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!
Wine & Spirits Magazine has just published its list of the top American Cabernet Sauvignons and Cabernet blends for 2012 in its December issue—and V. Sattui is prominent among them.
The Wine & Spirits’ blind tasting panel sampled 750 new-release American Cabernets, rated 109 as exceptional (90+) and 42 as Best Buys. V. Sattui’s 2008 Vittorio’s Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon received both a 90-point score and Best Buy designation.
90| V. Sattui Winery $55.00
2008 Napa Valley Vittorio’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Best Buy) This wine’s plush red cherry flavors are layered with the scents of an Arabian spice market. There’s also a hint of leather and some green herb notes, keeping the wine lean and tight, but not hyper concentrated. A complex textural pleasure to serve with lamb.
Wine & Spirits is one of the top performing magazines with regard to wine, food and spirits, and is a “must-read” for both professionals in the wine industry and anyone interested in wine.
Big and rich, with intense fruit flavors like blackberry, black cherry, candied orange and chocolate, with a touch of spice and herbs. The combination of fruit and spice complements the flavors in Greg's Persimmon Pudding Cake nicely. I like how the cake's sweetness offsets the port's own sweetness, which ensures liveliness and balance in the pairing. Made from classic Portuguese grape varieties (and some Zinfandel), this Californian dessert wine finishes with refined tannins and elegant persistence, and is reminiscent of many fine Portuguese vintage ports.
Port is another example of one of those "happy accidents" which were so prevalent throughout wine's history (Champagne being my favorite!). In an effort to stabilize the red wine bought back in barrels on the the long journey from Portugal, the British added distilled alcohol to the wine. In at least one instance, the addition of spirits to a not fully-fermented wine halted the fermentation process, resulting in high levels of sugar and an elevated alcohol level. Since then, the process has been refined, resulting in the wonderfully sweet yet complex pleasure we know today as port.
Where I live the persimmon trees have already dropped their leaves. I love how stark they look. Gray tangles silhouetted against a gray sky with just a few crimson orbs dangling from their branches. I've lived in Los Angeles so long that I've come to consider the persimmon tree the real true Christmas Tree. The first harbinger of the season. The first hint that the holidays are coming. You can almost smell the sweet spice of them. I try to stop and savor this moment every year, because we all know that the stress of the holidays will soon follow. The weight of them will soon be felt.
But right now– they seem so enchanting, so full of possibility and promise.
Take fruit cake. Every year about this time I think to myself, "I should make fruitcake". The idea of fruitcake seems so romantic, ripe with holiday spirit and good intentions. So full of possibility– so promising. But then the calender clicks off a few more days. The big day looms more near. My to-do list grows. Suddenly I remember all the hassle involved tracking down all those gummy neon colored fruits. Besides, nobody really likes fruitcake. They (like me) have romanticized that little confection all out of proportion.
So before I get to that point. Before the possibility and the promise fizzle out like the last candle on the 8th night. I plan to make fruitcake.
But this fruitcake holds all of the promise and none of the burden. Because you will love this fruitcake. I made it with persimmon. Hachiya persimmon. Its pudding-like pulp will add just the right note of sweetness to this very dense, very moist "fruit" cake. I hope you'll consider this Persimmon Pudding Cake. My gift to you. Because I realize many people aren’t sure what to do with persimmons. Some people even claim to dislike them. But I don't really believe them. Though its true persimmons can be confusing.
You see there are 2 types. Fuyu persimmons are squat like a bright orange tomato and are eaten while crunchy. They are great simply sliced and eaten out of hand. But they also shine in winter salads. I really defy anyone to say they don't like fuyu persimmons. It's like saying, "I don't like apples".
It's the other type of persimmon, Hachiya, that has convinced folks that they don't, can't or won't eat persimmons. Hachiya are more acorn shaped, more red than orange– and are abruptly tannic when under-ripe. Grimace your face and run from the room tannic. Hachiya persimmons must be squishy soft before eaten. At that point their flesh is like jelly. You can cut one in half and spoon its soft sweetness into your mouth. You can freeze them and do the same thing– enjoying them like the sweetest most exotic sorbet imaginable.
But there are other ways to enjoy them also. Their sweet pulp, when pureed, is as smooth as pudding. Making it a terrific ingredient for baking. It's the star of this dense and moist– perfect for the holidays– cake. It's a luxurious cake. Packed full of raisins and walnuts. At first bite it might seem not quite sweet enough. But keep eating. Just like the promise of Christmas, this cake's unexpected pleasures are not as obvious as they seem, and they don't last forever. GREG
Persimmon Pudding Cake serves 12 CLICK here for a printable recipe
1/4 c brandy
1 c raisins or dried currants
6 very ripe hachiya persimmons
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 c whole milk
1 t vanilla extract
6 T melted butter, slightly cooled
2 T honey
1/2 c sugar
1 1/4 cg all-purpose flour
1/2 t kosher salt
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 1/2 c coursely chopped toasted walnuts
2 c whipped cream (optional)
Place the oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Place a round of parchment on the bottom.
Place the raisins in a small bowl and pour the brandy over. Let soften about 20 minutes.
Cut the persimmons in half, then scoop the pulp from the skins and place the pulp in a large bowl. Discard skins. Mash the pulp with a fork until until smooth. Add the lightly beaten eggs, milk, vanilla, honey, melted butter and sugar. Stir to combine.
In a separate large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in 3 additions. Stirring to combine between each addition. Fold in the raisins and any remaining brandy along with the walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. It should come to about 1-inch from the top. Don't overfill. Place the filled pan a a rimmed baking sheet and transfer to the heated oven.
Bake until the cake has risen, is firm to the touch and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Once cool run a small knife along the edge to loosen the cake from the pan, then remove ring. Cut into wedges and serve with whipped cream, if using.
Source: Adapted from CIA Greystone
The Napa Valley Vintners Association reports that Chardonnay is pretty much off the vine, Merlot is coming in and last week's heat spike has gotten Cabernet Sauvignon to a very happy place on the valley floor. The long, smooth even growing season continues, with cooler days and cold nights allowing for flavors to develop in a winemaker's idea of a perfect scenario. Catch Harvest Napa Valley 2012 while you still can and take a peek at what happens once grapes come on to the "crush" pad.
Watch this video produced by the Napa Valley Vintners.
According to the Napa Valley Vintners Association the 10-day weather forecast for the region predicts continuing warm days with cool and foggy nights which bodes well for optimal ripening with balanced sugars and acids. The vintage is shaping up as a smooth, even harvest that--so far--finds winemakers throughout the appellation all-smiles with the 2012 crop. Across all varieties and from Carneros to Calistoga, the spring fruit set followed by a nearly perfect growing season finds beautiful, healthy vines delivering some of the most flavorful grape clusters vintners have seen in years.
Watch this video produced by the Napa Valley Vintners.