Majority of Napa Growers to Replace Vines by 2017

A virus that attacks grapevines is leading many Napa County growers to consider replanting and replacing their vineyards and vines by 2017. According to a study conducted by the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, 86% of farmers who responded to the survey said they have plans to redevelop portions of their acreage by the end of next year.
You can read more details about this survey and its implications in this Wines & Vines article.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Secret Vineyard

Closed to the public for five centuries, Casa degli Atellani— in the heart of the Milan, Italy– has recently reopened to curious tourists. The estate houses plenty of treasures for fans of Italian history, art and culture. But it’s also home to an intriguing secret dating back to the Renaissance-era — a newly restored vineyard owned by Leonardo da Vinci.

When da Vinci left Florence for Milan in the late 15th century, he arrived with a cover letter that described him as a weapons maker and laid out in exquisite detail the various arms he could produce.

At the bottom of his résumé, he added a couple of lines: In times of peace, he wrote, he could paint and serve as an architect. The man who went on to paint the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper didn’t even bother to mention another skill: grape grower.

A little-known detail about Leonardo’s life and passions is that he owned a small vineyard that the duke of Milan gave to him for painting The Last Supper, says historian and author Jacopo Ghilardotti.

Today, half a millennium later, that vineyard has been restored to reproduce essentially the same grape the genius cultivated.

Continue reading more about the quest to restore this secret vineyard in this article.

Food & Weed Pairings: Yes, It’s a Thing

We all love food and wine pairing menus, but did you know that there’s actually food and weed pairings? I didn’t either!

In the interesting article “Will the Wine Industry Survive Food and Weed Pairings,” Tom Wark explores the wild new trend of restaurants offering a cannabis list much like they offer a wine list.

Marijuana legalization for recreational purposes is on several state ballots this year, so this really could become the hot new hipster dining movement. The question is, do wineries need to worry about this threat?

Would you try a food and weed pairing, and would you do so over a food and wine pairing? Join the discussion below!

By: Louisa


Building Brand Loyalty: A Lesson from HALL Winery

It’s tough to be a winery these days, and it’s even tougher to build a rabid, loyal fan base among consumers. As a wine club member at HALL Winery in St. Helena, California, I was more than a little impressed when I received my expected shipment from the winery last night.

The box was filled with the wines I had ordered (a half case of the fabulous 2013 Eighteen Seventy-Three cab), but also enclosed was a heartfelt note thanking me for my loyalty (it is my one year anniversary as a club member) as well as a complimentary bottle of 2012 Coeur Cabernet Sauvignon (a $75.00, 94 point bottle of wine).

As you would imagine, this absolutely thrilled me and gave me such a warm and fuzzy feeling towards the winery. Yes, I realize this is a business and a slick way to build brand loyalty, but I absolutely feel valued as a customer — and I will be sure to tell everyone I know about what great customer service HALL provides.

I’ve been a long-time customer at many wineries (spending several thousands of dollars per year on their wines), but none have ever thought to thank me like this before. Really, how difficult is it to throw in an extra surprise, be it a special bottle of wine or a mass-produced card? I’ve never been more impressed with this celebration of my one year club anniversary.

I must add that none of these wineries know that I write as The Grape Geek, and they do not send me freebies just so I’ll write something nice about them. I’m a regular customer just like you, and I pay for my wines and club memberships like a regular Joe.

Thanks, HALL!

 By: Louisa

Wine Really Does Taste Better With Cheese

It goes without saying that most wine lovers also love cheese. I rarely enjoy a glass without a tasty, cheesy accompaniment. What’s really cool is that according to a new scientific study by the Centre for Taste and Feeding Behavior in Dijon, France, cheese really does make wine taste better. The study took four types of wine, both reds and whites, (Pacherenc, Sancerre, Bourgogne, and Madiran) and paired them with four cheeses (Epoisses, Comté, Roquefort and Crottin de Chavignol).

Interested in the full results? Here’s the actual scientific study that was published in the Journal of Food Science. For those less nerdy types, here’s a quick synopsis of the study from The Huffington Post.

Having a glass of wine tonight? Check out this handy chart for easy wine and cheese pairings — although I think rules are sometimes for chumps. Eat the cheese you like with the wine you like.

By: Louisa

Crush Time at Paradigm Winery

I had the pleasure of visiting the Napa Valley in September, while the 2016 crush was in full swing. It’s always a favorite time of year to visit because there’s so much excitement from everyone in the industry, and there’s the unmistakable aroma of freshly crushed grapes in the air. How fortunate it was that I happened to time my visit to Paradigm Winery on the very same day that their Merlot grapes were harvested to make their yummy rosé — right there from their estate.

Assistant winemaker Mark Fasi happily showed me around the facility, first letting me examine (and taste) the grapes straight from the vines to the bins. The fruit was bright, plump and perfectly round. I haven’t seen such picture perfect grapes even in a magazine. The sweetness of the fruit was so delicious that I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait a year to get that wine.

Paradigm is a small winery with a small production line.

Next up was the de-stemmer, a cool machine that does what it says: gently removes the stems from the grapes. Paradigm is a small family-run operation so their equipment isn’t as fancy as some of the big boys in town. I happen to think that these small wineries craft a superior product because all of the care and attention that goes into crafting a gorgeous wine.

Sorting the stems from the grapes.

Lastly it was time to watch the “crush.” As the grapes were gently tossed and the skins broken, Mark bent down to closely monitor the color of the juice that was extracted below. The overwhelming smell of grapes made my mouth water, and Mark explained how he wanted to get just the right color before putting the juice in a barrel.

Mark hard at work checking the color on the freshly pressed juice.

Watching this process first hand was educational and thrilling, and when I eventually pull the cork on a bottle of 2016 Paradigm Rosé of Merlot, I can (sort of) say that “oh yeah, I helped make that!”

By: Louisa

Today’s Cellar Selection: Mi Sueño

Today we’re drinking a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from Mi Sueño winery in Napa. Mi Sueño (Spanish for “my dream”) is a passion project by winemaker / owner Rolando Herrera. Mr. Herrera’s story — in which he started working in Napa as a day laborer to quickly progress to assistant winemaker at Stag’s Leap Cellars, then progressed to winemaker — is an amazing one. As interesting as the story is, the wines speak for themselves; you can appreciate his skill in every glass.

We learned about Mr. Herrera after a recent visit to Vintner’s Collective in downtown Napa. Vintner’s Collective was (and still is) showcasing Longfellow wines in its tasting room. Longfellow is one of the many wineries that Mr. Herrera makes wine for (which also include Baldacci and Red Stitch), and one that impressed the heck out of us. At a price between $45 – $60/bottle, Longfellow is one of the better values in Napa. After enjoying Longfellow, we discovered Mr. Herrera’s passion project Mi Sueño.

While this particular vintage of Mi Sueño is not one of his best, it is a better representation of the 2011 vintage for Napa Cabs. We look forward to trying the 2012 and 2013 vintages of this wine.

By: Matt