We have slowly watched spring awakening across the Napa Valley in the last month or so. The acacia trees started their bloom last month along with full blooms of mustard throughout the vineyards. The site of acacia’s blooming signals to growers that it’s time to prune, and quickly after that the vines are awake again.
Thankfully, our winter began with a heavy amount of rain, followed by a dry period, then another rainfall, leaving us in our current dry state. The first of the rains in December wetted the soil profile but then the warm, record breaking January heated that water in the soil. The soil temperature then rose higher than normal causing the vines to be tricked to start growing sooner than they should.
Waking up from their short winter dormancy we have seen early pruning among the vines, and early bud break across the valley. January was a record dry month for the area, creating this necessity to prune early. Pruning during dry periods actually keeps disease pressure quite low and it is ideal to prune in late January or February. If you prune too early, say December (as some vineyards have been forced to do), you have to protect the cuts with fungicide. It’s better to delay pruning as it is better for disease resistance and can delay bud break.
Early spring and pruning have shown early bud break in certain vineyards in the area. Some bud break has been apparent as early as January this year, when March is more typical. When pruning and the “wounds” start to bleed natural sap this is an indication that the vine is already active.
Luckily, local growers are all used to inconsistent growing seasons, keeping them on their toes, and allowing them to use techniques learned along the way to keep up with whatever the season and soils throw their way.
One thing farmers will have to keep an eye on with early spring is nighttime low temperatures. If necessary, they will need to mow cover crops to ground level to allow the sun to warm the vineyard floor during the day. This will help keep cold air away from buds during the early morning hours, therefore assisting with frost protection, which is the biggest concern with an early spring.
Growers just have to continue to stay flexible and follow the weather, soil and vine needs. Meteor Vineyard, being a producer of only Cabernet, does not always see these same issues. We may be a week or two ahead of last year but we did not have to prune or see bud break a month ahead of time as in other places across the region.
We are always ready and excited for all the challenges the growing season begins and we are looking forward to 2015!
February is one of my favorite months in the Napa Valley, why? Because it's Napa Valley Restaurant Month!
Some of the finest restaurants from all around the valley offer discounts and tasting menus to sip, eat and enjoy all month long. The possibilities are endless with the array of fine wine, crafty cocktails and tasty delights to partake in.
Whether you're craving a low-key pizza night, or a fine dining experience there are so many different menus and restaurants to explore this month.
Might I add that Cabernet goes well with a plethora of foods being served on these delightful menus. Make sure to check out Meadowood, Auberge, Solbar, Bardessono, Bouchon and Brannan's specials during restaurant month and get a bottle of Meteor Vineyard!
For a list of all participating restaurants and deals click here.
Hooray! Direct to consumer shipping is now open for the state of Massachusetts. The Wine Institute and Free the Grapes have worked hard to bring the direct shipping issue to light and getting into Massachusetts (after a decade long fight!) has been a big step forward.
Learn more about what this means and the steps taken to get there by clicking here.
Now, a winery holding a federal basic permit may obtain a Direct Wine Shipper License and ship up to 12 cases of wine per year to an adult resident of Massachusetts for personal use. Obviously this new permit law has some downsides and restrictions such as this but we are very excited to be able to ship to clients in the beautiful state of Massachusetts!
It is projected that the value of wine shipped directly to the state of Massachusetts will be $77 million within 3 years.
What state would you all like to conquer next?
This Friday, February 6th marks the 20th annual Cabernet for Connoisseurs event benefiting Family House. Family house is a not-for-profit organization, which offers temporary housing to families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at the University of California, San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital.
Qualifying families live more than 50 miles from UCSF, and many live at or below poverty level. Family House accommodates over 100 families per night and serves over 2,000 families each year. They rely solely on sponsorships and contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations. The Cabernet for Connoisseurs event provides the revenue needed to support Family House for one year.
Please visit Family House’s website here to learn more about their charity and the families they have helped over the years.
Last year Meteor Vineyard had the pleasure to host a fantastic lot with 12 Bay Area Michelin Starred chefs. The event was a huge success, bringing together foodies and chefs from across the Bay for a chef’s potluck. Check out some photos of our fun last year:
This year, we will again be hosting a chef’s potluck in September and this is one for the books! Check out this description:
“What happens when at least 20 of the Bay Area’s top chefs come together to eat, drink and party? Twenty couples (or 40 guests) will spend the afternoon and evening of Saturday, September 12, 2015 at Tracy and Barry Schuler’s amazing Napa home for an unprecedented event of exceptional food, with wines from Meteor, Arietta, Hudson, Pahlmeyer, and the Aldorotys. It’s a food and drink extravaganza you will never forget. Arrive around two in the afternoon to sample pizza from the wood-fired oven prepared by eleven-time World Champion Tony Gemignani as you sip cocktails by Bar Agricole. Watch the chefs wield their knives throughout the day to prepare some of their favorite dishes. Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the cooking and camaraderie that only happens when great chefs take a rare day off from their restaurants to party! Chefs include Melissa Perello of Frances, Stuart Brioza of State Bird, Rolland Passot of La Folie, Nancy Oakes and Bruce Aidells of Boulevard, Mourad Lahlou of Mourad, Thomas MacNaughton of Flour + Water, Charles Phan of Slanted Door, James Syhabout of Commis, Taylor Boetticher of Fatted Calf, Belinda Leong of B. Patisserie, Ken Frank of La Toque, Doug Stonebreaker of Prather Ranch, Tony Gemignani of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, Jim Dodge of Bon Appètit, Richard Reddington of Redd, Steve Litke of Farmhouse Inn, Sean Massey of Morimoto, Ari Rosen of Scopa, and Mindy Beebe of Quince. (Chefs may be subject to change.) Donated by Tracy and Barry Schuler, Paige and Jason Pahlmeyer, Cristina and Lee Hudson, Caren and Fritz Hatton, Karen and Neil Aldoroty, Susie Heller, and the amazing Bay Area chefs.”
We look forward to participating in this amazing auction on Friday, if you can’t make it to the auction click here for a proxy bid and bid on your favorite items in the catalog to benefit Family House, our one of a kind chef’s experience will go fast!
In a recent discussion regarding the 2011 vintage here at Meteor a couple weeks ago, the topic of Bordeaux came up. Winemaker Andy Erickson, who buys fruit from Meteor for one his Favia wines humorously commented during the atypical harvest "what's everyone complaining about? Go work a harvest in Bordeaux, they're like this every year- pickers have to wear masks there's so much mold flying around!"
Well this struck a chord with us, especially considering the somewhat unfairness of comparing Napa to Bordeaux in blind tastings. "Of course Napa's always going to win, our wines are made to drink earlier on release, we can irrigate etc" said proprietor Barry Schuler. Well as "luck" would have it, 2011 was a challenging vintage across the pond as well, so we decided to taste our 2011 Perseid against a 2011 Bordeaux. Just days later, Wine Spectator released it's Top Ten Wines for 2014 and lo and behold, the first to be revealed was the Chateau Leoville Las Cases, from the maligned 2011 vintage! Similarly priced to ours, the choice was clear, and so we put it in our tasting team's comparative. What became clear in this exercise, which included another 2011 Napa Bordeaux blend, was that when the wines are compared in their own category, which in this case was the cool vintage category, the wines all shined brightly, but stood as different from the typical. i.e., they were not better or worse than other vintages, just different. Isn't that what makes wine so fascinating?
By definition vintage reflects a time, which in turn allows for a different aging timeline, and yields a unique and delicious wine in its own right. This was made clear at the 2014 Napa Premiere Tasting in February, where hundreds of trade professionals tasted through more than two hundred 2012 Napa Cabernets. Yes, the much touted vintage produced terrific wines, and lots of them, but by the end of the tasting all the delicious wines tended to run together and one was left with a sense of boredom (and maybe a bit lightheadedness!). So while its easy to disparage the difficult vintages and heap praise on the easy vintages, we prefer to embrace each vintage for what it is, and trust the winemakers who truly know their craft to give us a liquid time capsule that will keep our cellars interesting and exciting….and maybe even make the WS Annual Top Ten!
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.
Every once in a while a project comes along that is too important to pass up. I am excited to join as GM and Wine Director at the San Francisco restaurant The Progress. Adjoining their restaurant State Bird Provisions, this stunning space will re-imagine dining and culinary culture in San Francisco.
Unfortunately that means leaving one of the great wineries of Napa. In 6 years with the Meteor team, I constantly marveled at their steadfast commitment to producing a wine the combines the intensity of Napa with the balance and elegance of the world's truly great terroirs. The quality of the wines is supported by people engaged in making them and Barry and Tracy Schuler and Bill and Dawnine Dyer are simply amazing people. I will be a lifelong ambassador.
Replacing me as Estate Director is Eric Smith, who I have known for years, starting when he led wine acquisitions and client management strategy at Porthos Wine, and subsequently through his tenure as General Manager of Checkerboard Vineyards here in Napa Valley. He'll continue the passion and commitment Meteor has for its wines, unique terroir and clientele. Please don't hesitate to reach out to him personally at firstname.lastname@example.org – he looks forward to meeting you!
Its been a pleasure getting to know you.
All my best,
Checking in with a quick catch up post harvest here at Meteor Vineyard!
Meteor harvested all 3 of our clones (337, 4 and 7) last week, just about a week ahead of the 2013 harvest. The wines are currently in fermentation at the winery.
The light rains we received right before harvest always causes slight panic, however the rains only seemed to effect the grapes in a positive light.
For some time the tannins seemed resolved, with no bitter or green characters. This observation is now supported by phenolic analysis in the tanks where tannins are strong but the bitter compounds are low.
Our winemaker, Dawnine Dyer, and the whole team are looking forward to a beautiful 2014 vintage.
Just a quick update into the 2014 Harvest here at Meteor Vineyard.
We will begin to harvest our 337 clone this Wednesday, quickly followed by our clone 7 on Friday. Winemaker, Dawnine Dyer, is still keeping a close look at clone 4, which has slowed down considerably but, continues to have the best looking vines on the property. This will bring our harvest just over a week ahead of last years when we picked on September 26th.
Last Analysis brings in the following brix numbers:
Dyer says at this point "the fruit is firm and really picture perfect." The Meteor Vineyard team is excited for a great 2014 vintage in the making.
"The contrast between the mahogany color of the mature canes and the blue/black is the berries is classic Meteor!"- Dyer
Check in next week for a full update on our Harvest! We look forward to sharing the journey and the wines with you.
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.