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Wine Love Letter, February, 2006
Dear Wine Lover,
It's been a long time since our last newsletter and lots has happened in
the wine world and in my life.
First a few notes from a personal viewpoint. I have always been passionate
about wine and refer to my ratings with hearts so it is fitting that the trials
and joys this past year were heart-related.
On a heartwarming note, my son, Eric, has chosen a wonderful woman to marry.
Cari is incredibly special and just the right person to complement his energy
and keep him challenged. She is beautiful inside and out. I will have
difficulty withholding my tears of joy at their wedding on March 4th.
Late fall brought the grape harvest here in Northern California and news
that my mom would have to undergo open-heart surgery during which she would
have two valves replaced. She had her surgery at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood
City, California in early December. It was very difficult for her and
frightening for all of us who love her but she made it through with flying
colors thanks to Dr. Vince Gaudiani, his partner Luis Castro and the rest of
the incredible team at Sequoia. It was "heartening" to have the
doctors ask if Mom drank wine. When she answered in the affirmative, the
question was asked, "What color?" She responded, "Red" and
was told, "That's the right answer!" Glad to have my love for red
wine be endorsed by the docs!
From reports the world over, the quality of the 2005 harvest is
All over California the 2005 harvest is being touted as exceptional with most
varietals producing larger than normal quantities. Spring rains throughout the
state were worrisome but many vineyards set full clusters at a good point in
the season with good results. The size of the harvest varies greatly by area
and variety. Pinot Noir yields were down in most of California, but not in
Santa Barbara County -- where "Sideways" was filmed. In fact,
Southern California overall is dealing with a happy problem -- unexpectedly
large crops. The abundant crop should allow you to find that much sought after
bottle but don't expect to pay less for it. Grape prices held and the
wineries will probably not reduce the ultimate price consumers will pay for
wines this vintage.
The growing season was generally cool, leading to longer "hang
time" for fruit, concentrating the flavors and producing greater ripeness.
Winemakers are talking about incredible flavors and aromatics, rich soft tannin
structure and inky dark colors in the 2005 reds.
As harvest began, growers were in high spirits. The grapes had extended hang
time with perfectly balanced sugars and acids. Colors in red wines,
particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, were intense, inky-dark and opulent. For
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir the extra time on the vine provided wonderful
aromatics that should translate into the final bottling.
Some wineries were taken by surprise by the abundance of the crop.
Winemakers scrambled to find as much tank and barrel space as possible to store
their wines as they predict that it may be one of those vintages to write home
The 2005 Sonoma County harvest was the biggest ever for most varietals although
many growers reported that Pinot Noir was affected by the spring rains with
lighter clusters than normal, in some instances, devastatingly so.
Indications are that 2006 will not be as big a crop as last year, as a large
crop is usually followed by a much smaller one as the vines adjust.
South Central Coast
Higher than usual rainfall in the winter and spring leached the salts out of
the soils and resulted in large crops. Many growers saw a huge crop and began
dropping fruit early. Even so, the 2005 crop for most varieties was larger. The
size of the crop was due mainly to big clusters and larger berry size. 2005
Pinot Noir should be excellent, a moderately tannic vintage. The wines are
showing beautiful aromatics and are well balanced. Chardonnay had a very large
crop (big clusters and larger berry size), but very balanced.
The Monterey County wine grape harvest continued into mid-November. Not
unusual for Monterey, known for its slow, leisurely ripening from extended hang
time. Bud-break occurred late February which is typically two weeks ahead of
other regions. The extra month of hang time on the vine produces fruit forward
characteristics that differentiate Monterey from other regions.
Ridge Watson of Joullian Vineyards reported that cluster counts were about
normal in Carmel Valley, but heavier cluster weights increased tonnage up to 20
percent in many varieties. Ridge notes that the color has been excellent in the
reds and the Bordeaux varieties appear to have thicker, more tannic skins which
Watson feels will be good for complexity and aging potential.
Yields were a bit lower than normal, but the long, cool growing season lead to
fine flavors with lower alcohol levels for the area's famous
Washington State's 2005 grape harvest boasts not only record-breaking
numbers, but bold flavors as Washington state grape growers and wine producers
wrapped up one of their best crushes in history.
According to the Washington Wine Commission, the 2005 harvest was a perfect
combination of warm summer months, cool autumn temperatures and a mild winter,
yielding quality grapes that are both large in quantity and rich in flavor. The
moderate winter temperatures and a prolonged Indian summer allowed grapes the
extra hang time needed to develop robust Washington wine characteristics.
Concentrated flavors due to smaller berry sizes and cluster weights set 2005
apart as a stand-out quality vintage.
It is reported that the cooler temperatures and lower alcohol levels of 2005 mark a
return to a more classic Oregon vintage. After recent vintages that brought
warmer weather, early ripeness and higher alcohol, this year's Oregon wine
harvest occurred later than most expected, resulting in cooler temperatures
that many winemakers throughout the state say will lead to lower alcohol
levels, structured acidity and ideal flavor development.
Bordeaux is reporting another classic vintage-the young wines show fresh
acidity and ultra ripe fruit.
The quality of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is very good. Dry weather during
the summer moving through the September harvest is reported to have produced
ripe, healthy, balanced grapes with excellent acidity, ripeness, fruit, tannins
Chardonnay may have a slight qualitative edge over Pinot Noir, which was
affected by drought conditions during the summer.
Reportedly very good and possibly excellent, especially for Chardonnay. May be
a vintage year but it is too early to tell.
Languedoc and Rousillon
Extremely dry, drought-like conditions during the growing season and then heavy
rains at harvest do not bode well for these wines. Winemakers whose grapes
escaped the rains are describing the whites as minerally and the reds as
By all reports, an excellent vintage with lower-than-normal yields and
Another drought year with cooler temperatures than 2003 and 2004. 2005 is
predicted to be another outstanding vintage with a smaller than usual crop.
Below average quantities with predictions of an excellent vintage.
Most areas in Australia reported very good quality for the 2005 vintage.
Production was up considerably on white wines while red wines were steady with
2004. Australia is facing major oversupply issues. Many growers dropped fruit
to try to maintain pricing by slowing flooding of the grape and wine
The 2005 wine vintage is the second largest ever for the New Zealand. The
2004/05 summer began unsettled and unusually cool, but from early January
onwards growing conditions were ideal, producing high quality grapes through
nearly all winegrowing regions. With more wine available you may be able to
find that Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc you have been dying to try.
The 2005 grape harvest quality was excellent but quantity was significantly
down due to a serious drought and unpredictable weather throughout South
Pinot Noir Shootout & Summit
Don't miss the opportunity to taste top-rated Pinot Noirs from the Pinot
Don't miss the ultimate Pinot Noir Lover's
Attend The Pinot Noir Summit in San Francisco, March 11, 2006
Attendance is limited to 150 lucky wine lovers who are passionate
about Pinot Noir.
- Taste thirty-five luscious Pinot Noirs top rated wines from The 4th Annual
Pinot Noir Shootout in a blind tasting. Pit your palate against the expert
- Bring your palate to the Pinot Noir Summit and help us define whether women and
men prefer different wine styles.
- Meet and taste with Top Pinot Noir Winemakers
- Enjoy Pinot Noir Workshops conducted by expert winemakers, viticulturists,
and wine educators.
- Attend the Awards Ceremony & Wine Reception
- Join us at the Pinot Noir Winemaker's Dinner
Are you passionate about Pinot Noir? Does your mouth start to water just
thinking of this supple and sexy wine? The Pinot Noir enthusiast has reason to
take note and celebrate. Experience the ultimate Pinot Noir lover's event
...The Pinot Noir Summit at The California Culinary Academy in San
Francisco on Saturday, March 11, 2006.
Wine Boot Camp® is the ultimate fantasy experience
for wine lovers. Wine novices and experts experience firsthand the joys and
frustrations of winemaking. Wine lovers have the opportunity to work hands-on
in the vineyard and the cellar under the tutelage of top winemakers and
viticulturists. Wine workshops and tastings of outstanding wines are an
integral part of the program. More...
Conducted by AFFAIRS of the VINE, Wine Boot Camp® is a challenge to the
senses, awareness, and understanding of fine wines. Upon completion of basic
training, recruits' marksmanship in the field of fine wines will be right
An intensive, highly enjoyable one-day training program, Wine Boot Camp®
provides the experience and knowledge needed to become totally confident in the
understanding and appreciation of fine wine. Business associates and friends
will marvel at the leadership of "Camp" graduates as they storm the
wine lists of America and the world.
Some of the missions that may be included in Wine Boot Camp®
- Aromatic Workshop
- Winery and Vineyard Tours
- Vineyard Experience-recruits will learn about the vineyard and have an
opportunity to some "hands on" work in the vineyard
- Varietal Wine Tastings and Workshops
- Food and Wine Pairing Workshop
- Crack the Secret Code of Wine Lists
- Wine Cellar Experience
- Wine Blending Experience-become a winemaker and blend your own wine
- Appellation Tasting and Workshop
Wine Boot Camp®, an interactive experience can be attended by raw
recruits and wine generals alike. This exclusive Affairs of the Vine Program is
offered as an open course or can be tailored as a special event or team
Wine Boot Camp® Mission Sites include the Napa Valley, Sonoma County,
Sierra Foothills, Santa Barbara County, Paso Robles and Monterey County.
The cost of WINE BOOT Camp® includes all seminars and educational
materials, lunch in the vineyard, dinner paired with appropriate wines,
extensive wine tasting, a bottle of wine created by the recruit, transportation
to all food and wine events, and an "I Survived Wine Boot Camp® "
T-shirt. Enlistment is $425 per person plus tax.
For additional information, contact Major Drady at 707-874 -1975 or email@example.com
2006 Wine Boot Camp® schedule
||Sierra Foothills Wine
||Napa Valley Wine Boot
Winery Mission Site: Judd's Hill Winery
An amazing hands-on winery...I have known Art & Bunnie Finkelstein for
years. Art is a magical winemaker. Their son, Judd and daughter-in-law, Holly
are intimately involved in the winemaking too.
Art has been a winemaker for more than 30 years, beginning in his garage in
Los Angeles when he worked as an architect during the day. He rethought his
life and brought his family to the Napa Valley in the 1970s to found Whitehall
Lane Winery in St. Helena. When that grew too large, they built Judd's
Hill, where the family focuses on making less than 3,000 cases a year of
hand-crafted, ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Petite
Sirah and Syrah.
We will have a hands-on winery experience and you will get to blend your own
wine at Judd's Hill. We may even be treated to Judd's ukulele playing
and/or Holly's hula dancing during the evening festivities.
For more info on Judd's Hill visit www.juddshill.com
||Paso Robles Harvest
||Sonoma County Harvest
Wine Boot Camp®
Winery Mission Site: Paradise Ridge Winery
Situated high on a ridge overlooking the Russian River Valley in the heart
of Sonoma County, Paradise Ridge Winery and the Byck Family Estate are
producing hand crafted wines on an estate dedicated to: Family, Art, History,
Nature and ultra-premium wines rich in taste and tradition. Wine Boot Camp®
recruits will experience "the most spectacular view in Sonoma
County," looking over the estate vineyards into the Russian River Valley
and beyond to the coastal mountains. If the day is clear, you may see Point
Reyes National Seashore.
Dan Barwick, Paradise Ridge winemaker, will lead the troops through the
winemaking process and train them to blend their own special wine from the
vineyard designated, hand picked, intensely flavored, hillside wines in barrel
at Paradise Ridge Winery.
Opened in May of 1994, Paradise Ridge Winery has become a haven where locals
and visitors alike come to savor the wonderful wines, bring their friends and
take in the magnificent views
Harvest Wine Boot Camp®
To enlist in WINE BOOT CAMP® contact Major
Drady at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-874-1975. Enlist
Affairs of the Vine's exclusive Wine Boot Camp® 2006
program can be scheduled as a "private" affair. Call Major Drady
today at 707-874-1975 to discuss your group's particular
team-building or special event needs.
Seasons In The Vineyard...Growing Wine
A Month by Month Overview of the Vineyard*
*This overview is for northern hemisphere wineries; in the southern hemisphere,
the same activities are happening six months later.
This is the start of the pruning season - getting the vines ready for the
spring bud break. Pruning is critical for the future quality and quantity of
the grapes. Grape vines are pruned back each year when they are dormant to keep
the growth of the vine under control. You don't want the vine to grow too
big and use too much energy growing leaves and canes. You want that energy to
be concentrated in the flavors of the grapes.
Pruning is basically cutting off unwanted canes to allow the vines to
produce a smaller and more intensely flavored crop the following year. Some
grape growers prune vines with large volume crops in mind and others prune to
achieve fewer clusters per vine. Lower yields produce fruit of more intense
Vines are fastened (or tied) to the trellising wire. This is done to ensure
quality fruit and efficient farming.
Cover crops are planted in many vineyards to offer nutrients to the soil, a
place for beneficial insects to live and to stem erosion in the vineyard.
Grafting is done at this time as needed.
March is a beautiful time of year in Wine Country. Everything starts to
bloom...trees and flowers sport their beautiful colors and grapevines
experience bud break* (when the buds push and new growth begins). Bud break
usually occurs in early March in the warmer areas of Wine Country and slightly
later in the cooler areas.
Once the buds appear, they are susceptible to the frigid nights and early
mornings common in Wine Country in the early spring. Vineyard owners watch the
thermometer very closely and must be ready with frost protection equipment
(vineyard fans, sprinkler systems or smudge pots) to protect the vines if the
temperatures dip below freezing.
*At Bud Break the dormant small brown buds swell and burst open. The first
sign of this is a gentle swelling. If you look closely, you will see a fuzzy
white line across the top of the bud. This is called the `cotton` and it is the
seam that will open in the days ahead showing first a white cotton like bulb
that in turn will show hints of pink and green as the first signs of the
opening new leaves. This is the magical moment of bud break.
Even more magical, the tiny collection of cells that will form the bunches
of grapes are already hidden inside the opening bud, and in fact were formed
last spring and early summer. The crop for September or October is already
there. The job for the wine grower now and for the next five or six months is
to encourage, shelter and protect these still unseen seminal bunches against
drought, disease, insects and nutritional deficiencies. Bud break for the
grower is like suddenly having a huge family of thousands of brand new babies
to love and care for.
Spring is sprung and the vineyards need a lot of attention. The buds have
pushed and the small shoots are rapidly growing. Suckering proceeds - unwanted
shoots are pruned out. Frost protection continues to make sure that the young
Usually cover crop is disced under during April to decrease the competition
with the vines. Vineyards usually irrigate, fertilize and watch closely for
vineyard pests that begin to pop up in April.
May is the commencement of bloom.* The onset of bloom usually occurs between
the middle and end of May. Once the flower is pollinated the berry sets and
it's on its way. This begins the grape's journey to becoming a bottle
The shoots are rapidly growing. Vineyards continue with suckering,
irrigation, fertilization, replanting and grafting as needed.
*Bloom is when the grapes flower and pollination occurs. Grapes have both
male and female reproductive parts. Grapes depend on nice weather to move the
pollen around not the birds or the bees. The most successful bloom happens in
good weather with no extreme conditions; i.e. not hot, not cold, not too windy,
not wet. Extremes cause shatter(missed pollination), and no grape forms. When a
grape has completed pollination, it is called fruit set. The next critical
phase is veraison which will occur 60 to 120 days after set.
The shoots are growing rapidly and may have reached heights of three to four
Nutrient sampling is done by taking petioles (the stem that holds the leaf
to the shoot) opposite a cluster and sending them to a lab for analysis. The
lab then sends back the results and fertilization is done to fit the needs of
each area in the vineyard.
Canopy management is crucial this month, irrigation, pest monitoring, and
fertilization continue. Practices open up the canopy and allow better light
penetration and air movement. This enables better berry quality as well as
Canopy management includes leafing, shoot positioning and removing
Leafing is the act of removing leaves around the fruiting zone to allow for
sunlight to penetrate into the fruit growing area. This is usually done after
flowering during a period called fruit set, after the flowers become pollinated
and the berries begin to grow.
Shoot positioning arranges the shoots in the trellis to allow for better
sunlight penetration. Shoots are lifted and tucked into wires to decrease
shading and prevent young shoots from breaking off in the wind or by a passing
Lateral shoot removal removes any lateral shoots that push from the main
shoots. This decreases congestion within the canopy and allows for better air
movement and sunlight penetration within the canopy.
July is a time of rapid development of the vines. In early July, the grapes
grow quickly in a stage referred to as bunch closure. In late July or early
August, depending on the appellation and varietal, the berries begin to soften
and slightly change color, a process called veraison. Veraison occurs a few
weeks later for red varieties, when they begin to change color from green to
red. After veraison, most of the plant's energy is directed from leaves,
shoots, and roots to the berry for rapid sugar accumulation. The grapes begin
to gain many of the varietal characteristics that will be found in the bottled
August is moving towards harvest. Once veraison is complete, sugar accumulates
rapidly in the grapes. The winemaker is sampling grapes daily to determine when
the grapes should be harvested. He is looking for the right levels of sugar,
acids, the pH and, most importantly, the flavor profile to achieve the best
In the warmer appellations, white varietals may be ready for harvest by the
middle of August.
Harvest! Harvest is occurring in all but the coolest appellations. The
winemaker is continuously sampling to pick the optimal date for harvest.
Harvest is in full swing or finishing up or just starting depending on the
appellation. All are praying that the rains hold out for at least a few more
weeks. For grape harvesting, picking at precisely the right moment is critical.
When the grapes are ready there are, literally, not enough hours in the day. Sometimes picking goes on right around the clock.
Sometimes picking goes on right around the clock.
Once harvest is complete, the grapes are crushed and fermented in stainless
steel or barrel.
The vineyards are dormant. Steps must be taken to prevent erosion as the rains
approach. Things are all quiet in the vineyard now...at least until January
when it all begins anew with pruning.
WOW YOUR TEAM AND CLIENTS!
Team building & corporate events in Wine Country
or let us bring Wine Country to you.
Seeking a unique team building activity? Affairs of the Vine educates, engages and entertains your audience! Affairs of the Vine's expert and congenial staff educate without intimidation. Affairs of the Vine is prepared to exceed expectations while assisting you in producing a flawless program.
Affairs of the Vine will create an event to be remembered.
|Affairs of the Vine Workshops, Wine Receptions, Wine Dinners, and Team Building Events create RARE team and customer alliances. Affairs of the Vine will help you accomplish your goals to enhance Relationships, create Access, activate Response, and experience Empowerment. Develop new and loyal customers and strengthen your relationships with existing clients. We can help you create a stronger team!
Call Affairs of the Vine at 707-874-1975 to discuss your event or meeting planning needs today. Hands-on in the vineyard or let us bring Wine Country to you.
Looking for a Romantic Rendezvous or Just Need to Getaway?
We found an amazing place...Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn on Miramar Beach in Half Moon Bay, California. This five star luxury oceanfront inn overlooks a beautiful beach and the rooms - wow!
The rooms are gorgeous! The beds are so comfortable that we had to force ourselves to explore the coastal trail - really glad we did! The whirlpool in our room beckoned. Time to catch up on some reading and then it was time for appetizers with some wonderful wines hosted by innkeepers, Ellen and Ken Landis. The Landis' are wine folk. There wine list is enticing to say the least.
We slept soundly listening to the waves on the shore and breakfast - yum
Ken, Ellen and the Inn are charming and warm and wonderful - am I sounding too enthusiastic? You'll just have to visit Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn and find out for yourself.
Just 25 miles from San Francisco. www.landisshores.com
A REALLY GOOD READ!
The Good Life Guide to Enjoying Wine by Ray Johnson
Affairs of the Vine is about enjoying wine and cutting through the snobbery. When we find a book that does just that, we are thrilled and endorse it completely. This is a must read and a great gift for anyone who enjoys wine. No pretension here. A practical guide to buying, serving, and enjoying wine. Ray Johnson shares his wine knowledge with humor and common sense.
OUR MANTRA...TRUST YOUR OWN PALATE
Read reviews but remember it's your palate that counts. Find a wine critic who likes wines that you like. Don't feel that you have to embrace the wines that wine critics praise. Don't be intimidated! If a movie critic gives a film five stars, do you feel that you're unsophisticated if you don't like it too? Wine is no different. Personal preference is what counts. So drink and enjoy what you like. At Affairs of the Vine we say, "If you like the way it looks and you like the way it smells and you like the way it tastes...its good wine. So use our recommendations as a guide but you are the authority of what provides "Love at First Sip" for you.
AND THE WINNER IS...
John Kennedy of San Francisco, California. A case of incredible wines is being delivered to you.
Thanks to all of you who responded to our survey. Winners are drawn from all respondents.
Become a winner too!
BECOME A MEMBER AND TAKE OUR SHORT SURVEY
WIN A MIXED CASE OF SOME OF OUR FAVORITE WINES
Affairs of the Vine would like to know more about you. One lucky wine lover will win a mixed case of our favorite wines.
Send your comments to email@example.com. We'll share your thoughts in the next newsletter.