If you make Mourvedre using typical production techniques that work well for varietals like Syrah, Pinot Noir and Grenache you will end up with “nice”, “pretty” wines with bright fruit with hints of lilacs and provincial herb. That doesn't interest me. I went looking the tragic, tortured EMO character Mourvedre really is, deep inside. The dark, brooding side of its personality buried in flavors like anise, cherry cola, and menthol.
What elements are necessary for finding that dark edge? The cooler climate of the Westside of Paso Robles is an important part of the equation. The cooler it gets, the darker you can go, but you begin to walk the line of not being able to get it ripe. (In true cool climate regions like Santa Barbara, you will only get Mourvedre ripe 1 in 4 years, which is a losing proposition that will leave you with green fruit and undeveloped tannins.) Outside the Bandol region of France, the extreme west side of Paso Robles is the magic area.
Mourvedre is a medium body varietal, like Zinfandel. To achieve concentration, it's crucial to crop back and carry low pounds per vine. ...That can lead to some very expensive fruit with typical vine spacing. High-density plantings with a canopy that shades the fruit and allows filtered sunlight work best.
Once we got it right in the vineyard, it was time to get my freak on in the winery.
Nested carbonic maceration took this Mourvedre to the next level. I developed this technique over the past 6 vintages to coax the tragic beast from his shell. It begins with a partial, whole-cluster fermentation—done carbonic for the first ten days. Then, we open it up and use several techniques to break open the whole cluster fruit to get full extraction during the rest of the primary fermentation. After that, extended maceration.
Total fermentation time is 30 plus days on the skins. The final step is aging in very tight-grained French and Hungarian oak with deep, heavy toast to nurture the dark and brooding flavors that we have unearthed.
Mourvedre is hard to grow, hard to make right, but easy to identify with once you experience it in its full glory. If it were music, it would be somewhere in the tragically hip world of Grunge. Like the Smashing Pumpkins or Nine Inch Nails. EMO, yes! Dark, brooding, and painfully misunderstood, yes. An explosive display of emotion and bottled up passion. Great art is made of such things, so is Mourvedre. For that reason, I called it… The Agony & The Ecstasy.