Tag Archives: Napa Valley wine

Grape Flowering 2013 in Napa Valley

Grapeflower_chard

Flowering’s wrapping up here in Napa Valley. See those tiny white, protrusions? They represent the potential crop yield this year for the 2013 vintage.

Perhaps you’re underwhelmed by the beauty of the grape flower. True, true – they’re not exactly roses, are they? You have to get up very close to even see or smell them. From a distance they just look kind of fuzzy.

Nevertheless, even as we speak the last of the flower petals are shedding their delicate caps to open up, liberating the pollen to fertilize the waiting ovules! Good, gracious me – I think I need a sip of wine!

And, all of that happens without the help of bees or other insects. Believe it or not, those little bitty things contain the pollen-bearing stamen and the ovaries. How convenient! All we have to worry about is the weather. Everything else is taken care of as long as the weather’s good. You could put a paper bag over those flower clusters and they’d still produce a crop! Continue reading

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Sauvignon Blanc or Fumé Blanc?

Fume

Question from Pete: I heard that Sauvignon Blanc and Fumé Blanc are the same grape. Is that true? What’s the difference?

Reply: This comes up all the time. The grape variety is called Sauvignon Blanc. The name Fumé Blanc was dreamed up by Robert Mondavi to help him sell Sauvignon Blanc at a time when it was unpopular.

You have to go back to the 1960s, the when the groundwork was being laid for the second wine boom in California – the first was in the 1880s. In the sixties, very little Sauvignon Blanc was made. And what there was, was usually sweet and mediocre at best.

Robert Mondavi spent significant time in Bordeaux, Burgundy and other famous winegrowing regions in France to observe growing and winemaking techniques. While there, he was quite taken by the dry Sauvignon Blanc wines made in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. He was sure he could sell a similar style at home if he wasn’t encumbered by the unpopular name, Sauvignon Blanc, and all the negative baggage that went with it.

In the Loire Valley, dry Sauvignon Blanc is sold under a variety of names such as Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé and Blanc Fumé. So, he took the name Blanc Fumé and flipped it around to come up with Fumé Blanc.

Sales took off. Never underestimate the power of marketing! He didn’t trademark the name and a number of other wineries adopted it. It’s not as commonly used these days, but you can still buy wine called Fumé Blanc from Grgich Hills, Chateau St. Jean, Ferrari-Carrano, Dry Creek, Hogue Cellars and others.

As it happens, most wineries that have adopted the name oak age their Fumé Blanc, just as Robert Mondavi Winery does. But there’s no regulation in that regard. The best thing to do if you’re shopping is to ask whether the wine is oaked or not so you know what you’re getting.

So, while Fumé Blanc isn’t a grape, it certainly is a wine – and a delicious one!

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