vineyard Archives - V. Sattui Winery

Climate Change & The Future of Farming

Shifting Climate, Extreme Weather, Wildfires, Demand for Housing, Water Scarcity and Drought

One of my favorite quotes about farming comes from a fellow grape farmer and good friend, Stu Smith of Smith Madrone Vineyards on Spring Mountain, nearly 2,000 feet above the valley floor.

Stu says, “Being a farmer, you have to be an eternal optimist but at the same time you have to be an eternal pessimist. So, it is these two emotions that are driving you, and in conflict within you, that you have to live with.”

 

When visiting with guests at the winery, I find myself complaining about the du jour weather-related factors affecting the crop.  Perhaps complaining about weather is part of the DNA of a farmer, and there is good reason for this, as weather plays such an important part in the growing of grapes and resulting wine quantity and quality.  The frustration that plagues farmers is that weather is out of our control, and this is mostly true, but not completely.  More about this later.  For now, let’s discuss what is happening with climate in the Napa Valley and other extreme weather and economic conditions.

The planet is getting warmer.

The last 7 years have been the warmest since record keeping and 2020 tied for the hottest year on record.  In North America, June 2020 was the hottest month on record.  Andrew Isaacs, Professor of Technology Programs, Haas School of Business, Berkeley, and former Senior Scientist at NASA, says climate is travelling at 1 km per year in the Napa Valley.

What does this mean?

It means that each year, as you drive from south to north in the Napa Valley (Napa towards Calistoga) the weather is getting slightly warmer.  It is not a perfectly linear as you move north, as individual sites vary in temperature depending on orientation and site specifics, but in general it is a good description of what is happening with the climate.  This data is important, in that specific varieties do best when matched to the ideal growing conditions, which considers mean degree days of heat.   Could this mean that one day the Carneros region, best known for cooler conditions that favor Chardonnay and Pinot, could be better suited to warmer varieties like Cabernet and Zinfandel?
Could Rutherford and St. Helena become too warm for Cabernet?  Yes. 
High-quality wine grapes are naturally adaptable to heat stress if managed correctly, as grapes like to grow in a warm, Mediterranean climate, but at extreme temperatures, heat can cause grapes to shrivel and turn to raisins.

Wildfires and resulting smoke damage to grapes and resulting wines have affected every vineyard and vintner in the Napa Valley.  Virtually no Cabernet Sauvignon will be made from Napa Valley grapes in 2020 because of smoke damage from the wildfires.  Estimated economic damage from just the 2020 wildfire season to the Napa Valley wine industry alone is estimated to be more than $2 billion.  With a warming planet, it is easy to become pessimistic regarding our predicament, as a quick fix is not possible.

I believe the biggest threat to our livelihoods as wine growers is water scarcity.

 

For the first time in my 41-year career in the industry, we ran out of water at two of our ranches in the Napa Valley and had to truck re-claimed and municipal water, at an expense approaching $250,000, just to save two-thirds of our crop. Some farmers dropped all their fruit and used the little water they had just to keep the vines alive (vines carrying a crop require more water).  Grapes  are plants and need water, especially when they are young and root systems are not established. Drought in California is nothing new and we have made excellent wine in drought years, but limited water is not the same as being out of water.

The future of farming in Napa is further endangered by state-mandated housing requirements that are spilling beyond our cities and threatening the once sacred agricultural boundary lines. McMansions, huge 10,000 square foot+ homes with large outdoor entertainment spaces, are encroaching on valuable Ag lands – reducing future vineyard plantings. Additionally, it is becoming nearly impossible to plant new vineyards on lands zoned for agriculture, as the cost and time of conducting environmental studies and obtaining the necessary state and local permits required to  plant a vineyard favors only the very wealthy.

It is becoming evident that one of the most famous and desirable locations in the world to grow world-class wine is in jeopardy of its existence.

 

What can we do?

 

1. DROUGHT TOLERANCE

❉ Vines and cover crops that are planted between the vine rows compete for water during the growing season. During drought years, we disk between the rows during the growing year to eliminate the competition, giving all the available moisture in the soil to the vines.

❉ Redeveloping our trellis systems to provide more shade for the fruit during the hot summer days.

❉ Dry-farming vineyards, that is farmed without irrigation, as was done in the early days of the Napa Valley.  Once vines are established, it is possible that some vineyard sites have water sources  down deep, and eventually the roots find these sources, as deep as 50 feet for more. Our Dry Creek, School House Old-Vine Zinfandel is completely farmed without adding irrigated water. These  old vines found an underground spring of School House Creek!

❉ When we redevelop or plant a new vineyard, we search out rootstocks that are drought-resistant, and can survive with less water.

❉ We have begun working with a partner that has developed an irrigation model through extensive research in both California and France that pinpoints the best time to water that will accelerate vine growth early in spring and push fruit to an earlier ripening that would improve fruit quality and quicken harvest by nearly 30 days, while minimizing the risk of smoke taint from wildfires that typically happen in late Fall.

2.  REDUCING OUR CARBON FOOTPRINT

Anytime we reduce tractor passes in a vineyard, we reduce CO2 released into our atmosphere. Electric tractors have already made an appearance in the Napa Valley, but more work needs to be done to improve performance.  Vineyards are naturally a carbon sink, in that carbon is reduced over time by farming as compared to development and housing.

Back in 2007, we installed solar on the roof of our wine warehouse and plans are underway to install more throughout the property.

3.  FIRE MITIGATION

Here, we are making great strides. Industry groups such as Napa Valley Grapegrowers are leading the charge to help farmers with best practices to mitigate fire losses.

❉ What hurt most in the 2017 and 2020 wildfires was that we were not prepared and relied too heavily on firefighters that were stretched to nearly the breaking point, as fires raged throughout the state.

❉ We are a strong agricultural community where grapes have been grown for more than 150 years. We have survived floods, earthquakes, Prohibition, and numerous other disasters.

❉ Climate change, wildfires, economic threats, and water scarcity are all worthy adversaries, and will challenge us, but will not beat us.

We have too much at stake

to give up on the bounty and beauty of this magnificent valley. As farmers and eternal optimists, we believe next year’s harvest will be the best ever!

 

 

 

 

Tom C. Davies
President


Did you know there is an island of plastic trash in the Pacific Ocean three times the size of France?

8,000,000 metric tons of discarded plastic finds its way into the ocean EVERY YEAR. That is the equivalent of setting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world.  Plastic production rose from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448,000,000 million tons in 2015. Production is expected to double to 896,000,000 tons by 2050. Half of all plastics ever manufactured have been made in the last 15 years.  Plastic has a very long life. It contains additives which makes it unable to break down for 400 years or more. Today, landfills are overflowing with waste plastic. China is now refusing to take our unwanted plastic to its country as it did several years ago.

Plastic “trash” is killing sea life and birds and poisoning our food and water supplies. “If plastic production isn’t curbed, plastic pollution will outweigh fish pound per pound by 2050,” declares World Economic Forum Report.  THIS IS AN ALARMING PROBLEM.

Action is required. It is in this spirit I have invested in a company called Resynergi of Santa Rosa, California, which will take most discarded plastic and turn it into energy or chemicals for making new virgin plastics without harming the environment.  This process is called CMAP, Continuous Microwave Assisted Pyrolysis. Discarded plastic is collected and heat of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit is applied – in an oxygen free environment – causing the solid material to form a gas. The gas is cooled into a liquid product (fuel) or made into new plastic.

NEW! Collina d’Oro Chardonnay & Pinot Noir

The most impressive aspect of these wines for me is the stunning and bountiful fruit aromas, and the complexity of flavors on the palate. The wines evolve with just a few minutes in the glass to provide lush fruit and great acidity on the finish…

– Brooks Painter, Director of Winemaking

Nestled in the Russian River AVA in Sonoma County, just outside of the town of Forestville, famous for its unique “Gold Ridge” sandy soils and cool coastal influence – the newest edition to our portfolio of Estate vineyards, Collina d’Oro is the idyllic setting for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Each block of this 15-acre vineyard – formerly a 50-year-old organic Gravenstein apple orchard – is planted with careful attention to clonal diversity and varietal expression. Six unique Pinot Noir clones including DRC, Pommard and 777, enhance the dimension and complexity of our Collina d’Oro Pinot Noir, while our Chardonnay is planted to the classic Wente clone – perfectly suited to this exceptional site.

Both wines offer deep aromas and luscious, layered fruit with fleshy, dense volume in the mouth and succinct minerality all at once – showcasing the Russian River AVA at its very best in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  We are delighted to offer these two new beauties as a part of our collection.

2017 Collina d’Oro CHARDONNAY

Aromas of green apple, lemon and vanilla introduce this bright, crisp Chardonnay. Fruity and juicy on the palate with bold yet balanced oak and buttery notes punctuated by minerality and firm acidity – our 2017 Collina d’Oro Chardonnay is fine example of the unique characteristics offered by this special vineyard.  $48/bottle

BEST CHARDONNAY, 95 Points & Platinum – Winemaker Challenge
BEST CHARDONNAY, 95 Points & Platinum – Monterey Wine Competition
95 Points & Double Gold – American Fine Wine Competition
Double Gold Medal – SF Chronicle Wine Competition

2017 Collina d’Oro PINOT NOIR

Elegant and beautifully balanced, this Pinot Noir has aromas of ripe cherry, vanilla, a hint of savory herbs and black tea. On the palate it is bold, rich and refined with a hint of dusty cherry. A luscious, full mouthfeel is enhanced by silky tannins and a long, satisfying finish.  $52/bottle

91 Points & Gold – Winemaker Challenge
91 Points & Gold – San Diego Int’l Wine Competition
Gold Medal – SF Chronicle Wine Competition

A Wine Drinker’s Top 5 Resolutions for 2019

Attention all wine drinkers! This one’s for you. If you’re a wine-o, then your New Year resolutions list probably looks something like this: add more V. Sattui Winery to my life! Pretty accurate, right?

Resolution Number 1: Wine + Food Pairing Experience

You might have heard of this one before, and you’ve probably thought to yourself, “I really want to do this,” but still haven’t acted on it. Well, now that experiencing one of these popular pairings is on your resolutions list, let’s make it happen for you! This is way more than just a food pairing. Firstly, you are greeted by your host with a glass of our sparkling Prestige Cuvée and taken on a guided tour of our estate Vittorio Vineyard and production areas. You then make your way down to the underground barrel aging cellar where your preset seating pairing awaits at our long Italian tables. What happens next is magic.  Our wine expert will lead you through six mouth-watering seasonally-inspired culinary creations paired with six highly-awarded V. Sattui wines as you are educated on the flavor dance between fats and acids, salt and sweet, complements and contrasts. Step away from this experience understanding how food and wine improve when paired properly.  Reserve your seat now for February 16 or March 16 from 11 am – 1 pm and cross resolution number one off the list!

 

Resolution Number 2: Take a Tour of V. Sattui Winery

When you take a tour of V. Sattui Winery, you immediately become part of the family. Our welcoming and edu-taining hosts dive into our rich history while you discover your soon-to-be favorite V. Sattui wines all while taking in the Tuscan beauty of the property, estate vineyards, and manicured grounds. During the tour, you will learn about our winemaking practices, the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve, and what it means to be a responsible steward of the land along with the rebirth of the winery following Prohibition. At the end of the tour, guests will be treated to a full complimentary tasting! Daily tours take place daily: Monday through Sunday; reservation required (resolution encouraged).

Resolution Number 3: Partake in a Junk Food + Cabernet Pairing

If you’ve read our previous Cabernet Season blog, you’ve heard of this one. Now you actually have an excuse to experience it for yourself while it’s on your resolutions list. The next time you come by the winery, be sure to upgrade your tasting to this one-of-a-kind seasonal experience. Your favorite junk foods paired with award-winning Cabernets — it’s a match made in heaven. This isn’t the only unique upgraded cabernet experience we’re offering either, the options are endless!

Resolution Number 4: Eat More Cheese!

Now this one’s easy! With over two hundred cheeses from all over the world in our Artisan Deli, you can fulfill this resolution all year long. Grab the crew, your favorite bottles of V. Sattui wine, as many cheeses as you can carry, and picnic right on the property. Our on-site cheesemonger will help you pick the perfect pairings. And for dessert, treat yourself to homemade tiramisu, crème brûlée, seasonal fruit tarts, or our own Italian-style gelato. It’s a new year, so why not indulge?

Resolution Number 5: Drink More (V. Sattui) Wine!

This one might be the most important on your resolutions list this year. It’s important to take time for yourself, relax after a long day, and enjoy a glass (or two) of your favorite V. Sattui wine. Even better – share it with friends!  We offer a variety of wine clubs to fit your liking, making it easy to drink more wine at home all year round. The best part, it’s delivered right to your door! Membership perks include invitations to the best parties in the Napa Valley.  In fact, Lobster Fest is just around the corner and sold out six weeks in advance last year!  Lock in your membership now to get your invitation to this member-only event.  Be sure to also check out our wine specials throughout 2019 as we are always offering amazing deals on our award-winning wines!

As you cross these resolutions off your list in the New Year, be sure to share your experiences with us and tag us on social media! Cheers to 2019!

Vittorio’s Vineyard

Just as their heritage is innate to California, winemaking is innate to the Sattui family. It’s an insatiable yearning for creation and connection with the vine that courses through their veins and busies their wine-stained hands. And the first Sattui hands to work magic on California grapes nearly 140 years ago were that of Vittorio Sattui, the winery’s pioneer and namesake. Vittorio passed long ago, but his legacy lives on because he dedicated his life to nurturing one of the only things that’s worth chasing and fighting for, the thing that fosters dreams and fuels visionaries, and one of the only things that lives on forever – land, which he captured in his wine. Vittorio’s Vineyard remains the heart of the winery and a testament to the Sattui family’s relentless and galvanizing story in American winemaking.

original-winery

The Sattuis with their original winery

In 1882, Vittorio and his wife left their home in the hills of Italy, crossed the world to California, and began making wine. As the Sattui family grew, so did their success. Vittorio and his sons were moving wagons of grapes from the untouched region of Saint Helena to their home winery in San Francisco until the Sattuis’ lives came to a halt with the passing of Prohibition in 1920.

dario

Dario perfecting his craft in the Napa Valley

However in 1941, unbeknownst to the family, the winery was resurrected with the birth of Dario, Vittorio’s great-grandson. Dario’s restless hands and Sattui blood longed for the one thing that would suffice, and as soon as he was old enough, he set out to apprentice and finish what Vittorio started. In 1976, he reopened V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena and shortly after adopted the neighboring 34 acres – Vittorio’s Vineyard.

vineyard-replanted

Planting new roots in Vittorio’s Vineyard

Earlier this summer, a portion of the vineyard’s old, tired vines were freed from years of growing and succeeded by young Sauvignon Cabernet roots. This new generation of grapes is a handsome offering to the land, whose original vines and old soil will raise them beautifully for the next few years, ready them for their first harvest in 4-5 years, and continue the Sattui legacy – a perfect parallel of Dario rekindling his great-grandfather’s dream. Because for almost 50 years, Dario, the winery, and Vittorio’s Vineyard have produced award-winning vintages season after season and handcrafted cabernets that swept the state, and they will, undoubtedly, continue to pay homage to the paragon that was Vittorio Sattui.

Make a reservation and experience the soul of the Sattui family first-hand in a Guided Tour or at our Terrace Tastings overlooking Vittorio’s Vineyard.