Category Archives: Vinesse Wines

What We Can Expect from the 2018 Harvest

grapeharvest.jpgWe always look forward to the annual grape crush report issued by the California Agricultural Statistics Service because it not only paints a picture of the vintage, but also provides a preview of what we can expect in the marketplace a few years down the road.

Here are a few bullet points from the report on the 2018 harvest:

* The winegrape harvest was up about 7% over 2017, with 4.28 million tons crushed.

* That’s a new record, surpassing the 4.2 million tons of grapes crushed in 2013.

* In Napa Valley, California’s most famous wine region, the Cabernet Sauvignon harvest jumped from 66,000 tons in 2017 to 89,000 tons in 2018.

* Higher yields in Napa were mirrored by similar results in Sonoma County and in the Central Coast region.

* Across the board, the average price per ton of grapes was $831.63, which represents a 6.8% increase over 2017.

There are many more fascinating statistics, and if you’re interested, you can access more of them in this comprehensive report from Wine Business.

The numbers are one thing, but what do they mean for us wine lovers?

Well, we can expect — are you sitting down? — 1.5 million more cases of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley, compared to 2017. While some of the additional Cabernet grapes will go into Bordeaux-style blends with proprietary names, a vast majority will be bottled as varietal Cabernet Sauvignon.

On the down side, the average price of the grapes increased 6.67% in Napa County to $5,571 per ton, which means you can expect higher prices for the 2018 vintage.

Of course, we’ve come to expect annual price hikes in virtually every aspect of our lives, from food to recreational pursuits, and from automobiles to houses. Wine has followed a similar path, which is why it’s more important than ever to place your trust in Vinesse to uncover hidden gems that represent not only great quality, but also great value.

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The Notre Dame Fire and Wine’s Role in Religion

notredameOne need not be Catholic or Christian or even particularly religious to be touched by the horrific fire that ravaged the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris late Monday.

The fire started during a major renovation project, and is believed to have been ignited accidentally.

It didn’t take long for two-thirds of the roof of the 850-year-old masterpiece of Gothic architecture to be engulfed in flames, fueled by wood of the 1,300 oak trees used to create a network of interior wooden beams.

As I watched the cathedral’s spire glow from the rising flames and then suddenly collapse and crash to the ground, I couldn’t help but think of the role that wine has played in religion through the centuries.

Going back as far as 4,000 B.C., the Egyptians associated several gods with wine. Dionysus was identified as the patron of wine by the ancient Greeks. Many of the ancient Romans’ religious festivals were tied to various aspects of the grape-growing cycle, particularly the harvest season.

Fast-forward to early America, where the Pilgrims planted vines not long after landing at Plymouth. Although some historic accounts have been debated, it’s believed that the wine they made from the grapes grown on those vines was consumed at the first Thanksgiving in 1623.

One of America’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, observed that wine is “proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”

Growing up in Southern California, I was introduced to the work of Jesuit priests and the network of missions they built up and down the California coast, from San Diego to San Francisco. Grapevines were planted adjacent to most of the missions to provide a reliable source of wine for celebrating Communion.

Wine has been present in so much of religious history, and continues to play a role in religious ceremonies today. But for believers and non-believers alike, a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral was a must-stop on any tour of Paris, right up there with the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum. Thirteen million people visited the cathedral each year.

Although the fire was devastating, reports indicate that most of the cathedral’s art treasures were saved, the building’s exterior structure still stands, and more than $400 million already has been pledged to help restore the fire-damaged interior.

That’s good news for Catholics, Christians, and anyone who loves history and architecture. It’s news worthy of a toast with a glass of French wine.

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What to Do When You Don’t Finish a Bottle

wineopener.jpgFor any number of reasons, not every bottle of wine gets finished in a single sitting. That means we need an effective way of saving and storing open bottles for finishing later.

Here are a few suggestions to make sure that leftover wine goes down your throat, and not down the drain…

Once a bottle of wine has been uncorked… or unscrewed, as more and more wineries embrace screw caps… the wine’s aging process accelerates.

This can be mitigated to some degree by immediately re-sealing the bottle after pouring the wine into glasses, or by using one of several products on the market that utilizes certain processes to return the wine to its “unopened” state.

But in our experience, the wine still loses “something” even when such products are used, whether it’s the strength of its aroma or its freshness on the palate. Thus, don’t plan on keeping an opened bottle more than a few days, because with each passing hour, it will lose a little bit of its personality, or what we like to call its “oomph.”

Some urge against it, but it’s perfectly fine to put the re-sealed bottle in the refrigerator for a day (no more). Just be sure to take it out at least an hour before reopening and pouring it the next day.

Older wines will “devolve” more quickly than younger ones, so keep that in mind as well.

If we had to commit to a specific time frame, we’d strongly suggest finishing off any bottle within three days of its first opening. When it comes to an opened bottle of wine, “the sooner the better” is a good rule of thumb.

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3 ‘Excuses’ for a Sonoma Spring Getaway

festival.jpgSpring is a wonderful time to visit California’s Sonoma County for a wine country getaway, as the season provides plenty of “excuses” to linger a little longer and enjoy some experiences beyond the tasting rooms.

Here is a sampling of upcoming excuses… uh, events…

* April 13-14 — Sebastopol Apple Blossom Festival and Parade: “The 73rd annual Apple Blossom Festival begins with a parade on Saturday, followed by live music, food, crafts, children’s games, art show, wine and more!” tells us. “The fun carries on Sunday with the festival and the Blues Music Explosion, featuring headliner Joe Louis Walker and bands from nearby and around the country.”

* April 27 — Butter and Eggs Parade and Festival — “Brimming with authentic small town pride, Petaluma’s Butter and Egg Days Parade pays tribute to Petaluma’s place in history as the ‘World’s Egg Basket’ and the community’s rich agricultural heritage. The parade steps off at noon and will march through the historic downtown, surrounded by a festival of fun and activities from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Clover Kids’ Parade precedes the main parade with a procession of preschoolers and primary grade youngsters and their families. The Butter and Egg Days festivities continue on Sunday when the historic downtown district transforms into an open-air marketplace for the Spring Antique Faire.”

* April 27-28 — 30th annual Passport to Dry Creek Valley: “At 40-plus participating wineries throughout Dry Creek Valley, guests will enjoy elaborate themed parties with remarkable and memorable food and wine pairings. Guests can meet Sonoma County’s most renowned chefs, savoring their inspired culinary creations alongside newly released and limited-edition wines.”

These are wonderful opportunities to join mostly locals for lots of fun before the big summertime crowds arrive. You can get more information on these events and others here.

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Tracking the Screw Cap’s Record of Success

tops.jpgAbout the same time Vinesse came into being, a 10-year study by the Australian Wine Research Institute was just getting under way.

The study dealt with the effectiveness of screw caps as wine bottle closures. Were they just as effective as corks? Less effective? Could they possibly be more effective?

At the time, a small number of wineries had embraced the closure, mostly for their lower-priced bottlings. And, as one might imagine, there was quite a bit of blow-back from the cork-producing industry.

I can remember one meeting among our company’s small staff. We were considering featuring a wine that was sealed with a screw cap, and we wondered what our members would think about it. Would they be turned off by the idea? I can vividly recall strong cases being made on both sides of the issue.

All of us appreciated the history and tradition associated with corks, and we understood that a vast majority of wines sealed with corks ended up smelling and tasting just as the vintner envisioned.

That said, if there was a better way to protect that wine in the bottle, we were open to giving it a try. Over time, Vinesse featured more and more wines sealed with screw caps.

When the study was completed, the results were reported in Wine Spectator magazine.

Interestingly, and significantly, the study wasn’t undertaken to prove anything about screw caps, one way or another. Rather, it was to determine how well wine would age under various closures.

A 1999 Semillon was selected for the test, and after 10 years, the wine aged in bottles sealed with a screw cap were “wonderful to drink,” according to the Wine Spectator story.

As for most of the wines sealed with any other closure, they were “completely undrinkable.” It was a big win for screw caps.

The study underscored another long-held tenet of the Vinesse staff — that long-term aging of wine is a calculated risk at best.

A vast majority of wines being made today are drinkable and enjoyable upon release. Some may benefit from another year or two in the bottle, but beyond that, the possibility of encountering a tainted wine heightens with each passing year.

While the screw cap may not be as “romantic” as the cork, there is proof that it’s very reliable over the long haul.

I know around our house, we get equally excited about the “crackle” of a screw cap as we do about the “pop” of cork. These days, we don’t even think about it anymore.

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