Harvest 2014

Fruit coming in ...

Fruit coming in …

Most of Napa Valley is complete, or nearing completion of harvesting the grapes from the vines for this vintage.  If this seems early, it is.  This entire season has been running about 2 weeks ahead of normal.  But this fact only impacts the human’s schedule, since the plants have their own schedule and the time between veraison (when the grapes turn from green to purple and the onset of ripening) and when the grapes are fully ripe are the same vintage to vintage.

Lucas inspects the berries...

Lucas inspects the berries…

In the valley most of the Merlot, Malbec and Petite Verdot are already picked with Cabernet

Sauvignon as typically the last varietal with the longest ripening cycle.  This hearty varietal has thick skins and large berries, so we want the juice to get as sweet and ripe as possible to balance out the tannins.

2014 Napa Valley winegrape growing season details according to the Napa Valley Grapegrowers Association:

· July 2014 average high temperature ranged from 80 degrees in Carneros to 92 in Calistoga and Pope Valley – right in the sweet zone for fine wines

· March – June 2014 months were all 3-5 degrees higher than average, getting the vines off to a strong start

· 2014 total rainfall is around 50-60% of normal

· February and March 2014 rainfall was 11-17 inches, falling at exactly the right time of the season to mitigate drought concerns and irrigation needs

Earthquake Update

Dear Friends,

IMG_1097As you know, an earthquake hit an area of Napa called American Canyon early Sunday morning. As luck would have it, that is where we, and many others, store and make our wine.

We have received lots of calls, texts and posts with concern and good wishes. Our homes may be broken, but our families and friends are safe and we are cleaning up with good cheer.

While our wine in bottle survived, sadly 1/3 of our Howell Mountain blend in barrel is lost, as well as a number of other empty barrels waiting for the 2014 vintage. This is quite a financial hit, as most small wineries cannot afford earthquake insurance.

IMG_2277Some have been asking what they can do to help the region, and the best thing we can suggest is to buy Napa wine, especially from small producers who took the largest hit.

It goes without saying we appreciate your concern; this event reminds us to take stock in how lucky we are to have such great friends.

We’ll dust off and move forward to 2014’s vintage, which should be a good one.

Love and respect,
Mike and Lucas Farmer

2014 Vintage Looking Good!

grapesRight now we have just about finished veraison, or the turning of the grapes from green to red that signals the start of onset of ripening.  This is a significant development milestone for grapes as it indicates how the flavors and sugars are developing and when harvest might begin.  We are early with veraison this year, which makes sense because we had the earliest bud break since the mid-90’s this spring.  This also means we’ll have an early harvest.

For all of you who have read articles or posts on “hang time” and are thinking an early harvest might adversely affect wine quality; think again.  Early harvests are historically better vintage years.  And, in truth, it takes roughly the same amount of time for a vine to go from bud to mature fruit every year – it just varies how early or late in the season it starts and finishes.  In years when the season starts late so harvest is pushed into October, there is the risk of rains, disease such as leaf curl, and cold weather setting in.  All these factors hurt the wine quality.  Thus, when we can pick mature fruit while the sun is warm and the weather dry, we have better quality fruit.

Many have been asking me if the drought is affecting the vineyards.  Unlike our friends in central and Southern California, Northern California vineyards are doing just fine.  We had two big storms this spring that filled our reservoirs and we’re seeing average yields this vintage.

For the second half of the year we will be focusing on canopy management. This is a process where we remove shoot laterals (the vines that strike outward) to allow gentle dappled, sunlight to reach the ripening grapes.  We don’t want too much sunlight or they will raisin, but too little sunlight won’t promote ripening.  We will also likely do a pass and drop some fruit in congested clusters to keep airflow and sunlight all around the clusters.  These adjustments will help us get the best quality fruit leading into harvest.

Overall, we’re looking at a fantastic year in the vineyard.

Harvest Update – Picking has Begun

Many of our friends have asked us how the 2013 harvest is going.

In our area, the 2013 vintage has been rushed. We were treated to an early budbreak this spring, followed by verasion (the changing of grapes from green to red) a full three to four weeks early this summer.

Early Harvest? 2013 harvest for wineries has begun in Napa Valley

Now, many of our neighbors that harvest white or Pinot Noir are well into harvest. But for us, we have just begun to pick Cabernet Sauvignon on Howell Mountain. and our Syrah vines aren’t quite there yet.

Howell Mountain benefits from a high elevation, bringing the grapes closer to the sun, so we’re a few weeks ahead of the red varietals on the valley floor.  This mountain appellation also gets more heat, and cooler nights than the valley, bringing the fruit into balance.  So, we have started picking.  To do this we look at the sugar contents of various bunches, as they can vary row by row depending on the sun exposure and water positioning.  When they reach the ideal level, we coordinate a hand-picking and sorting.

From here, the grapes go into a cold soak to stabilize them, and then into fermentation.

2013 Predictions

Wine grapes from harvest on the conveyor
We are very happy with the Cabernet Sauvignon fruit this year.  It is exhibiting many of the terroir characteristics we have come to look for in this area – a rich, round, creamy and silky mid-palate, overtones of tropical fruit with a base of dark chocolate.  2013 should be a lovely Cabernet vintage.

Up next…the Syrah.

If you’re traveling to Northern California this fall – let us know – we’d love to give you a glimpse of this year’s fruit and taste some wine.

A Tip from Your Server

They should make a reality show about being a bartender in the Napa Valley.

You would not believe the things I’ve overheard at the bar, and the people I’ve seen.Lucas Farmer of Euclid Wine in Napa Valley

First thing you notice is all the locals are the people eating early at the bar. Why? Two reasons: First, typically there is decent happy hour food, and second if they bring their own wine, usually winery owners are not charged corkage.

It is wonderful to grow up in an area that has more Michelin star restaurants per square mile than anywhere else in the world, but, it can get pricy if you just want to grab dinner after running errands all day. Thus, this frugality is understood. We don’t have too many mid-priced family restaurant chains in Napa so naturally you find the locals at the bar eating hamburgers with their own Merlot.

Then you see the younger tourists. They may be here on a date, or a bachelor party, or a girl’s weekend away. This is the tentative group. They are not as comfortable as their older counterparts in fine eateries and are maybe a bit star struck from the Food Network. (Interesting phenomenon the Food Network, huh? Chefs are now rock stars and restaurants like hot dance clubs.)

These hipsters order wine by the glass and something safe, like the pasta special. They are appreciative and energetic and joy to serve because, like a child, you can see your surroundings through their eyes. And, it is beautiful.

Mike Farmer of Euclid WineThe older tourists are also fun, but there is a different vibe with them. These guys love peppering the Sommelier with recently learned tidbits from the day’s adventures. “What is the percentage of malo-lactic fermentation?” They are typically more adventurous with the menu, trying wild boar, sweetbreads or other local delicacies. They are living it up on vacation and not afraid to flaunt it.

But my favorite customer is still my Dad, a regular at the bar for a quick beer after work. Ready with a story or a smile and dodging my mom wants him to mow the lawn before dinner.

Who has a better job than me?

Let’s Go Streaking….

I’ve always been a leg man.

A gorgeous set of legs will get me excited every time. I’ll just want to lick every last bit.

Streaks on a glass of wine can can tell you how the wine will taste and old the wine is.

I’m talking about the legs in a glass of wine. (Where did you think I was going with that?)

It always amuses me to watch tourists and locals at the bar swirling and looking at the wine slowly run down the glass. Known as “legs”, these hypnotizing drips say a lot about a wine, but very few know how to interpret them.

We are visual creatures. We seek mates, food, entertainment and, yes, wine with our eyes.  (Our sight center in our brain is also closest to the verbal center, which is why we can describe yellow in a hundred ways, but have a hard time describing what a peach smells, or tastes, like). So, we naturally will probably notice the color. The color can give you and indication of how the wine will taste and old the wine is.

glassesA bright wine is young, versus a browned wine, which may be old (or prematurely oxidized as a defect). If the white wine has a greenish tinge, chances are it will be on the more acidic, or herbaceous, side, versus fruity. A butte-colored wine has seen oak and will seem fuller in the mouth and creamier. A dark stained red that leaves purple tears has a lot of phenolics floating around (those good things that help your heart) and a red that runs down the glass  quickly and doesn’t leave a stain is likely a more fruity wine.

The second thing you’ll notice is how fast those little legs are running down the glass, or viscosity.This indicates either sweetness, or alcohol. Since our brain interprets alcohol as sweetness, this is sometimes hard to separate.  But if you have a dessert wine, it should be more viscous in the glass. If you have a 15% alcohol Zinfandel from the Central Valley, you should see a similar effect.

So, the next time you are absent-mindedly twirling your wine at the bar, observe the legs and see if you can get a profile for what the wine will taste like before you enjoy it… then see if you were right.