I've heard it said many times that "Wines are made in the vineyard." While I understand the truth of this--that that winegrowing has a huge impact on the wines--I have also heard Carl say that, in some vintages, wine can be salvaged or lost, depending on what goes on in the cellar. He cites the 2018 Duet as a prime example of this.
Some of our very worst years at Allegro, in terms of the growing season, were 2003, 2009, 2011, and 2018. 2018 was cold and wet from the beginning of the growing season to the end of harvest in October. It rained and rained and rained, even during harvest. The constant wetness can contribute to rot, low yields, and dilution of the grapes' juice. Care of the vintage in the vineyard was overseen by Allegro's vineyard manager, Nelson. Carl's care during the winemaking was also essential to the creation of a good wine, even in such a poor season. He notes that, a few years before 2018, we wouldn't have had the knowledge and skill to pull off such a good wine in such a challenging year. The fact that they succeeded with the 2018 Duet is something that he and Nelson can really be proud of.
When our home ("estate") vineyard produces vinifera grapes, Carl considers whether the resulting wines will be of a quality level good enough to be bottled as a Cadenza wine. (Cadenza is the wine label which we only use for our best estate-grown wines.) From the 2018 vintage, the only decent estate-grown red grapes which we grew were the Petit Verdot (4 barrels) and Merlot (2 barrels). The Cabernet Sauvignon was a disappointment that year, unable to ripen adequately. While the Petit Verdot and Merlot weren't quite Cadenza-caliber quality, Carl did choose them to bring together in a nice "Duet," and the 2018 Duet is a testament to his winemaking skills.
In the cellar, Carl treated the Petit Verdot and Merlot royally, putting all 6 in expensive new French oak barrels. Their coming together as Duet married two wines with quite different characters, neither of them subtle. The 4 barrels of PV were marked with what Carl calls "brash fruitiness," with a rustic quality and definite tannins and acidity. The 2 barrels of Merlot were a "fruit bomb," with enough body to bring that fruit forward and round out the flavor of the blend. Together in Duet (64% PV and 36% Merlot in the finished wine), the two grape varieties definitely found harmony.
So, with the backstory in mind, when I drink Allegro's 2018 Duet I can't help but admire all of the hard work--the "duet" of winegrowing and winemaking skill sets--which went into making a quite fine "lemonade" out of a real lemon of a year.