News/Blog

Harvest - Winemaking Comes Naturally

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Often we forget that wine is a microbiological product. They contain all sorts of natural microorganisms that are essential to the winemaking process – like yeast. Yeasts are tiny. We can’t see them, but they do the heavy lifting to transform sweet-tasting grape juice into something much more complex – a liquid that has the potential to be profound (maybe even life-changing)!

My winemaking philosophy leads me to use the naturally occurring yeast that lives in the vineyard (hello, terroir!) and a small amount of cultured yeast (predictable aromas, clean ferments). This combination gives my wines a layered complexity that speaks “Old World influence with Napa Valley intensity..."


Harvest - It's Time

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It's time! The grape flavors are lip-smackingly beautiful and the lab numbers are perfect. My dedicated crew harvests in the early light when the fruit is cold and I can get a jump on the long process of trucking, de-stemming, and moving the grape must into the caves where the ‘alchemy’ begins – fermentation! The aromas in a wine cave during harvest can be sublime, a mixture of fruit jellies, yeast, oak wood, and earth. Subtle, but once experienced, never forgotten...

Harvest - How do I know when it's time?

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A question that is often asked, “How do you determine when to harvest?”

 In other words, “when are the grapes ripe?” Easily asked, but hard to answer! I base my decisions on the style of wine I like; full fresh flavor extraction without cooked, raisiny overtones. It’s based on a more European vision of wines that age well and pair well with food.

 First and foremost is how the individual berries taste. I base this on my forty years of experience making wine from the same vineyard. To back that up comes my refractometer. A cool tool to measure sugar levels. I like to calculate which rows I am sampling beforehand to help get the most accurate sample set. Then I’ll walk the rows gathering berries (and eating them, delicious!) from the shady interior and the sunny exterior. That allows my sample set to have the best lookalike representation of all of my fruit in the vineyard. With the berries gathered, I juice them by hand (fun smooshy work), and some of it goes in the refractometer and some goes to the lab for pH/acidity readings.

Signing off (for awhile)

Harvest started for us August 7th. It's been a good long 'haul'. The vines are ready for winter, and our aged wines are ready for your enjoyment. Time for reflection and thankfulness...

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch...


The drought continues. In spite of that, our dry farmed vineyard came through, producing a generous and flavorful crop. So now is the time to give it back, and replenish the soil with nutrients. On the tractor, I’m dispensing cover crop seed (a blend of nitrogen fixing legumes and oats) and organic fertilizer (7.5-5-7.5). Thank you, Grapevines, I wish you a long rest with plenty of water from the skies!

Wrapping It Up At The Winery

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The last wines are pressed to barrel.
The 2014 harvest is now one for the books! Awesome in quality, the work now begins to babysit the young wines through secondary fermentations and sluggish primaries. The wineries’ hectic pace is behind us; we work to schedule more time for rest (sleep!) and pull our personal lives back in order...

Petite Sirah

 Petite Sirah. The winemaker’s problem child. Thin skinned, sensitive to sunburn and prone to set a big crop. If everything goes right during the growing season, it's susceptible to botrytis and black rot during late summer. Assuming the vines have been coached along to a perfect harvest the winemaker has then to deal with the potential of a wine with enough tannins to make the back of your jaw hurt.   With that being said, why you may ask, am I growing and making Petite Sirah in the heart of the Napa Valley? You're first clue; my college major wasn't business! In my opinion, the world doesn't need yet another Napa Valley Cab!   So here I am creating a balanced petite Sirah for the 2014 vintage .  Balanced Petite Sirah , is that an oxymoron? Not necessarily. Of course it involves more work from the winemaker and a bag of tricks (in my case, natural and organic) which include press cycles, lees stirring, French oak and a few secrets I won’t divulge (other winemakers might be reading this).  If you have ever had a truly sublime Petite, you know what keeps me going. For a kinder gentler Petite Sirah, try to get a hold of a bottle of 2011 Tofanelli Estate Petite Sirah...

Petite Sirah.
The winemaker’s problem child.
Thin skinned, sensitive to sunburn and prone to set a big crop. If everything goes right during the growing season, it's susceptible to botrytis and black rot during late summer. Assuming the vines have been coached along to a perfect harvest the winemaker has then to deal with the potential of a wine with enough tannins to make the back of your jaw hurt.

 With that being said, why you may ask, am I growing and making Petite Sirah in the heart of the Napa Valley?
You're first clue; my college major wasn't business! In my opinion, the world doesn't need yet another Napa Valley Cab!  
So here I am creating a balanced petite Sirah for the 2014 vintage . Balanced Petite Sirah, is that an oxymoron? Not necessarily. Of course it involves more work from the winemaker and a bag of tricks (in my case, natural and organic) which include press cycles, lees stirring, French oak and a few secrets I won’t divulge (other winemakers might be reading this).

If you have ever had a truly sublime Petite, you know what keeps me going.
For a kinder gentler Petite Sirah, try to get a hold of a bottle of 2011 Tofanelli Estate Petite Sirah...