By Dario Sattui
At V. Sattui Winery we have very little employee turnover. When a person is not doing well in an area, rather than giving up on him or her, we try to find a spot where he or she will excel. I believe everybody is good at something and only need a little guidance to find his or her niche.
Then we have some great employees who excel right from the start. We do everything we can to hold on to these rare few. Daniel Reyes has been one of these great employees right from the day he began at V. Sattui nearly thirty years ago.
A native of the small village of Yotatiro near Patzcuaro in the Mexican state of Michoacan, Daniel immigrated to the U.S. in 1979 at the age of 16 and worked at rose, chicken and mushroom farms in the Petaluma area before we met him.
When he came to V. Sattui, Daniel became our first (and only) gardener. He had never been a gardener before, so in a sense, we learned together—I, about the wine business, and he, about making our grounds beautiful. Now thirty years later, he is an accomplished veteran. Though he now has an assistant, he is still our only gardener. One needs only to come to the Winery to see how much care and expertise Daniel puts into his work. And he always has a friendly smile for everyone to go along with his soft and sweet nature.
Not only is Daniel loved by everybody at the Winery, both as a person and for the job he does, his work ethic is unsurpassed. He has been voted Employee of the Year more times than I can remember.
Over the years Daniel has become a trusted friend, a man who truly cares about his work and a great asset to our company in the Sattui family of employees. It is people like Daniel Reyes, each doing his part, that make V. Sattui Winery the great place it is.
Come to V. Sattui Winery on April 8th-14th and meet artist Zeny Cieslikowski who will be showcasing his fine art photographs on our picnic grounds from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Additionally, on April 13 & 14, Fabio Sanzogni will be in the Vittorio Room displaying his original art pieces. Fabio designed our label Paradiso (Premium Bordeaux-blend). The Paradiso will be available to purchase in a special vertical for Arts in April.
Dario Sattui is well known in the Napa Valley as the entrepreneur behind two successful Napa Valley wineries, V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena and Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga. But what many may not know is that Dario Sattui cares deeply about environmental issues and agricultural land preservation, and that he also supports education and vocational programs for youth. It was just announced that he has pledged $1 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Helena and Calistoga for construction of a permanent Calistoga club facility. Sattui will attend the club’s board of directors meeting on March 20th to present two $500,000 checks, one each from V. Sattui Winery and Castello di Amorosa.
The donation was a perfect fit as the Boys and Girls Club will also teach the children about environmental issues. Sattui believes in order to preserve the land, we must start by educating children. “The Club will teach about the environment and how important it is to preserve it, especially the precious environment in Napa County,” Sattui said. “It will teach of the value of agriculture, and teach nutrition as well as exercise.” He continued, “The Club will tutor kids, teach computer skills, among others, and provide guidance counselors.”
Additionally, for the past eight years V. Sattui has partnered with the Napa Valley Vintners “Adopt-a-School program,” for which V. Sattui yearly hosts 125 students from the 8th grade class of the Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School. The students arrive at 9 am and are greeted by Sattui who speaks to the students of his family’s 19th Century immigration to the USA, and a history of the winery including how they survived prohibition in the 1920s. They then break into small groups where they attend short lectures presented by the V. Sattui executive management team on topics such as the science of winemaking, mathematical applications in business, and language arts as it applies to communication with consumers and employees. At noon students are then treated to a picnic lunch.
Similarly, Castello di Amorosa hosts the school’s 7th grade students providing them with a hands-on historical tour of the 12th century Tuscan castle-winery.
For Sattui, the Adopt- a-School giving is ongoing, both in cash and in-kind. For example, V. Sattui Winery encourages student exercise by providing a grant to the hiking club. Additionally, the winery has delivered a catered lunch from the gourmet Marketplace and Deli as recognition for teachers, staff and administrators. Furthermore, V. Sattui Winery participated in a Summer Scavenger Hunt as well as being a large contributor to the Yosemite scholarship fund field trip for the eighth graders of RLS Middle School.
Sattui is also a significant supporter of Napa Valley Hospice, Hands Across the Valley, St. Helena Family Center’s Student Assistance Program and the Napa Valley Land Trust. In the last 10 years, V. Sattui Winery has protected over 550 acres in the Napa Valley with conservation easements that restrict the development of land with homes and preserves hundreds of acres of vineyards, oak woodlands and grassland open space forever. He also has an active role with the Festival del Sole to help bring music to the Napa Valley.
Late harvest is a term applied to wines made from grapes left on the vine longer than most other wine grapes. The grapes themselves are often raisined, or nearly so, but have been naturally dehydrated on the vine. We allow botrytis to develop—a beneficial fungus that, in response to the humidity of warm days and cool, misty mornings, shrivels the fruit of its water content but preserves its acidity and natural sugars. It takes careful cultivation—and ideal conditions—to foster the growth of this fungus (botrytis cinerea, also called “the noble rot”), for if the weather is unremittingly damp, or rains come shortly before harvest, the botrytis spores run rampant, causing “gray rot” that spreads throughout the clusters, spoiling the fruit.
Even in favorable conditions, harvest workers typically have to go through the vineyard several times to hand-pick the choicest bunches; and often the usable grapes from a single vine may only produce enough juice for a single bottle.
You’ll find that we have been successful once again with a small lot of Riesling that we fostered through the late fall months of 2011 and were rewarded with an amazingly concentrated and intensely flavored after-dinner wine. Rich and sweet, there’s a very desirable honeyed and complex nature to both its aromas and flavors, reminiscent of dried apricot, tangerine and vanilla.
The vines are dormant; but mustard and other cover crops are allowed to bloom to prevent erosion, then are plowed under to add nutrients to the soil. Our crews are pruning and setting trellis systems. Swarms of starlings arrive to pick off the last of the vines’ berries. In the Winery, most fermentations are complete. Sauvignon Blanc is bottled
February Pruning and vine preparations are complete. The later the prune, the later the flowering, hopefully outmaneuvering a May frost. Sprinkler systems and wind machines are made ready for frosty spring mornings. Wines such as Chardonnay and Sémillon are bottled. Glass, labels and capsules must be ready for the bulk of the bottling that lies ahead.
The growing season is officially under way with budbreak, a stage when vine buds crack open and small shoots emerge. This is the beginning of the new crop. In the Winery, we now begin racking—siphoning off the clear wine from the sediment. Racking can occur three or four times during the winemaking process. Riesling is bottled.
Vines show thick clusters of new leaves. The vineyard crews remove tiny shoots so only vital vegetation is left. White wines are released. Blending for red varieties begins. Frost is a frequent threat. Wind machines, sprinklers—even helicopters—are used to protect the young crop. Zinfandel and Syrah are bottled.
Have you ever come across what appear to be white flakes floating in your bottle of wine? The result is similar to a snow globe. Or perhaps the cork has crystalized? Did you assume that this somehow meant the wine was flawed or ruined?
Video courtesy of Dr. Vino
What you had most likely seen are tartaric crystals, commonly referred to as "wine diamonds."
Tartrate crystals are not uncommon for wines that are minimally filtered. Mass market wines will usually be treated to minimize crystal and sediment precipitation. Tartrate crystals are colorless and add no flavor to the wine (in fact Crème de Tartar is used in cooking as a thickening agent), but can as you noted, cause the wine to be gritty. Here are a couple of things that should mitigate (not eliminate) this issue. First and foremost, we frequently recommend that wines purchased from any winery and shipped via a package express company be laid down and left to rest for 4 to 5 weeks. That will allow any sediment (or tartrate crystals) to settle to one side of the bottle. Then when you are ready to enjoy your rested wine, carefully decant the wine into a decanter, leaving perhaps an inch of wine in the bottom of the bottle. The shape of the bottom of most Bordeaux and many Burgundy bottles have a punt at the bottom, designed in part to help capture the sediment.
Those two steps: letting the wine rest after its bottle shock from travelling, and decanting the wine should minimize the appearance of sediment and tartrate crystals.
For the past 8 years V. Sattui Winery has enrolled our Carneros estate, the Henry Ranch, in the Fish Friendly Farming program for the Napa Valley, a voluntary certification program for grape growers who implement land management practices that restore and sustain habitat and improve water quality.
The program was developed as a collaboration of the agricultural community, government agencies and environmental groups both to educate us on preserving our environment and to develop a coalition of role models for the entire community.
In the program, vineyards are not only scrutinized for vine management practices but also how we care for roads, drainage systems, creeks and rivers. The certification process is lengthy but we are committed to the changes necessary to preserve our habitat for generations to come.
The forefront of our training is to develop and implement a farm plan of beneficial management practices with the expertise of hydrologists, biologists and environmental engineers. Some of these practices are challenging but worthwhile as we make necessary improvements for the vineyards, access roads, creek and river corridors for the 500-acre ranch.
Carneros Creek, which runs through Henry Ranch, is a beautiful waterway shared by several neighboring vineyards and ranches. The steelhead trout is one of many species in this tributary that rely on clean water to survive and thrive. We’re very excited to join our neighbors and participate in preserving such a beautiful part of our watershed. Fish Friendly Farming reinforces the idea that we not just see the vineyard for the vines, but for all the living things that share our ecosystem.
by Tom C. Davies, Winery President
Getting away is always good. About five years ago our Marketing VP, Claudette Shatto, had a memorable vacation, spending a couple of weeks touring the hill towns of Tuscany and Umbria. She also spent the best part of a week staying at Castello delle Serre, our 1000- year-old castle-hotel near Siena. Tough duty for a working vacation.
Of course her market research included lots of dining and drinking (not sure if in that order). Among her discoveries were wines with few or tiny bubbles, or as Italians say, “Frizzante.” These wines are not really sparkling wines; they’re not as carbonated and are lighter, with lower alcohols and a little sweetness. The most famous Italian frizzante is Moscato D’Asti, a slightly “fizzy” wine made from the Muscat grape grown in the Piedmonte region.
Upon her return to the States, Claudette’s immediate new idea was for V. Sattui to produce a Moscato Frizzante. And we did just that. In the summer of 2008 we released the 2007 Moscato. It sold out in less than four months. Did I mention she’s the VP of Marketing?
Since then Moscato has become very popular with consumers. However our Moscato is very different than what you will find at your local wine shop. The wine fills the glass with aromas of orange blossoms and perfumed flowers, and follows with a delicate, just-enough-sweet softness on the palate from the tiny bubbles to give a wonderful, textural sensation. Our Moscato is the perfect complement to a summertime picnic, light desserts or any celebratory experience.
To make sure we keep all that good stuff from prematurely escaping the bottle, we’ve finished the wine in a screw cap. I know most of you have heard or know that screw caps on certain wines, especially young whites not meant for long-term aging, are preferable to corks. They don’t let air in or out and there’s no risk of cork taint. We’ve also decorated the wine with a new label, bringing back original elements of Vittorio Sattui’s labels from the early 1900s.
My recommendation: Buy this wine. Better yet, buy lots. Chill it, find a couple of wine glasses (no need for flutes, or even stems), and give a quick twist! What follows is simply delicious!