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Winemaker Report 2014 / Marco Gressi, The Napa Valley Reserve Winemaker
I often say that 85 percent of wine is made in the vineyard. We are fortunate to have a wonderful crew who has been with us for more than thirteen years. As all farmers do, we look at variables that are given to us by Mother Nature and try to anticipate what is coming in the following months. We adjust our farming practices to achieve the best results for a given vintage and 2014 was no different.
We started with very dry soils and a mild winter. The little rain we did receive came just in time to refill our soil profiles and push vines through an early bud break. Canopies filled in relatively quickly and after an even flowering and a good fruit set we knew we were off to a good start.
A phenomenon I observed recently is the development of thicker than usual skins during drier years. It is almost like the vines know how to protect themselves from dry and warm conditions. Some farmers link the resiliency of their vineyards to biodynamic farming practices, which we have been following since our inaugural vintage. In any case, thicker skins result in increased flavors, colors and tannins. These variables are always welcomed in our cellars.
Overall the vintage looks to be another Napa Valley classic. The growing season saw some warm days at the beginning and end of August, a cooler September that allowed flavors to fully develop and express themselves and a string of warm days with cool nights around the beginning of October. Those conditions allowed the vineyard to reach optimal ripeness and with no rain on site we had the opportunity to deliberately pick through blocks and bring to the cellar some remarkable Cabernets.
The first grapes made their way to the cellar on August 13 with perfectly ripe Sauvignon Blanc going to press for our third white wine vintage. We now own a brand new bladder press that can accommodate three tons per load which makes our busy cellar lives much easier and most importantly, extracts juices in an inert setting protecting them from oxidation. Whites kept rolling in at a nice pace and slightly earlier than last year. The last Semillon lot was picked on September 8 just in time to turn our focus to reds.
August 24 will be a date and time hard to forget in the valley. At 3:20 am a violent 6.1 earthquake shook us out of our beds leaving serious damage throughout the southern part of the valley. Many buildings were severely damaged in downtown Napa and some wineries suffered significant losses. After making sure my loved ones and my home were safe, I called our General Manager, Paul Asmuth. He answered the phone standing in front of the winery, and to my disbelief, ensured me that there was absolutely no visible damage. The only loss we suffered at The Reserve was one bottle of wine! It was a blessing the quake occurred when people were in bed and not working in cellars as at some wineries high barrel stacks were tumbled.