For most vineyards here in Napa, California and certainly across the Western U.S., weeds are a reality that every winegrower must either control or manage. The largest group of weeds by species are winter annuals and like most weed species they have an extraordinary capability for growth, survival and competitiveness for space, light, water and nutrients.
In Napa vineyards these winter annual plants germinate in the fall, grow low to the ground through the winter, and then grow and bloom at a rapid pace in the spring. By early summer they are pretty much done growing, set seed and dry up.
Most of these weeds are manageable for vineyards and some growers manage them as a self-reseeding cover crop by mowing whatever happens to grow between their vines. The weeds will grow when vines are dormant and are often actually helpful in preventing soil erosion. Examples of weeds that are not difficult to manage in a vineyard setting would be mustard, filaree and annual broome grass.
But as you might imagine with weeds, problems are never too far away! When they grow at the same time as the crop, difficulties arise due to the weeds competitive nature. Of course vineyards will mow, spray and cultivate weeds to make sure they don’t grow at the same time as the vines and they have to be kept under control to reduce habitat, food and shelter for rodents. The other reason for keeping a clean and cultivated vineyard is because here in Napa we simply like how they look!
Like any other aspect of our lives, technology is having an impact on how winegrowers manage the weeds in their vineyards. There is a growing trend toward environmentally conscious weed and pest control through the use of propane generated heat, with applications of either flame or steam. These two methods are an alternative to chemical application and mechanical cultivation, and are both recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program.
Food and wine have gone together since the dawn of time and as wine lovers I'm sure you've often wondered what you'll be eating when you get your hands on a really exciting bottle of wine. Special occasions are made extra memorable when you get the pairing of the food that you prepared, with the wine poured, just right.
The goal of food pairing is to have the food and wine complement each other but if you choose carefully you can sometimes even enhance the flavors of the dishes and wine you're offering guests.
So let's run down a few guidelines recognizing that we are all different with unique tastes and preferences but if you follow these tips you'll give yourself the best possible chance of a successful food and wine pairing.
You've probably heard of some classic matches such as goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc but where you really start to enjoy yourself is when you experiment with different foods and wines. Keep in mind that flavors in wine originate from certain basic components: acid, sugar, tannin and alcohol. In a similar fashion the flavor components of food, fat, acid, salt, sugar and bitter shine the brightest when they complement the elements, textures and richness of the wine.
One way to experiment is to think of a wine that will be very similar to your food, so you might pour a big buttery Chardonnay with a pasta in a cream sauce. Conversely you can be just as successful taking the opposite path by pairing that rich cream sauce with a dry, unoaked white wine to cut through the creamy fat.
Many of the foods we love have high levels of fat (it's why gyms were invented!) and of course wine doesn't contain fat. So when considering which wine to pour with a fatty food remember that acid and tannins in wine balance out that richness to create a great pairing.
Have you ever noticed how a good cut of steak tastes so good when paired with a quality Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc? The protein and fat in the beef softens the wine's characteristic mouth drying tannins getting you ready to really appreciate the fruit that the winemaker has created for you to savor.
Consider how acid in a wine adds a fresh kick in the same way a lemon might do when served with salmon or over steamed vegetables. If you know the food you're preparing is going to have acidic qualities make sure your wine can stand up to them other wise it will taste bland and lose its characteristics. The tangy dressings on salads offer a challenge to hosts wanting to offer a good matching wine so think about the herbal flavors so often found in Sauvignon Blanc or Semillons.
Of course when you get to the final course of your meal you want a wine that will impress your guests as much as that amazing desert you have just served! The basic rule with desert pairing is to always serve wine that is sweeter than the desert otherwise you risk the dish tasting bitter or tart.
Whatever your choice of food and wine pairing remember that a little preparation and research will go a long way to enhancing any meal and allow you to truly Celebrate Life!
(Source: Wine Enthusiast)
Of all the grape varietals, Zinfandel is the one with perhaps the most confusing history and lineage. For years experts have weighed in with their opinions on the origins Zinfandel with many believing it had to have originated in southern Italy's Apulia region, where you can find the genetically related Primitivo (di Goia) variety. Yet other research suggested that there was a possible parent/offspring relationship with the Plavic Mai grape from Croatia.
The current accepted theory is that the roots of Zinfandel are most likely in the Dalmatian province of Croatia where DNA matches have been made with a variety locally known as Crljenak Kasteljanski. Research work completed in both Croatia and UC Davis certainly supports this theory. California's Zinfandel and Italy's Primitivo certainly share a genetic link but their long geographic separation has meant they evolved with quite different vine and wine characteristics.
When you consider the wine style of Zinfandel, or 'Zin' as it's so often known these days, the story is equally engrossing. Zinfandel can show so many different characteristics and can have an almost chameleon like quality. From up front, berry-fruity reds to spicy tannic blockbusters and even tart roses this variety is certainly versatile. The range of soft, simple blushes, unique sparkling wines, desert and fortified wines means you can never really categorize Zinfandel which is perhaps part of it's wide appeal to so many wine enthusiasts.
Here in California Zinfandel has always been a steady favorite even as consumer tastes move from one trend to the next. yes it's true that here in Napa we are well known as home to some majestic Cabernet Sauvignons (we produce one or two ourselves!) but Zinfandel comes pretty close in terms of total acreage and volume of grapes crushed. Today Zinfandel is recognized as one of the stars of Californian wine production planted all over the state in a wide variety of climactic zones. Outside our state you will be able to find Zinfandel planted in Oregon, Mexico and South America but I'm sure you'll forgive us if we still think Californian 'Zin' is the best of the bunch!
With Valentine's Day almost upon us our thoughts are turning to all things chocolate and the best wine to accompany our favorite sweet treat.
Simply put chocolate is delicious accompanied by red wines with their often matching and complementing flavors but where it really shines is with a good quality Port. Port has the perfect balance of fruit, spice, acid, sugar and alcohol to be paired with a wide assortment of chocolates.
Even in the glass Port is a pleasure to behold. A color that is deep and brilliant with aromas and flavors that typically show hints of spice-infused blackberry deserts, mixed nuts and of course chocolate!
As part of the 10th year anniversary events taking place here at Bourassa Vineyards, on Saturday (tomorrow!) we invite you to a 'Smokin Good Time' where among the wines poured will be our very own Solera Port. It will be a perfect opportunity to pair our Port with the fine chocolates from Napa's Vintage Sweet Shop as well as enjoying a cigar from Baker Street Cigar.
There's still time to RSVP by calling (707) 254 4922!
Today, with a total production of 3,500 cases, Bourassa Vineyards devotes much of it's attention to the five Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot. So let's take a moment to introduce you to these famous varietals in a little more detail and tell you about their delicious characteristics!
Flavors - Violets, blueberry, earth, black olive, coffee
Cabernet franc is an essential component of the world famous Bordeaux blend. When enjoyed as a single varietal wine it displays a a more tannic and earthy character than it's cousin Cabernet Sauvignon. Here in Napa and other warmer lands outside of Europe it's best known for violets and blueberry notes and the ripe tannins that produce a wonderful fresh roasted coffee scent.
Flavors - Bell pepper, green olive, herb, cassis, black cherry
It is the primary varietal of our Bordeaux blend here in Napa Valley and is famous the world over. The blending process softens it's sometimes intense tannins and contributes thick and ripe flavors and aromas. Often layered with expensive new oak scents it is the one varietal that almost single-handedly created the phenomenon of cult wineries.
Flavors - Cherry, spice
While it's certainly one of the lesser blending grapes of the Bordeaux blend it's a key element to our wine making as shown in the 2004 Harmony5 Bordeaux Blend. As a single varietal it has risen to prominence in Argentina where it makes spicy wines that age well in new oak barrels.
Flavors - Watermelon, strawberry, plum, cherry
Versatile is the best word to describe Merlot. Easy to like, easy to pronounce and much like a chardonnay of the red wine world! In Bordeaux the shining example of the varietal is Chateau Pétrus where it comprises 95 percent of their blend. It also makes up 23 percent of our Flagship wine, as shown in the 2003 Harmony3 Bordeaux Blend.
Flavors - Blackberry, molasses, herb
Wine makers tend to use the Petit Verdot grape in a Bordeaux blend as chefs would use seasoning. Its careful inclusion to a blend adds dense fruit, dark color, powerful flavors and heavy tannins. There are also rare examples of single varietal wines such as our own 2006 Petit Verdot which when handled by an expert wine maker like Gary Galleron can be outstanding wines.
With the big game coming up this weekend it's the perfect chance to pair some delicious BBQ Beef Ribs with a glass or two of Bourassa Vineyards Napa Valley Zinfandel. This wonderfully sticky ribs recipe is sure to satisfy the sports fans in your home and is a crowd pleaser every time.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes
4 to 5 pounds beef back ribs (about 10 ribs)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup honey
1 4 ounce can green chilies, diced
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Trim excess fat from beef ribs. Combine salt, pepper and cayenne. Rub over the ribs. Preheat grill and prepare for indirect grilling with a drip pan. Place ribs on grill over drip pan and close the lid. Cook for about 3 to 3 1/2 hours over a medium low, indirect heat (try to keep the temperature under 265 degrees F.).
To prepare sauce combine onion, honey, ketchup, chili peppers, garlic and mustard in a sauce pan. Heat over a low temperature, stirring until even and warm. When the ribs are nearly finished begin brushing the sauce on them until you get a thick coating.
When you're thinking about which Zinfandel to pour let us suggest our 2006 vintage. It delivers wonderful ripe fruit, beautifully balanced with layers of dark cherry, warm spice and hints of vanilla. The American oak we use brings out the subtle nuances that enhance the finish of this terrific wine. It's a perfect balance of fruit, acid and tannins and will pair perfectly with those sticky ribs!
Many people find it hard to believe but even a basic wine will taste different depending on the glass it’s served in. Some glasses mute the flavor, some emphasize nuanced scents and some will suppress taste and smell. If you’re lucky you’ll be drinking from a glass that presents the wine perfectly, showcasing all its characteristics.
So how frustrating it can be when a great wine is poured into an ordinary glass, an occurrence that is all too common at some restaurants, tastings and dinner parties. I think we have all had that unfortunate experience when we arrive at someone’s house looking forward to tasting some good wine only to be presented with blue or green stemware!
Being someone that’s concerned about good glassware doesn’t mean you are a wine snob; it’s simple common sense. Whether you’ve paid $10 or $100 for a bottle of wine you want to make sure you enjoy all its flavors and scents. Investing in good quality stemware will ensure you get the very best out of each bottle you pour and it doesn’t have to cost you a small fortune.
If you have shopped in any of the better kitchen supply stores or wine boutiques you will likely know that today you can buy specific glasses made for every major varietal. While these are great the more casual wine enthusiasts will be pleased to hear that you will do just fine with just a few well-chosen glasses that match your wine buying, drinking and entertaining habits.
So when thinking about what glassware you’ll buy consider the quality of wine you’re likely to enjoy on a regular basis as well as the kind of entertaining you like to do. For a picnic where you might be pouring simple wines from current vintages a couple dozen clear glass tumblers might suffice. For better quality wines served at a dinner party or more formal gathering you will want a selection of stemware that lets each guest taste from a flute shaped glass for sparkling wines and champagne, a tapered, ten to twelve ounce glass for white wines and a larger rounder glass for red wines.
Try to avoid colored glass (even if it’s just the stem) as you don’t want anything to interfere with a good look at the color of the wine. If you use a dishwasher, run the glasses through hot water only avoiding the use of detergent. Throw away those small, thick lipped glasses with the rolled rims; use tumblers instead. Oh and remember, size matters! Your glass should be large enough to hold three or four ounces of wine without being more than one third full. This will allow enough airspace to properly show off the wine’s aroma.
So next on your list of good habits when serving wines is temperature. When white and red wines are too cold they will lose all aromas and a good deal of their flavor. Conversely if a wine is served too warm crispness disappears and the alcohol content will appear over-intensified. Of course you will have chilled your desert wines and sparklers but even with these wines if you chill them too much they will lose their valuable characteristics.
Over the course of a dinner party or wine tasting your wines will naturally warm up so starting them out on the cool side is a good idea. Dry white wines, rosés or very light reds can start out at around forty-five degrees. For your big red wines, about 58 to 60 degrees is the best temperature to start from. Sparkling wines and sweet dessert wines can be chilled in the fridge for an hour or more before being served.
When possible try to plan ahead, allowing sufficient time for your wine to arrive at its proper temperature gradually. If you don’t already have one, a wine cooler or fridge with variable temperature controls will serve you well. You and your guests will then enjoy wines showing their best aromas and flavors allowing you to celebrate life in the best way possible!
(Source: Wine Enthusiast)
A special message from our Proprietor Vic Bourassa.
When I was 5 years old, my Port influence came from my Grandfather, Victor Nozollilo, under the apple trees at a picnic table on our little farm in Massachusetts, Victor was also smoking a cigar and enjoying home made Port with his Italian family The aroma of the cigar and the flavor of port stayed with me like glue, if my mother caught him sneaking me a sip of port she probably would have screamed bloody murder, but my grandfather was a rebel that way. I loved it and loved him for it. I make fine Solera Port today because of that experience. I also love the smell of a cigar and partake in smoking a fine cigar with wine when ever the mood strikes me. Those that do the same Celebrate Life in a brotherly kind of way, rebels sort of, I like that a lot.
A Smokin Good Time at Bourassa Vineyards in Napa will take place because of my grandfather; I will toast him while celebrating with good friends and wine club members.
For more details see our Events Page.
Today we want to give a special mention to a true friend of Bourassa Vineyards, Dr. Bruce Freedman from Virginia. We're all raising a glass and celebrating the amazing achievement he has just accomplished with his son; climbing 'Cotopaxi', a stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains, located about 17 miles south of Quito, Ecuador. Dr. Freedman is a hardy adventurer for sure as this is his third mountain climbing expedition in the last two years!
For us here at Bourassa Vineyards it's not just about celebrating wine but also celebrating friendships!
At any winery winter is a dormant time for vines but that doesn't mean it's a quiet time! We're in the middle of 'pruning season' here in Napa and we wanted to take a moment to let you know why winemakers do this and how it helps us produce the wines you know and love.
People often think of harvest as the exciting time of the year for a winery and while that maybe true a good harvest would be impossible without the vital work that takes place during pruning season. Good pruning really sets up vines for the year to come, dictating canopy shape and the number of buds that will form therefore having a real impact on the yield of the vine. We're often asked why pruning takes place at this time of the year and in fact pruning can be done any time of the year after leaves drop from the vines but here in Napa pruning generally takes place anytime between December and February. Winemakers have to make sure pruning is completed before the growing season begins again which is signified by 'bud-break', usually this happens mid-March.
So just how do you prune vines? Well they are pruned pretty aggressively in a similar way to how you might prune a rose bush. Often winemakers will reduce wild shoots that can extend out up to five feet down to almost nothing, often down to the skeleton of the vine itself. During this process the VSP (vertical shoot positioning) method is used which directs the shoots vertically through trellis wires. Using this method ensures that the leaves enjoy the best possible exposure which offers filtered light to grape clusters in turn increasing the fruit factor of the finished wine.
If you have any questions about pruning or any part of the wine making process here at Bourassa leave us a comment below.
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