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.”
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.
Meteor Vineyard is thrilled to be part of an amazing auction lot that is up for bid at this Friday the 7th's Cabernet for Connoisseurs event in San Francisco. Take a moment to look at the unbelievable auction and bid using the proxy bid form at:
Here is a description of the wonderful lot, we are very excited to be a part of, and to host, here at Meteor Vineyard:
Imagine yourself in the same room with ten renowned Bay Area Michelin-starred chefs. They will come together to cook for their mentor, television personality and author, Chef Jacques Pepin, his daughter Claudine, and you!
Eight guests will become culinary insiders as they join the chefs to cook and party at the Napa home of Tracy and Barry Schuler (owners of Meteor Vineyard). Chefs include Michael Tusk from Quince, Dominique Crenn from Atelier Crenn, Roland Passot from La Folie, Michael Sandoval from Bouchon, Mourad Lahlou from Aziza, Catherine & Joe Bartholomei and Steve Litke from the Farmhouse Inn, Stuart Brioza from State Bird Provisions, James Syhabout from Commis, Ken Frank from La Toque, Robert Curry from Auberge du Soleil, Teague Moriarty and Duncan Holmes from Sons & Daughters, and Lissa Doumani and Hiro Sone from Ame and Terra.
Throw a pizza with 11-time World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani as he makes his renowned pizza at the wood-fired oven; Thaddeus Vogler from Bar Agricole will be on hand to blend up specialty cocktails; and the Schulers and Aldorotys are raiding their private cellars to pour you some of their favorite wines.
Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the cooking and the camaraderie that come to life when world-class chefs take a night off to party.
Lot includes: Non-Stop Cooking, Eating, and Drinking for 8 guests; an Apron for Each Guest Signed by the Chefs
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
We hope you had a great Thanksgiving holiday with family, friends and copious amounts of food, wine and good cheer. Here at Meteor Vineyard, this years convergence of Thanksgiving and Hannukah offered a unique opportunity for Barry to innovate on what is always a spectacular meal. His recipe for "epic latkes" is a must!
To help celebrate this holiday season we're opening up our cellar for you to "build your own vertical" of our award-winning Perseid Cabernet Sauvignon. Select your favorite three vintages from 2005-2010 to fill the vacancies in your collection or send an impressive holiday gift to a colleague, friend or family member.
But our cellar isn't limitless! Only a select number of Meteor Vineyard Perseid vertical packs are available and all will be packaged in a custom wood box. Order by Sunday December 8 for holiday delivery.
The entire Meteor Vineyard team wishes you and your family the happiest of holidays!
Think about baking crusty, French baguettes, bread perfection created with just four ingredients: flour, yeast, water, salt. There are many recipes for French bread that provide measurements of each ingredient. But turning out a crusty, chewy, tangy loaf is all about technique. Every batch of flour is different. Atmospheric conditions at various locales will impact many variables such as how the flour hydrates and how well the yeast rises. The baker’s hand is essential in formation of gluten, the very structure of the bread. Bread making requires an experienced set of senses, particularly touch. No recipe can produce epic French bread, it requires experience to make adjustments to the proportions based on feel
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.
Meteor Vineyard is my first job in the wine industry. After moving to Napa from Cleveland, Ohio a couple of years ago I quickly realized that I wanted to be into the wine industry.
In an effort to increase my level of wine knowledge (I love to drink wine however, my knowledge of the process was minimal at best) I signed up for the WSET level 1 course through the Napa Wine Academy. The class was held on a Saturday in October at the beautiful St. Supery Winery.
It was a small group of 7, consisting of people from all walks of life, with different jobs, and different levels of knowledge. We all came together to expand our knowledge together with our enthusiastic instructor Catherine.
The class covered basic wine knowledge from the main styles of wine, characteristics of grape varieties, how to taste and serve wines (and many things in between!)
We were able to learn about wine varieties and different wine growing regions while trying wines from different areas of the world. We were able to work on understanding the art that is food pairings and discuss amongst the group. The class was hands on, fun, interesting and exciting.
Not only did I emerge with a better knowledge and understanding of wine, I learned even more from discussions with the instructor and my peers. The experience was amazing, something I would sign up for again; who knows, maybe level 2 is in my future!