Keplinger Sumo 2013
Sumo is a Cote Rotie twist on Petite Sirah - Petite Sirah co-fermented with Viognier, and blended with a small amount of Syrah. The 2013 Sumo is a blend of 76% Petite Sirah, 20% Syrah, and 4% Viognier, all from Shake Ridge Vineyard.
The nose shows layers of olallieberry, plum, turpentine, stargazer lily, orange blossom, fennel seed, and star anise. Flavors of blue and black fruit fill the palate, with indian spices, black peppercorn, creosote, sumac, and bittersweet chocolate. This is a dark, spice-laden, massive, plush wine. It's hard to believe a wine of this size can have such a soft landing and sublime finish. Ah, Sumo.
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As the lower part of the greater Sierra Foothills appellation, Amador is roughly a plateau whose vineyards grow at 1,200 to 2,000 feet in elevation. It is 100 miles east of both San Francisco and Napa Valley. Most of its wineries are in the oak-studded rolling hillsides of Shenandoah Valley or east in Fiddletown, where elevations are slightly higher.
The Sierra Foothills growing area was among the largest wine producers in the state during the gold rush of the late 1800s. The local wine industry enjoyed great success until just after the turn of the century when fortune-seekers moved elsewhere and its population diminished. With Prohibition, winemaking was totally abandoned, along with its vineyards. But some of these, especially Zinfandel, still remain and are the treasure chest of the Sierra Foothills as we know them.
Most Amador vines are planted in volcanic soils derived primarily from sandy clay loam and decomposed granite. Summer days are hot but nighttime temperatures typically drop 30 degrees and the humidity is low, making this an ideal environment for grape growing. Because there is adequate rain throughout the year and even snow in the winter, dry farming is possible.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a fruity and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is naturally high in acidity and tannins. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.