As an artisan winemaker in Napa Valley, I am able to customize our fermentation plans to be creative in a desire to make wines of pure elegance. This year, a growing number of vintners are fermenting in wine barrels, both those barrels used only one time as well as brand new oak. By removing the heads and standing the barrels upright, we can basically complete a cold soak, primary fermentation and extended maceration all in the same oak vessel.
Wood fermentation is experiencing a renaissance in modern winemaking. Barrels have often been used in for white wine fermentation, especially for oak influenced wines such as Chardonnay, to achieve more integration and complexity earlier in the life of the wine. However, they have recently become more popular for red wine fermentation.
The advantages of barrel fermentation include earlier tannin polymerization and earlier integration of tannin, which leads to a smoother mouthfeel on the finished wine. The characters imparted on the wine from oak barrel fermentation are different than if the oak where only present during the aging process. Because yeast can metabolize or transform certain characters present in the oak, the wine will finish with less of the vanillin character that new French oak can impart in the wine.
There are increased costs of managing a wine number of small fermenting lots: costs associated with removing and replacing the barrel heads as well as the labor costs with punch downs, cold soaking and extended fermentation in these small lots, but the labor of love and the finished product is worth the investment.
This is one way to “Celebrate Life”
Harvest is in full swing here in Napa Valley - many of the white wine grapes are coming in as well a few varietals of red grapes. At Bourassa Vineyards, we will be getting Zinfandel in first around October 1, followed by Syrah and Merlot mid-October and ending harvest with our Cabernet Sauvignon about October 20th.
The next few month will be hectic as we are bottling the 2011 Zinfandel, the 2010 Harmony3 and the 2011 Chardonnay from Rutherford on September 27th. All the grapes coming in will be open bin fermented after cold soaking with dry ice for 1 week, then hand punched down for approximately 2 weeks. Extended maceration will last for 2 weeks before gently pressing and settling in tanks for 4 weeks before putting it in barrels. A special yeast is selected for each wine varietal - a lot of research goes into each selection, with experimentation, winemaker consultations and lab input. And what happens in the next few months is just the beginning of the two year journey to producing fine wine. We are ready to get started on this new vintage!
Since Vic created his own unique pizza oven from a barrel, he has been experimenting with building the proper fire, perfecting the dough recipe and finding the perfect toppings (not a bad way to spend time!). Pizza experts agree that the two basic things that will make your pizza a success are the pizza dough and pizza sauce and Vic has seemed to master both!
Traditionally in the Mediterranean, flour dough was baked on a large hot stone in the fireplace, creating a crisp, thin flatbread that was part of a staple diet. The cooking conveyances evolved and wood-fired ovens replaced the hot stones - the result was the same thin, light crust but with a bit of wood charring, giving it a lovely smoky flavor. In keeping with this long tradition, Vic has created a “Bourizza” dough recipe that is full proof for both a regular oven and a woodfire oven. Check out his “secret” recipe, try it and let us know what you think!
The other most important ingredient in pizza is the sauce - originally, the flatbread was loaded with local fresh ingredients: fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella make up the traditional “Margarita” pizza. But these days we also like to enjoy a little sauce on the crisp crust, so Vic has created a wonderful Fire Roasted Tomato Pizza Sauce that can be used with any toppings - you are only limited by your imagination!
Pairing your pizza
The final step of the pizza-making process is choosing the toppings - in the winter, choose meats and hearty vegetables and pair it with a lovely Cabernet or Syrah. In warmer weather, the traditional Margarita Pizza is always a favorite and will go with almost any wine - Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah or even a lovely Chardonnay. Mix and match, taste and enjoy - it is all about “Celebrating Life!”
With the onset of veraison in much of the Napa Valley, I have written a basic primer on grape growth in the vineyard:
1) Grape growth in the early spring is started with BUD BREAK, this is defined as the first growth of green shoots at the growing position on the Cordon that was pruned in late winter. The Cordon is the stem that parallels the ground about 3 feet up.
2) The next month all the shoots or CANES have grown 3 to 4 feet up, then BLOOM will occur, this is when the flower is formed that later becomes a cluster of grapes. There is a 3 day window when we do not want heavy frost, rain or nasty wind, because any one of these three weather occurrences can damage the fruit set and make a mess of the future grape growing process.
3) After fruit is stable on the lower vine the cells in the embryo (each small green grape) begin to split and duplicate themselves resulting in a small growing stage, this lasts for 4 to 5 weeks.
4) Once the cells have finished duplicating the cell then gets fed from the vine and each one becomes larger and thus the grape gains in acid and carbohydrates, this can take 4 to 6 weeks. So the grape now gets even larger, this is when it is important to pull leaves off the vine near the grape cluster and near the cordon to allow sunlight to warm the grapes.
5) We now see the grapes begin to change color from green to light burgundy, this is called VERAISON and is the beginning of sugar forming in the grapes, derived from the remaining grape leaves and stems as well as the cordon. As sugar increases in the grape over the next 4 to 6 weeks the acid level decreases. Ripeness occurs when the winemaker determines the grapes are sweet enough and the pH level is perfect for making great wine.
Beginning in July, we will be featuring barrel samples of Zinfandel and Syrah in the Tasting Room as a prelude to a new blend we are working on in the winery. Zinfandel, by nature, can be a powerful, spicy varietal that lends itself to single bottling (and we will be doing that as well - back by popular demand!) - add Syrah and the enhanced flavors of both varietals, including black fruit, violets, chocolate and spice become a wonderful taste sensation.
We encourage you to visit the Tasting Room this July and August and experience the blending for yourself - we have two great events to spotlight these wines - our Chili Cook-off in July and our Barrel to Bottle event in August. Come and mix and match your own blend - like more Zin in your glass? Add more Zin! Come and experiment - it is the best way to Celebrate Life!
Every year the Napa Valley Vintners put on an amazing event - Auction Napa Valley. This event generates needed funds for healthcare nonprofits in Napa County and we wholeheartedly support them every year!
We have donated an online auction lot that anyone can bid on (no need to travel to Napa Valley this weekend!). Our lot includes a case of Library wines, tours of the winery, lunch with Vic and a VIP barrel blending for 6 people. We will also be tasting some of Vic's favorite older vintages!
We hope you support this great cause - to place a bid, please visit: www.auctionnapavalley.org
Wine and golf - it is a match made in heaven! This past weekend, we had a great turn out for our annual Wildcat Golf Tournament and Fundraiser for American Canyon Middle School - the weather was perfect and the participants had a fantastic time!
We have another wine and golf event in August - Wine on the Links, at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Oregon. Three of Napa Valley's premier wineries are participating in this unique event: in addition to Bourassa Vineyards, Hendry Ranch Winery and Lamborn Family Vineyards will be on hand to make sure you enjoy the hours off the golf course just as much as the time on the course!
For more information, please visit Wine on the Links - we hope you enjoy your golf and wine as much as we do!
Vic is going to start using a great new invention in the cellar - oak nfused spirals that impart barrel characteristics into the wine in a shorter amount of time!
Spiral barrel packs replicate a barrel toasting gradient using a mix of four different toast levels. The result is a balanced quality on the nose and palate comparable to the aromas and flavors found in fine barrel-aged wines.
When inserted through the barrel bung hole the pack releases fresh, new-barrel, toasted oak aroma and flavor through its patented and space-efficient spiral-cut design with virtually all aromas and flavors fully extracted in six to eight weeks rather than eight to 12 months typically needed to extract from a new oak barrel. With continued contact in wine, flavors will further integrate into the wine and more rounded tannins will form.
Vic will be using both the Bordeaux Blend and Rhone type of spiral in his wines - and will be conducting taste tests for visitors between the wines - those that have received the treatment vs. those that have not! Want to get in on the test? Just visit the Tasting Room and ask to participate - we would love to hear your feedback!
We are thrilled to be celebrating our 10th anniversary this year - Vic Bourassa is kicking off the festivities with a Wine Dinner at Cuvee Restaurant in Napa on Saturday, January 21st. We will be featuring delectable dishes paired with our library Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux Blends and the prized Solera Port - seating is limited, so call us today for reservations!
We will be continuing the celebration throughout the year, so be sure to check back often for our new releases and updated event schedule. Thank you all for making us a favorite when you visit Napa Valley - and here is to another 10 years!
Easter is a wonderful time of the year as we celebrate Spring and a time for families and friends to come together around the dinner table. The supermarkets are stocked with delicious whole legs of lamb and big fresh hams crying out to make an appearance on your table. Easter is a holiday similar to Thanksgiving and Christmas where so many of us gather to break bread, but let's not forget to consider what wines should be poured to please your guests!
So the best Easter wine tip we can offer is to make sure you don't pour anything too shy or subtle with those big roasts. Lamb needs a big red like our Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and with a juicy fresh ham we suggest our wonderfully well received 2009 Rutherford Chardonnay.
The reason we think our Cabernet Sauvignon goes so well with lamb is because of its vivid, mouth-filling fruit flavors. Our 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon has concentrated raspberry and vanilla flavor that linger on your palate as you sip the wine. It's certainly an equal to the bold, simple flavors of roast lamb and won't overpower the taste of the meat.
In the same way our 2009 Rutherford Chardonnay is clean and crisp with tremendous balance. It has subtle flavors of white peach and green apple, which layer the palate while its finish is soft yet lengthy and offers hints of butterscotch. Just like the Cab' and the lamb pairing, this Chardonnay offers balance and harmony to your fresh ham and its seasonings.
You can buy a bottle or case of our 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Rutherford Chardonnay in our wine store today by clicking here.
Whatever wine you choose for your Easter celebration we hope you enjoy this special time for friends and families to come together.
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