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Blankiet's 'Bordeaux Medoc-blend' of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. This wine is sheer power in a silk glove.
Paradise Hills Vineyard is located on the western foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains above Yountville in the cooler part of the Napa Valley. Grapes planted in this area take longer to mature on the vine allowing for riper tannins, darker pigmentation and deeply perfumed fruit. The vineyards are east and southeast facing, ideal for maximizing photosynthesis with intense morning sun and natural protection from the hot afternoon rays.
Heat summation charts Paradise Hills Vineyard temperatures from 3000 to 3500 degree – day per season for the past 10 years. The climate is a bit warmer than Bordeaux but the summer days are sunny and dry with cool nights. Temperatures swing 50 degrees in a 24-hour period, allowing full phenolic ripening of the grapes while maintaining a fresh acidity. Paradise Hills is cooled by constant breezes flowing from the cold waters of the San Pablo Bay. The grape berries tend to develop a thicker skin that protects them from dehydration.
Paradise Hills displays an almost textbook assortment of different soil conditions that comprise ancient Pacific seabed formations of greenstone, sandstone, limestone, shale, white volcanic tuffs and pyroclastic lava flows.
Cabernet Sauvignon is planted on the porous volcanic soils that produce wines with concentrated tannins and complex flavours. Cabernet Franc is planted on an east facing slope of clay loam over fractured rocks at the top of the canyon. Natural protection from the hot afternoon sun allows the maturation of the grapes to be extended ten days later than valley floor or west facing vineyards. Planted on the steepest East facing slopes at the end of the canyon, our Petit Verdot grapes are the last to be harvested from the Paradise Hills vineyard. Merlot is planted on a deep band of brown alluvial clay eroded from the mountain range. The steep slopes are facing North – North East and wrap around the South side of the canyon.
Paradise Hills Vineyard is farmed organically and great care is given to maintain soil balance. Nutrients taken from the land during the growing season are replaced using green manure. A mix of winter grasses and legumes such as clover, winter rye, sorghum and sweet peas, are seeded between rows. When Spring comes, the grasses are mowed down and spaded back into the soil.
Grape vines regenerate from seeds and/or from vegetative offshoots of the canes. Seed reproduction is a long and complicated pathway, therefore growers use cuttings to create new vines. If vines are permitted to expand their energy on vegetative growth they will do so at the expense of ripening fruit.
Coaxing grapevines and their relentless propensity on growing canes and leaves instead of fruit requires an enormous amount of labor. That is why vineyards planted in nutrition-depleted and well-drained hillsides are naturally better suited in producing small crops of intensely flavoured berries.
To further enhance wine concentration and complexity, the number of clusters a vine is allowed to ripen is restricted. During the growing season buds, flowers, leaves and clusters are carefully thinned out, allowing each vine to produce a metered amount of fruit in accordance to its age, terroir and specific weather conditions of the year.
Water needs are carefully monitored by checking the amount of moisture in the leaves to prevent the vines from shutting down. Diminishing sunlight by mid-summer tells the vines the end of the season is in sight and all their energy is to be spent in ripening the berries.
The harvest in 2008 was very different from the norm in Napa Valley. Mother Nature turned the year into a real thriller, which held producers in its grip from the start all the way until harvest time.
The year began in stormy conditions: the valley was buffeted by downpours and storm winds. These then gave way to an agonisingly long dry period. The spring’s rainfall only reached 60 per cent of the average, and went down in history as one of the driest springs in Napa Valley. Due to the mild and dry weather, the vines’ growing season started earlier than ever. The early sprouting was fateful, however, when the month-long dry period in the spring was followed by destructive sub-zero night-time temperatures. This was not just on a few isolated nights, but went on for a whole month. The long night-time frosts had a devastating effect on the sprouting vines, cutting harvests by up to one third.
During the long frost period, producers pulled out all of their tricks to protect the vines. Some vineyards in the valley have large fans, which were in intensive use throughout the spring. Areas that did not have fans used sprinklers for watering the vines so that the water would freeze onto the buds to shield them from the icy cold. The flowering season after the frosts was irregular and, due to uneven pollination, led to below-average harvests. The summer started off cool and remained so until late August.
As a result, the grapes developed slowly and became intense and concentrated. In the late summer, ripening was accelerated by a one-week heat wave, which was followed by dry weather during the harvest. Although the harvest was smaller than usual, the grape quality was excellent.