2016 Harvest Recap

First week of December and all of the 2016 wines are finally tucked away in barrel.  It was a long harvest, starting in August with the final press loads in late November.  Overall, I consider it a great year.  The yields from some grapes were less than normal but the quality is unreal.


We started early with whites that are destined for the 2016 CAVU, white Rhone blend. First grapes of the season were Viognier from the Caliza Vineyard, just up the road.  Beautifully ripe at 26.5 Brix but holding great acid; together a killer combination.  We whole cluster pressed and then barrel fermented over the course of just over a month.  With the Viognier we also tried a controlled non-Saccharomyces yeast as a starter, the Laffort Alpha.  Time will tell the results but looking good so far.

Next came the Grenache Blanc shown in the image above.  Great acidity and varietal flavor highlighted these grapes.  We whole cluster pressed and barrel fermented in just under three weeks.  I am very happy with the result.


Reds started with Cabernet Sauvignon.  We were fortunate to meet a small, family grower and took every grape from his vineyard.  The vineyard is beautifully manicured and the fruit was perfect.  When we sent the 2000 lbs of grapes across the sorting table we removed only about a dozen clusters!  This wine is also special as I took my two oldest daughters into the field to help with picking the fruit.  Great fermentation and she is tucked away in two year old French barrels.

After the cab, we finished whites with some Templeton Gap district Roussanne.  Ripe but with good acidity, we pressed then fermented in barrel.  This year I only took a half ton of this so ended up with one tasty barrel. This will blend with the Viognier and Grenache Blanc for the CAVU.

As we moved into late September everything picked up quickly.  We brought in a couple tons of Syrah from the El Pomar district and were blown away by the color and flavor.  Super dark fruit flavors and an inky deep purple color.  The wine is now in new Vallaurine French oak and should stay there for about 24 months until ready for blending into the Fox-3.

In quick succession, we had Petit Verdot and Tannat.  Beautiful fruit and tremendous depth of flavor.  With both of these grapes we found a much lower yield of less than 100 gallons a ton!  Fortunately, the resultant wines are so concentrated they are almost black with aromas and flavors that jump out of the glass.  Both of these wines were basket pressed and found homes in new French oak barrels from Seguin Moreau and Mercier.  

For all of the Volatus reds this year, we used a long cold soak process.  This involves dry ice to cool the sorted and destemmed fruit to about 40-45 deg; the initial cooling is shown above. We tuck the bin away and let the must soak for five days or more. This allows great extraction before we even start the primary fermentation. 

Harvest continued with more Tannat!  In fact, we made more Tannat this year than any other varietal.  We found a couple of vineyards that grow the most amazing fruit and yield tremendous wines.  I started with Tannat in 2015 and now am totally hooked.  The wine is so incredibly dark and intense but not overly tannic.  I am looking forward to how this batch of Tannat matures over the next two years as it rests in new French oak barrels from Mercier and Seguin Moreau.

Each of our reds was pressed in a small basket press this year.  An example is shown in the video below; wine, skins, seeds, and more go in and beautiful juice comes out!

Mother Nature threw in some drama in October this year with not one but two large rains.  We had one more batch of grapes still to bring in and I was a little worried.  Fortunately, the grower worked his magic in the vineyard and we harvested beautiful Grenache near the end of October, the day after a big rain.  The flavors were there and the numbers were great with sugars just over 26.5 Brix.  The Grenache fermented well and is resting in new Vallaurine French oak barrels. 

Overall, a great year and I think y'all will love the wines; the CAVU white next year and the reds sometime in 2018!

One final video showing the family getting in on the sorting action.  They love to try and help whenever possible.  Watch for my youngest daughter performing some quality control on the grapes!

Release Day - Four Delicious New Wines

I am very excited to officially release four new wines today.  For a small, family-run operation like ours, this new release is a huge deal.  With the encouragement and advice of a few industry friends, thanks Toby, we decided to increase our production and target 500 cases each year. These four wines combined are over 400 cases.  

Before I get to the wines, you might also notice we rebranded and updated our labels.  Although the original Volatus label served us well for the last eight years we wanted to modernize and also showcase more of the aviation component of Volatus.  It was flying that helped start the brand and it feels good to highlight aviation more with the new labels.

All of the new releases are immediately available and are perfect for the upcoming Holiday season. For our wine club members, these wines will be included in the shipments going out next week.  If you are not a member and are interested check the Ready Room out here. 

2014 Fox Three

2015 Fox Three

The 2014 Fox Three is a blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah.  Aged in 100% new French oak for 22 months the Fox-3 is a deep purple with a bright nose of black plum, cola, and dark fruit. Medium plus alcohol, medium acid, and a full body deliver a red velvet, yet structured mouthfeel with flavors of ripe raspberry, strawberry, dark fruit, cola, and tobacco. The finish is intense with firm tannins signaling excellent ageability.

2014 TOPGUN Cuvee

The 2014 TOPGUN Cuvee is a blend of 38% Petit Verdot, 36% Malbec, and 26% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Aged in 85% new French oak and 15% new American oak for 22 months, the TOPGUN Cuvee is deep ruby with a nose of earth, anise, and dark fruit. Medium plus alcohol, medium acid, and a full body offer a substantial mouthfeel with flavors of dark ripe cherry, graphite, tobacco leaf, espresso, and plum. The finish is big with cherry and creme brulee notes. 

2015 Pinot Noir

The 2015 Pinot Noir is 100% Pinot from a small family vineyard found high up on a southwest facing slope in Paso Robles' Adelaida District.  Aged in 70% new French oak for 11 months, the Volatus Pinot Noir is a deep yet bright ruby with a nose of earth, dark fruit, and deep ripe cherry. Medium alcohol, medium acid, and full body deliver a well-balanced wine with a solid yet approachable mouthfeel with flavors of cranberry, cherry, spice, dark fruit, and cola. The finish is long with ripe cherry and toasty notes. 

2015 CAVU

The 2015 CAVU (Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited) is a blend of 64% Viognier, 18% Grenache Blanc, and 18% Roussanne.  Aged in neutral French oak for 10 months, the 2015 CAVU is a brilliant pale gold color with a nose of pear, apricot, canned pineapple, and honeysuckle. Medium alcohol, medium plus acid, and medium plus body combine for a silky mouthfeel with flavors of ripe stone fruit, melon, citrus rind, green apple, and guava. The finish is clean with a distinct minerality.