Friday, September 30, 2011

Sparkling harvest at Domaine Chandon is over!

Most wineries in the valley are just starting their harvest, but for us at Domaine Chandon we are done with sparkling wines!

We received the first grapes on Monday, August 22nd and the last on Friday, September 23rd. During this month, we have been very busy receiving and processing the fruit 24 hours a day. Everything went very well, we had a great team. This year we have interns from France, Italy and also two people from Domaine Chandon Australia and Argentina. It is great to have people from all over the world as it is an excellent opportunity to exchange information about our techniques, wines, cultures...

Most of the wines are now dry, just three fermenters left to go. We already inoculated the wines for malolactic. We are not doing malolactic on all our wines but just on the lots we selected. This year again has been a great year for sparkling wines at Domaine Chandon. The grapes had a lot of acidity which will make excellent wines - we are very excited about this vintage.

Now that we are less busy with the sparkling wines, we are bringing in our still wines made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier this week. At Domaine Chandon we never stop!

For me, I am happy that the sparkling harvest is over as I just completed my second vintage of 2011 after spending the first 4 months of this year in Australia working for Domaine Chandon in the Yarra Valley. I am now looking forward to some time off and my first weekend!!!

Good luck to all the other Winemakers in the Valley as you start harvest!

Pauline Lhote
Assistant Sparkling Winemaker, Chandon

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Video: Napa Valley Chardonnay Harvest & Flavor Profiles

With the heat spike over the last two weeks, the 2011 Napa Valley Harvest is switching into high gear! Throughout the valley wineries are picking white varietals (as well as a few early reds) and have generally moved from Sauvignon Blanc into Chardonnay territory.

In the spirit of the Chardonnay harvest, check out the fun video below featuring Bo Barrett (Chateau Montelena), Cameron Parry (Chateau Montelena) and Armando Ceja (Ceja Vineyards) sharing their thoughts on Chardonnay flavor profiles.

Good ideas and bad decisions

Up here at Chateau Montelena we like to think that we know a good idea when we see one, even if it sometimes takes us awhile to get on board. So in what is proudly a blatant rip-off of the Schramsberg "Harvest Dress" we present to you the "Harvest Hat!" A real gem that I found in Chinatown and just couldn't pass up - who doesn't love a fuzzy white pig? The rules are the same as for the dress - wearer must have done something to deserve it. In this instance one of our interns (Matt Johnson) in a case of bad judgment failed to hang the "man in press" sign on the outside of the press while cleaning it, so now gets to wear the hat as a reminder to himself and the rest of the staff to follow the rules for their own safety. Goes nicely with his outfit don't you think?

On the more serious side, today was our 3rd day of fruit this year, and we've got just shy of 60 tons in so far. All white grapes to this point (Chardonnay and Sauv Blanc), but we're looking at potentially harvesting the first few tons of Estate Cabernet Sauvignon tomorrow. Today's hot weather is moving everything along quite nicely, and should help push several blocks into pickable condition. Rain next week? That's the next big question...

Stay tuned and happy harvesting!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Round Pond Harvest Update 2.0

After patiently waiting nearly all of September, the commencement of harvest finally arrived on Wednesday of last week. Sauvignon Blanc picking and pressing is in full swing and I am thrilled to report that the quality looks very good this year. As most of you know, shatter was a big factor in the size of the crop this vintage and Sauvignon Blanc was particularly hard hit. Early estimates pegged the damage at fifty percent reduction, but after harvesting the first two blocks it looks like the crop load was affected to a slightly lesser degree.

One of the challenges that we have encountered this year has been to bring the canopy and crop load into balance. Sauvignon Blanc has a naturally vigorous vegetative growth habit and when combined with the deep heavy soils where the vines are planted, the crop size can be prolific. Because of the shatter the natural balance between leaf surface area and crop load was thrown askew. Too many leaves and not enough fruit causes sugars to accumulate quicker than flavors. To mitigate this we hedged the vines early and often to remove actively growing shoot tips and control the overall number of leaves.
The cool growing season delayed the commencement of harvest by twenty six days. However, this late season heat spell kicked the pace of ripening up a few notches and Sauvignon Blanc throughout the valley is being picked at a furious pace to keep sugars and flavors in an appropriate range. Round Pond’s trellis set-up has allowed us to weather this heat with minimal detrimental impact to the fruit. The fruiting zone is well protected by the canopy so that sunburn does not occur. The flavor intensity in the fruit is exceptional and the multiple picks should allow for a very expressive and complex wine. I am hoping to wrap things up early this week for the Estate Sauvignon Blanc; the Reserve fruit should come in shortly there after.

Until the next installment...

Brian Brown
Round Pond Estate

Harvest Underway at Trefethen Family Vineyards

The harvest at Trefethen Family Vineyards is well underway! The weather during September has been fantastic adding a great chapter to a pretty mild season. On our estate in the Oak Knoll District, high temperatures for the past thirty days have exceeded 80F on all but five days. In fact, there were nine days that topped out over 90F and we expect a couple more this week. With the long hang time coming from the mild summer, flavors were already well on track and this recent warmth has brought the chemistry into balance - the sugars jumped up a bit and the acids finally began to drop off. What does that mean? It means we're picking! Over the past few days, we have brought in Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay. While some of the blocks of Riesling and Chardonnay will certainly linger a bit longer, we also expect to see our first Merlot this week!

In our quest to make the best possible wine, with the smallest possible environmental footprint, we harvest many of our vineyard blocks in the cool early morning hours, often starting as early as 2:00AM. The air temperature is much cooler at this time and so are the grapes. Last week, when the highs reached 100F, the nighttime lows were still in the 40's! Cool grapes better preserve the delicate aromatics which are vital for our fresh white wines and they are less likely to undergo oxidation before being safely pressed to tank or barrel. There is also a tremendous energy savings at the winery because white wine fermentations are all conducted at cool temperatures (50F - 60F) and even most of our red fermentations begin with a "cold soak". Since our grapes arrive cool at the winery, we don't have to spend the energy to cool them down in tank. Night picking even helps with local traffic issues! When our teams are working a shift from 2:00AM to 10:00AM, that means fewer cars on the road during the rush hour commute. And, lastly, the vineyard crew actually enjoys it. Sure, it takes a couple days to get in the rhythm but we light the vineyard well so they can see the grapes and doing the heavy work of harvest is easier at night compared to working on a hot afternoon.

Now, I'm off to check out the fermenting juice as the first wines are already bubbling away. Cheers to vintage 2011!

Jon Ruel
Director of Viticulture & Winemaking
Trefethen Family Vineyards

Friday, September 23, 2011

Napa Valley Harvest Update - White Wines

Follow 2011 Napa Valley Harvest updates on our blog,, or on Twitter with #NVHarvest.

News Brief from Cuvaison's Vineyard Manager James

Cuvaison's Vineyard Manager James reports on the 2011 Harvest. James has managed Cuvaison's vineyards for over 15 years, is a Lead with Walsh Vineyard Management, and is very experienced with Napa Valley winegrowing. Needless to say, this isn't his first rodeo!

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Thursday, September 22, 2011


The launch codes have been given and the pad prepared, we are T-minus 21 hours to the start of our 40th crush! The new cellar is finished, the headlamps are cleaned and checked, the crews are rested and ready for tomorrow (early) morning when we will begin Harvest 2011. The first fruit across the scale this year will be about 10 tons of night harvested Sauvignon Blanc from our Takahashi Ranch in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Vallley.

A long standing tradition on the first day of harvest here at Montelena is the Blessing of the Grapes. Tomorrow mid-day before we begin pressing the Sauvignon Blanc, we will invite our friends and neighbors to join all of Team Montelena for an invocation and blessing of this year's crop, the new cellar, and all of us working with them. Two priests will be on hand to help us out, followed by a few toasts, and lunch by Jade Lake. A fine way to start what is bound to be an interesting and intense Harvest 2011.

Cameron Parry

(Meet Cameron in our latest Harvest 2011 Video!)

Why Not? Let's Throw a Party!

It's happening!  Harvest is getting underway all over the valley.  The sweet smell of fermentation is becoming more noticeable in the cool night time air, grape trucks and limos are filling up Highway 29, and everyone is excited/anxious for the coming months of hard labor.  It is a busy time of year, not only because we have grapes to make into some of the world's best wines, but because people love to come out to Napa to see the process.  It is the perfect excuse to throw a party!
    On October first we will be hosting our annual Harvest Party, not only to celebrate this wonderful time of year, but also to release our 2008 reds.  We have an amazing line up for the evening, Chef Casey Thompson, one of the finalist from season three of Bravo's Top Chef, is coming out to do the food.  Not only is she amazing chef (I have been blessed on a few occasions to enjoy her food), she is also a joy to be around.  For entertainment we have Dave the Butcher from Marina Meats and Avedano's coming up from San Francisco to demonstrate the fine art of butchery, and it truly is an art. Dave treats each animal with the utmost respect, and loves sharing his knowledge with anyone that is interested.
   If you are interested in joining us tickets are available on our website. Hope to see you here!

Late, Light and Luscious

While harvest started at Raymond on Monday, September 12th with the picking of our Sauvignon Blanc, our winemaker, Stephanie Putnam, and our winegrower, Eric Pooler, wanted to share their thoughts on the 2011 growing season and offer some predictions on the year’s harvest. Here’s a hint…it going to be “late light and luscious.”

--Raymond Vineyards

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Meet the Interns at Cuvaison

Cuvaison interns are organized by CAEP (a host organization that connects students and professionals with global paid internships). The applicants specify what they want to learn, the varietals they are interested in, the region of California they want to work, and the size of winery they are interested in.

Cuvaison’s Assistant Winemaker Matt Sunseri, receives the applications and selects candidates based on their profile and interest in winemaking. On occasion, candidates may choose the winery they are most interested in working at.

This year’s harvest interns each hail from very different places around the globe, yet they share a unifying interest in learning more about winemaking and improving their English, except of course for Josh the Australian, who already speaks English.

Meet Our Interns!

Eleanora from Italy

Ines from Uruguay

Firmin from France

Josh from Australia

When asked what they anticipated to be their greatest challenge while working crush, each intern shared a unique response. Ines’ concern is on learning new lab techniques, while Eleanora dreads washing tanks. Josh is concerned with driving on (what is to him) the opposite side of the road, and Firmin is concerned with his ability to communicate in English.

All of Cuvaison’s interns are excited to experience harvest in Napa Valley. It will be fun to see how their relationships evolve and what new insights they have to share in the weeks to come.

Winemaker Steve just announced harvest started last night at 1am!

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Friday, September 16, 2011

And So It Begins…

As with any industry, winemaking is filled with its traditions and annual occurrences. At Raymond Vineyards, one of our favorite traditions revolves around the beginning of harvest. Moments after the first grapes arrived, destined to become the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, the entire winery staff gathered for our annual Blessing of the Grapes. Msgr. Joseph Alzugaray, Jean-Charles Boisset, our proprietor, and our head winemaker, Stephanie Putnam, led the ceremony that included a celebration of the coming harvest and recognition of the hard work to come.

The blessing of the grapes dates back to the Old Testament when farming was considered one of the noblest professions. Of all the fruits grown, grapes held the distinct honor of being blessed in a large ceremony since they were the first fruit to be harvested of the season. The tradition has continued and is one that many winemakers hold dear to their hearts.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Raymond Vineyards

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pre-Harvest Report from the Round Pond Winemaker

This is a letter we received from our winemaker this morning to help us all to understand "where we are" with harvest:

Dear Team Round Pond,

On what is the last week before we get this party started, I think it’s appropriate to give a recap on where we are and how we got here.

This year’s catch phrase: "Cooler than normal temperatures"

In the spring, if we experience cool weather, the vines will remain dormant and bud break will be delayed. This is in itself is challenging, because like a thoroughbred getting out of the gates a furlong or two behind, it can be difficult to make up lost ground. Thus the 2011 vintage began...

Cooler temperature will also draw rain clouds in from the ocean. If, at this time, the vines are in cap drop, the effect from both the cool weather and the rain will interfere with the ability of the vine to pollinate. This is commonly referred to as shatter. On the Estate we experienced shatter in interesting patterns. Old vines were affected more than young. Some varieties were affected more than others. Some clones were affected more than others. Soil variability had little effect and rootstock was seen as being neutral. This was obviously a scion reaction to an atmospheric condition.

The cooler than normal weather persisted the entire growing season, which did not help us catch up in the ripening department. An interesting phenomenon of note is that we have not experienced a single heat spike the entire growing season. An occurrence that is unprecedented according to the old timers. Marching into September, we are tracking about three weeks behind schedule and it appears that my prediction of a record-breaking heat index for this month will not come to pass…

Now that everyone is sufficiently depressed I’d like to state that not all is doom and gloom. Not even close.

As cool and late as this vintage may be, this is the third year in a row Mother Nature has dealt us this same hand. The winegrowing team learned much in 2009 and gained on that knowledge in 2010. We have reacted quickly and sufficiently to guarantee the growth of the most exceptional crop this Estate can produce. I look forward to what this vintage still holds in store and will update you at the major milestones. You won’t have to wait long… Sauvignon Blanc is coming in next week.

Humbly Yours,

Brian Brown
Round Pond Estate

Shafer Vineyards: Our fruit is on track

Cornerstone Cellars - Harvest 2011 Day 1

Cornerstone Cellars winemaker Jeff Keene on the first day of our 20th Anniversary Harvest, Talcott Sauvignon Blanc in St. Helena.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It only happens at harvest time!!!

The flood gates have been opened, with grapes rolling in at a rapid pace. We are now pressing four or more lots per day. Four loads is a manageable day and five loads requires clock work precision receiving the grapes and loading the press. Six loads per day is what makes interns cry and seven loads is just plain crazy.

Well that's the kinda Monday we had, five loads we're scheduled and there was the opportunity to sneak in a sixth early in the morning. However we were surprised when the early delivery was late, which was kind of strange as this management company always delivers on time...then, when I was told there was another trailer at the bottom of the road, I knew we were in for an interesting day. The sixth load picked heavy and required a seventh. The good news is that the fruit came from a desirable vineyard and that more was better than less, the bad news was that seven loads is seven loads. With a mountain of fruit to process the cellar team put their heads down and got to work. They all had such a great "Let's get it done!" attitude. You never know what's going to happen on any given day during harvest, but with a great team nothing is impossible!!

Keith Hock
Schramsberg Vineyards

Girard Winery Kicks Off Harvest 2011

It's Time

It's 4 a.m. It’s time.

You wait all year and know it’s coming, but it always feels like it sneaks up on you. How can it be harvest already? What happened to summer? However, harvest time it is and at Cornerstone we are starting Crush 2011 right now at 4 a.m in the cold and dark of this September the 13th morning. That realization wakes you up and you start to notice a few leaves on the ground, the shorter and shorter days and a different type of coolness in the evening air. Fall is indeed arriving.

This is a very special harvest for us at Cornerstone Cellars as it is our twentieth anniversary vintage. We've come a long way in twenty years. These decade marks make you take stock of yourselves. As we look back there is one thing we know for sure; we're making the best wines we've ever made.

It’s been an unusual growing season, at least that’s the conventional wisdom. In fact, it’s a lot like last vintage, which means its been cool by recent Napa Valley standards. Is this the new “normal”? In my opinion a little cooler is not a bad thing. Cooler vintages give more balanced wines that are more transparent; wines that clearly show where they came from. Fruit bombs are not our goal.

The major problem so far with vintage 2011 in Napa is the cool, rainy weather in early June during flowering and set, which dramatically reduced the size of this year’s crop. Our Howell Mountain vineyards escaped this fate as the later flowering up on the mountain meant they missed the early June storms. Oddly our cabernet franc vineyards in St. Helena, Oakville and Carneros ended up with good fruit sets too as they also bloomed late.

So we head into mid-September around two weeks behind normal. That’s really not too bad: as long as the fall rains hold off long enough for everything to ripen. This, of course, is a very big “if”.

I often think there is an over-reaction to these slightly cooler years in Napa. Anyone who has spent time in some of the world’s most famous wine growing regions knows that Napa does not face the weather dangers those growers deal with on a regular basis. We will ripen our grapes. I truly believe that these “cooler” vintages make better wines in the Napa Valley. However, certain critics who define wine quality by girth disagree with me, preferring wines from hot vintages.

These cooler vintages excite me because of the opportunity they give us to make truly balanced, elegant wines designed to taste their best at the dinner table. The weather report forecasts mid-seventies and dry for the next week; perfect fall grape ripening weather. Just like last vintage I know we’re going to make wines that I love. I can’t wait.

It's 4 a.m. It’s time.

Cornerstone Cellars

Craig Camp

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ramping up!!!!

We are less than 2 weeks into Harvest 2011, which happens to be our 47th harvest here at Schramsberg Vineyards!!! We have already pressed about 250 tons of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

It has been a nice and easy warm up. The cellar team is eager and raring to go, their only complaint is that they haven't had enough overtime and that harvest hasn't been that challenging yet. I have assured them that the normal days are about to end. We are scheduled for 4 to 5 loads per day through next Tuesday and I expect the next 10 to 14 days to be biggest and longest days of the season.

I get a rush out of this time of year! It's the anticipation for the first pick and then the logistics of getting the grapes off the vine and to the winery at their optimal ripeness.

We walked the tank room yesterday - tasting the fresh juices, ones just starting fermentation and the first wines from vintage 2011. They all taste amazing!!! These first impression's are the foundation for Vintage 2011, and we like what we taste!!!!

Bring it on!!!!

Keith Hock
Schramsberg Vineyards

(Note from the Napa Valley Vintners: Check out Keith in our first Harvest 2011 video!)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Governor Brown Proclaims September California Wine Month

Governor Jerry Brown has proclaimed September 2011 as California Wine Month, the seventh consecutive year the state has recognized the contributions of the state’s growers and vintners by proclamation. To celebrate, many of the Golden State’s wineries, winegrape growers and regional associations are hosting special consumer wine events, which can be found at the Discover California Wine website. Members are encouraged to add their winery events in September and year-round to the site to take advantage of ongoing publicity efforts.

“As an industry, California wine brings innumerable benefits to the state. Our scenic and historic wine-growing regions, a renowned cuisine based on food and wine pairings, and the opportunity to taste and purchase our world-famous wines bring an estimated 20.7 million tourists to our state each year,” said Governor Brown in the proclamation. “Our state’s wineries create jobs for 330,000 Californians and revenue from retail sales of $18.4 billion, including $1.14 billion in exports sales to 122 countries.”

California Wine Month, established and coordinated by Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers, is also supported by hotel, restaurant, retail and association partners including:

National/Regional: California Travel and Tourism Commission; California Grocers Association; Safeway; Vons; California Pizza Kitchen; Kimpton Hotels; Amtrak; P.F. Chang’s China Bistro; Morton’s The Steakhouse; Vino Volo.

California: Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant (San Francisco); The Ritz Carlton, Los Angeles; JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE; Corkbar (Los Angeles); Napa Valley Grille (Westwood); Inertia Beverage Group (Napa).

New York: California Wine Merchant; 67 Wine & Spirits; Chelsea Wine Vault; Morrell & Co; Morrell Wine Bar & Café (Manhattan); Brooklyn Wine Exchange; Custom American Wine Bar; Red, White and Bubbly; Thirst Wine Merchant (Brooklyn); Bedford Wine Merchants; Rye Brook Wine & Spirits (Westchester).

For further information, contact or visit the California Wine Month website.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Drop It Like It's Hot

   The grapes I mean!  Bunch thinning, or dropping fruit, is a common practice in the vineyard that must be done before harvest, even if it may break grape growers hearts. The end goal for any grower or wine maker is to produce the best product, which means we usually have to intervene and help the vines out to ensure they ripen their fruit.  So, after verasion (the process in which grapes turn from green to whatever color they are destined to be) we head out into the vineyard and cut off any bunch that clearly will not ripen in time.  My winemaker, Joel Aiken (super smart dude) pointed out bunches (like the one pictured) that were only sort of pink and said they would never fully get through verasion, so off with their heads!  We also make sure to cut off bunches that have been either damaged from sun, pests or mold.  The idea is we do not want the vine wasting energy trying to ripen them when they will never be good enough to become wine.

So far everything seems logical, if it looks bad, take it off, if it looks good, leave it on.  Now here comes the hard part, at least for growers, we also go through and drop perfectly good fruit.  The idea is the same, we want the vine to be able the fully ripen the fruit so if there is too much fruit we have to take some of it off.  It is all about protecting the balance in the vine. 

Walking down the rows after they finish can be hard, it is sad to see all that seemingly perfect fruit in the dirt, but you have to remember it is for a good cause, to make the best damn wine we can! So maybe its best if you avoid the vineyard for a few days..

Happy Harvest All!

Chase Cellars

Sunday, September 4, 2011

We're ready... are you??

There is a familiar buzz here at Round Pond. It's like you can feel it in the air... Harvest is just around the corner, and boy are we ready for it! This season, we have an entirely new cellar crew that is working with winemaker Brian Brown. Our 4 new "crushers" come from all different backgrounds in wine, from locally born and raised in wine, a Masters degree in enology, and a few international harvests between them. We feel so fortunate to have such a stellar team in place for this year, and we can't wait to see them in action!

Although we are still a couple weeks out from picking our first grapes, Sauvignon Blanc, we are finding ways to kill some time around the winery. Meticulous checking of all the equipment, extensive cleaning of each tank, and a few BBQ's on the crushpad to soak in the late Summer sun. For Labor Day weekend, we have invited our wine club members to come celebrate with us in our Winery Sensory Garden that is bursting at the seams. Our chef Eric Maczko will be grilling his famous lamb kabobs and creating special garden treats using the bounty from our garden that we have been blessed with this season. All the bites will of course highlight our Estate wines and use our olive oils for a smooth finish. We love any chance we get to share with others. The winery will also be hosting a "Day in the Life" on October 15th if you are looking for a way to get hands-on with harvest. Check out a little video we put together to give you a glimpse at this one of a kind opportunity. Happy Harvest to all and we hope you will come say hi to our crew this season. Cheers!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Napa Valley Kicks Off Harvest 2011

Follow 2011 Napa Valley Harvest updates on our blog,, or on Twitter with #NVHarvest.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Harvest Prep on Spring Mountain!


Greetings from the top of Spring Mountain!

With the month of September beginning tomorrow, and the first sparkling wine grapes making their way off the vines in and around Napa, the final preparations have begun at Vineyard 7&8 to get ready for the 2011 harvest.

As of this morning, our estate grown Chardonnay is finally nearing completion of veraison, while our estate grown Cabernet continues progressing nearing 75% veraison. Like many growers in California this year, harvest will be later, crops may tend to be slightly lower due the the late spring rains during flowering, but we are very enthusiastic about the fruit we have growing on the vines.

With maybe one month to go until harvest beings here at the winery, we have been working on getting geared up for our fall release of our two "Estate" only wines including the release of our 2008 "Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon and our 2009 "Estate" Chardonnay. Both wines that we are truly jazzed about sharing very soon!

This summer we readied the cellar by bottling our two 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon labels from Vineyard 7&8, and have sent them off to rest in the warehouse until they are ready for release in 2012. See below for some fun photos of the bottles traveling along the bottling line.

For now, its back to walking the vineyards, continuing to give them a drink of water as they need it, get ready to put up the bird netting on the chardonnay, and being cleaning and sanitizing the winery for the grapes to come.

Wishing the best of luck to everyone this harvest! Looking forward to another challenge for the harvest of 2011, and yet another great vintage of wines in the Napa Valley.


Wesley Steffens
Vineyard 7&8