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A Taste of Napa’s Growing Regions

February 26th, 2014 No comments


What makes Napa Valley such a renowned area for growing wine grapes? It all comes down to the dirt. There are more than 30 types of soil in Napa Valley. The chemistry of this soil is the most important factor of what the French call “terroir,” the distinctive tastes and aromas that an area’s specific conditions impart on the wine.

An understanding of Napa Valley’s geography can go a long way in helping you choose wines from the region that you know you’ll love. Here’s a basic rundown of Napa’s microareas and the flavors their conditions give the finished product, using that perennial favorite, cabernet sauvignon, as an example:

St. Helena: St. Helena climate and soils are very different from those of the surrounding regions. While the western hills warm and protect the area, breezes from the Pacific do reach here earlier than they do other regions. Cabernets from this area are ripe, round and fruity, with a “chewy” feel on the palate.

Rutherford: One of the least mountainous areas in the Napa Valley, Rutherford’s soils don’t drain as much as do the hillier vineyards, meaning that soil minerals remain in the area, and even grow more concentrated over time. The cabernet is earthy and high in tannins.

Spring Mountain: An extreme area for wine-growing, with sparse soil that drains quickly and is blasted all day and all night with chilly temperatures. The cabernet from Spring Mountain is as extreme as its conditions, rich, powerful and concentrated.

Yountville: The soil types here are varied, with a mix of sand, loam, silt, and others. The area is cooled by breezes from San Pablo Bay, not far away, meaning that the grapes can mature on the vine for a bit longer. The resulting cabs from this area will be smooth and boldly fruity, with dark berry aromas.

Mount Veeder: This mountainous area is above 2,400 feet above sea level, very high for vineyards. The steep slopes mean that soils are thin and vines are stressed for nutrients. That results in smaller crops from this area, but the grapes that make is are intensely colored and powerfully flavored, with great complexity. Wines from this area are great candidates for the cellar.

Howell Mountain: This region is similar to Mount Veeder, but since its temperatures run a little warmer, its cabernet is even more bold and concentrated.

Stags Leap area: The vineyards here are located in hills that cool off every afternoon. This, combined with its well-drained soil, gives the area’s cabernet highly perfumed, velvety wines big on flavor but soft on tannins.

 

 

 

New San Diego Wine Law Swirls up Controversy

October 7th, 2010 No comments


Video courtesy CBS 8 News

In a move that has stirred up some controversy, a new law has passed that will allow boutique wineries producing 12,000 gallons or less to operate tasting rooms. They’ll also be able to sell directly to buyers and hold events such as weddings. Winemakers and wine lovers in San Diego see this as a good thing: it will help boost the local economy by supporting small businesses. And rolling hills covered with grape vines aren’t too bad to look at, either.

Some people aren’t welcoming the new rules with open arms (and empty glasses), though. A group of property owners, mostly in the Ramona area, has filed a lawsuit demanding that the ordinance be annulled and re-examined. They claim that proper environmental studies haven’t been done, citing a specific worry about the amount of water that will be needed to water the crops.

Supporters of the law like Supervisor Dianne Jacob see the objections as unnecessarily standing in the way of a good thing.

“Vintners worked very hard with the county to develop an ordinance that worked for all parties,” Jacob said. “In the end, we found a way to spur the economy by taking measures to enhance an agricultural use, in agricultural zoned areas, while doing our best to preserve the community character of these rural areas.”

She added, “This is an unfortunate attempt to create an obstacle that would hurt many others and sputter an emerging industry seeking to further promote the county as a successful wine-producing region.”

Please share your thoughts on this new law in the comments!

Discovering Sonoma County!

August 19th, 2009 No comments
Good Laughs and Port

Good Laughs and Port

As wine enthusiasts, I’m sure by now you have seen the movie Bottle Shock and the event that put California wines and the Napa Valley on the map. Since that time, Napa has evolved into a major wine destination, with busy tasting rooms and weekend traffic heading north through Yountville, Rutherford and St. Helena. Personally, I love the area, the food and the wines. However, on your next trip to Northern California, don’t forget Sonoma County.

Every year (at least once a year) I take a business trip to the Bay Area to market Vintage Cellars to wine shops, storage facilities, interior designers and architects. It’s a whirlwind tour to market custom cellars, wine storage cabinets and cooling units in 2 days. Why do I work so hard on Thursday and Friday? So I can spend Saturday and Sunday in wine country. This year was a little different as I invited some friends from around the country join me. I was going to play wine tour guide on a weekend adventure in wine country.

I live life by a couple of simple rules and one is to never miss a chance to eat at the Rutherford Grill, just north of Napa. I had to stop by a couple of wineries on the way there, to set the mood for my friends and because the Rutherford Grill does not charge a corkage fee (an almost unheard of practice these days).  I’m a self proclaimed BBQ aficionado, and these ribs live up to my standards.  Wait, I went off course to hit this place but Sonoma County is just over the mountains to the west.

Sonoma County just feels like home when you get there. Sure, it has a fair share of big corporate wineries and stuffy shirts charging a $25 tasting fee for 1 oz of the estate grown Cab, but we hit the back roads to find some real small market gems. Sonoma offers a wide variety of regions perfect for a wide variety of grapes. The Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley are just a few must drive through places. Even on a Saturday, in tasting rooms no larger then your kitchen, my friends and I found a warm and inviting environment. We tasted amazing wines in all different varieties: Pinot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Merlot, Blends, Sav Blanc and Cab.

What I like about this atmosphere is many times the wine maker is available (if not the one pouring the tasting) for questions, comments and thoughts about the wine. Many of these wine makers are bold enough to do different styles like a 50/50 Cab/Zin mix or a straight Cab Franc. I like out of the ordinary and people willing to try something a little different even though it may not be popular in the market place. I met Alex Davis, wine maker at Porter Creek, a certified organic winery. I also met Virginia (owner) at Yoakim Bridge, a dry farmed vineyard. There is nothing better then a personal touch to a wine tasting. Oh, and ask any of them “what is the best place to grab dinner tonight?”…you won’t be disappointed.

My friends can’t wait to return as there are miles and miles of uncharted territory we have yet to discover…