New Wave Petite Sirah is not a “little” wine

The new wave of Petite Sirah winemaking going on these days is drawing attention and changing the way this grape is regarded.  Surging forward is the recognition by winemakers, insiders, wine judges and critics that Petite Sirah is a time-tested noble grape that is truly deserving the status as a classic California varietal.  Robert Biale has been producing this varietal for years, and I would say that this might be the best one he has ever produced and for me it deserves the title of “Petite Sirah of the Year”!

A little word play, re-arrange the letters of Royal Punishers to learn the names of Petite Sirah’s parents: Syrah and Peloursin  (SYRAH + PELOURSIN =  ROYAL PUNISHERS)

Robert Biale 2016 Petite Sirah “Royal Punishers” Napa Valley 
GGWC 49.99
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OK to mix & match with Biale Zinfandel

This 2016 Royal Punishers Petite Sirah is a plush, pure, and tempting example of Napa Valley red wine at its highest level:  deep, deep blackish blue opaque color, redolent of blueberry, blackberry liqueur, chocolate, dust and a touch of vanilla, with faint aromatics of black tea. Full bodied, intense yet extremely elegant on the mid-palate bursting with bright well-polished fruit that is extremely harmonious.  The firm and velvety tannins make for a gentle giant of a Petite Sirah that will age gracefully for a decade – or possibly two. Definitely a wine of which to stock some extra bottles away for long term gratification.

Winemaker Notes: “Intense deep, dark blue/black color profile. Aromas of plum, quince, violets, figs, molasses, caramel and marbled rye awaken the nose. The entry is soft and weighty, then builds into a broad mid palate structure which has layers of ripe, black fruit flavors. The tannins are mouthwatering and medium grained which hold the fruit profile and carry a long, lingering finish.”

Also check out their limited production  Biale 2016 Zinfandel “Black Chicken” Napa Valley

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15% OFF & FREE SHIPPING OF SUPERB 96 Point Napa Cabernet

After the success with her own label, Helen Keplinger is out of control (in a very good way)!  The latest releases of Carte Blanche Cabernet and Proprietary Red showcase Helen’s amazing talents.  Only a few hundred cases of this mindboggling wine was produced from this “next” Haut Brion of the Napa Valley! This wine received  a 100 point wine in my book!

This family has been in the wine business for nearly a century, since his great grandfather, Clarence Dillon, acquired Chateau Haut-Brion in 1935 and the family company, Domaine. Clarence Dillon, subsequently purchased Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion in 1983. This was the inspiration to produce his own boutique label in Napa Valley

Carte Blanche 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Net 129.99 – TODAY ONLY 109.99
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Robert Parker 96 Points: “Deep garnet-purple in color, the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is composed of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon from Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper vineyard with 6% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. It offers up notions of crushed blackberries, warm blueberries and dried herbs with suggestions of cedar, Marmite toast and unsmoked cigar. Medium to full-bodied with impressive concentration and a rock-solid backbone of firm, grainy tannins, the palate delivers mouth-filling black and blue fruit with a lively kick on the long, earthy finish. 400 cases were made.”

Winemaker Notes: “The 2014 Carte Blanche Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon showcases Oakville’s Missouri Hopper Vineyard owned by Andy Beckstoffer. 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine reveals the delicate balance of ripe dark fruits, plush velvety tannins, savory notes, structure and minerality. Ballard vineyard’s 6% Petite Verdot provides a brooding base note, depth and nuance.  A hint of Cabernet Franc, 1% from Kuleto Vineyard, was the perfect touch to round out this stunning wine.”

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175 case Blind Wine Tasting Surprise

My tasting group of 12 brought in a nice selection of 2014 Chardonnays from Oregon and California. The impressive lineup included:

  • Cattleya “Pratt” 95 Pt (RP)
  • Bergstrom “Sigrid” 95 Pt (RP)
  • Brewer Clifton “Hapgood” 95 Pt (RP)
  • Martinelli “Zio Tony” 95 Pt (AG)
  • White Rock “Breccia” 96 Pt (RP)
  • Sanguis “Loner” 94 Pt (RP)
  • Ramey “Ritchie” 95 Pt (RP)
  • Paul Lato “Souvenir” 96 Pt (RP)
  • DuMOL “Estate” 96 Pt (RP)
  • Kistler “Hudson” 96 Pt (AG)
  • Bethel Heights “Casteel” 94 Pt (RP)
  • Littorai “Mays Canyon” 94 Pt (AG)
  • Bethel Heights “Casteel” 94 Pt (RP)

The surprise winner –  Bethel Heights “Casteel” which garnered 7 of the 12 first place, 3 second and 2 third place votes from our panel. Paul Lato received 4 first, 5 second and 3 second place votes followed by DuMol “Estate they received 1 first, 2 second and 6 third place votes.   Very surprised that Kistler, Ramey and Littorai came in at the bottom of the pack.  That is the great thing about doing blind tastings!

Bethel Heights 2014 “Casteel” Chardonnay
GGWC 79.99 net item
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In 1977 Ted Casteel, Pat Dudley, Terry Casteel, and Marilyn Webb abandoned the academic life and bought 75 promising-looking acres northwest of Salem, with 14 acres of newly planted cuttings in the ground. In 1981 they harvested their first crop and started home winemaking in Terry’s basement. In 1984 they produced their first commercial vintage, and now the second generation has taken over the reigns!

Winemaker Notes: “Our 2014 Casteel Chardonnay opens with aromas of preserved lemon, brioche, white pepper and fresh ginger. The palate is both graceful and energetic, displaying the tension of a wine that will age gracefully over the next 8 to 10 years.”

Robert Parker 94 Points: “The 2014 Chardonnay Casteel Reserve had just been bottled. It has a perfumed nose of white flowers and melted candle wax, very well defined with lime and frangipane aromas developing. The palate is well balanced with a crisp, citrus lemon and lime-driven opening. This feels spicier than the Justice Vineyard Chardonnay, gaining depth towards the finish that has a bit of fire in its belly. This is a very well-crafted Chardonnay that should age with style.”

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97 POINT NAPA ROCK STAR CAB



This venture is still somewhat below the radar, although I’ve been working with them for about 5 years now.  Tiny production, but amazing quality Cabernet sourced from one of Napa’s premium vineyards, which would be classified as a “First Growth Vineyard” in France – So let’s call it “Top-of-the-line” here!

Memento Mori is translated from Latin as “Remember That You Will Die.” The winery owners Hayes Drumwright, Adriel Lares & Adam Craun translate it as “Remember To Live!”

Memento Mori 2015 Cabernet, Napa Valley
GGWC 224.99 NET
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Robert Parker 97 Points: “A decadent blend of fruit from Beckstoffer Dr. Crane, Beckstoffer Las Piedras, Oakville Ranch and Weitz vineyards, aged 22 months in 100% new French oak, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon has a very deep purple-black color and gorgeous nose of exotic spices and incense notions—cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise, fenugreek and sandalwood—with a cassis and plum preserves core, plus hints of cigar box and menthol. Medium to full-bodied, the palate is rich and opulent, with seductively velvety tannins and invigorating freshness, finishing very long with provocative earthy suggestions coming through.

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CELIA WELCH, “The World’s Most Influential Woman in Wine”

CELIA WELCH
“The World’s Most Influential Woman in Wine”
The Drinks Business magazine recently published its list of The World’s Most Influential Women in Wine. Our very own Celia Welch made the number three spot! As a child growing up in Oregon, Celia Welch would sit under a giant oak in her back garden picking grapes from their stems for her winemaker father. During high school she dreamed of working as a perfume maker in France, but, after graduating from UC Davis with a degree in fermentation science, she fled to New Zealand and Australia’s Barossa Valley instead to gain valuable winemaking experience before returning to the Napa Valley to work at Silverado Vineyards.

Moving to Robert Pepi winery in the early 90s, she went on to consult for a number of top Napa names during the 90s, including Staglin Family Vineyard. Today Welch is responsible for California ‘cult’ wine Scarecrow. Launched in 2006, Scrarecrow’s debut 2003 vintage, made from old-vine Cabernet grown on a 10-hectare plot in Rutherford, was given 98 points by Robert Parker – a feat only bettered by Screaming Eagle.

A year on, the 2004 vintage sold out in 16 hours. With just 400-800 cases produced annually, depending on the vintage, the wine has a celebrity following and commands healthy hammer prices at auction. In 2004 Welch launched her own label, Corra, named after the Celtic goddess of prophecy, where she makes high-end Cabernet from grapes grown in Rutherford, Oakville and Pritchard Hill.

Keen for her wines to bear the hallmarks of the land from which they came rather than the hand that made them, to retain the vineyard’s personality Welch picks earlier than many in Napa. The wine she’s most proud of so far is the aforementioned Scarecrow 2003. “Even in barrel shortly after fermentation the wine was a knockout. I was tremendously proud that it presented itself with such beauty and complexity on release,” she says. “It’s such a thrill to take an existing vineyard and realise the quality that was there all along.”

FYI:  We stock a wide range of Celia Welch’ wines, but after this article they will be gone quickly!

YOUNT RIDGE 2014 CABERNET “EPIC” OAKVILLE,  NAPA VALLEY
YOUNT RIDGE 2014 CABERNET “ESTATE” OAKVILLE, NAPA VALLEY
YOUNT RIDGE 2016 SAUVIGNON BLANC, ESTATE, OAKVILLE
KEEVER 2013 CABERNET “INSPIRADO” NAPA VALLEY
KEEVER 2014 CABERNET SAUVIGNON “ESTATE” NAPA VALLEY – 94 POINTS
2480 “HOLLYWOOD & VINE” 2014 CABERNET SAUVIGNON, NAPA VALLEY
CASTIEL 2014 CABERNET “ESTATE” HOWELL MOUNTAIN, NAPA VALLEY PREMIERE RELEASE (LIMITED)
CORRA 2015 CABERNET SAUVIGNON, NAPA VALLEY (CELIA’S OWN LABEL)
KELLY FLEMING 2015 SAUVIGNON BLANC, NAPA VALLEY
LINDSTROM 2014 PINOT NOIR “DUTTON RANCH, RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY
REWA 2015 CABERNET SAUVIGNON “ESTATE” COOMBSVILLE, NAPA PREMIERE RELEASE (LIMITED)
SCARECROW 2015 CABERNET SAUVIGNON MAGNUM

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Moderate red wine consumption has a protective effect against prostate cancer

Moderate red wine consumption has a slightly protective effect against prostate cancer
Contributed by Johannes Angerer
Medical University Vienna


Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the Western world. Between 15 to 20 percent of men are affected by it at some time in their lives and 2.6 percent die from prostate cancer. That equates to 1,000 deaths a year in Austria. Apart from genetic factors, environmental (epigenetic) risk factors also play a role in the development of prostate cancer: proven factors include e.g. smoking, high sugar intake or high consumption of red meat. An international research team led by Shahrokh Shariat, Head of MedUni Vienna’s Department of Urology, has now conducted a meta-analysis of the risk factor of wine consumption – with a somewhat surprising result: moderate wine consumption does not generally increase the risk significantly. And: drinking a moderate amount of red wine even has a slightly protective effect.

According to Shariat, “moderate” means approximately one glass a day. The results demonstrated that the risk is not significantly increased, so long as one takes account of the other risk factors and does not smoke or eat too much sugar or red meat, as Shariat describes in his book “Prostate Cancer: Prevention. Diagnosis. Treatment.” Furthermore, the retrospective analysis of 17 high-quality studies including around 611,000 patients showed that moderate red wine consumption exhibits a slightly protective effect. Says Shariat: “This reduced the risk of developing prostate cancer by around 12 percent, whereas consuming white wine increased it by 26 percent.”

Protective polyphenols?

The researchers now want to find out which components of red wine have this protective effect and whether this can also be used therapeutically – for example in high-risk groups. “Indeed, it has already been shown that polyphenols, which are predominantly found in red wine, can have a protective effect in other diseases and other types of cancer,” said the urologist. Red wine contains 10x the amount of polyphenols found in white wine, which might explain the observed results.

Furthermore, the European Food Authority has confirmed that polyphenol-rich olive oil helps to protect blood lipids from oxidative stress. Polyphenols have already been shown to have a beneficial effect on platelet aggregation in the arteries and on insulin sensitivity. “Potentially the polyphenols from red wine can be used preventatively. The question is: what can we learn from the results of the study – and how can we use that in science and preventive medicine?”

97 Pointer by Russell Bevan’s disciple

 
Kimberly Hatcher is the longtime assistant to Russell Bevan and has kept her eyes and ears open as she is on a roll now! Robert Parker and Jeb Dunnuck have “noticed” her and the press is out! That said, Kimberly’s wines are very small productions, and with the high scores… they will sell out fast!

She also makes the wines at the Tench Caves, and I am sure Russell might be looking over her shoulder once in a while… (or maybe not)

Morgado 2016 Chardonnay “Steiner Vineyard” Sonoma Coast
GGWC 62.99
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Sourced from the Steiner Vineyard in Sonoma, this wine will really wow you!  Bold, intense, and front and back loaded with bright and luscious flavors and aromas. This is a finger licking great Chardonnay (sorry only a few barrels produced!)

Robert Parker 97 Points: “A barrel sample composed of Wente clone selections, the 2016 Chardonnay Steiner Vineyard is a total rock star on the nose, sporting intense, wonderfully expressive apricots, guava and green mango notes with nuances of baked almonds, allspice and honeycomb. Full-bodied and full-on rich and seductive, it sports a gorgeous creamy texture and tons of tropical and savory flavor layers, finishing very long.”

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Expressive Russian River Pinot

 
The 2015 vintage is the smallest on record for our friends at Kanzler, but  it might be one of the best ones they made to date!  The wine offers up a dark purple hue embarking on a nose of red stone fruit, Asian spices and some toasty notes.  The wine has a lush and lively feel on the palate that is loaded with raspberry and strawberry flavors and a hint of spice.  The wine finishes with focused and  juicy flavors and silky grained tannins.Kanzler 2015 Pinot Noir Estate, Russian River Valley
GGWC 59.99 net
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Winery Notes: The 2015 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is an exemplary example of the splendid terroir the cool Sebastopol Hills neighborhood of the Russian River Valley; big fruit, bright acid, soft texture and a long savory finish. Opulent, seamless and, striking, this wine can be enjoyed now with several hours in a decanter, or cellar it for 5-7 years and marvel at how it matures. Unquestionably, a bold, fruit-forward Russian River Valley Pinot, the spice and savory components from the whole cluster fermentation enhance and endear the wine and make it a compelling food wine.

Robert Parker: “The medium ruby-purple colored 2015 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley gives expressive blueberry pie, Black Forest cake and potpourri scents with suggestions of tilled soil and black truffles. Full-bodied with firm, chewy tannins and just enough freshness to frame the rich fruit, it finishes with a peppery lift.”

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Getting to the Root of Terroir

The T-Word

– By Fred Swan
GuildSomm.com

Terroir is a construct, a catch-all for the elements of a place that lead its wines to smell, taste, and feel a certain way. In some cases, the personality of a site’s wines is very consistent, allowing experts to identify it routinely in blind tastings. But the possibility of such distinctive character leads some to dogmatic judgments, insisting on a particular complexion for wines from a given vineyard and, sometimes, denigrating wines that deviate.

Humans crave a degree of consistency, but too much rigidity in wine appreciation puts analysis above exploration and appreciation. It oversimplifies, confining terroir in a small box. That also limits the depth of our understanding of a site.

It’s true some wines are made in a way that renders them simple or generic. Extreme ripeness, or under-ripeness, is an enemy to fruit complexity. Excessive oak conceals underlying signatures of variety and site. Certain commercial yeasts can create misleading flavors, allowing, for example, a Northern Hemisphere Sauvignon Blanc to resemble those from New Zealand.

But, even putting all these things aside—along with additives and aggressive winemaking techniques—there are many things that affect a wine’s character and result in legitimate variation between offerings from the same vineyard by different producers.

Some variables, such as vine age, clone, rootstock, slope, and depth of topsoil, may lie with specific blocks or rows a producer is allocated. Then, there are choices about trellising, timing and amount of irrigation, cover crop, tilling, and harvest date, which can vary based not just on stylistic preference, but also on micro-terroir and the character of the specific vines. All these options suggest that very specific judgments about what is, or is not, a correct representation of terroir are dubious.

Even given identical blocks, there can be a wide range of wholly legitimate site expressions. The decisions affecting the outcome start with pruning and finish with choice of a release date. Accepting, and even encouraging, this variety and trying the wines with an open mind delivers more insight into the terroir.

A Useful Analogy

Think of a vineyard as some other scene—a forest, perhaps. If you walk through the forest on a bright, summer day, you’ll experience one expression of its character. The light, colors, aromas, sounds, and feel of the air will be a certain way. You might find it peaceful or energizing.

But take the same walk on a moonless winter night, and your impression will be very different. The cold air bites at your skin. Colors are limited to shades of blue and black. The sounds and aromas are very different, too. In this case, the forest might make you feel lonely or fearful.

Those are two very different senses of exactly the same place, neither less valid than the other. Terroir—sense of place—is a human concept. It is only manifested through our individual senses and perspectives. Winemakers show us the way they see that terroir through their wines.

People often debate whether winemaking is craft or art. Craft connotes performance of a skilled profession to create an object, largely by hand. Art is the use of creativity and skill to create something valued primarily for its beauty or emotional resonance. Clearly, both apply to wine.

We can look at different wines from the same vineyard as we would representations of the same place by different painters or photographers—people who are at once artists and craftsmen. Any given landscape would easily be recognized, yet look very different, in works by van Gogh, Monet, and Seurat. Their different styles have stirred vehement debate among critics and enthusiasts alike as to which is better, more real, more evocative. But none of those works is inherently less valid than the others.

Photographers might represent a vineyard in hundreds of ways, selecting angles, lighting, time of day, camera, lens, filters, settings, retouching techniques, and output media. The appearance and moods created could be very different. Winemakers do the same. Viewers and tasters may disagree about which rendition is more pleasing, based on their own preferences and backgrounds. But if the wine is sound, distinctive, and reasonably transparent to site and vintage, there is no right or wrong.

Learning from Divergent Styles

Megan and Ryan Glaab of Ryme Cellars make two different Vermentino wines every year from Las Brisas Vineyard in Carneros. They label the wines “Hers” and “His.” Sometimes the Glaabs pick both lots of fruit on the same day. In 2017, they picked three weeks apart.
Megan pursues a fresh, bright style, similar to wines you might find on the Ligurian coast. She presses the grapes whole cluster and ferments only the juice. Her wine is bottled with minimal aging. Ryan’s approach is totally different and reflects his affinity for the minimally sulfured, skin-contact wines of producers such as Sardinia’s Tenute Dettori.

Skin contact in white wines, like stem inclusion in reds, is a subject of debate with respect to terroir. But, if skins for red wine grapes provide character most people consider essential to terroir, shouldn’t the skins of white wine grapes be at least acceptable?

“Many winemakers, including us, like to insist their job is to get out of the way and let the terroir speak for itself,” Megan Glaab says. “But that still happens through the lens of our own philosophies, aesthetics, and assumptions. The most basic decision we make once the grapes enter the cellar is whether to ferment the whole grape or the juice alone. That question is so fundamental, it doesn’t seem like a question at all. But the idea that either way better expresses terroir, based on the color of the skin of the grape, makes no logical sense. The joy of orange wine is that it can push against cultural assumptions and present the character of the variety and site through a different prism.”

Even with the same juice and far less divergent stylistic sensibilities, it’s extremely unlikely that two winemakers would wind up with precisely the same wine. In the 2010 New Zealand Riesling Challenge, 51 tons of Riesling harvested on a single day from the Waipara district were divided into 12 lots and shipped to as many winemakers. They were tasked with making a Riesling in any style they chose, but based at least 85% on that fruit.

Certain details about those wines—pH levels and the like—were never made public. But, from the information presented and from tasting the wines, it’s clear they were all unique. Alcohol percentages ranged from 8.5% to 12.8% and sugars from virtually dry to over 55 grams per liter. There were aromatic wines and subtle ones, floral and fruity, fresh and reductive.

Winemaker Philosophies

General wine styles aside, there’s also divergence among winemakers on how best to expose terroir. Some do as little as possible, believing a minimalist approach allows site character to shine through. But even those producers may make slight changes in the regime, from one vineyard to the next, if the fruit seems to want that.

Others follow the same “recipe” for each vineyard, reasoning that, if the only variable is site, then terroir is revealed. Lagier-Meredith, in Napa Valley’s Mount Veeder AVA, uses this method to highlight differences between Syrah and Mondeuse Noir in varietal wines made from vines in adjacent rows. The one-size-fits-all approach can have downsides. For example, barrels that complement one clone of Pinot Noir may overwhelm another. But, with more robust grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, that is less of a concern.

Trevor Durling, General Manager and Senior Winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyard, uses identical vinification as a learning tool, but not necessarily for wines to be released. “I feel that it is very important to understand the differences in terroir and where our grapes are grown across the Napa Valley,” he explains. “One way to better understand this is to run controlled trials in the winery, where I will harvest fruit at the same level of ripeness from different vineyard sites and treat them the same way during fermentation and barrel aging (same fermentation kinetics, tank sizes, and barrel selection, etc.). The only variation in the outcome of the wines, from a sensory and quality perspective, should be due to the terroir itself, rather than varying winemaking techniques. This quickly helps me understand what I can expect from each vineyard site. Once this is understood, I am much better equipped to adjust winemaking techniques accordingly to maximize the quality and hit the style target of each individual fermentation to produce the best wines possible.”

Greg LaFollette sometimes takes yet a different tack on exposing terroir. A prolific and influential winemaker and viticulturist, LaFollette has shaped wineries including La Crema, Hartford Court, and Flowers, and planted some of Russian River Valley’s top vineyards. He is now winemaker and partner at Alquimista Cellars. LaFollette will discern the signature characteristic of a plot and then, if warranted, use viticultural techniques, but minimalist winemaking, to emphasize that fingerprint.

“The more extreme the site, the more you need to partner with the land and really understand what it needs,” LaFollette says. “At the Manchester Ridge Vineyard, 2,200 feet up in the Mendocino Ridge AVA, it’s incredibly difficult to get the grapes ripe. There are unique floral notes to the terroir, but also savage and feral aspects which can dominate.”

“I use a carbohydrate repartitioning strategy in the vineyard, through selective leaf pulling and water deficits very early in the season, to steer the vines toward reproduction rather than vegetative growth. This also limits the number of clusters and the berries’ cellular division and expansion. The result is smaller berries with more concentration and greater phenolic ripeness at lower Brix.” That increases the ratio of floral to savory notes in the wine, while maintaining good acidity and moderate alcohol.

In the winery, you could say LaFollette further emphasizes the floral notes by doing nothing. Manchester Ridge’s challenging environment and low pH soil results in grape must with relatively little yeast assimilable nitrogen, or YAN. His non-supplemented, native fermentations are a slow progression of many yeasts, which become active and then die at different alcohol levels, each contributing their own personality, thus increasing complexity.

Those yeasts feed on the various forms of YAN, starting with the easiest to metabolize and ending with the most difficult. Phenylalanine is last. One byproduct of yeast’s phenylalanine consumption is 1-phenylethanol, which smells of rose petals. If LaFollette added yeast nutrients, such as diammonium phosphate, to compensate for the low YAN must of Manchester Ridge, the satiated yeasts might not get around to consuming phenylalanine and those floral notes would never be created. “Complexity is not an accident,” he says. “But this isn’t ‘safe’ winemaking, because things can go wrong with both native ferments and underfed yeasts.”

Ana Diogo-Draper, Director of Winemaking at Artesa Winery, changes her approach depending on whether she’s trying to represent the character of an AVA or a single vineyard, and depending on the attributes of each block within a vineyard. For example, she picks all Chardonnay based on pH. However, that pH varies by wine and its stylistic intent.

“For the Carneros blend, my goal is to showcase the incredible range of the AVA and its citrus profile with clean, crisp wine,” Diogo-Draper says. “So, we pick the fruit earlier to retain that brightness, and ferment in a combination of stainless steel and oak to enhance it in a way.”
“For our estate vineyard fruit,” she continues, “my goal is to showcase our unique terroir and clonal selection. For me, that’s achieved when fruit is picked at that clear inflection point in the pH/TA/Brix curve, and with low intervention winemaking and native fermentations. What I look for is an evident shift, in which the chemistry changes are harmonized with the flavor evolution. In sum, what I am experiencing in each block, flavor-wise.”

Diogo-Draper evaluates each block separately. “Within the vineyard, there are blocks that have a naturally lower pH than others, partly due to clonal differences but also row orientation. I am able to leave those grapes hanging longer, without sacrificing the brightness I am looking for; at the same time, we are able to produce grapes with a higher Brix as well as a distinctive fruit and textural profile.”

She also makes decisions on fermentation vessels, malolactic fermentation, bâtonnage, and aging block-by-block. “There are particular blocks that better display their fruit intensity and concentration when they do not go through secondary fermentation. I also taste our Chardonnay going through malolactic fermentations weekly, and decide then how it is affecting their structure, textural component, and fruit character. Malolactic fermentation and bâtonnage can be stopped at any given week if I feel they are overpowering the fruit. It’s the eternal quest for balance.”

Wine as Photograph

There is no single way to best express the terroir of any vineyard. No wine is a concrete expression that tells the whole story. And, even if this were the ideal, it would impossible for multiple winemakers to reflect terroir in exactly the same way.

It’s better to think of wines as individual photographs, each capturing a vineyard at a moment in time from a specific perspective. One may resonate more with us than others, but we learn about the terroir by experiencing a variety of expressions from different people over multiple vintages.


You can learn more about the terroir and varietals of Napa and the surrounding regions and taste for yourself how they vary. Join us at our in-store tasting room most Saturdays from 1-5 pm when we bring wine country to the city! See the schedule below or give us a call at 415-337-4083 for details and reservations for upcoming tasting events!

2 Barrel Classic Syrah

A real surprise this 50 cases, yes only 2 barrel, production! Really wowed me! If I would not have seen the label, I’d assumed to be drinking a classic Côte Rôtie.  On the nose and palate, I encountered notes of bacon fat a hint of spice, nicely coated by whiffs of apricot and lychee, with a touch of bitter sweet chocolate and black currants. Very deep, dark color is a precursor of the full body and beautiful, velvet textured, lush wine that is so well-made finishing with a long, spicy black stone fruit finish.

The Las Madres Vineyard is a meticulously farmed Syrah vineyard situated in the Sonoma Carneros. The hillside site is aligned east – west, and nestled in a bowl. This allows for excellent ripening during the day, while benefiting from cool marine influenced temperatures at night. Day to night temperatures easily vary by 35º F. The cool climate allows us to leave the fruit on the vines longer without fear of over-ripening. The tiny yields are packed full of refreshing acidity and bright fruit, resulting in a true expression of its origin.

Campesino 2015 Syrah “Los Madres” Carneros, Napa Valley 
GGWC 43.99
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Winemakers Notes: “The 2015 Syrah was aged 21 months in 1/3rd new French oak and 2/3rd used French oak barrels. Aromas of crushed lavender and black and green olive, with hints of smoked meat and white pepper leap from the glass. Concentrated and lively flavors of roasted herbs, graphite, blue and black fruits, make this a luscious and full-bodied Syrah with a long lasting finish.”

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