This week we are in the middle of bloom. Normally I would be happy about that but this bloom shows the first portends of a challenging vintage. The bloom is not even. There are some clusters with full bloom while others are still tightly closed on the same vine. Below is a picture of full bloom in Merlot
The weather has also been less than ideal. Rain last Thursday night and cool, windy conditions are not ideal for an excellent set. This may be a blessing in disguise however. The flower clusters that are out there are big. Large wings and long primary clusters. Here is some Cabernet in Monastery Block of To Kalon.
In the meantime, I’ve decided to retire my boots. This has been the absolute best pair of boots I’ve ever had. Winemaking is hard on boots. They have to tromp through vineyards, up and down hills, in both wet and dry conditions then come into the winery only to be covered in grape pumace and splashed with wine. Mine have the added requirement of dealing with a house renovation and running after an 18 month old. I bought them for the 2010 vintage and they have lasted me through 2011, 2012, and 2013. I, of course, went out and bought the exact same shoe. I knew I had worn them down but until I compared the two pairs I had no idea how much. Here are the comparison pics below.
Apparently I’ve asked a lot from my shoes and these have delivered. Who knows how many miles they have walked but I look forward to seeing how many miles I can get out of the new pair!>
This week I found time to get out in To Kalon and work a bit. The fastest way to get to know a vineyard is to work in it. Moving through the rows with steady purpose and rhythmic cutting you start to get a feel for the strong and weak areas. The undulating rises and dips in the ground where frost or water may settle at various times in the season. I only had time for a little but so I started in Monastery with our vineyard manager Matt Ashby.
This particular block of Monastery is Reserve Sauvignon Blanc that is spur pruned and cordon trained.
We’re leaving two buds per spur so that there will be two fruitful shoots this next season per position.
When you are pruning you take between 90-95% of last years growth off. I’ve taken a before and after shot below.
This was my first time pruning To Kalon. It’s a little daunting knowing what this vineyard is capable of but you still have to make the cuts reasonably fast. I found out two things; I still know what cuts to make but I’m A LOT slower than I used to be when I was pruning more often. Good pruners can prune close to or above 100 vines per hour. I was around 30 vines per hour which is embarrassingly pathetic from where I was three springs ago when I pruned last. It just goes to show you, if you don’t use it you lose it! The vines are bleeding profusely so budbreak will be shortly upon us and with it the beginning of my vintage note updates for 2014!
One of the great things that we get to experience living in the Napa Valley are the amazing events put on throughout the year including Premier Napa Valley and Auction Napa Valley both put on by the Napa Valley Vintners. It’s so exciting to be able to be in the crowds and feel the excitement. It’s also extremely rewarding as a winemaker to get instant feedback from others about your wines. For Robert Mondavi Winery, we’ve entered a 20 case lot. That means in the winery we go through days of blending for a wine that will only add up to a little less than a barrel. It is a SUPER small amount but still approached as seriously as any of our other blends. Each one is important!
My week doesn’t really get going until Friday afternoon when the Oakville growers descend on Far Niente. Doors open at 3pm and the event runs until 6pm. I’ll be there the whole time so be sure to say hi. The main event so to speak is the lot tasting and auction on Saturday at the CIA Greystone. This is exciting for multiple reasons. A) it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of an auction. B) I get a chance to taste other wines from the valley. It’s a great opportunity to see what everyone else is doing as well as to get feel for how the valley as a whole is presenting itself to the world. Finally C) It’s a great time to catch up with old friends and make new ones. I’ll be rotating between pouring at the Robert Mondavi Winery station (#13 if memory serves me correctly) with the rest of the team and tasting throughout the room. The only downside? Cell service is spotty at the CIA. Must be all that stone architecture. Therefore, there won’t be much tweeting from me even though there will be plenty to tweet about.
I hope everyone has a great time and I’ll see you there!
On another note, vintage 2014 is quietly beginning
The newly pruned vines on To Kalon were bleeding this morning!