Some Good News for 2020…

I don’t know about everyone else but I’m ready to put up the Christmas decorations and call it a year!  Generally speaking, this has not been a great year for anyone.  A global pandemic, murder hornets, mass layoffs, recession, all our favorite restaurants closing, no travel when everyone really could use a vacation, no get togethers or hanging out with friends.  Even the hurricanes have pet hurricanes this year. Then to cap it off massive wildfires that have affected CA, WA, and OR with a smoke plume which has now made its way all the way to Europe!  Yep, no way around it, this has been a tough year.  So I thought I would share some of the good news in my world in the hopes that if we all focus on the small, good things that have happened this year, maybe we’ll all feel a little bit better.

First of all, smiling babies make everything better!

My youngest son was born in May at home and the past few months have been both a blessing and a challenge as they always are with a new baby.  He was born at home, which I was nervous about at first but I had an amazing midwife to help me through it.  Even up until I went into labor, I had always thought that I would end up in the hospital for the birth however when he decided to come on, he came quickly and I was eternally grateful I had set up for a home birth “just in case” the COVID situation at the hospital made me too uncomfortable to go. He is the single best thing to have happened to our family this year and everyday when I get to see his smiling face, it feels like everything is right with the world even though its falling apart in many ways.  Forever more, going forward, when we talk about this year, I want to be very careful to make sure he knows how good he made this year for us when it was so challenging.

The other good things showed up this week!  First, we found out that our 2016 Trestle Thirty One Riesling won a gold medal and was the second highest scoring Riesling at the Sommeliers Choice Awards 2020.  This was our first competition that we entered and I couldn’t be happier with the result! After working so hard for so long, it is always good to get validation that you are going in the right direction.

Speaking of going in the right direction, I also found out this week that I have made the list of the top 101 Wine Writers of 2020 from Corking Wines in the UK.  This was utterly shocking because I so rarely think of myself as a wine writer but rather a winemaker who writes.  Still, the list is an amazing compilation of who’s who that I cannot help but be incredibly humbled to have even been considered much less actually granted a spot.

Corking Wine’s founders, David Beswick and Yvonne Holmes said, “We are so pleased to award Nova with our Top 101 Wine Writers of 2020, in recognition of the fantastic content she has produced for her blog. Nova’s extensive industry knowledge and passion for her work shines through in each stylish article that she writes. The result is a fascinating insight into the world of wine.”
So a great thank you for that and I hope to be able to keep producing great wine and writing about doing so for a long time to come…

Pregnancy in the Time of Coronavirus

If, at Christmastime, you had asked me what my third trimester would be like, I guarantee guessing that I would be sheltering at home with a global pandemic raging outside would have not even made the list of my top 100 projections.  However, here we are.  California was the first state to issue a stay at home order and between that and the schools closing we have hunkered down to weather the storm.  I’m six weeks from my due date and wondering what the world will look like when my baby boy is born.

I know, for many, these times are difficult and trying.  There is a perceived loss of freedom.  The fearfulness of the disease itself.  The financial worries of the economy.  While I do share many of these concerns, I’ve chosen to focus on the positive aspects of our new normal which, for me, frankly outweigh the negatives of these unusual circumstances.

Spending more time with my family

I feel so blessed during this time of transition from a three-person family to a four person family that I’m able to spend the last few weeks with all three of us together.  The transition to working and schooling from home was not as challenging as I’m sure many are because we run our own business from home.  We immediately set up a “homeschooling” schedule for my oldest son by repurposing the whiteboard that we bought to manage tasks for Trestle Thirty One.  Now it has a tiny American flag taped to the side and sports today’s date, what yesterday was, what tomorrow will be, and the weather today along with the schedule, spelling words, and chores for the day.  The wine business has been relegated to a tiny marked off corner of the board; a small sign of the reprioritization in our lives.

I see so many people commenting on seeing their spouse in “work mode” for the first time.  Brian and I met at work almost 20 years ago.  In fact, our boss at the time, seeing how well we worked together started putting us together on organizing the warehouse and unloading boxes together which eventually led to us dating.  We have very similar working methods although we are totally different in work style. If you follow the DiSC method, I’m an Si and Brian is a CD so together we cover almost the entire range of thought processes.  We have both been working in the wine industry for many years, on occasion at the same companies. We have also been running Trestle Thirty One together for 5 years now so we are pros at working together and in the same spaces.  I really enjoy working next to him now because of the little moments now that I’m pregnant.  His smiles of support while I waddle across the house and quick shoulder rubs after a conference call.  He’s also been incredible as we tag team the “homeschool” work together.  We compare schedules in the morning to make sure we don’t overlap and then trade off on the schedule as the day goes by.  At 5pm the work/school day ends for all of us and we are able to play cards, boardgames, or a rigged up ring toss in the back yard.  These moments of family time are the best!

Work Flexibility

Even though I’m super uncomfortable physically now, I’m able to adjust how and where I’m working in the house to accommodate my needs in a way which would be impossible in my office at work.  I rotate between my balance ball and a dining room chair most of the day but if I need to put my feet up I move to the couch with my lap top.  In the afternoon, I have the option of moving outside to our backyard (luckily the wifi works out there too!) to get some sun and fresh air. Most of my maternity clothes don’t fit at this point and it’s too late in the pregnancy to buy more so working from home gives me the relaxed options in my wardrobe that most late third trimester women only dream about having.

Calendar Shed

Thirdly, the number of cancellations in meetings, events, and general busyness has been such a relief.  Before the stay at home order, I kept waiting each week for the slow down in life which naturally happens when one starts to say “no” to all extracurricular activities and many work ones in the months before the baby comes.  It just never seemed to manifest.  It appeared that I was going to run full steam into the brick wall of labor without having any time to mentally or physically prepare for it.  This made for a very quick pregnancy in hindsight with the weeks rolling on top of each other.  However, my normal pace of life was starting to be exhausting as the time progressed into my third trimester.  I wasn’t sleeping well, only 2-3 hours at any given time. I found myself wandering the house at 2am trying to go back to sleep. For this reason, I find this time to be an absolute blessing.  Things that really needed to get done are getting done and many things that were not as urgent when looked at in the face of the pandemic have been postponed or canceled.  It allowed me to exhale in a way that I haven’t for a long time.  Brian asked me just yesterday if I wanted to get out of the house and go for a drive.  I’ve got to say that urge has never once crossed my mind during this time at home.  Maybe “nesting” in my case is really just that, staying in the nest.

Looking ahead

There are so many unknowns at this point which will unfold over the next 6 weeks.  Will I be able to go to the hospital to give birth or will the risk be too great to both the baby and me? Will we run out of milk? Current limitations on what you can buy at the store are not really conducive to not going to the store frequently and between my son and I, we are drinking a lot of milk. To mask or not to mask? Luckily, we have masks from the fire preparedness kit that I put together after last year’s wildfires, but should we be using them? I’m leaning toward yes at this point.

Finally, what is my line up of wines that I’ll be enjoying post-baby birth? We have a lovely Domaine Carneros Rose that Brian picked up and at least two other bottles of Champagne that were gifts over the past 8 months that have been calling my name.  There will be Pinot Noir of course, and lots of FLX Riesling.  Probably a few Gin based summer cocktails thrown in  (all worked in responsibly around feedings of course).

There is lots to look forward to for all of us.  In the meantime, enjoy the moment with our families, and look for the silver linings whenever possible.

Vintage Report 2019

I’m so honored today to be giving the keynote this morning at the Vintage Report Napa 2019. I’m excited to share notes from both my East Coast and West Coast vintages since I feel we as a country are quite separated into CA and Non-CA wine regions. There is so much we can learn from other area beyond where we are making wine and this is one of the central themes of my talk.

My life as an MW has slowly merged into my life as a winemaker and this was particularly evident in 2018. I was able to pull from the MW knowledge to make two very special wines; one on each coast.

My East coast wine is of course, the Trestle Thirty One 2018 Riesling. Previous to 2018 my wines have had a common style. Dry and textured with a clean, fresh mouthfeel and focused fruit and flint character. The 2018 vintage surprised and delighted me with a challenge when the fruit had a 30% Nobel rot influence and the Brix shot up to 24.5 in the press even though all evidence of prior samples pointed to a 19 Brix harvest. This gave me the opportunity to explore a style similar to an Austrian Smaragd. It is by taste dry but incredibly rich and concentrated. I tasted a number of them before kicking off the fermentation and used the style as my template for how to manage my Riesling.

The second wine was made in Oakville and was a dessert style which was originally planned to be made from Botrytis grapes. Due to the dryness of Napa, Botrytis is naturally hard to come by so I opted to follow Italian tradition and make a Passito method wine. We dried the grapes, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon both, on the vine to 34 and 36 Brix respectively. Then we used a Tokaji pressing method to soak the dried fruit and during the 12 hour press cycle extract as much precious juice as possible. We then used Sauternes inspiration for a French oak fermentation with 1/3 being new and a Sauternes yeast to finish it off. The finished wine is a beautiful mix of these styles which I would have never even thought of without my MW.

So if I can leave everyone with one theme from this it is as winemakers we can not isolate ourselves in our home regions. Collectively we can make better wine by learning from each other and about regions which on the outset it may seem we have nothing in common with.

For info on the rest of my talk about specifics of Napa and the Finger Lakes in 2019 I hope you can attend this morning. If not, perhaps the video will be posted by the Vintage Report team.