2016 Hatton Daniels ‘Mokelumne Glen’ Dornfelder
Region: Lodi < California
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Organic farming; limestone/granitic soils. Early harvest, some destemmed to tank, some pressed whole cluster; some whole clusters fermented in there, then blended and aged in neutral barrel for 4 month; bottled unfined/unfiltered with no added sulfur; 47 cases; 10.6% ABV
Winemaker: Dan Fishman
Another crazy wine from Dan Fishman of the tiny Cali wine project Hatton Daniels, a friend from my nerdy sommelier tasting group. Dan, a quiet, modest and incredibly smart dude, left his PHD program to pursue the wine dream and conspired with 3 friends in 2009 to start Hatton Daniels, with the goal of making honest, terroir-specific, natural wines. And they love weird grapes, like Dornfelder, of German origin, which usually makes a super opaque, dense and chewy wine – but here, because they pick so early and only let the juice rest for 12 days on the skins, you get an incredibly inky wine with all of those beautiful cold-climate Syrah notes (black olive, pomegranate, violets and black pepper) in a light-bodied package that is not overly extracted or tannic or alcoholic (it’s 10.6%!). Dan explains, “we took half of the Dornfelder and destemmed it to tank. Then we took the other half and pressed it whole cluster until about 60% of the juice was released. We then transferred what was left in the press into the tank, to ferment with the rest of the grapes. So basically, we had nearly double the normal skin-to-juice ratio, and about 50% of the stems in the ferment.” There is considerable tannin to the wine (so go ahead and pair with meat), yet it remains so fresh, bright, and energetic that you can drink glass after glass, with no palate fatigue. Bring it on!