Vintage 2021: Spring Update

Cabernet Sauvignon just after bud break


We are off to a dry but fast start here in Napa. Bud break was only a few weeks ago but already many vineyards are at the 6” shoot mark. So far this season is shaping up to be the driest on record which could mean amazing quality but very high risk for wild fires. As a winemaker, one can only hope that with the fires of the past 5 years, everything around us has burned significantly recently to not be a major fire threat due to lack of abundant fuel.

There was a freak sunshower in Napa this week which hit parts of the valley with a fast but torrential downpour. Other parts of the valley got nothing. I was worried about hail but heard no reports of it, thank goodness. Many growers were on their tractors shortly after making sure the unexpected moisture didn’t contribute to a Powdery Mildew outbreak.

Overall we have had a long but seemingly uneventful frost season so far. The frost fans were a common wake up call for us in March and early April but as the nights are getting warmer now and the fog layer is rolling in I’ve been hearing them less.

Finger Lakes

We haven’t seen bud break in the FLX yet. It snowed this past week so the rumor on the street says snow in April means a warm vintage which is always appreciated. There haven’t been too many deep freezes this winter so bud health looks good so far. Once we pass Memorial Day, the threat of frost is greatly reduced and the season will get going rapidly.

2020 Vintage Wrap Up

2020 was spectacular in the FLX however I haven’t really written about the vintage until now since 2020 was so devastating out here in Napa. It was very hard to process both elation and devastation at the same time so I ended up not really doing my annual harvest recap.

The warm vintage was relatively dry for the area and ranks up there with 2016 in my opinion (although not quite as dry as that). Flavors were amazingly concentrated and acids fresh and bright. Both Trestle Thirty One and my new brand Snowshell Vineyards, which is available through Naked Wines for pre-order now, look amazing and I’m so excited about how these wines will evolve.

In hindsight, 2020 in Napa was not as bad as we anticipated. The whites are amazing. Bright and fresh with concentrated flavors so I am very excited about that. The jury is still out on the reds. It’s very possible some beautiful early harvest reds such as Pinot Noir and early Cabernet will show how much promise 2020 had as a vintage. Unfortunately we already know many wineries have declared they will not be making a 2020 vintage also. The emotions are still raw and the full impact is still undetermined. In the meanwhile, please support your favorite wineries so that many who were directly impacted can begin to rebuild.

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.