2016 Harvest Report – Part 1

Dear Friends,


As we are approaching the 2016 harvest, I want to give you a heads-up and share my experiences while visiting the Napa and Sonoma Valleys this week.  This week the focus is on DuMOL, Linked and Inherit The Sheep.

After 5 years of major drought in California, we finally had a somewhat normal winter rainfall even though we had expected much more after the touted “El Nino” was announced.  Unfortunately, the flooding and massive deluges never materialized yet we took all the rain we could get.  I’d say the reservoirs are looking good, but we still will have to conserve as this could (again) be another drought year.  Since March we have not seen a drop of rain!

Last year the drought did a number on the yields of every vineyard in the state–many are down 30-50%, and some even more–which means we all will have less wine.  But the quality is exceptional!  I barrel-sampled with 10+ wineries and the 2015 will be another one for the books!

I visited with a few folks in the valley – Hudson (Carneros), Linked (Knight’s Valley), Spottswoode (St. Helena), Inherit The Sheep (Coombsville, Napa) DuMOL (Russian River Valley) and came away with the following to report to you.   Today PART 1 of the report – DuMOL, Linked and Inherit The Sheep.


Linked Vineyards (Jessica Link owner.  Luc Morlet Winemaker)


The Linked Estate overlooking the Napa Valley at Sunset

The Linked vineyard is located in the Knight’s Valley (just Northeast of Calistoga) overlooking both Napa and Sonoma counties.  Planted in 2000, the vineyard is located at an elevation of 1200 feet with 16-acre vineyard planted to Bordeaux varietals, and yielding an average of 2 tons per acre.  Only 1 acre is earmarked for the “Linked” Cabernet production, the other 15 go mostly to Luc Morlet (for his Morlet label) and a few other wineries.  As there is no winery on the side, the wines are made by Luc Morlet at his state-of-the-art “Morlet” winery.


The vineyard is managed by Jessica’s husband Drew Johnson, who has 30+ years’ experience in the valley.  Jessica told me that Mother Nature’s way lets us know that harvest is on the way.  The 2016 Cabernet is undergoing veraison, a stage in the grape growing cycle that causes green berries to turn purple and transitions the vines from grape growth, to grape ripening.  Jessica told me that they are about 30-40% through verasion.  She estimates to be harvesting this beautiful crop around October 15th, which is typical for this vineyard and vineyards located on hillsides or mountains, which are usually slower ripening.


Linked Cabernet going through veraison

Jessica just released the LINKED 2012 CABERNET SAUVIGNON “ESTATE” KNIGHT’S VALLEYwhich is probably the best wine since their first release – 2007!  With one of the best winemakers of the Napa Valley on their team, Linked is poised to great success.  The vineyard is only getting better as the vines are gradually maturing.


While the Linked Vineyards name clearly has ties to the family name (Link), it means much more. It represents all the links that created the wine; the unique site, the family, the winemaker and all the friends who pitch in and support them. Jessica and Drew hand number each bottle, and record who acquires each one. So, you will always have a link to Linked Vineyards, and they to you.  Thus the multiple “rings” on the label.


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DuMOL Winery (Kerry Murphy, Owner – Andy Smith, Winemaker)

The DuMol Estate at Sunset

This will be the 21st harvest for DuMOL, and Andy Smith anticipates it will be a JACKPOT (21….) of a vintage.  So far everything is looking amazingly good at both the estate and other vineyards DuMOL works with.  General Manager and Partner Tom Pillsbury told me that the crop size is normal and there was no shatter.   Since none of the DuMOL vineyards experienced any heat spikes during the current growing season, they are very happy with how everything is progressing in the right direction so far.  Andy Smith anticipates to start harvest around Labor Day, which is about a week or two later compared to last year, but in no way late!  The past couple of vintages have been much earlier compared to normal. He said that this El Nino year might have brought some normalcy back to the harvest cycle.


I also barrel-sampled the single vineyards which will be out late 2016 as well as the 2015 vintage (a very small vintage) which will be released in 2017.  All the wines were A+

The Heintz Vineyard, one of DuMol’s sources, looking very happy this year!

As for the current vintage, the 2014 Russian River Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah are now in stock.   I would say in the 20 years working with DuMOL, the 2014 vintage might be the best if not the top 3 of all the vintages I have worked with.  I fondly recall hiring Mike Murphy, DuMOL’s owner Kerry Murphy’ son in 1995 and being the first retailer to feature their wines.  The first two vintages were crafted by Paul Hobbs who in 1998 turned the reigns over to Andy Smith.  Andy has been the captain of the DuMOL ship ever since and has steered the winery to amazing heights under his tenure-ship.

Check out these current releases from DuMOL:



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Inherit the Sheep (Clay Gregory owner – Chris Carpenter winemaker)

While I don’t have a full pre-harvest report from our friends at Inherit the Sheep, I did want to share a picture of their Cabernet vineyard (going through veraison) with you.

The  INHERIT THE SHEEP 2013 CABERNET SAUVIGNON, ESTATE COOMBSVILLE NAPA VALLEYis current and is probably the best one to date.  Clay told me that the 2014 is any bit as good, 2015 very small (maybe 75 cases).  2016 is looking as good as one can expect and hope, courtesy of a good drenching this winter and early spring.  He predicts 2016 to be a spectacular one.  Harvest date TDB, but probably late September, I did not barrel sample the 2014 or 2015 as he does not make the wines on site.  I will be doing so later this fall. 


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As you can see, the 2016 harvest is shaping up to be a very nice one and I am eagerly looking forward to seeing what these excellent winemakers produce! Stay tuned however, as I will have PART TWO of the 2016 harvest report ready for you next week!Best,