September 4, 2018

CALISTOGA — Before sunrise, after loading my pickup with two half-ton picking bins at one of our client wineries in Calistoga, I drove the 7 miles down to St Helena to pick up our Tasting Room Manager Joy Mesick for a bit of a team field trip. We would then drive up to the top of Howell Mountain to pick up Associate Winemaker Jon Jones. Once assembled, we headed down the other side of the mountain into Pope Valley. There we tasted through a Sauvignon Blanc vineyard. Walking up and down the rows together, eating fruit, commenting aloud to each other. “Mmmm.” “I’m getting fruit cocktail.” “Yes. Pear” “No green” “Good acid.” “Let’s do it.” “What are you guessing for Brix? 24?” “23.5” and on and on until we had gathered a small ziplock snack baggy of green and yellow grapes (or berries as we sometimes say.)

Next stop Suisun Valley, where we tasted through Roger King’s 25-year-old Zinfandel vineyard. Perched on the tiniest of knolls where the clay soil cracks open in startlingly wide fissures big enough to get a hand into, though I don’t know why you’d do that since it seems as if any type of thing might be lurking down there. We were tasting for several things–which part of the vineyard we’d use for rosé and which section we’d use for the traditional red Zinfandel, and then when to schedule the picking dates for each of those sections. Conceptually, it might be a somewhat complex endeavor, and yet when you start tasting through the fruit, walking, looking, tasting, thinking, talking, and tasting, the reality of the vineyard starts to present itself, like a map, a guidebook.

From there we headed a couple miles east to the warehouse district of Fairfield, to pick up some new barrels that had just arrived for the coming harvest. Two Meyrieux barrels. One destined for Cabernet Sauvignon and one for Syrah or for Zinfandel. I still haven’t decided yet.

To complete the loop, we took Jamison Canyon to 29 and up to Oak Knoll. Tasting through the Chardonnay vineyard. No change in the Chardonnay from last week. So we’re in a holding pattern there, unless that heatwave materializes at the end of the week. Then we’ll have to reassess and likely pull the trigger sooner rather than later.

And then finally to Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, arguably the target destination of the morning. We slipped in ahead of the crowds, grabbed some delectable pastries (pain au raisin, cinnamon roll, and blackberry muffin) and coffee and all was right with the world.


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