Tuesday, November 29, 2011

GI Status Approval in Thailand

The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) non-profit trade association representing more than 420 wineries in the appellation announced today that the country of Thailand has recognized Napa Valley with Geographic Indication (GI) Status that will protect the American wine region from misuse of its name in wine labeling in that country.

The NVV worked directly with Thailand's Department of Intellectual Property on the registration which reads, "The combination of Napa Valley's unique geography, climate, geology, and the winemaking traditions as well as the human skills of the Napa Valley vintners give Napa Valley wine its distinctive taste and unique characters."

"This is a terrific accomplishment for our trade group in protecting our appellation's name from fraudulent use in yet another high-profile, emerging wine market," said NVV Executive Director Linda Reiff. "We have been able to achieve this and other GI recognitions by working directly with these government agencies, such as our successes in the EU and India, which is important to building our export channels for Napa Valley wines."

"It's necessary to know that consumers of Napa Valley wine in Thailand will be able to trust that if it reads 'Napa Valley' on the label, that the wine in the bottle is indeed from California's Napa Valley," said Pat Stotesbery of Ladera Vineyards who chairs the Napa Name Protection Committee for the association.

Read the full press release.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

With All Our Grapes Safely in Tank and Barrel, We Begin Our Descent Into Winter Calm at Peju Province Winery...

With the number of work orders diminishing each day, the cellar dance has changed from a swift and sprightly Viennese waltz to the more moderately-tempoed American variety. I watch the team work now and I imagine the cellar like one giant music box with the song coming to an end and all the players slowing simultaneously to a halt as the box lid closes us inside the dark, quiet of winter. We can no longer celebrate (or commiserate in) the craziness of being ‘in the middle of Harvest’, yet there is still work to do. Interns and temporary workers are starting to prepare for their migration to the other side of the equator for the next one. The high of Harvest end’s cheer and festivity gives way to the realization of what will pretty immediately follow: a cold, wet winter with less time in the day and less people in the Valley. But whoa woe, it is now the Holiday Season! Americans’ favorite time of year! A time when opportunity abounds to spend quality time with family and friends. A time of reflection and joy and thankfulness and snuggling in tight. A time of cooking up old traditions, of getting inventive with those that have gone stale, and a time when red wine never tasted so good. 

Much of what is now 2011 red wine in the Peju cellar has been drained and pressed, though a handful of ferments are still finishing up. When a ferment finishes, Peju Winemaker Sara usually lets the wine mingle with the skins in the tank for a bit before pressing off the skins and putting the wine into French and American oak barrels to age. This prolonged contact of the wine with the skins at the end of fermentation is called ‘extended maceration.’ Maceration is simply the name given to the process by which all that good stuff in the skins is extracted by the juice. This occurs naturally upon contact with one another. Phenolic compounds give color to what would otherwise be clear(ish) juice and tannins give structure/body to the wine, which also give it the potential to age. Sara does a cold maceration at the beginning of each ferment, too, to allow the pre-fermented juice to extract water-soluble components. The water-soluble components are less likely to be extracted once alcohol is produced in the juice during fermentation. It is all of these numerous steps taken to ensure that the wine maximizes complexity, concentration and integration which distinguishes ‘fine wine’ from the rest, and makes it so-o fine.

Below is the mouth of a tank that has just been drained and sent to press and then barrel. What you don’t see is that in order to empty the tank to the extent it appears here, a member of the team has to climb into the tank through this very opening to shovel out the skins, all the while attached by a harness to a fellow crew member outside the tank in the event of a Carbon Dioxide overdose, which is an actual cause of death during every harvest!!! Yet another example of just how much goes into the production of a bottle of wine.


Quality Control Lab Tech Nick presses the last truck samples for testing.

The last yeast inoculation.

A truck takes away the last of the fruit-carrying bins.

And resourceful, winemaker Sara sabers a bottle of bubbly with a draining-valve clamp to honor a Phase-One well done.


 Stay tuned because there is work left to do and words left to write for Harvest 2011!

Until next time, 
Brittany Starr for Peju Province Winery 

May you always have cheer in your cheeks and great wine in your glass!

The Napa Valley Designated Official Wine Region of the 34th America's Cup

Legendary Napa Valley Wines and Tourism to be Exclusively Featured at 34th America's Cup Events in United States

The Napa Valley has been named the official wine region of the 34th America's Cup. In partnership with The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) and The Napa Valley Destination Council (NVDC), America's Cup events in the United States through 2013 will exclusively feature Napa Valley wines, while the Napa Valley will be the only wine region featured as a getaway destination for attendees of the San Francisco-based America's Cup events.

"The America's Cup is a fantastic way to showcase the wines of Napa Valley. This high-profile, world-renowned sporting event's stature perfectly aligns with the high quality and world renown of Napa Valley, America's premier wine region. We are delighted to bring our wines to the table in celebration of this great partnership," said Napa Valley Vintners Executive Director Linda Reiff.

"Many of the America's Cup enthusiasts love the same things that the Napa Valley is known for--great wine, food, arts and wellness activities. We are very excited to have the opportunity to invite them to experience our beautiful region while they are in the Bay Area, and we look forward to sharing the best we have to offer," said Clay Gregory, NVDC CEO and President.

The Napa Valley is home to the founders of America's fine wine industry--legendary entrepreneurs who showed the world that the art of winemaking had crossed continents--and the region is prized for its natural beauty, 14-Michelin Star culinary scene, world-class hotel accommodations, robust arts community, and one-of-a-kind wellness experiences including the region's famed spas, mud baths and healing geo-thermal hot springs.

Over the next two years, Napa Valley wines will be poured and tourism to the region will be promoted, beginning with the America's Cup World Series event in San Diego this November 12-20, as well as at the AC World Series Newport and San Francisco events in 2012, and in San Francisco during the 2013 Louis Vuitton Cup--the America's Cup Challenger Series--and America's Cup Finals.

"We are very pleased to partner with the Napa Valley on our America's Cup events in the United States, as it is one of the world's premier wine growing regions," said Craig Thompson, CEO of the America’s Cup Event Authority. "The 34th America's Cup is focused on creating a one-of-a-kind experience for every fan, so we look forward to showcasing the bounty that the Napa Valley has to offer to our guests."

Click here for the press announcement on the America's Cup Website.

Watch a video on the America's Cup Preview in San Diego
, currently underway through November 20th.

Fourth and Final Harvest Update

The winemaking team has been furiously busy since I last wrote on Tuesday, October 11th. As you may or may not remember, that was the day after the final rains of this growing season. That Monday was supposed to be dry, and if the weather models had played out as predicted, the pace of this harvest would have been more leisurely. When this vintage is looked back upon in two or three years, as its wines are being released, many people will refer to October 10th as the fulcrum point that tipped the vintage towards its close.

Harvesting started in a panic as many winemakers, this one included, realized the scope of the challenge that the mold pressure presented; a block with trace amounts of botrytis could become completely enveloped in twenty four hours. The thin skin, tight cluster varieties were the first to succumb to the fungus. Petit Sirah and Petit Verdot were particularly hard hit and were triage priority when making pick calls. The Round Pond Estate however, has the fortunate ability to harvest any block any day that’s needed or desired—a resource that proved particularly crucial this year. Throwing courtesy and convention aside, I called many picks the same day I walked out into the fields and realized that another block absolutely must come in. For that I would like to extend many thanks to the vineyard team for their flexibility, and my cellar crew for their tenacity.

Following the rains, we had a string of warm, windless days that were perfect for fungus growth. On the valley floor, the sun heated the saturated soil, which raised the relative humidity in the fields. Those vines trellised in curtain forming fashion trapped the evaporating water and created a sauna-like environment, which further exasperated the tendency for mold to spread. When temperatures fell at night, the surface of the grapes cooled and the trapped moisture below the canopy condensed on the fruit so that by daybreak, the clusters were dripping with dew. Vines trellised in a vertical fashion did not suffer the “sauna effect” and fared better against the mold. Also of note, the more gravely sections of vineyard blocks dried out more quickly, and were subsequently less susceptible to mold pressure.

Winemaking, like any science, is an exercise in observation. Walking the vineyards, it was critical to understand why some blocks were more affected by botrytis than others in order to make decisions on optimizing fruit quality and harvesting efficiency. Having learned from our early picks, it was apparent that the benefit of a few extra days of ripening was negated by the sensory influence the mold had on the wines. As such, I tended to pick at the first signs of mold development, which I believe preserved the fruit character in the grapes and has given us the foundation for producing wonderfully elegant and seductively aromatic wines.

November 1st marked the last day of harvest on the Estate and in that twenty-two day period, the production crew broke records three consecutive times for number of tons processed in a day, and the amount of fruit received at the winery in a week’s span. These statistics do not come as a surprise to me; all vintages at the Estate are fast and furious but late ones, like this year, especially so. Harvest at Round Pond is most certainly a sprint and not a marathon.

Thanks to all of the staff in other departments who came to lend a hand on the sorting line, delivered food and libations, or simply gave a kind word of encouragement. Those sentiments never go unnoticed and are certainly appreciated. I look forward to sharing our collective efforts with everyone in the years to come, and feel the climatic challenges of this vintage will prove to be a historic bellwether for the exceptional consistency of quality achievable on this Estate.


Brian Brown
Round Pond Estate

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Napa Valley Wraps-up Harvest 2011

Challenging year in the vineyard reaps rewards in the cellar

"Although it may be stretching to compare our harvest with one of the greatest ever games in the history of baseball...but like the 2011 World Series, we had our ups and downs, and finally pulled it out. This was one of our most exciting harvests ever!" said Cain Vineyards' Winemaker and General Manager Chris Howell. And once again the excitement of the finale of the American baseball season seems to parallel that of the vintage at harvest from America's premier winegrowing region, the legendary Napa Valley. Today the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) non-profit trade association of more than 420 wineries representing 98% of the appellation's wine production offers its annual report on harvest.

"2011 was a challenging and as well as what I am calling 'an educational vintage,' the third in a row," said Oakville Ranch Winery General Manager Paula Kornell who was born and raised in the Napa Valley wine industry. "What we found this vintage were flavors that developed at lower brix, giving us an opportunity to make truly elegant wines at lower alcohol levels."

"Harvest 2011--from tears to glory!" is how renowned vintner Tim Mondavi, owner of Continuum capsulized the year and winemakers appellation-wide are in agreement.

What began with a wet winter and spring continued with rainfall into mid-June that delayed bloom and disrupted fruit set resulting in shatter in parts of the region set the stage for a long, cooler-than-average growing season with a later-than-average harvest beset with autumn rain storms. The precipitation measuring season ending on June 30 found the region more than a third above normal in rainfall. While this is good news for water resources, the cloud cover and cool temperatures delayed vine development by several weeks at the onset of the growing season.

This timetable continued through the somewhat cool summer season where harvest for the first varieties for sparkling wines found the latest harvest start in anyone's memory, beginning August 29. Few high heat events occurred at any point this year, but growers managed more open vine canopies to ensure sunlight, warmth and good air circulation around the grape clusters. The shatter resulting from the rain events in June was variable by vineyard location hitting some locations harder with projected crop diminished by more than 30% while leaving other sites nearly untouched with near-normal crop.

New Media Resources Tell Story of Year in Real Time

New this year, wine lovers around the world were able to follow the Napa Valley harvest like never before. Twitter was a-buzz at #NVHarvest with thousands of tweets from the vineyards and cellars. Read the ongoing Twitter feed at the www.napavintners.com/harvest.

Napa Valley filmmaker Bret Lyman chronicled the vintage in a series of harvest videos beginning in August with the start of harvest for sparkling wines to the white varieties, Merlot and then Cabernet Sauvignon. Check out today's release of the final chapter of the harvest videos below.

The region's winemakers and vineyard managers participated in a week-long "Harvest Live" streaming video the week of October 17 with six days of morning and afternoon live chat painting the picture in clear detail of what was happening in the vineyard and in the winery in real time. Check out U-Stream to watch the archived programs hosted by Christophe Smith of Titus Vineyards along with his esteemed guests.

And, more than ever before the vintners themselves blogged all season on their experiences in written, photo and video posts on the NVV's official blog "Unfiltered."

Click to read the full release

Click to view the all 2011 harvest videos

Friday, November 4, 2011

Night Harvesting at Shafer Vineyards

2011 Harvest Complete at Vineyard 7 & 8!

Greetings from the top of Spring Mountain!

As we close yet another harvest from Vineyard 7 & 8, I look back on what was a true test of patience. A season filled with extra efforts in the vineyards working on crop and canpy management, a couple early October rain storms, but finished up with a period of beautiful weather.

Over the last couple of weeks the sun returned, and the dry northwest winds returned, allowing us the ability to harvest what looks to be another very successful vintage.

Cabernet from our Estate vineyards and the fruit we harvest from select neighboring vineyards on Spring Mountain came in with more moderate sugar levels, beautiful acids and wonderfully refined tannins.

Fermentation is just beginning to take shape in the tank room, and hats change from the management of the fruit in the vineyards to pumpovers and punchdowns, monitoring of tanks and prepping barrels for later in the month when the wines will go to rest.

Congrats to all fellow vintners for yet another wonderful harvest in the Napa Valley!


Wesley Steffens, Vineyard 7 & 8
Winery Manager & Assistant Winemaker

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Yeast Whisperer of Newton Vineyard

The first days of the Newton Chardonnay harvest are stressful.

We pick it, we press it, we choose the best French barrels and… nothing happens. For days, the juice is quiet, viscous, cloyingly sweet.

Nothing… No matter how much I stare inside the barrels or glue my ear to the bung holes until the side of my face shows a ring of toasted oak smoke.

It’s only when I start getting that recurring dream of hot tubs filled with bubbling grape juice, around the 6th or 7th day, that our tricky indigenous yeasts deign offer some hope. Suddenly, the whole cellar is filled with the gurgling sound of the starting fermentation and I breathe a sigh of relief.

That makes Julian laugh.

Julian Cendejas (pictured at right) has worked at Newton since 1989. Over his more than 20 harvests, he’s learned to be patient and that the fermentation will start. Some years it’s fast -just a couple of days- some years it takes up to 10 or 12 days. Once a lot of Chardonnay is fermenting, the whole cellar follows.

Julian always knows when this will happen: I have a theory that he’s somehow communicating with the yeasts that come from our vineyard. He’ll say “Tomorrow, this lot will start”. I’ll look in the barrel he is showing me, shaking my head: “Naaah, there is not even any froth.” The next day, he’ll be right.

Now, all the 2011 Chardonnay is fermenting, some lots well on their way to dryness. It was a cool growing season and even if the sugars remained lower than in the past years, the flavors are exotic and complex. There are apricot and grilled pineapple notes but no hint of the quince paste that characterizes over-ripe vintages. The musqué lots are delicately floral without being too wisteria or lilac-like.

This should be a vintage for aging. But shhhh… Don’t tell our yeasts: they are not done with their job until Julian says so!


Frederique Perrin
Associate Winemaker, Newton Vineyard