Monday, October 31, 2011

Harvest Widow

Harvest Widow (n): Someone who has temporarily lost their significant other/spouse to harvest. Term used typically during the months of August through December during the harvest and fermentation of grapes in The Napa Valley.

For those in the wine business the harvest season can be full of uncertainty. One question lingers in the minds of many: will the wine be good? But for those whose loved one is a key player in the winemaking process the questions stray; will the grapes ripen in time? Is the winemaking team strong? What will my winemaker eat for lunch? Will he be home for dinner? Does he have clean socks?

I can attest that harvest means long days, longer weeks, and months that just seem to stack up. By the time harvest is over my household is thoroughly exhausted and frayed- were we supposed to pay our parents or thank our bills? No matter, we did neither.

Harvest is also a time of renewal; the house is often empty which I find both very quiet and strangely comforting. More than usual I get together with my girlfriends (fellow harvest widows), read the books I’ve been working on all year, take little mental vacations, deep clean the house, and plan our lives together after the harvest is over. Additionally, each year I indulge in a new project; this year I have taken up curing olives and making nocino- I will report back if my projects prove successful.

I’m a newlywed; it’s our first harvest as a married couple, but this is not my first rodeo. My concerns for my husband are the same as in harvests past: that he returns home safely each night, to this end I try to do my part- by being the rock upon which he leans. So, like my husband I make choices (and sacrifices) to do the best I can to make harvest pleasant for everyone involved. Sometimes it means visiting him at work and sometimes it means leaving him alone. This is a great time to practice patience and compassion.

The pains we suffer now while our winemakers, growers and pickers are off birthing another vintage are small when we remind ourselves that everyone is working towards the same goal: to make the best wines possible. Next year we will be toasting with a bottle of this vintage, looking back on the stresses that made it notable and all will seem a fuzzy distant memory as we will already be planning for the next harvest.

--Katy Long
Amazing. Wine Educator and Wine Slinger.

--Zachary Long
Director of Winemaking for Kunde Estate in Kenwood, Ca. and Proprietor of Jonas Cellars, Jonas Red Wine.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Michael Mondavi Family Estate

The Bounty Hunter crew recently had the pleasure of visiting the Michael Mondavi Family Estate in Carneros. A beautiful piece of property tucked back off Highway 12 on Dealy Lane, it was recently voted “Best Tasting Room in Napa Valley” by the San Francisco Chronicle. The tasting gallery contains many beautiful tributes to their family’s four generations of involvement in wine making. Walking out to the back patio with glass in hand, all just seems right with the world as you stroll into the middle of the vineyards. It’s the perfect stop on your way into Napa coming from San Francisco.

When the Robert Mondavi Winery went public in 1994, Michael stayed on and served as President, CEO and Chairman until he left in 2004 and started the Folio Fine Wine Partners. His goal has been to bring exceptional and distinctive wines to the American consumers while remaining committed to working with family owned vineyards abroad. Over the years they have grown the portfolio, nurtured by their love for wine and today are both importers and producers of quality wines.

There are twenty wines open every day for you to sample, with a range of varietals and price points. For you Cabernet lovers check out Emblem, with the label design based off the family crest. There are two single vineyard cabernet sauvignons, one from Rutherford and the other from Howell Mountain. Since this is a family affair, don’t be surprised if Michael’s son and the Estate’s Winemaker, Rob, rolls into the tasting room while you’re there. He recommended we try the ’07 Spellbound Reserve Petite Sirah. Good suggestion Rob!

Bring a picnic lunch, buy a bottle and enjoy this amazing treasure.


--Summer Olson
Event & PR Manager

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tales from WhiskyFest…

Last weekend a few of the Bounty Hunter Wine Scouts and I made a pilgrimage to San Francisco for the weekend to participate in the 5th annual WhiskyFest sponsored by the Whisky Advocate (the newly acquired publication by Marvin Shanken of Wine Spectator). As you can imagine, this is not an event for the novice. Several hundred whisky connoisseurs, aficionados and professional imbibers gather at the Marriott Marquis grand ballroom and tasted hundreds of the world’s top whiskies as well as other high proof delicacies. This was my third visit to the event, so I came prepared for the challenge.

As with any grand tasting the best plan is to high spot some of our favorite producers then circle back around to find some new releases. We started, as any civilized whisky connoisseur would, with Pappy Van Winkle. Coveted as the “Screaming Eagle of Bourbon”, Pappy is becoming harder and harder to come by these days, so we made sure to christen the palate with a few sips of the 23yr old Bourbon Whiskey. We continued on the Kentucky wagon and made stops through the Michter’s, Angels Envy and Four Roses lineup, then landed at the Heaven Hill booth to taste the new release of the Parker’s Heritage Collection Cognac Finished Bourbon. This is a joint venture between Parker Beam and Alain Royer (Frapin Cognac, Forgotten Casks) that’s lush with sweet maple syrup, candied apple and loads of barrel spice that help make this 100-proof , 10yr. old bourbon go down like silk on the palate. Release is set for later this month, stay tuned…

I’d love to continue on about each of the producers we tasted with, but amazingly, my tasting notes became less legible as the night progressed. However, I will say the following three single malts were the most memorable of the evening. Number one, without a doubt, is the new committee release of the Ardbeg Alligator. Rich, intense campfire smoke with flavors of sweet toffee, honey and chocolate malt that beg for another sip. It’s always a good thing when a week later I can still taste the whisky. We secured all that we could, so please make an inquiry with your Wine Scout soon if you are interested.

Second and third were close enough to be a tie. The boys at Duncan Taylor brought along an 18yr old Jura Single Malt that was incredible. Loads of baking spice and honey with just the right amount of smoke and sea air to make it interesting and not take away from the malt. Last but certainly not least is a newcomer to the US market. Samaroli is an Italian independent bottler of Single malt whisky that recently launched a line of incredibly pure and memorable malts. The flagship is a blend of 18 different single malt whiskies called “Evolution 2011.” This vatted malt is composed of single malts from as far back as 1957 to 1989 and from distilleries such as Bowmore, Glenlivet and Bunnahabhain. The result is a rich concentrated nose of barrel age, baked apple and fig compote. Intense but delicate, spicy and slightly smoky. I have a feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot more “great stuff” from these guys.

An incredible evening to say the least. Fortunate for you, these events are held in three cities each year (San Francisco, Chicago and New York), so if you are interested, follow this link WhiskeyFest to purchase tickets. If you plan to attend, we highly recommend staying the night somewhere close by and arranging transportation in advance. And if you want to attend next year’s San Francisco event, we’d love to show you around the room during the tasting (you’ll also get to taste whiskies not available to the general public). Simply let your Wine Scout know and they will walk you through the details. We look forward to seeing you there next year.


--Stefan Matulich
Sales Director / Spirits Buyer

Friday, October 14, 2011

So You Think You Want A Vineyard?

Part I-IV So You Think You Want A Vineyard?

Part V – The Second Year (Fall 2011)

Determined to learn from his tyro based mistakes, our intrepid vintner got serious about spraying this last growing season – copious amounts of wettable sulfur were applied on a two week schedule, resulting in virtually NO powdery mildew. You all know from reading Rhett Gadke’s last blog entry about the lack of a real summer AGAIN in the Napa and Sonoma valleys. However, the still immature but rapidly growing Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot filled nicely, some making gigantic 12 to 15 foot long vines off the cordons. While another vine was lost to our mortal enemy Mr. Gopher, the infestation was lessened this year with the application of a heretofore unknown (at lest to me) methodology – road flares. While expensive, they are very effective, penetrating far into the tunnel system and keeping the rodent population under third world levels.

BTW, check out the coolest ever method for eliminating gophers – I think I’ve found my retirement job.

So, for a second leaf guy, the question is always the same: Keep what little fruit you get, or drop it all? Noting that there were at least 400 pounds of grapes developing on the vines, I decided to harvest what I could either add to my neighbor’s Cabernet Sauvignon crush or just make rose.

However, my poor neighbor got whacked AGAIN with a massive powdery mildew infection, destroying nearly 95% of his crop. So, rose it is. However, between the quail, mourning doves and blue jays, coupled with a light rain that produced botrytis (bunch rot), I ended up with about 200 pounds of fruit – coupled with my neighbor’s five whole pounds makes about 10 gallons of rose must. Next year, either bird netting or I’m going to get a falcon…the red-tailed hawks around my property are too well fed to bother coming to work every day.

So now we wait – two weeks into it and the must is at about 8 degrees brix – and still bubbling away. Hope to have wine by turkey day. Next year is the first real harvest. Just have to get that air-conditioned building put up now.

--Craig House, CFO/COO

Friday, October 7, 2011

2011 Harvest

And then there was sun! In the latest hill of the 2011 roller coaster, it looks like the threat of rain was a glancing blow rather than a direct hit. On the heels of a front that just moved through, the 10-day forecast is nothing but beautiful little orange balls on the computer screen. I can’t tell you what a relief that is for Napa Valley grape growers and those whose livelihood depends on their precious fruit.

It has been a truly crazy year. First we had a late spring. Then came a series of ill-timed storms which led to the condition known as “shatter” (poor fruit set when the pollination process is inhibited by wind or rain) in a lot of Cabernet vineyards. Then came the coolest summer any of us could remember. It even rained on Auction Napa Valley… in June! It doesn’t rain in Napa Valley in June. Really, historically weird stuff we’re talking about.

So here we sit in early October with most Pinot off the vines ahead of the most recent storm front. Anybody with Chardonnay still out – which includes much of Carneros – is understandably nervous about potential mold issues, but a solid week of mid-70’s weather and some light breezes are a wonderful antidote. It’s also going to kick the sugars back up in the Bordeaux varietals for the last push before we pick. We’re getting close. It just needs to stay dry. If we get dumped on again just before harvest, you won’t be able to distinguish between raindrops and tears, so keep you fingers crossed for us, folks, and we just may make it out of this in great shape.

--Rhett Gadke, Wine Director