By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
When Rich Olsen-Harbich left Raphael to take his creativity and native-yeast fermentations to Bedell Cellars, there was no doubt that the wines there would change.
At the mid-way point of his first harvest at Bedell, it seems as though the changes might be more significant than most thought.
Olsen-Harbich told me via email "I’m doing all kinds of exciting and innovative wines at Bedell this year -- from using only indigenous yeast, stone-barrel fermentations, to other types of co-ferments involving various lots of red fruit as well as red and white fruit together."
One such co-ferment kicked off last week with a blend of riesling, chardonnay, viognier and Gewürztraminer. Though not strictly a field blend because the viognier comes from a neighboring block, the other components grow together in a 4.5-acre vineyard planted in 1980, founder and founding winemaker Kip Bedell's first planting - a planting Olsen-Harbich feels is "really just hitting its stride."
The viognier was planted 1995 -- the very first Viognier planted on Long Island.
The various varieties were all crushed together and allowed to infuse on the skins for 24 hours because, as Olsen-Harbich explains it "The riesling and gewurtz I feel, have a tremendous amount of aroma and flavor in the skins so I wanted to extract that. As you can see it made a really lovely looking fruit salad!"
The juice was then pressed off and fermented at cool temperatures in stainless steel with indigenous yeast.
When I asked Olsen-Harbich what inspired him to do this co-feremented almost-field blend, he told me "Michael Lynne hired me to be a creative force in the winery -- to fully pursue my style and push it further, folding it into the existing philosophy of developing the most aromatic and complex blends on Long Island. As a lover of modern art, Michael understands that you have to sometimes think openly and take chances in order to explore new areas of creativity. Dave and Donna have provided me with absolutely beautiful fruit and now it’s up to me to put the colors on the canvas."
The resulting wine may end up in the winery's TasteWhite bottling but that's not set in stone. "This has no set destination as of yet but once our wines are finished fermenting we’ll have all of our colors ready to begin the painting," Olsen-Harbich said.