It has been a record dry year for California, and with that comes some major concerns for viticulturists. What does this drought mean for the 2014 vintage here in the Napa Valley?
For Meteor Vineyard Winemaker Dawnine Dyer, it means being prepared for smaller crops that will have been impacted by dehydration.
“Dehydration concentrates everything in the grape. With less water there is more sugar, more tannin, more acidity to the juice…generally this happens at the very end of ripening and can even be a positive thing (the dimpling we look for just before picking is a result of dehydration),” Dyer said.
Dyer said as for thinning the canopy, when there is not as much water in the soil as usual, you have to manage the plant so it is sized to the water you do have. Therefore, both pruning and thinning are done earlier than normal.
“All said, it’s not necessarily a terrible thing for winemaking. It’s something we can manage (and wines from the draught years of the 70’s are pretty impressive)…we just need to pay attention,” Dawnine said.
Meteor Vineyard Manager, Mike Wolf, measured the soils last week and found the whole soil profile to be very dry, as expected. He says that since the vines are currently very dormant, irrigating now would most likely be a waste of money.
“If we do not receive substantial rain before bud break, we will irrigate enough to fill the soil profile in the vines’ root zone,” Wolf said.
A major unknown is always how satisfactory the wells will perform this summer at the vineyard. If they don’t perform up to par then Mike and his crew will have to try to grow “thrifty” vines, with smaller canopies than usual to minimize water use.
Fruition Sciences, an East Bay information technology firm that provides winemakers and grapegrowers with decision-aiding tools designed to optimize vineyard management, was just at the Westin Verasa hotel in Napa to meet with local vintners and growers. While in town they spoke on efforts in winegrowing to “be smarter about using less water,” co-founder Thibaut Scholasch said.
They pointed out the many rewards of smarter use of irrigation, showing that it not only aids in vine health but also produces better wines. Winemakers in the valley are just hoping to see some of the late rains we might traditionally see in February or March to help with this years growing season.
If rainfalls don’t grace us within the next couple of months, this will dictate the careful monitoring of crop level in order to keep things in balance. In addition to that Mike and his team will need to take extra care to not develop nutrient deficiencies if this lack of rain or irrigation resources create a smaller active root system.
“We have to do what we can to move the season forward-do cultural operations early to promote a shorter growing season (where we will need less water)…or consider joining some organized religion,” Wolf said with a little humor.
The 1986 vintage in Bordeaux has always both intrigued and beguiled. When the wines were released in 1988 and 89, they were largely lauded for their intentisty of fruit and firm tannins. However, as the years went by and collectors began "checking in" on their maturation, the tannins failed to mature, leaving hard edged wines that were head scrtachers. Would these wines ever reach their potential?
We headed to San Francisco's famed NOPA restaurant Saturday night for a mini retrospective.
1986 Chateau Montrose
I have always loved Montrose for its brawny intensity and this did not dissapoint. Still intensly colored with copious amounts of spice and leather on nose. Medium bodied with tannins just starting to integrate. Solid showing.
1986 Chateau Cos d' Estournel
Any discussion of Cos inevitably references the "exotic" architecture of it's buildings. Interestingly it is this same vague definition of "exotic spices" that always gives the wine away as Cos. Brick rim and subtle savory aromas of coriander, coffee and leather. Soft, integrated tannins. Gorgeous.
1986 Chateau Laynch-Bages
I have rarely been as enamoured as others with "Lunch-Bag" but this bottle was amazing. Still intensly colored with dark brooding fruit and a full bodied and structured palate.
We did break the Bordeaux exploration to look to the Rhone Valley as well...1986 Chateau de Beaucastel
Absolutely gorgeous. Perfumed and delicate with etheral texture and incredible length.
I can't wait to sink some 25+ year old Meteor Vineyard into the lineup in 2030!
PacoJet's are typically seen in the kitchens of several high-end restaurants worldwide, not in your average vineyard kitchen however, Meteor Vineyard is not your average winery. This device allows chefs to prepare high quality mousses and sauces at the simple press of a button.
Most notably this device, resembling your counter-top coffee machine, makes the creamiest of ice creams that can take you back to the old fashioned soda-fountains without the hassle of the constant churn method (the blade spins at over 2,000RPM!)
I wouldn't mind seeing this butternut squash ice cream recipe in my future (hint, hint).
While 2013 will long be remembered for the absolute perfection of the growing season, the year also provided some benchmark moments here at Meteor Vineyard.
* Latkes. That’s right – latkes. The unusual confluence of Thanksgiving and Hannukah gave us the first “Thanksgivukkah” in, well, a VERY long time. Barry’s always spectacular holiday menu went a step further, fusing the traditions (and riffs on traditions) from both celebrations. In Barry’s words, “Producing epic Latkes is an exact analog. Technique is essential and the recipe is only a guideline to be adjusted by feel and experience. If you are willing and patient you will be rewarded with a divine experience that will be celebrated by those you prepare them for.” Get the recipe here.
* James Beard award winner Stuart Brioza cooked one of the most memorable meals of the year in the Meteor Vineyard kitchen. The day started with a butchering class at Hudson Farm with a spring lamb raised on the property and proceeded with a harvest of fresh ingredients from Lee Hudson’s incredible farm. In the kitchen Stuart improvised utilizing every part from the lamb. Perfect pairings for our wines!
* The last decade has seen an explosion of incredible restaurants in nearly every city across the country. While we don’t have a lot of wine to spread around we felt it important to expand our national distribution in Georgia, Virginia, Florida and Colorado.
* (Piggybacking on the above) We are proud to find the wines of Meteor Vineyard in many of the top restaurant cellars across the country including The French Laundry, Daniel, BlackBerry Farm and Manresa. The best meal of 2013? Hands down The French Laundry on October 19. Check out the full list of restaurants that feature Meteor Vineyard wines.
* Once again, the second week of August provided one of the greatest meteor showers of the lunar calendar. Our bi-annual Perseid Meteor Shower Party was in full swing celebrating both the shooting “stars” and the release of our 2010 Perseid Cabernet Sauvignon. Save the date for our next fete in August 2015!
* Ok, we said it at the top, but the 2013 harvest was one of the best in memory, with near perfect growing conditions from bud break to harvest. Absolutely perfect berries! While we are a long way off from completing the blends, the raw materials for the wine is absolutely ethereal. Of course, 2012 is still in barrel as well which is equally exciting!
* One of the great joys of Meteor Vineyard has always been working with and selling fruit to a number of top winemakers from the valley (we keep about 25% for the Meteor Vineyard wines). The list has been a who’s who over the years with Andy Erickson, Phillipe Melka, Tony Soter and, of course, Bill and Dawnine Dyer working with the fruit. In a nod to the uniqueness and quality of the site, Bart and Daphne Araujo, whose stewardship of the legendary Eisele Vineyard produced some of California greatest wines, became our newest vineyard clients! We can’t wait to see what they do with the fruit.
* The Hearts Delight Wine Auction in Washington DC has long been a bastion of the great properties of Bordeaux. When they looked to incorporate 2 properties from California into the French heavy tasting, Meteor Vineyard was the first property they tapped. A nod to our style which bridges Napa Valley and Bordeaux? We are excited to return next year!
* Professional wine critics have continued to wax eloquent about the Meteor Vineyard wines crafted by winemaker/partners Bill and Dawnine Dyer. Check out the latest words from Steven Tanzer and Antonio Galloni.
We wish you and your loved ones all the best in the new year and look forward to 2014!
The Meteor Vineyard Team