inaugural vintage of red wines as winemaker for Donelan Family Wines! It hasn’t been easy to sit quietly over the past two years while these wines aged in barrel but now I finally get to share my efforts with you. The endless trips to vineyards, the careful considerations during harvest and the dozens of blending trials have resulted in what I believe will be cherished wines of incredible character, complexity and enjoyment. Sometimes the wait has felt like a marathon, but we have crossed the finish line and the hard work has paid off now that these wines are in bottle.
Joe Nielsen

The 2013 vintage got off to an early start with record early bud-break, shifting the growing season earlier than any vintage in recent memory. A stretch of near-perfect weather began at flowering and extended well into summer, allowing for great fruit-set and steady ripening. We picked most of our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay by the first week of September and we were blown away by its delicious purity and intensity. With more steady weather into mid-September, we were able to capture optimum ripeness in our Syrah, resulting in wines of distinct personality in both our single-vineyard and our cuvées. The wines are so varied that it would be hard to experience the full spectrum of flavors within this vintage without tasting them all. The end of harvest was marked by the picking of Roussanne on October 4th, the earliest finish we have experienced at Donelan Family Wines.

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This release consists of 2012 Cuvée Christine and Richards Vineyard (which spent 3 years in barrel), 2013 Cuvée Moriah, 2014 Venus, and a special library offer of 2010-2012 Cuvée Keltie, packed in a wooden box.

As for the current vintage, the fruit is still on the vine and we are slated for yet another early vintage, breaking both 2013 and 2014 records. Veraison has nearly wrapped up across our vineyards, just in time for Pinot and Chardonnay to start arriving within the week. Wish us luck!




2014 Venus Roussanne-Viognier


2014 Venus ViongierVenus has both the beauty associated with the Greek goddess and the exotic excitement inspired by the planet it shares a name with. The terroir of both the Bennett and Green Valleys lets us transcend the expectation of what white Rhone blends often taste like. For us, Venus has evolved over the years into a wine that is both yin and yang. On the nose, it is floral and pretty with savory and mysterious undertones. On the palate, it is light and chalky, yet round and full.

The 2014 vintage boldly shows off these contrasts. On the nose, the wine displays bright notes of orange zest and lychee nuts. A second wave of aromas illuminates the more savory side with white pepper, black tea and clove. On the palate, the wine opens with brightness and precision with a surprising fullness alongside fresh acidity that extends into the finish. This is a truly distinct white wine that, like many of our reds, is a classic food wine that can also shine on its own. Every vintage creates the opportunity to hone our process and to continue making wines of increasing complexity and intrigue. The 2014 Venus certainly lives up to this expectation.

Suggested food pairing: Seared scallops

prod_image1_10852013 Cuvée Moriah Grenache-Syrah

2013 Cuvee MoriahOne whiff and you’ll be hooked on the 2013 Cuvée Moriah. Dry Stack Vineyard Grenache is the great contributor to this incredibly aromatic wine. We cannot say enough great things about this gem of a site that we have loved for ten years. Unlike most California Grenache, this fruit is able to retain idyllic freshness that supports a very dense mid-palate, making Cuvée Moriah a dynamic and irresistible wine.

The nose has intoxicating fruit purity, with pomegranate and ripe melon, and the mid-palate is polished. The Syrah plays a small but important role in 2013, lending length and plushness to the palate. This wine continues to be an incredibly versatile wine at the dinner table pairing with a spectrum of food from Osso Buco to baby-back ribs to your favorite Thanksgiving feast.

Suggested food pairing: Roasted pumpkin bites wrapped with smoked bacon

prod_image1_10482012 Cuvée Christine Syrah

Cuvee Christine SyrahThe latest edition of Cuvée Christine exemplifies poise within the Syrah spectrum, from savory to sweet. Named for the matriarch of the Donelan family, and like Christine herself, the wine is focused, complex, and engaging. Fermented with 30% whole cluster in 80% neutral oak, this Syrah is a blend of four different vineyard sites. The 2012 exhibits classic components of braised short-ribs, grilled figs, and graphite, which stand in contrast to the ripe currants and passion fruit on the palate.

One full year in bottle has truly awoken this wine and is a real pleasure to taste. The ripe red fruits have integrated nicely with the braised-beef and pepper nose making the wine irresistible this time of year with weeks left of barbeque season. Built to drink both upon release and in 10 years’ time, the tannins are finely woven into a full palate with a bright acidity that will keep the wine young for years to come.

In our persistent effort to ensure the best experience in drinking our wines, we have elected to hold back the 2013 Cuvée Christine to allow for one full year in bottle. Waiting is tough, especially when we love sharing new wines, but trust us – it will be even better with time in bottle.

Suggested food pairing: Braised short-rib tacos with crème fraiche

prod_image1_10512012 Richards Family Syrah

The 2012 growing season left little to desire, with great fruit set, balanced canopy, and slow, even ripening, setting a great tone for Richard’s Vineyard Syrah. This wine has historically been the slowest to evolve in barrel, and this year is no exception. It has waited patiently in barrel, like a Rubik’s Cube waiting to be picked up. The aromatics remain fresh and youthful, yet below the surface lies mystery and complexity – a door into another dimension.

As it breathes in the glass, the wine begins to whisper the reasons we and so many have come to love it. Herb encrusted lamb, graphite, freshly-cut lavender and cherry liquor are just some of the aromas that lift from the glass. The palate is unique to Richards Vineyard – like the first spoonful of chocolate mousse, followed with distinct tannin that cradles a full and compelling finish.

Suggested food pairing: Grilled air-dried sirloin

Cuvée Keltie Syrah Vertical

Our hope had been to release the 2012 Cuvée Keltie this fall. After incredibly favorable reviews, this wine sold out before we even had a chance. Fortunately, we are now making a great effort to build our library collection, and we now have the opportunity to open the vault and share with you an exciting vertical offer in a wooden box of 2010-2012 Cuvée Keltie. Quantities are extremely limited and will be “wish-only”, shipping in November – just in time for the holidays. The beauty of our blends is that they evolve and exist as working pieces of music. With time and performance, new interpretations take hold, adding to each blend’s identity and complexity with greater clarity and satisfaction with each passing year.

The following are updated tasting notes reflecting the evolution of these special bottlings.

Suggested food pairing: Rosemary marinated “lollipop” lamb chops

2010 Cuvée Keltie Syrah
95+ Points Robert Parker

2012 Cuvee KeltieFermented 100% whole cluster and aged for 24 months in neutral French oak, the 2010 is a big wine that mixes rich, sexy textures with structure and freshness. The aromatics are loaded with blackberry and plum sauce and smoked herbs – think lavender and fennel. We also find hints of classic Syrah characters like roast game and black pepper, producing a wine that is more savory in nature than the 2011. This wine is beautiful, masculine, and is aging quite well. Time in bottle has softened the tannins, making the palate silkier as it matures.

2011 Cuvée Keltie Syrah
93 Points Robert Parker

2011 Cuvee KeltieThe 2011 has alluring texture and structure, with fresh aromas of dried cherry, rhubarb, and blueberry preserves which have increased with time in bottle. In the glass, Keltie reveals notes of crispy pancetta, stewed nettles, and dark-chocolate with smoked sea salt. These flavors persist with the precise pulse of a finely-tuned instrument, producing a serious wine that captivates our senses and our minds. The cooler vintage has resulted in a wine that is elegant and approachable even in its youth.

2012 Cuvée Keltie Syrah
99 Points Robert Parker

The 2012 vintage provides Keltie with ample structure to support its notably rustic nature, enhanced by traditional winemaking methods. As in years past, the selection of blocks from Obsidian, Walker Vine Hill, Richards and Steiner Ranch Vineyards creates a robust and dense Syrah with unsurpassed agility and unity. A wine that is uniquely Keltie, the blend’s legacy is of harmony between each barrel, as if Cuvée Keltie were a place, with its own unique soil and microclimate, a fantasy of thought-provoking Syrah. The wine opens with primary notes of moist peat, stewed nettles, and braised beef. In the glass, it reveals blackberry, dark-chocolate, and classic black pepper. Already exciting now, Cuvée Keltie will continue to evolve over the coming years.

Best Regard,

Joe Nielsen

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