Meteor Vineyard

Meteor Blog

Lauren Betts
 
August 11, 2014 | Lauren Betts

Perseid Showers are Now!

The Perseid showers, our cabernet sauvignon namesake here at Meteor, are in full effect right now. 

The showers will be on full display between August 10th and August 13th with Tuesday the 12th being the peak viewing day. 

Every 133 years, comet Swift-Tuttle swings through the inner solar system, leaving behind a trail of dust. When the Earth passes through, the dust cloud particles hit the atmosphere at 140,000mph and burn up in streaking flashes of light, creating the spectacle known as the Perseids.

A very bright and dramatic supermoon is accompanying this year’s Perseid showers.  Normally, with a dark and clear sky you can see more than 100 meteors an hour.  However, this year, with the supermoon in effect beginning Sunday the 10th, there might be some issues viewing the showers.   

A supermoon is when the moon has reached the point in its orbit that is closest to the Earth, known as perigee.  This specific supermoon will be up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other full moons during the year and is 31,000 miles closer than when it is furthest away from Earth. 

The presence of the supermoon wipes out the black, velvet backdrop that is necessary to see faint meteors, therefore causing us to see less meteors than usual. 

However, the debris stream left by the comet Swift-Tuttle, which produces the Perseids, is wide, so shooting stars will make an appearance.  Also, the Perseids are known to be rich in fireballs that can be as bright as Jupiter or Venus that will remain visible despite glare from the supermoon.  The Perseids have actually been referred to as the “fireball champion” of meteor showers, as you can see more fireballs from Swift-Tuttle than any other comet. 

Director of the Society for Popular Astronomy's meteor section, Tony Markham, urged skywatchers to stay optimistic.

"The Perseids are rich in bright meteors and so many Perseids will still be seen despite the moonlit sky background," he wrote on the SPA's website. "You can minimize the effect of the moonlight by observing with your back to the moon – possibly viewing the Cassiopeia/Cepheus/Ursa Minor area. If possible, keep the moon hidden behind trees or a nearby building."

He also noted that at this time of year the moon is relatively close to the horizon, leaving most of the sky dark and also suggests looking at an area of sky 20 to 30 degrees away from the Perseid radiant – the spot near the constellation of Perseus that the meteors appear to fly out from.

The best time to view the showers is right before dawn, so get your blanket and stay up late, or set your alarm for early morning, to view this beautiful shower. 

Time Posted: Aug 11, 2014 at 4:56 PM
Lauren Betts
 
July 29, 2014 | Lauren Betts

Climate Changes Effects Corks too

Not only does climate change effect our water, soil and therefore our grapes, it also has had an effect on our wine materials, more specifically, corks.

Weather patterns have been continuously shifting with volatile seasons and a steady increase in temperatures throughout the world.

Wine bottle corks are created by the protective outer layer of bark surrounding the quercus suber oak trees, which grow only in southwest Europe and northwest Africa.  As if late, corks have not been as high performing due to weather changes, that cause the cork bark to become thinner and thinner. 

A group of researchers at the University of Lisbon analyzed the composition of high-performing trees and low-performing trees.  They came to the conclusion that the difference between them was that the high-performing trees had heat shock proteins, which are compounds that help the higher performing trees deal with environmental stresses such as drought and high temperature spikes. 

The low-performing trees had lower levels of these heat shock proteins causing them to produce thinner bark (which cannot be used for higher quality corks).  Due to the low levels of the compound plus the addition of phenolic compounds that show up in response to weather and environmental stress, the cork itself therefore has more lenticular channels.

These channels are very undesirable in wine corks as they have a high tendency to let oxygen through, therefore causing a bottle to become corked.  A great and intact cork will safeguard a wine’s taste while aiding in its aging process while these thinner corks can and often do taint a wine’s flavor. 

This new development poses some issues to the cork industry that already face concerns due to companies creating alternative closures to wine bottles already, such as synthetic wine stoppers or metal caps.  Problems have arisen with both of these alternatives; screw caps are not sustainable and are therefore not biodegradable while the plastic closures are made from petro-chemicals, also not biodegradable. 

There has been talk of cloning the trees with the high levels of protein, or adding protein supplements to the low-yield trees.  This type of solution wouldn’t come into fruition for another decade or so as a cork oak needs to be 25 years old before it can produce an annual cork harvest. 

With a steady decline in cork production, we will see an increase in prices forcing the wine industry to move to cheaper alternatives.  Therefore, wineries may start looking to move away from the cork altogether for the long term. 

So, are you stuck on the highly desirable cork, or will you move to a newer alternative?

Time Posted: Jul 29, 2014 at 2:41 PM
Lauren Betts
 
June 30, 2014 | Lauren Betts

National Meteor Day

Every year on June 30th people across the country search for meteors in the skies as they celebrate National Meteor Day.  There are MILLIONS of meteors that occur in the Earth's atmosphere daily.  

A meteor, also known as a shooting star,  is produced by debris falling to the Earth from space.  People often seek out these meteors, or shooting stars, to make a wish.  This tradition can be traced all the way back to 127 AD.  Ptolemy, the Greek astronomer, hypothesized that the Gods occassionally liked to peer down at Earth from the other world.  Sometimes a star would slip past them and fall through the heavens showing those on Earth that the Gods were paying attention, making it the perfect time to wish upon a star.  

Meteors are actually quite small, they average only about the size of a pebble.  Nearly 15,000 tons of meteoroids enter the Earth's atmosphere every day however, very few of them actually reach the surface.  When they do reach the Earth's surface they are called meteorites.  

According to some research, a meteor impacted Tunguska, Siberia on June 30th, 1908, showing this may be the origin of National Meteor Day.  This was referred to as the "Siberian Explosion" which detonated with an estimated power of 1,000 times greater than the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima, it leveled trees over 40 kilometers away and shook the ground in a massive earthquake.  

Meteors are typically observed at night and are visible when they are about 34 to 70 miles above the Earth.  They usually disintegrate at about 31 to 51 miles above and their glow time is normally about a second.  

The next visible and famous meteor shower to grace our presence will be our favorite of course, the Perseids in the middle of August.  

Did you get to wish upon a star this Meteor Day?  We hope all of your wishes came true!

Time Posted: Jun 30, 2014 at 1:37 PM
Lauren Betts
 
June 12, 2014 | Lauren Betts

Checking in on the Vineyard

Throughout the growing season Meteor Vineyard winemaker, Dawnine Dyer, and vineyard manager, Mike Wolf constantly check out the progess in the vineyard.  With fruit set complete now, it's a good time to get a preliminary look at where we are early on in the season.  

It was a very dry winter, but the timely late rains gave the vineyard very good early growth without having to do any supplemental irrigation.  The property saw virtually no frost issues this year. 

The late rains did create some logistical problems with weed control and incorportation of cover crops, but the vineyard is beginning to look great now.

Since the beginning of June they have been noticing a fairly average crop for the 2014 season.  Our clone 4 cabernet sauvignon might be a little light this year, with our smallest clone, 337 shows a little shatter. 

“Bloom set progressed normally with cooperative weather and it looks like another generous, but not huge crop-a little surprising after the 2012 and 2013 harvests and the dry winter,” Wolf said. 

“There is some shatter and we’ll need to see the berry growth before we know the impact on cluster size but should have a well developed strategy on thinning,” Dyer said. 

The soils are drying throughout the property but, no need to irrigate yet, which is good, as it will help keep the berry size small.

Dawnine says at this point the crops seem to be settled into a fairly normal pattern, although she does not believe the canopy is quite as lush as usual. 

“We are in the middle of our canopy management work to ensure proper exposure of every cluster to promote uniform ripening.  Next step will be crop thinning to make sure there is proper balance of fruit to canopy on every vine,” Wolf said. 

Mike says so far it’s a very early season, at least a week to ten days ahead of last year with no real hot weather yet. 

Time Posted: Jun 12, 2014 at 9:52 AM
Lauren Betts
 
May 28, 2014 | Lauren Betts

Camelopardalid Meteor Shower

The Camelopardalid meteor shower, a first-of-its-kind, occured late Friday night into early Saturday morning this past weekend.  The shower, dust from a periodic comet called 209P/Linear, has never run past the Earth before.  

Experts thought the May shower of Camelopardalid could rival our favorite meteor shower, the Perseids in August, due to the fact that its debris is strongly influenced by Jupiter's gravity.  Due to this Jupiter influence however, it will most likely never pass through Earth's orbit again.  

The shower had the potential to truly dazzle with a forecast of 200 meteors per hour. However, this forecast was stressed as only a potential as the meteor shower has a very unknown nature.  On Saturday the shower peaked at between 5-10 meteors per hour. During it's peak, the Perseid shower reaches 60 meteors per hour.  

Keep an eye out this coming Saturday as the comet 209P/Linear the Camelopardalid meteor shower derived from will be passing by Earth at a distance of 5 million miles.  

Meteor Shower's are named for the constellation from which they seem to radiate.  The radiant point for Camelopardalid is the constellation Camelopardalis (the giraffe).  Only thing I know is we won't be naming our next wine Camelopardalid, what a mouth full!

We are still always looking forward to our Cabernet Sauvignon namesake showers, Perseid, in August.  

Time Posted: May 28, 2014 at 10:26 AM
Lauren Betts
 
April 28, 2014 | Lauren Betts

Best Party of the Year? Jacques Pepin rocks Meteor Vineyard

Fourteen Bay Area Michelin Starred chefs gathered at Meteor Vineyard yesterday for a daylong Family House charity event of cooking, wine, cocktails and mingling together with the 8 lucky auction guests.

It was quite a treat watching chefs working together whether it be hand-rolling pasta, checking on the two 80lb pigs in the caja china’s, cooking pizzas and fish in the two pizza ovens or helping place sorbet on the coconut rice pudding.  We didn’t just have the Michelin Chef’s helping (& playing) we also had 8 well-known volunteer chefs helping on each dish that came out throughout the day, along with amazing volunteer service. 

Thaddeus Vogler from Bar Agricole was slinging cocktails all day, from old-fashions to pineapple concoctions.   Wines from the Schulers & Aldorotys private cellars never stopped flowing from local Brown Chardonnay, Hudson Grenache Rose, Massican Sauvignon Blanc to Fracois Cotat Sancerre rose, Dauvissat Chablis along with our Meteor Vineyard Perseid.  

To Start Hiro Sone, from Ame and Terra, presented a beautiful and colorful raw fish dish that was gone in minutes to be followed by oysters by Mourad Lahlou from Aziza and savory pancakes from Stuart Brioza of State Bird Provisions.

The next round showed white asparagus from Ken Frank of La Toque, rabbit boudin blanc with a spring vegetable stew from Farmhouse Inn, Spiced duck from Robert Curry at Auberge, fresh pasta from Michael Tusk at Quince and thai style fried catfish lettuce wraps from James Syhabout from Commis.  Owner Barry Schuler brought out 4 of his homemade cheeses paired with his delicious soda bread to praise from all who tasted it.  

For the piece de resistance Michael Sandoval from Bouchon presented two 80lb pigs straight from the caja china, along with baked mac and cheese.  Chef Jacques Pepin and Napa wine legend Margrit Mondavi were able to cut from the pig (and eat with their hands!) while toasting with a 3L of 21st Century Cuvee Brut Mumm sparkling wine. 

The finale came in the form of chocolates, mini macaroons and pate de fruit from Domique Crenn of Atelier Crenn along with coconut rice pudding with mango sorbet from Roland Passot from La Folie. 

The day ended with Michelin Chefs, volunteers and guests all enjoying the Napa air with a glass of wine around the firepits at Meteor Vineyard.   Was a great event, for a great cause!

 

To learn more about Family House go to http://www.familyhouseinc.org

Time Posted: Apr 28, 2014 at 4:27 PM
Lauren Betts
 
April 15, 2014 | Lauren Betts

Journal Your Wine Experience on your Smartphone

Delectable, an app that helps you track and organize wine on your phone has rocketed to over 2.1 million users.  Using anti-terrorist technology, founder Alex Fishman, uses the same data integration technologies the government uses to track and capture terrorists, except in this case he is using it to help people find their favorite wines.

This has been a difficult task for wine apps that have come before Delectable, mostly due to the crazy amounts of wineries and wines in the world and a limited database.   As most of you know, wine labels only give you the pertanent information but, what about the information the customer wants to know about the wine as they are drinking it?  They want to know more about the producer, and the grapes, and the way the wines were made...the story behind the wine.  

When out at a restaurant and facing these questions, you can take a photo of the label with the Delectable app, and it will tell you the vintage, more about the winery, perhaps even notes from the winemakers.  And it gets even better, you can even order the wine inside the app!  This is just another way for wineries to be seen via social media, and even get a sale out of it! (of course, Delectable does make a small percentage of the sale).  

Another thing, it's database always gets the wines correct--take a photo of the label showing the vintage, producer and wine name, or of the wine listed on a menu, give the app a few moments, and boom! it catalogs the wine correctly!

Several wine lovers and writers say that Delectable is the best wine app on the market right now and I have to agree.  Not only can you snap a photo of a bottle you are enjoying at a restaurant to learn more about it and even purchase it but, the photo is also uploaded and shared with your "friends" on delectable (similar to Instagram).  

Your friends will see what you are drinking, and you can see what they are drinking, perhaps therefore finding a new bottle of wine to try out at next weekends BBQ or dinner!  The app allows you to rate the wine, so you can see what your friends and even people you highly respect in the industry are recommending by how they have ranked their experience with the wine.  

In October 2013 Delectable partnered up with VinTank and with this partnership, Delectable data such as who is drinking what and where appears in VinTank Social Connect for wineries interested in what consumers are up to.  This is a huge step in leading wineries to find potential clients via social media.   

With very few drawbacks such as not being able to manually enter information if the photo doesn't include it, a better rating system, or perhaps better tagging capabilities and fun filters like Instagram, I would recommend the app for wine lovers across the world, and for wineries looking to interact with their client base!  It's a win-win and a fun one at that!

Time Posted: Apr 15, 2014 at 9:54 AM
Lauren Betts
 
April 3, 2014 | Lauren Betts

The Beauty that is Bud Break

What is Bud Break?  This isn’t just a beautiful site, it’s when the ground warms up as hormones activate in the roots and tell the vine to grow in order to produce all of the wines we love to drink. 

The bud break stage begins around March with the “bleeding” of the wine, when the warm soil and osmotic forces pushes water, containing a low concentration of organic acids, hormones, minerals and sugars, up from the root system and it is expelled from the cuts left over from pruning the vine.

Did you know that during this period a single vine can “bleed” up to 1.3 gallons of water?

Bud Break is also known as the “green point.”  Each bud contains all of the ingredients in tiny forms—shoots, leaves, tendrils and berries that are not yet grapes.  When the sap starts to flow, the grapes will begin to grow. 

Pruners leave two buds on each spur carefully in place in order to provide growth and eventually, the bounty of the wine. 

The energy to facilitate this growth comes from reserves of carbohydrate stored in the roots and wood of the vine from the last growth cycle. 

A thin web of cottony fibers, much like a spider’s web called the tomentum, first protects buds.  This shatters as leaves first start to appear, in the beautiful flowering of the bud.

Each Varietal has a different and defining appearance, with the cabernet sauvignon being radiant with color. 

The buds form tiny shoots that eventually sprout tiny leaves that begin photosynthesis to produce the energy to accelerate growth into the next cycle.

 

Time Posted: Apr 3, 2014 at 9:56 AM
Lauren Betts
 
March 12, 2014 | Lauren Betts

Groundwater & Irrigation in the Napa Valley

Groundwater conditions in Napa Valley were broadly stable throughout 2013 however, we still need to continue the practice of conservation in our vineyards.

The groundwater levels on the Napa Valley floor show stable long-term trends with generally good quality water. As of March 10, 2014 we have received 40-50% of total rainfall for our year and those numbers could still grow in the remaining weeks.  This is less rainfall than the average year, however, most of Napa County received much-needed, ground-soaking rain in February and March.  Most vineyard ponds and reservoirs are now full or nearly full in time to meet irrigation needs for the 2014 growing season. 

Residents, businesses and agriculture rely upon groundwater for drinking water, irrigation and the environment.  These demands make it essential for us to preserve groundwater quality and availability long-term in order to meet water needs during drought and to prevent any potential negative environmental effects in the future.

We as a vineyard need to continuously monitor groundwater conditions while taking measures to utilize less water to ensure we have a stable long-term supply. 

Here are 5 conservation tips from Meteor Vineyard Manager, Mike Wolf:

1.  Examine your irrigation systems and make adjustments as necessary.  If something’s not working, fix it!  Systems older than 5 years should be tested to ensure efficiency.

2.  The most efficient time to irrigate a vineyard is at night.  Watering during the day is a waste!

3.  Know your dew points; this tool can help you effectively determine when it’s necessary to irrigate.

4.  Keep your cover crops in check!  During a drought year, vigorous cover crops could be taking away water available for the vine.  Mow then short.

5.  Determine what size canopy can effectively manage with less water available.  This may result in smaller, but better-balanced vines.

Data from a new study by the Napa County Groundwater Advisory Committee indicates our groundwater and aquifer resources are very healthy despite the lack of rain.  This makes Napa County unique compared to other farming communities in California that face zero to small water allocations this year. 

Napa’s vintners and growers continue to employ the most up-to-date technology to monitor water resources; these can determine at the vineyard block and sometimes at the vine level where water is needed to help source the water we have in to the correct places. 

University of California’s Agriculture & Natural Resources department provides a strategy to follow for irrigation methods to minimize loss in yield during a season:

Bud break to flowering:  Avoid water stress.  This is critical for root growth, canopy establishment and yield for current season.

Flowering to fruit set:  Avoid high water stress at flowering: poor fruit set, aborted fruit shoots still growing rapidly; maintain good soil moisture when water limiting, do not promote large canopy with early water & avoid sunburn by limiting excessive leaf removal in fruit zone. 

Fruit set to veraison:  Vine less susceptible to moderate water deficits, control shoot growth, reduce berry size and reduce water use without impacting fruit quality.

Veraison to harvest:  Avoid severe water deficits to maintain healthy leaf function to promote barry maturation. 

Harvest to leaf fall (and over winter):  Some soil moisture needed to maintain leaf function to build reserves.  Reserves impact cold hardiness (especially in young vines).

Grapevines can not only survive but also sometimes even thrive with limited water.  While growers might face more challenges with a smaller water supply, they will use management techniques for their crop and canopies to counteract the effects of low water levels.  With the correct management of the crops, the yield might be lower but the crop quality can still be high. 

The 2014 Napa Valley Vintners Community and Industry Issues Committee (CIIC) will focus on local issues that directly affect the wine industry and is a great resource for questions regarding Napa Valley groundwater and irrigation.    

Spokesperson from NVV said, “At the end of the day, vintners and grape growers are farmers.  As no two growing years are the same, farmers must successfully adapt, harvest to harvest, season to season, year to year and have done so for nearly two centuries in Napa Valley, and for thousands of years worldwide.  No matter what 2014 brings Napa Valley’s vintners and growers, they will continue to adapt and change their practices to make the best quality wines under any circumstance.”

Time Posted: Mar 12, 2014 at 2:27 PM
Lauren Betts
 
February 19, 2014 | Lauren Betts

Cheese Making at Meteor Vineyard

The newest fascination in food around here at Meteor Vineyard is the art of cheese making.  After picking up the book “Home Cheese Making” by Ricki Carroll, Owner Barry Schuler has been on a cheese expedition.   

A little beginners introduction to what goes into wine making:  Cheese is produced from milk due to the activity of special dairy bacteria and the action of rennet.  These act on the proteins in milk, causing them to coalesce into a gel-like curd that is the beginning of cheese. 

      

To make the cheese you bring milk to a boil, stir in vinegar causing the milk to separate into curds and whey.  Then pour the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth, rinse the curds, sprinkle with salt, tie up the cheesecloth, press a bit to remove excess whey.   

Barry has been busy in the kitchen testing out recipes for different cheeses across the board.  Although it may seem that several cheeses are made in the same way, there are very slight variations in the process that create the variances in taste.  For example cheddar and Colby start out in a similar way however, in Colby, there is a step where water is added to the curds, causing it to be a cheese with more moisture than cheddar. 

    

Other factors determining the outcome of a particular cheese include: the amount of culture, the amount of rennet, the rate of time at which the milk is heated, the ripening time, the length of stirring time, etc. 

While playing with several variations of making cheese and different varieties, Barry has tasted the cheeses with Meteor Vineyard wines along the way.  The current winner is a delicious goat cheese pictured below. 

    

Cheese making is still in progress and yielding NO complaints from the taste testers in the Meteor Vineyard office. 

Click here for a great recipe and history of goat cheese with ash.

Time Posted: Feb 19, 2014 at 1:08 PM
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