Ahh August. Long summer shadows and fresh warm summer breezes illustrate the most romantic parts of the season as well as the most poignant as our students look forward to school, vacations wind down, and the earliest of holiday themed gifts start showing up in catalogs. (Really though…is it absolutely necessary to see hats with buckles on them in…August?).
The vines are reaching their final stages of maturation as the Valley’s pre-harvest intensity amps up. We had some fairly challenging heat to deal with last month, but so far the grapes seem to be holding their own and we’re really looking forward to harvesting the 2013 vintage!
We’re also looking forward the 27th Annual Charity Fall Music Festival happening next month! Benefiting local charities in Sonoma County, the concert will be over the weekend of the 21st and 22nd of September and will feature some fantastic talent! It’s a great event, and tickets sell out fast, so be sure to get yours soon on our concert page.
Out in the Vineyards
August is a fascinating time in the vineyards. Veraison began in late July and will finish in the first weeks of August. It’s a key time for our vineyard crew as they prepare for the high intensity and long days of harvest, just around the corner. The first part of the month will begin with a crop assessment followed by what’s called “green drop” which involves going through each vine and dropping from them under-developed clusters and shot berries; basically ridding the vines of anything unusable or potentially harmful. A light cultivation is then undergone, preparing the grapes for picking which will start in September!
Varietal of the Month: Pinot Noir
We recently bottled our 2011 Russian River Pinot Noir, and the 2010 won Gold (94pts) at the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition in June, so it’s only fitting that our varietal history tour this month is Pinot Noir!
In a complete contrast to last month’s featured varietal, Cabernet, Pinot Noir is a very difficult grape to master and notorious for the challenges it presents to growers and winemakers. Requiring fairly specific terroir and climate conditions, Pinot Noir only thrives in a select few appellations around the world. There is fragility to the Pinot Noir grape due in large part to its extremely thin skin and susceptibility to disease. Because of this, it takes a great deal of care and attention during the growing season and is typically produced in relatively small quantities.
Arguably the most well known region to produce Pinot Noir is Burgundy in France, more specifically the sub-region of Cote d’Or. The weather there is cool and dry, gets a lot of sun and has a chalky soil type – key ingredients for growing Pinot Noir. Other popular regions that have become known for producing exceptional Pinots include the Willamette Valley in Oregon, Martinborogh, Waipara, and Central Otago in New Zealand, and The Russian River Valley in California.
Historians have determined that the Pinot Noir grape has been cultivated since at least the fourth century, making it one of the oldest varietals in the world, separated from the most ancient vines by only a few hundred years. Much of the grapes popularity and a reason it has survived from that day to this is owed to the Catholic Church, which used the wine from Pinot grapes for sacramental wine. As the church gradually gained more prominence and power in the area, the Pinot Noir grape remained unscathed as it was allowed to continue to grow for that particular use. The name of the grape is thought to derive from the French word for pine cone, because the grape clusters mimic that shape.
Characteristics: Because of its thinner skin, Pinot is typically light in color. It stands well on its own but is also an extremely food friendly wine. Often displaying gamey characteristics amongst brighter, ripe fruit tones such as raspberry and cherry, it’s a great pairing with pork, lamb, or a nice rich Bolognese. Let us know your favorite ways to enjoy this truly wonderful varietal!