Tag Archives: wine growing

Today’s Wine Word: Crush Widow

Have you ever heard of a crush widow? Here’s the story:

Maybe you’d like to take a lonely crush widow – or widower – to lunch! Cheers!

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September 5, 2013 · 7:50 pm

Today’s Wine Word: Brix

What’s the word on every grower’s and winemaker’s lips right now? Brix!

How sweet is that? 😉

Visit A Million Cooks for more brief videos from experts on the food you eat: Where it comes from, where to buy it and how to prepare it.

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Today’s Wine Word: Bud Break!

Bud-break-2

It’s happening. Mostly in the southern part of Napa Valley at this point, but it’s happening. The vines are emerging from their long winter slumber.

Every year I kind of worry because the vines look so very dead, especially once they’ve been pruned. I’m afraid that March will go by and they’ll still look like they’re dead – that they’ll never push out that very lovely little bit of pinky-green new growth. 

But, this marks the beginning of the 2012 growing season – may it be a MUCH, MUCH better and easier one than 2011! After what the vineyard managers have been through in 2010 and 2011 I think they deserve a frost-free spring and perfect weather from there on. 

What’s perfect? Around here, from April through October, we’re looking for warm, sunny days (maybe even a few hot ones) and cool, foggy nights – and no rain. Oh, it’s okay if Mother Nature wants to sprinkle a bit to dust off the grapes now and then, but no heavy rain, especially not during harvest!! Continue reading

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What Makes Napa Valley Special?

Napa_valley_welcome_sign1

Thanks to the handful of readers who wrote back about yesterday’s post on the high price of Napa Valley wine. It was quite natural for them to wonder what makes this region special enough to justify the price. 

As you recall, the simple answer is supply and demand. So, why are Napa Valley grapes in such high demand? What makes the valley so special?

The short answer for that is “pure luck.” And, pure luck translates into a great combination of soil and climate for wine grapes. The growing conditions here are so favorable for growing wine grapes that a grower could almost do a sloppy job of farming and still get pretty good results.

But, the thing is that most growers and winemakers here aren’t content with “pretty good.” They want to grow/make wonderful wine! So, the third, key, element is people: People who are fanatical about what they do. Any winemaker will tell you that if the vineyard grows superlative fruit, she’s 90% of the way home. Her job is to try not to mess it up.

The fact that the valley is small and produces only 4% of California’s wine adds to our “luck” when it comes to demand.

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Why Does Napa Valley Wine Cost so Much?

Grapes

Question from Rick: Why does Napa Valley wine cost so much?

Reply: Good question – I’ll bet lots of people wonder the same thing. The short answer is supply and demand. But, seen through that lens, the best of Napa Valley Cabs are quite a bargain compared to their European counterparts.

You can expect to pay just over $200.00 a bottle for Shafer Napa Valley Hillside Select Cabernet – a wine that many think of as one of Napa Valley’s unofficial first growths. A current vintage of Chateau Latour, a first growth from Bordeaux, is $1000.00 a pop, give or take, depending upon where you buy it.

I don’t think any tasting panel would come to the conclusion that Chateau Latour is five times better than Hillside Select or that the Hillside Select is seven times better than Robert Mondavi’s Napa Valley Cab.
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Grape Flowering & Fruitset

Well, flowering is finally wrapping up over this last week or so. This being mid-June, it puts us a solid two to three weeks behind “normal” – whatever that is. 

As I wrote earlier, the growing season got off to a late start but the hope was that we’d have some nice, warm weather and get caught up, or at least most of the way. 

But, all you northern Californians know that it’s been an unseasonably wet, cold spring. If I determined my location by observing the weather, and nothing else, I would have thought I was having a long stay with my sister, up in the Willamette Valley.
Two to three weeks behind normal isn’t necessarily bad. It all depends upon what Mother Nature has in mind for the upcoming months. A late crop means a late harvest, which means a better chance of a rain during harvest, which isn’t a good thing at all. 
You might be interested to know that the grape flower is a self-pollinating hermaphrodite. The flower contains both the male stamen and the female ovary and, theoretically, could pollinate successfully in a brown paper bag – not very sexy… Continue reading

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Another Wine Word: Frost Protection!

Windmachine

Springtime visitors to Napa Valley have been known to call the cops in the middle of the night to complain about low-flying aircraft near their hotel. I wonder how many calls the county gets per season… 

I’ll bet it happened several times over this past weekend because both Friday and Saturday nights I heard the unmistakable hum (unmistakable once you know what it is) of wind machines.  

What this means is that some poor vineyard manager had to get up in the wee hours (I heard the hum starting at around 2:00 both nights) and drive around the vineyard with his thermos of coffee checking temperatures and deciding if/when they should turn on the wind machine(s) to protect the new growth from frost damage.  Continue reading

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