Harvest: Villa Ragazzi picked Sangiovese for red winemaking on September 1, a full 9 days earlier than last year. Even for an early variety like Sangiovese, that's early. The fruit looked great!
The surprise? Last night we brought this 47-year old bottle of Louis Martini Pinot Noir to our traditional anniversary dinner at La Toque (one of Napa's finest restaurants). It had been in our cellar since 1978, when Louis P. Martini gave me a mixed case of his wines as a thank you for organizing Napa Valley's first joint vintner tour of the US. (Another vintner gave me a tree.) Moët & Chandon loaned us their business jet, so we traveled in style. The whole story is in my book, Bubbles to Boardrooms http://tinyurl.com/ycuk2p2k.
We knew Louis made wines that age well, but weren't sure what to expect since very little good Pinot Noir was made back then. No worries: the cork was in perfect condition, the color a lovely clear red, and the fruit very present along with bottle age characters. Delicious. Thank you again, Louis.
We picked the Sangiovese for Villa Ragazzi (dry) Rosato early this morning while the grapes were cool and before day temps resumed their current, unusual three-digit run.
The fruit looked beautiful (love that deep blue color), clean, and evenly ripened - we pick early for Rosato to achieve the desired low alcohol, delicacy, and crispness. Unfortunately, there was only 1/2 ton again this year. We had hoped for a bit more. You might let us know if you want to claim some of the +/- 30 cases of 2017 Rosato that will be released early next year.
Next up, possibly as early as next week, is harvesting Sangiovese for red wine.
Oh, and we're releasing the 2014 Sangiovese.
Busy times in Napa Valley.
Napa Valley's typical summer morning fog mostly obscured the 76% partial eclipse of the sun we expected here (lucky Oregon got the full Monty), but there were occasional glimpses, as in this photo taken shortly before max eclipse. Congratulations, Apple, on the quality of iPhone cameras!
But that's yesterday's news.
When this morning's fog cleared, the sun again shone on ripening Cabernet, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, and many other winegrape varieties (plus 5 kinds of heirloom tomatoes at Villa Ragazzi). Napa Valley's Mediterranean climate provides a wonderful environment for green growing things, and for people fortunate to live or visit here.
Vintners and growers like to take time off in July before the harvest action starts. So we went on a busman's holiday to the Finger Lakes, NY.
The reason was the biannual Grand Event where Women for WineSense members from around the country gather to network and learn and have fun. The bonus was that the 2-year old Finger Lakes chapter put on quite a show for us!
This up-and-coming New York wine region is proving it can make excellent vinifera wines: the Cabernet Franc, dry rosé, and Riesling are exceptional. It is also home to a thriving farm-to-table movement, so it's a great place for foodies. Not to mention the area's natural beauty.
So, two recommendations: visit the Finger Lakes, and consider joining Women for WineSense (men welcome, of course).
Two months later, my heirloom tomatoes are growing well and the early varieties (Stupice, Jaune Flamme, Roma) are starting to produce. The Williamsburg table trellis hasn't caved in - but these beauties are going to get bigger and heavier, so it's probably just a matter of time.
But it's also possible that my experiment with pruning the vines as they grow may result in a smaller than usual crop of tomatoes. Or it could result in a decent crop and plants that won't cause the trellis to collapse. Stay tuned.
If you have access to vine ripened tomatoes, you might enjoy Nathan's Tomato Bread Salad - delicious with Sangiovese in the summertime.
This doesn't look much like the colonial Williamsburg table trellis I was going for, but I like its rustic look better than my moderately successful concrete wire cylinders. When the plants are loaded with fruit later this summer, this trellis will surely collapse. Willow shoots aren't sturdy enough for indeterminate tomatoes, but they were all I had. Maybe I'll plant a tree to pollard... .
Winegrape flowers are tiny, so you can't see that the Sangiovese at the top left of this photo is in full bloom. If all goes well, we hope to produce more Rosato this year. It's not even June and we're already nearly out of the too small 2016 vintage!
We all know how delicious fava beans are. Unfortunately, they can be found only in the spring, and they're very hard to peel. That's why fava beans are a seasonal treat in local restaurants, where someone peels them for you. At Villa Ragazzi, we've found a way to make them easily at home.
First, include fava beans in your vineyard's winter cover crop. Fava is a pretty, useful plant; when plowed under in the spring, it enriches the soil with nitrogen. (Owning a vineyard in Napa Valley is the only costly part of this method, but it will also work in your winter garden.)
Then, you wait for late spring when the beans are ready to harvest - taking care to warn your vineyard manager that you want to save a patch so he doesn't innocently mow all of them down before disking the vineyard.
Shell your beans and put them in the freezer. They'll be ready to peel effortlessly in 30 minutes and -- best of all -- they will keep indefinitely, frozen, to enjoy throughout the year. Here are some tasty recipes to make at home.
Lira, Villa Ragazzi's winery cat, is also fondly known as Squirrel Tail for the bushy flag she proudly waves.
In this photo she's got her winter coat on, as she prefers spending the night outdoors no matter what the weather. (She snoozes all day on sunny window sills.) She's also wearing her herbal flea collar, which smells great and seems to do the job.
Lira is interested in wine, but has yet to figure out how to get her luxuriant whiskers into one of our sturdy, elegant tasting glasses (The ONE glass designed by sommelier Andrea Immer Robinson). Excellent because the broad bowl allows Sangiovese's aromas to open up quickly, while the narrow opening collects them under one's appreciative nose. This is more efficient than decanting and waiting 20 minutes for the wine to show its stuff.
I am Villa Ragazzi's default blogger and wielder of the blue pencil.