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  • Taylor York

Our Actual Inaugural Vintage

Things are finally settling down from harvest. Early, you say? Indeed. While others are still watching and measuring their fruit, the Southern California heat and the normal ripening schedule of our desert-sourced berries put us out ahead of many of our friends and colleagues this year.

Back in July we wrote about our imagined inaugural vintage (give it a read if you haven’t already), and while we generally worked with the same varietals, reality was quite a bit different than what we imagined.

Here’s what happened, what our first impressions are, and what to expect from Herrmann York’s 2020 vintage.

Alicante Bouschet

We still picked this surprisingly versatile varietal with the freshness of rosé but chose to crush and destem before press rather than directly pressing the whole clusters so we could obtain the right balance of color and quantity. Big, juicy berries gave us just shy of 120 gallons, which went directly into barrels (neutral French oak) for primary fermentation. Our wines fermented vigorously this year, and the Alicante Bouschet was no exception. It was dry in five days and is now settling in stainless before we pump it back into barrels for malolactic conversion.

First impressions:

While we originally thought it would be on the darker side, it now looks like a strawberry Starburst.

What to expect:

Electric wild strawberries and cream.


2020 Alicante Bouschet

Color: Rosé

Varietal(s): 100% Alicante Bouschet

Expected ABV: 12.9%

Vineyard: Chavez Vineyard, Lake Los Angeles, CA


We picked just a bit later than we hoped but ended up with some top-notch fruit. We chose to hand crush and destem, rather than direct press, with half pressed to stainless steel (dry) to ferment and half left to ferment on skins until dry (amber). We also decided to keep the dry and amber versions separate this year, partly for the learning experience, and partly because each became such distinct wines. The skin contact finished quickly, but the pressed juice took its slow-and-steady time. As of the writing of this, it still has not dried out completely.

First impressions:

Dry: Typical Muscat aromas, grapefruit, apples.

Amber: Raw Cashews and caramel with a spritz of grapefruit. Trailmix.

What to expect:

Fruity, refreshing, easy to drink both chilled (dry) and at room temperature (amber).


2020 Dry Muscat/Amber Muscat

Color: White/Amber

Varietal(s): 100% Muscat

Expected ABV:13.5%

Vineyard: Chavez Vineyard, Lake Los Angeles, CA


In the face of a heat wave and quite a bit of potential for bird damage, we took the fruit just a bit early this year. This turned out to be the right decision. Color extraction at crush was incredible, and we ended up with a dark, fruity, acidic, medium bodied red wine after just five days in the fermenter. We racked to stainless where it will settle, then we will rack to barrel to let it undergo malolactic fermentation. It is difficult to tell at this point how long this wine will need to age, but we plan to check on it again in six months to get a better idea of the bottling schedule.

First impressions:

Lots of raspberries and blackberries, not quite as dark in color as we expected but time will tell. Tannins are a bit chalky, but they should integrate nicely with a bit of age.

What to expect:

Approachable, lively, and fruity, with a higher acid. Medium bodied with medium/low soft tannins.


2020 Okneski Zinfandel

Color: Red

Varietal(s): 100% Zinfandel

Expected ABV: 13.8%

Vineyard: Okneski Vineyard, Redlands, CA

Los Empleados

We didn’t originally have this one in our imagined vintage, but we are already very proud of it (the story of this wine is here). For this one we let the vineyard drive (and this wine has continued to drive for the entire journey), and it produced, as the kids are saying, a “crushable”, “chillable” wine. We picked a day, harvested an equal amount of all Ephran Chavez’s favorite varietals, and crushed and fermented them together. What we got was a twisty, fruity, easy drinking field blend that will probably not see a whole lot of barrel time. In fact, this could be our version of a nouveau (though there was no carbonic maceration this year), and we fully expect to celebrate the end of harvest with a healthy bottle or two of this stuff.

First impressions:

This promises to be a drinker – ready and most interesting right off the shelf. It has a fruity character and wild, rich purple color.

What to expect:

A wine meant to be drunk cold and immediately with a large group of friends.


2020 Los Empleados

Color: Red

Varietal(s): Field Blend of Alicante Bouschet, Chardonnay, Muscat, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Viognier, and Zinfandel.

Expected ABV: 14.7%

Vineyard: Chavez Vineyard, Lake Los Angeles, CA

Petit Verdot / Viognier

While we had originally planned for two barrels of Redlands Zinfandel, the Okneski Vineyard gave us just under 1,200 pounds this year – one barrel and some change. We liked the taste of the Petit Verdot fruit, and were inspired by the Northern Rhône practice of co-fermenting a fraction of Viognier into Syrah, so we blended 70% Petit Verdot with 30% Viognier, then co-fermented them on the skins. We are still waiting for inspiration on what to name this wine.

First impressions:

Big, dark, and violet (which you would expect from Petit Verdot). Smells like a one-ton bouquet of flowers and has a medium, chalky tannin. Initially it tastes like a full bodied red, but then transitions pleasantly to a floral white.

What to expect:

After a bit of barrel aging this will be a fruity, floral, full-bodied red that can either be drunk immediately or laid down for a few years to develop even more complexity.


2020 Petit Verdot / Viognier.

Color: Purple

Varietal(s): 70% Petit Verdot, 30% Viognier

Expected ABV: 14.4%

Vineyard: Chavez Vineyard, Lake Los Angeles, CA

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