This week we brought in quite a few of our Reserve blocks of Cabernet and numerous other blocks of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It looks as though the first big wave is over and at this point it seems that the “R” word is being seriously considered for this Friday night. That is right, rain is in the forecast. This year, however, unlike 2010 and 2011 we are not waiting for Brix to reach 24 praying that they will rise post rain. This year most every vineyard that we are sampling is already above 24, some are even higher This year I can enjoy the rain and the pause that it brings in the craziness without worrying that it is the beginning of the end of harvest. The wines that are in the tanks now look amazing. The colors are high, flavors ripe and concentrated and tannins soft and supple. I’m so excited about what we are seeing. It’s a great year to be starting at Robert Mondavi!
We’ve been walking lots of vineyards this week and my boots are getting a workout for sure! This will be a short post this week but I just wanted to say that a huge portion of our Bordeaux reds will probably be picked in the next two weeks. Things are trending all together, the weather has been perfect and my prediction about a high Brix physiological ripeness seems to be holding true with the tannins tasting ripe around 26-27 Brix. It’s going to be an early year for sure!
I had a teacher in 10th grade English who said that ALL the time. “Take your F and move on with your life.” At some point in the year she found an assignment to give us all an F on. Was she just mean and spiteful? Some of us thought so at the time but what she was doing was trying to teach us a much more valuable life lesson than how to properly diagram a sentence. She wanted us to learn to deal with failure. To face it, accept it, and come out on the other side stronger and willing to work harder to achieve what we wanted. Today that quote is running through my mind a lot. I received my MW exam results this morning. I have failed the Practical exam once again with the same grades I had last year; C+, C+, and B respectively. The B was on Paper 1 last year but that is hardly the point. The point is I have now taken the exam 4 times and received 4 result letters. The first fail was a complete surprise to me. I thought for sure I had passed at least the theory portion. The second fail was devastating because I had thrown everything in my entire being at that theory exam and was at a complete loss as to what to do next. The third fail was bittersweet because it also came with a pass on Theory but a fail on Practical. It however did renew my chances to continue trying to pass the exam. Now, on my 4th fail, I’m taking it philosophically. It is just another set back in life which is, everyday, just a series of wins and setbacks. I’ve had far more of the first than the second in my life so I’m thinking this is not so bad. I have one more shot at the Practical and if my running theme holds true, I’ll pass it next year on my last try. Now I just have to find money to pay for the tuition again! If you would like to donate to my wine education fund don’t hesitate to let me know.
Song of the day: Strip Me by Natasha Bedingfield
Last Friday we brought in our first Cabernet of the season from To Kalon vineyard for the blessing of the harvest. It was an amazing experience to witness complete with songs, speeches, and of course, a Catholic priest to conduct the blessing of the fruit and all attendees.
Outside of this small deviation, my entire focus has been on Pinot Noir. Well that and kicking the fall cold my son was so kind to share with me. By the end of this week we will have brought in the vast majority of the Pinot Noir. Since we were getting close to the end for Pinot, I have been watching the weather like a hawk. Pinot is notoriously fickle. It will stall just before ripeness is achieved then at the slightest hint of a heat wave suddenly jumps and can go past optimum flavors faster than you can blink. I’ve adopted a strategy to pick some s little early to balance the inevitable over ripe fruit that tends to show up towards the end. This year, however, the weather has stayed cool for the most part with only the end of this week threatening hot days. By then, thanks to careful planning and efficiently of the winery team and our growers we seem to be keeping one step ahead so far. I won’t count it done however until all of it is in. Then I will focus my complete attention to our Bordeaux varieties, which, by the way are sitting at the 22-24 range in Brix right now however the flavors are not even close to ripe. My personal optimum Brix to pick Cabernet is 24.5-25. This year I don’t think that is going to be realistic. That is not the style this vintage is giving us. Be prepared for some big concentrated beasts this year! We’ll see how it goes but I’m thinking 26-27 might be the average Brix for Cabernet in the valley for 2013.
Only the coming weeks will tell for sure.
You can’t get much more beautiful weather than we have had in Napa over the past two weeks; particularly if you are growing wine grapes. The nights have been cool with lightly foggy mornings and warm sunny afternoons with highs in the upper 80s everyday. It is shaping up to be a wonderful harvest so far. The two tanks of Pinot Noir I have sitting in the winery looked nearly perfect analysis wise and tasted great when I tasted the juice this morning. They are in the cold soak period right now but already they are starting to exhibit color extraction.
This video is of our first pump over on the first Pinot tank of the vintage. Already you can see the juice turning darker after only a few hours in the tank yesterday.
At home, pear season is coming to a close and we are left with around 40 pounds of very ripe Bartlett pears after giving away close to 100 pounds, eating lots and baking with even more. I’m starting to feel a little bit like Bubba from the movie Forest Gump when I talk about pears. Fresh pears, dried pears, canned pears, puréed pears, pear sauce, pear tarts. You get the picture. Still I am always open to more tasty pear ideas so if you have any suggestions feel free to let me know. This is my favorite pear tart recipe. It’s super easy and delicious. I make a TON of them this time of year.
Next week I anticipate that things will really start rolling with harvest so this weekend I’m going to try to get all my loose ends around the house tied up.
Right now I’m tooling around Napa Valley, listening to Mumford and sons, and walking vineyards. Specifically Pinot Noir vineyards. One morning, Genevieve and I tracked our steps and realized we had walked over 5 miles in 3 hours. It’s great exercise and also a wonderful way to see what is happening with the fruit. This year, now that I’m at Mondavi, I have the luxury of being out in the vineyards every morning. I’ve already memorized all the blocks of Stanly Ranch and the locations of our other family owned vineyards for Pinot Noir. I’ve never been able to learn vineyards so quickly before and the little discoveries that I’ve found about them are so exciting. This hill has more flavor, that slope has better color, the tannins smooth out when you cross the rise. All of these things are discovered by tasting the fruit. I chew the skins to determine the potential color extraction, taste the pulp, and look at the seeds to determine ripeness and readiness to pick. That, together with the lab analysis, help us determine the date of harvest. We’ve decided to pick about 23 tons of Pinot Noir next Monday to start the red wine season so the harvest is here for the red wines at Robert Mondavi! This is earlier than normal but as I said before not that abnormally early. I still see about 1 week ahead in most vineyards. I’m still cautiously optimistic about being able to enjoy Halloween this year!
One of our Stags Leap District vineyards.
The second week of the harvest season is upon us. This week we will be harvesting Sauvignon Blanc on Thursday and next week we will probably see the first of the Pinot Noir. The weather was unseasonably cool last week. Combined with the previous cool temperatures that drops our early harvest to only one week earlier than normal ( whatever normal actually is). The defining feature of this vintage so far is the acid. The weeks of cool weather have kept acids very high so far. How high you ask? How is a 10 TA so far for you? For the layman, this is pretty high. This week is calling for slightly above average temperatures so this should only be a temporary issue. The heat will work on the acid and everything should drop smoothly into place by the time fruit is ready to harvest. Phenolic ripeness doesn’t seem to be an issue this year as the seeds and canes in Cabernet and Merlot are already almost completely brown.
With the warming in the future this is setting up to be a memorable vintage. I’ve always considered 13 one of my lucky numbers. So far, it seems to be holding.
Week 1 of harvest is upon us. That’s not saying we’re getting fruit this week but that the season is upon us. For those of you who have followed a vintage with me before, you know I start week 1 with the first week in August and it continues for the next 14 weeks. This is an early year so far. 2004 was the warmest in recent years and we are knocking on that record already. The nights recently have been cool leading to foggy mornings and warm sunny afternoons. We have Sauvignon Blanc at 21 Brix and saw our sister winery, Franciscan, bring in their first fruit today. Needless to say we are very close to bringing in fruit ourselves. I’m daring to hope for a clear Halloween this year without having to worry about which vineyards will be hanging out through it.
In the vineyards, Veraison is almost complete in To Kalon with almost black bunches in every block. The Malbec was particularly interesting today with super dark color already at only 14 Brix. It looks like it will be a very interesting year if the weather holds.
At home, our pears are coming ripe and the tomatoes and zucchini have been prolific! Bring on the baked zucchini with fresh tomatoes, oregano, basil, and mozzarella cheese! I love this time of year because it is a time of great possibility from the vintage and fantastic fresh foods.
See you next week!
More than three years ago I set off on a quest to demystify wine for the average consumer through this blog. I answered questions, covered basic winemaking topics and threw in a little tasting or MW studying here and there. People wanted to know what a day in the life if a winemaker was so I spent a year writing about what was going on in the vineyards and winery. What I came to realize, after a year, is that I was writing about the same things the next year with minor tweaks depending on the vintage. Then I had a baby and changed jobs. This refocus of my life meant I had to neglect my writing for a while due to the age old excuse that there wasn’t enough time in the day. So here we are again, a little over a year from my most viewed post regarding why wine should not be compared to toilet paper. Not a terribly deep subject but an entertaining one nonetheless. I think in some way a fellow wine blogger of mine was correct when he (and I would give him the credit here if I could remember who it was) wondered aloud if we (the wine bloggers) were really all just talking to ourselves.
Anyway, now I find myself at a crossroads. Do I continue down the path that I have followed since March 1st, 2010 when I published my first post or do I take a new direction? I would like to open this for discussion to you, my readers. What do you want to read about? Who are you? Should I be covering more in depth winemaking information? More geeky vineyard stuff? Feel free to comment and let me know the details that Google analytics cannot. The future is in your hands!
Today I was out with Genevieve looking at Pinot Noir in Carneros. Imagine my surprise when we discovered the first Veraison of the year!!!! It’s only 10% right now but I’m still so excited! That means harvest is only 5-6 weeks away.
The weather has finally settled into a somewhat normal pattern with cool foggy mornings warming to hot, beautiful days and back to cool nights which are ideal for ripening. The next two months will be critical for determining the fate of this vintage.