Harvest came to our gorgeous sauvignon blanc vineyard at Caspar Estate on August 21st, 2020. As is usual, the fruit was hand-picked in the cool, early-morning hours, then quickly transported to Fayard Winemaking on the south end of Napa Valley, where our delicate fruit continued a journey that started nearly a hundred and forty years ago.
It was back in the 1880's when Charles Wetmore, founder of Cresta Blanca Winery, brought the first Sauvignon Blanc vines to California from the Sauternes vineyards of Château d'Yquem. Though they were initially planted in the Livermore Valley, the new vintners of Napa quickly got their hands on the new vines, knowing that the soil and climate in their valley closely matched the conditions in Bordeaux, France. The Sauvignon Blanc vines at Caspar Estate - distant relatives of these first immigrants - have their "roots" in this Old World tradition.
Another way that we pay homage to the Old World ways is the method we use when our grapes first arrive at our winemaking facility. Under the supervision of winemaker Julien Fayard - himself a first-generation French immigrant - the grapes are sorted in whole clusters and sent directly to the press. This year, we picked 4.9 tons of grapes: a small number indeed, since we only plant one acre of sauvignon blanc on our estate.
The press only holds room for about four tons of grapes, so we fill the press, do a quick run, then fit the remaining grapes into the press. This extra "press" also extracts just the right amount of tannin from the skins - not enough to become part of the flavor profile, but enough to give the acid just a little kick, making the Caspar Estate Sauvignon Blanc an excellent complement to shellfish and light pastas.
"This wine practically makes itself," says Fayard. "By closely tending to the vines throughout the growing season, we know that the fruit is going to be gorgeous when we harvest it. Beautiful wines depend on beautiful fruit."
Originally from Provence, Julien Fayard is one of Napa Valley’s most respected winemakers, with a knack for producing California varietals with French finesse. Formerly of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, he brings two decades of winemaking expertise Caspar Estate's Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Fayard believes that the character of our Sauvignon Blanc, like the fruit grown in Bordeaux, is a result of terroir. "The citrus qualities come from the unique soils of our Estate, from its position above the Rutherford Bench. You cannot manufacture this. This is pure fruit expression."
Once the juice is pressed, it's placed in stainless steel tanks for its primary fermentation. Later, the wine will be transferred to French oak barrels, which gives the wine even more complex flavors. "We use oak to draw flavors out of the wine, not to draw flavors out of the oak," says Fayard. More than anything, our oak treatment is designed to give the wine a round, balanced mouthfeel and a lush but clean finish.
2020 is shaping up to be another excellent vintage in Napa, with a cooler than normal summer despite the heat wave that hit right before the harvest. Our 2019 Caspar Estate Sauvignon Blanc - only our second bottling of this limited-availability wine - was released this month to rave reviews. If you'd like to be among the few who are allocated the 2020 vintage in early spring of next year, sign up on our Allocation List and we'll let you know how.
For pinot noir, bottling is the last step in a nearly two-year process that takes grapes from the vine and puts wine on your table. If you've ever seen a wine bottling, you may think it looks like a lot like manufacturing, and not nearly as romantic as winemaking sounds. The truth is, every step of the process is absolutely essential to ensure that you not only pour a quality wine from that bottle, but that the wine can beautifully and gracefully age in the that bottle.
Let's take a look at how bottling works. Earlier this month, we bottled our two, newest pinot noirs: the 2019 Russian River Pinot Noir and the 2019 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. We're especially excited about the Santa Lucia Highlands release, as it is our first bottling of pinot noir from this unique and gorgeous appellation.
Bring In The Bottling Truck
It all starts with a big truck that looks like this:
It's not a food truck - it's better. It's a Moble Bottling Truck, which contains all the necessary equipment to clean, fill, cork and label a wine bottle. Trucks like this can set up quickly directly outside a crush pad or warehouse and bottle tens of thousands of gallons of wine per day.
First, the wine is poured from barrels (or stainless steel tanks, if those were used for fermentation) into large tanks like this one. Notice the tubing that leads to a regulator that can start or stop the wine from reaching the bottling truck.
The bottling crew then takes cases of pre-sanitized wine bottles and empties them onto a conveyor belt that guides them onto the first mechanism, a machine that blasts nitrogen into the bottle to not only clear out any remaining dust particles, but to eliminate oxygen from the bottle. The bottle is then transfered from this machine to the one that dispenses a perfect 750 ml of wine into the bottle. In this video, you can see the first process on the right, and the second one on the left.
The bottles are then corked. A machine pops a burst of nitrogen into the top of the bottle to push out the tiny bit of oxygen remaining, then a cork is inserted to the bottle. This ensures that the least amount of oxygen remains in the bottle, so that the wine inside will age without oxydation.
The bottles then move along the conveyer to where they'll be labeled. The labels are printed on giant rolls, which unwind as the bottle goes by. A roller affixes both the front and back labels.
Finally, the bottles are placed in cases, where they are sealed by hand and placed on pallets for warehousing. At this point, the wine is in "Bottle Shock," a phenominon that occurs when wine has been shaken or disturbed more than normal. Bottle Shock can result in a wine tasting disjointed or imbalanced, so it's recommended that recently-bottled wines are allowed to settle for at least a few days. We typically extend that period to 60 days, just to be sure. (Pro Tip: Bottle Shock can even occur after the shipping process, so it's recommended that wine you purchase by mail be allowed to rest a couple of days before being consumed).
We'll be celebrating Pinot Noir Day on August 28th, and if the 2019s are ready for their debut by then, they'll be making their debut. Sign up for our Newsletter to keep informed about our plans for Pinot Noir Day events all that week!
If Memorial Day is Summer's Official Kickoff, July 4th is Summer's All-Star Game. Time to get together with family & friends and celebrate the best that summer - and our country - has to offer. Time to show off those finely-honed BBQ skills, create the best recipes, and uncork your favorite wines.
Like all of us in this great country, the vines that create the wines we love so much are immigrants, too. When winemaking started in the U.S., early winemakers quickly discovered that there were only two varietals native to America that produced drinkable wine: Cynthiana and Catawba. In fact, one of the first commercial wineries in America was founded in Ohio in the early 1800s, and exclusively produced a sparkling Catawba that was said to "rival the most exquisite champagnes of France." Otherwise, the Cabernet, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and other popular varietals that adorn our 4th of July picnic tables all come from a European import, Vitis Vinifera, which arrived in California in 1779.
Of course, much has changed since those early days: it was over 60 years later that John Pratchett and his winemaker, Charles Krug, began producing wine in the Napa Valley. It’d be over a hundred years after that until American wine earned their rightful reputation alongside the best bottlings from Europe, following “The Judgment of Paris.”
And what makes that Napa wine so great? How come American wines can stand not only side-by-side but head-and-shoulders above their European counterparts? It's the terroir. It's the sixteen different appellations of the Napa Valley, each with their distinctive soil and microclimates, that give the grapes their unique characteristics. At Cultivar Wine, we've always been enamored with those differences: the way the ancient riverbed of Oak Knoll gives our Chardonnay its minerality; the way the Rutherford dust creates bold fruit flavors in our Cabernet. These are the appellations our family grew up in, the places our heart called home. We hope that you can taste not only the unique qualities of those appellations in the wine we make, but the love our family puts into it.
So, this July 4th, let’s raise a toast to family, to friends and to wine - The Great American Beverage! To celebrate, Cultivar Wine is offering two special wine packages, one red and one white, depending on your tastes:
One bottle each of our 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, 2018 Napa Valley Rosé and 2018 Oak Knoll Chardonnay for $70.00, plus a complimentary upgrade to 3-Day Cold Pack Shipping. CLICK HERE.
One bottle each of our 2018 Napa County Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 Oak Knoll Cabernet Franc and 2018 Russian River Pinot Noir for $115.00, plus a complimentary upgrade to 3-Day Cold Pack Shipping. CLICK HERE.
Have a safe and Happy July 4th Weekend!
What's an even better pairing than wine and food? Wine and friends! But these days, it has been challenging to get together with friends over a bottle of wine. The emergence of online Happy Hours has been one solution, but for wine lovers across the world, the Virtual Wine Tasting has become the event of choice.
Think of it as a visit to the Tasting Room without the Tasting Room. The events are set up in advance, so participants can choose the time that works for the best for them. Just like a live tasting, the wines are pre-selected for each event, then sent to the participants' home, where they can taste them along with the event's host and the other participants.
Cultivar Wine launched its Virtual Wine Tasting Program on June 10th, and plans on having an event every Wednesday through July 1st. Depending on the popularity of the events, we could extend the events through the summer. And if the first event was any indicator, it's going to be a long, fun summer!
Participants in the June 10th event were treated to our 2019 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc and our 2015 Leaky Lake Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Hosted by Deborah, Cultivar's Hospitality Director, we went through each wine and talked about how the amazing terroir of Napa Valley gave the wines their unique characteristics. Guests shared their own thoughts about the wines, while club members Jim and Laura even shared their dinner recipe that paired with the Leaky Lake Cabernet!
"I think Virtual Wine Tastings have opened the door to an entirely new approach to wine tasting," says Gingy Harris Gable, Co-Founder of Cultivar Wine. "People have come to see these events as an opportunity to get together with friends from across the country to share an experience they love so much - wine tasting. It's a way to bring Napa wine country to Colorado or Iowa or anywhere in the world."
It's also a great chance to meet your fellow wine lovers. Though usually limited to 10 participants, you never know which part of the country - or the world - the other attendees come from.
"What's so fun about Cultivar's Virtual Wine Tastings is that you not only learn about the wine you're drinking, but it's also like a party," says John Taylor, Cultivar's Marketing Manager. "You can have three or four guests at your home enjoying the event, and find ten other groups online enjoying the event in the same way."
Best of all, Cultivar Wine has started a program of Private Virtual Wine Tastings. Get together with your friends and family, choose the wines you want to try, and we'll conduct a customized tasting online for you. To learn more, or book a reservation, Click Here.