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.
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).
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!
Many of you have probably heard of the most recent wine gadget, the Coravin. This device, invented by a medical device entrepreneur, was created as a way to access wine in the bottle without removing the cork. The Coravin pierces the enclosure with a slender hollow needle and injects Argon gas that replaces the wine that is forced out.
What this allows you to do in essence is remove wine from the bottle and be able to revisit this wine days, weeks or months down the line without suffering the usual effects of an open bottle.
Not only does the device come with a digital readout for exact pour measure to allow the bottle’s wine volume to be used to its full potential, it permits a restaurant to pour older, more rare vintages by the glass without the wine going bad (and you don’t have to worry about empty bottles at the end of the night!)
Mauro Cirilli, Wine Director at Press Club San Francisco, has been involved with the Coravin project for three years. Press Club was selected to utilize the Coravin prototype to give feedback on how it could be improved before launching the device into the market.
Thanks to the device Cirilli was able to put together the largest list in the world of magnum bottles available by the glass, one of these wines being our 2008 Meteor Vineyard Perseid.
“Coravin will change the way people enjoy wines and will improve sales and lower costs for wineries and distributors,” Cirilli said.
Cirilli reiterates the point that the Coravin is meant mostly for the high-end wines, “the ones that we never thought to get just a glass and then put the bottle back in the cellar,” he said.
According to Cirilli, the device will allow restaurants, wine bars and retailers to enrich their lists with new selections, while bringing in extra attention to a larger variety of wines and extra money to the establishments. Wineries and distributors will be able to avoid bottle waste while saving thousands of dollars.
Cirilli says, “Both patrons and business will earn something extra. Coravin gives us unlimited access (cork permitted!)”
Desmond Echavarrie, MS, Senior Wine Advisor at Soutirage, said he recently used the Coravin to test several bottles of 20-year-old Napa Cabernet for an event on Alcatraz Island. “Given the choice of three library vintages from the same winery that we had to purchase 3 cases of, it was a small sampling via Coravin that sealed the deal,” Echavarrie said.
All in all the Coravin sounds like a winner to me; ability to try various library wines by the glass, while saving money, can’t beat that!
Chef Tony talking to guests about the art of dough and topping combinations while they sip Meteor cabernet (look at all of those options!)
There is no doubt Chef Tony is a ten-time world-champion pizza acrobat after seeing this:
Pizza and Meteor Vineyard cabernet: a Saturday well spent at Meteor