Note: The following article was originally written by Julia Hollister and published in the Capital Press on July 22, 2018 and can be found here.
Western Innovator: Vineyard, winery work in progress
John Komes constantly experiments with new techniques at Flora Springs Vineyards and Winery.
NAPA VALLEY, Calif. — John Komes can tell you a lot about viticulture and the changes he’s witnessed; he’s been at it for 41 years.
“My ‘first’ career was as a contractor, and I worked on construction projects all over the Bay Area,” he said. “But in the early 1970s I took a wine appreciation course and my fascination with wine just took off. When my parents bought the Flora Springs property in 1977, I convinced them to let me start making wine from the vines there.
“Part of my motivation was that I wanted to move my family to Napa Valley. It was so unspoiled, so bucolic, and it seemed like a good place to raise children. And I loved the idea of having the whole family involved in the winery. Today I work closely with my son, my brother-in-law and my nephew, which is very satisfying.”
Komes said there have been many changes in viticulture since he got started, and he’s learned much over the years. At Flora Springs he is constantly experimenting, both in the vineyard and the winery. They were one of the first wineries to try barrel fermentation with Chardonnay.
“Our flagship wine, Trilogy, which we introduced in 1984, was one of Napa Valley’s the first proprietary red Bordeaux-style blends,” he said.
“Because we’ve owned our vineyards for so long we’ve had several opportunities to replant, and every time we do, we experiment with different spacing, rootstocks, clones, trellis systems, you name it,” he said. “It’s all about fine tuning as you go along, and I can tell you that the wines we make today are more compelling than ever because of the experimenting we’ve done over the years.”
Napa Valley is a superb place to grow grapes, but over time Komes admits he has learned a lot about which varieties grow best here. This is a region where Cabernet Sauvignon thrives, and the Sauvignon Blanc also grows well.
“I guess to answer the question, the hardest grapes to grow are the varieties that are planted in the wrong place,” he said.
The family has 500 acres throughout the Napa Valley, 300 of which are planted to vineyard.
“We have estate properties in Carneros, Oakville, Rutherford and St. Helena, and we produce varietal wines ranging from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other red Bordeaux varietals,” he said. “All of our vineyards are sustainably farmed, and many are farmed organically.”
Wine tastes are changing, and Komes sees more people gravitating to reds these days, but that’s not to say there aren’t a lot of white wine lovers out there.
“In fact, we happened to notice recently that there is no white wine emoji, just a red one! So Flora Springs launched a ‘Where’s the #WhiteWineEmoji’ campaign, and we’re inviting people to sign a petition to have one created,” Komes said. “People can go our website at www.florasprings.com to learn more.”
In spite of the excellent weather and high-quality grapes, Komes said two challenges stand out.
“The two that stand out to me are climate change and labor,” he said. “But the wine industry has faced a lot of challenges, and when we work together we usually find solutions.”
One more thing: What about the big wineries in Napa?
“People often ask me if I think there are too many wineries in Napa Valley. I don’t think there are too many wineries; I just think there are too many big wineries,” he said. “In the last couple of decades the wine industry has experienced what many American industries have undergone: conglomeration. A few big guys buying up the little guys.
“But the little guy is the genius of this industry. The one who discovers new techniques in the vineyards and wineries, who finds and develops small plots of land that produce outstanding grapes, who innovates and creates. I like to think we still have that spirit at Flora Springs, and I certainly think it shows in our wines and hospitality. I also think there will always be little guys, people willing to risk everything to pursue their life’s passion. And to them, I raise my glass!”
Residence: Napa Valley
Occupation: Founder, president and proprietor of Flora Springs Vineyards and Winery
Years in Business: 41
Family: Married to Carrie Komes. Son is Nat Komes. Sister and brother-in-law are Julie Komes Garvey and Pat Garvey.
Today we raise a glass to you. For those of you that are part of our digital community that emailed, signed, tweeted, messaged, liked or shared our plea for a white wine emoji, we are so grateful. If you proudly wear our white wine emoji button, if you always comment, tag, and like our content then we owe you our gratitude. Our efforts are paying off, as the campaign we launched last year calling for a new wine emoji is gaining traction and has been embraced by the global wine community, including several large wineries in California.
It’s not everyday we are featured in major publications such as: Forbes, Today, Decanter, and Wine Spectator. So you can imagine the happy dance we were doing in the cellar today, when we were given credit as the first winery to launch a campaign around the white wine emoji!
“It’s gratifying to see other wine companies follow our example of making wine fun and relevant with their own petitions and campaigns to establish a White Wine Emoji,” said Nat Komes, General Manager of Flora Springs. “The Unicode Emoji Subcommittee encouraged us to work as a global community on the project, and these additional efforts of wine companies and of course white wine lovers around the world will help us reach the goal Flora Springs sought when we started this movement.”
It’s because of our dedicated community on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest that we feel so passionate about the white wine emoji. People from all over the world post messages to us, and we always have to respond with the red wine version of the wine glass emoji, even if we know they are in our white wine only wine club! As a family that has led the way in white wine since our founding over 40 years ago, we’re proud you trust us with this initiative.
Join us in celebrating each and every white wine by calling for the establishment of a White Wine Emoji, by using hashtag #WhiteWineEmoji and tag us @florasprings. Make your voice heard and sign the #WhiteWineEmoji petition now. Learn more about our White Wine Emoji campaign.
Since the founding of Flora Springs Winery in 1978, it’s been our family’s goal is to over-deliver on every aspect of our business, particularly when it comes to the quality and consistency of our wines.
It means the world to us when our customers recognize these efforts by celebrating life’s big moments, and simple daily joys, with our wines.
With every delighted Wine Club Member and every customer compliment, we know we are still on the right path.
It’s also rewarding when the wine writers, reviewers, and bloggers notice our wines. And they sure are noticing the 2015 vintage of Trilogy – with four fabulous 93 point awards from top publications. While we’ll always believe that everyone should decide on their own whether they like a wine or not, great scores, awards, and reviews are always appreciated – thank you.
93 points, The Wine Advocate “A blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec and 8% Petit Verdot, the deep garnet-purple 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Trilogy offers up aromas of cassis, blackberries and black cherries with hints of vanilla, chocolate and baking spices. Full-bodied, concentrated, expressive and open for business, it’s spicy and velvety in the mouth with a long finish.”
—Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, October 2017
93 points, James Suckling “Hot stones, oyster shell, ripe stems, pressed violets and nutmeg. Full-bodied with round, ripe tannins that are structured and dense, fine acidity and a fruit-forward finish. A blend of 82% cabernet sauvignon, 10% malbec and 8% petit verdot. Drink in 2020.”
—James Sucking, December 2017
93 points, Blue Lifestyle “Lush and rich with smooth texture and lush plum and berry fruit; dense and rich, deep and showing promise for aging.”
—Anthony Dias Blue, January 2018
93 points, The Tasting Panel Magazine, April 2018
91 points & Best of Class, California State Fair, April 2018
90 points, Wine Enthusiast, April 2018
90 points, San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge, April 2018
90 points, Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine “On the basis of its ripe and fairly juicy, oak-sweetened aromas, it is easy enough to anticipate that this one will be rounded, ready-to-drink wine, but, if its initially up-front flavors are in fact fruity and very inviting in a way that distantly recalls good Merlot, it is all Cabernet Sauvignon in terms of its youthful tannins and obvious tactile grip. It is not ominously astringent, but it is firmly built and will take some time to make good on the promise of polish at which it now hints, and, while it warrants no less than three or four years of patience, we see it evolving favorably for seven to ten.” April 2018
90 points, International Wine Report “The 2015 Trilogy is an immense, ultra-modern Napa Valley red, composed of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec and 8% Petite Verdot which spent 18 months in 85% French oak and 15% American oak. It opens to profound aromatics of blackberry cobbler, crème de cassis, mocha, sweet spices, vanilla, sweet toasted oak and a touch of dusty notes all taking shape. Full-bodied, layered and intense on the palate, with profound depth and concentration. Ripe dark fruits and mocha flavors continue to resonate from its core, as it leads up to the long, mouth coating finish. Overall, this is a massive red, which should have at least a decade of evolution ahead…”Read more.
—J. D’Angelo, June 2018
Suggestions for rack restocking The Tennessean “Trilogy Red Wine, 2015, from Flora Springs was one of Napa’s first Bordeaux-style red blends—now it’s a classic. Trilogy is like purple in the glass (even the winemaker calls it decadent).”
—Steve Prati, May 30, 2018
25 Wines to Drink Now or Lay Down for the Future The Daily Meal “You always want to have a few bottles of wine on hand that you can drink whenever the occasion arises, whether for tonight’s dinner, when friends drop by, or for an impromptu party. On the other hand, it’s also nice to have a few bottles put away to drink in future years on special occasions…
A rich and delicious blend of mainly cabernet sauvignon with a little malbec and petit verdot, offering velvety flavors of blackberry and mulberry and a light oak accent.”Read more.
—Roger Morris, March 21, 2018
Samples that Inspire a Rallying Cry Moment DallasWineChick.com “This was an unctuous wine that was packed with fruit – blackberry, cassis, black cherry, plum, chocolate, mocha, cedar and vanilla. It was nuanced and had depth. I kept discovering new flavors as we sipped. It was absolutely delicious.”Read more. March 18, 2018
Use of oak affects fruit character of cabernet sauvignon Capital Gazette “Flora Springs was a pioneer in making a Bordeaux blend — its first was in 1984. It’s no surprise, then, that experience and good fruit sources makes them a leader in hedonistic blends. Extracted dark fruit flavors with hints of pepper, chocolate and vanilla. Round tannins suggest good things to come.”Read more.
—Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr, February 21, 2018
There is 3x decadence in ‘Trilogy’ JuliatheWineExaminer.com “Flora Springs has created a red Bordeaux blend that celebrates the incredible fusion of three varietals that define elegance. Your time swirling and sipping this incredible selection is long past due. This is bliss in a bottle…Open this seductive wine about 20 minutes before serving to allow aromas of Bing cherries, sweet cassis and blackberry to start the show. Then swirl and sip dark licorice, cola and cardamom flavors that explode on the palate and exit in a long, luxurious finish. Pour this “big” wine with “big” foods such as prime rib, bold burgers and meat laden pastas. Winemakers say this enticing, robust red wine can be enjoyed through the next decade; but why wait?”Read more. January 18, 2018
91+ points, Millennial Drinkers “Deep and dark purplish ruby red. Layered nose with notes of vanilla bean, anise, cinnamon, cassis, blackberries and more baking spices. A little dark cocoa with some air. Medium plus tannins (6.5/10) and full body potential. A little spicy on the palate with lots of red and black fruits. Notes of cinnamon and sweet spices too. Long and lingering finish. Still just a baby that will improve with a few months, even years in the bottle. Drink Dates: 2018 till 2030.”Read more. January 25, 2018
Rated: A, Drinkhacker “This year’s Trilogy is a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, and 8% Petit Verdot. For 2015, Trilogy cuts a soulful, silky, and seductive profile, bursting at the seams with fruit both fresh and dried — plump currants, fresh plums, and dense blackberry notes. The fruit is so powerful the wine comes across as slightly sweet at times, and it cuts easily through any sense of tannin that might otherwise cling to the palate. As the finish evolves, bramble notes emerge alongside some gentle leather and tobacco, with an herbal, clove-heavy note percolating on the finish. Lots going on here, but at the same time, the wine is so easy to drink that it is, at times, hard to put down.”Read more. January 31, 2018
2015 Trilogy Review
Wine Weirdos, featuring Allison Levine of Please the Palate and the Napa Valley Register:
This wine had depth and layers. I kept discovering new things in the glass as I tasted. There was grapefruit, pear, nectarine, honeydew melon, tropical fruit, floral notes, brown sugar and it brought me back to remembering what I loved about the Orange Julius drink of my childhood. Flora Springs is also on a mission of creating a white wine emoji and has launched a “Where is the #WhiteWineEmoji” campaign. Because that should be a given! Why should red wine have all the fun?
Today, we’re headed to Napa for a red wine from one of my favorite producers:
2015 Napa Valley Merlot produced & bottled by Flora Springs (St. Helena, California).
This wine is 100% merlot from the Napa Valley. Following fermentation, the wine was aged for 19 months in a combination of new and used oak barrels. It comes in at 14.2% ABV.
Here it is in the glass:
The wine showed a dark ruby color. Blackberry, cassis, mocha, vanilla, plum and oak all arrived on the deep and alluring nose. Blackberry, black cherry, cassis, vanilla, plum and oak followed on the palate. The wine exhibited great structure and length, along with soft tannins. This wine would pair well with a grilled hanger steak.
We’re excited to release our first wine from the 2017 vintage, our 2017 Napa Valley Pinot Grigio. 2017 was a momentous year in Napa Valley, and we know there will be a lot of curiosity about the vintage. Following is our take on the growing season and vintage, including the wildfires that affected so many in our community. Despite many challenges, we think that 2017 will go down in history not only for the wildfires but for the high quality of the 2017 vintage and wines.
2017 began with winter rain, and lots of it, enough to fill reservoirs, replenish groundwater and bring a five year drought in California to an end. Our spring weather was mild, and due to the abundance of water the vines experienced vigorous growth. We were vigilant about canopy management, going through our vineyards and removing excess leaves to ensure the developing grapes had adequate sunlight and air flow. With just a few summer heat spikes, it first appeared that harvest would proceed at a normal pace, but a heat wave over Labor Day weekend hastened picking during the first two weeks of September. Cooler temperatures arrived in mid-September, giving our red fruit extra time on the vine. Overall though, harvest was early in 2017; the last of Flora Springs’ grapes were harvested on Saturday, October 7.
Of course it’s impossible to look back at the 2017 harvest without remarking on the tragic wildfires that affected Napa Valley and neighboring growing regions. At Flora Springs we are enormously grateful to the first responders, law enforcement, community leaders, organizations and volunteers who worked tirelessly to keep our communities safe. We are also incredibly blessed, or perhaps lucky, that our grapes had all been picked prior to the start of the fires on October 8. We were not alone in this good fortune. Damage to Napa Valley wineries and vineyards was not widespread, as the fires burned predominantly in the forested hillsides. The Napa Valley floor between Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail – where our estate winery and vineyards are located – saw little to no impact. In fact, less than 10 percent of Napa Valley’s wineries and less than 8 percent of vineyards experienced direct damage from the fires, and it’s estimated that 90 percent of the total grape tonnage was picked before the fires started.
Still, we know that wine enthusiasts will have lingering questions about the effect of the fires on the grape harvest, and particularly about what is known as smoke taint. A brief explanation: a wine with smoke taint will have a distinct, unpleasant taste that is often compared to a campfire or ashtray. Unlike “smoky aromatics” that might arise from a wine’s contact with an oak barrel, smoke taint is strong and acrid, dominating the sensory characteristics of the wine. Smoke taint can occur when un-picked grapes come into contact with wildfire smoke; the smoke penetrates the grape skins and its compounds can be activated upon fermentation. In this way, even grapes that do not smell or taste smoky can yield a smoke-tainted wine. Rest assured that the few Napa Valley vintners who harvested fruit after the fires were hyper-aware of the possibility of smoke taint and have done everything possible to ensure only the highest quality 2017 wines go to market.
Now back to the quality of the 2017 vintage: for the vast majority of vintners who harvested their grapes prior to the fires there’s a shared sense of excitement about the wines from 2017, most of which are still in barrel. Says Winemaker Paul Steinauer, “Although our yields were somewhat smaller, the 2017 wines are already showing concentration and richness. The whites have bright, fresh flavors and the reds are saturated in color with powerful fruit flavors. There’s no reason to believe this vintage will not rank among the finest of the decade.”
Looking back, the 2017 wildfires challenged our community in innumerable ways, but also demonstrated our shared spirit of strength and resilience. At Flora Springs, in addition to being humbled by our good fortune and the outpouring of generosity from our friends around the world, we’re excited to open the chapter on the 2017 vintage.
Flora Springs will hold a benefit music festival on Sunday, October 29th at The Room in St. Helena with all proceeds going to victims of the recent Napa Valley wildfires through the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund. The fundraiser, held from 12pm to 5pm, will feature five San Francisco Bay Area bands and musicians including Serf & James, Fellow Vessel, Sean Garvey, Mr. Kind, and Miss Moonshine. Flora Springs wines by the glass and bottle will be poured and small bites will be served. The event will also feature an auction including wines and other items. Admission to the event is complimentary and no RSVP is needed.
“We wanted to jump in quickly and support the Napa Valley community as it recovers from these devastating fires,” said Flora Springs General Manager Nat Komes. Although the fires that raged through parts of Napa Valley hovered at the ridgeline to the west of Flora Springs’ winery and vineyards in Rutherford, the estate escaped unharmed thanks to the heroic efforts of firefighters and first responders.
“We were among the lucky ones, but we know many who were not as fortunate,” said Flora Springs Co-Founder and Proprietor John Komes. “The Festival will raise monies to help fire victims, but will also serve as a way for our community to come together in a show of strength and fellowship. Everyone is welcome.” The lineup of artists includes several who were themselves affected by the fires in Napa and Sonoma Counties.
The following is the festival schedule:
12pm – 12:45pm
This Petaluma, CA band was personally affected by the fires in Sonoma Valley: one lost her house, one lost his job. On October 29th, they come together to bring the healing power of foot-stomping, folk-rock music to The Room.
1pm – 1:45pm
A successful engineer quits his job to form a band with old friends, determined to follow his life’s true passion: that’s the story behind Fellow Vessel. With a catalog of original melodic rock songs, this band inspires anyone with a dream.
2pm – 2:45pm
Brian Bergeron and Jonathan Devoto are founding members of Mr. Kind, an electroacoustic band out of Oakland, CA. Over the course of 4 EPs and local shows, they have established their own brand of Americana. They are also founding members of Ivy Hill Entertainment, a music and event production agency responsible for booking music for the Napa Valley Film Festival, and most recently, a summer piano music series at Flora Springs. They will be collaborating with Tapper Dan as part of this performance.
3pm – 3:45pm
An accomplished musician, Sean Garvey is also Flora Komes’ grandson and the winery’s vineyard manager. He witnessed the fires that swept through Napa Valley, just a few miles from the Estate and winery that has been home to his family for three generations. Sean is grateful for his family and winery’s safety, and carries a renewed perspective on the fragile nature of our livelihood.
Serf and James
4pm to 5pm
Serf and James live and work in the Napa Valley. In fact, the duo works at Flora Springs. They have played at the Napa Valley Film Festival, BottleRock, and Flora Springs Club members’ weddings and parties.
Trick or Treat with a ghostly blend of wine with Flora Springs All Hallows’ Eve Cabernet Franc, 2015 Ghost Winery Malbec, 2013 Harvest Witch Cabernet Sauvignon, and more.
These devilishly delicious wine picks will satisfy the most bloodthirsty vampire in your group, as well as the white wine-loving witch. Watch out for wicked cool labels created by Jeremy Fish of San Francisco and official Artist in Residence at Coit Tower. His artwork is mainly about storytelling and communication, told through a library of characters and symbols with an emphasis on finding a balance with the imagery somewhere between all things cute and creepy.
These spooky labels complement the fact that Flora Spring’s has been designated as one of the original “ghost wineries” in Napa Valley. All the wineries built between 1860 and 1900 were abandoned in the early 20th century due to vine disease, the Great Depression, and Prohibition.
These limited production wines sell out fast, but you can keep them in mind for the next dark, dark night, I highly recommend the following Spooky AND delicious selection.
2015 Flora Springs “Ghost Winery” Malbec $55
“Ghost Winery” is the third in the Flora Springs Halloween Trilogy wine and can be purchased as a 6 pack for your spooky celebration.
2013 Harvest Witch Cabernet Sauvignon $50
For the 2013 Harvest Witch, Flora Springs winemaker conjured up a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from two distinct Napa Valley regions: Rutherford and Pope Valley. The Rutherford component, from the Komes Ranch, brings rich, juicy black and blue fruit and smooth tannins to the blend, while the Pope Valley element features bolder tannins and wild blackberry and spice notes. The wine was aged in a combination of new and seasoned barrels, adding notes of both vanilla and mocha along with subtle hints of fresh-baked bread. With bold fruit, excellent structure and seductive tannins, this is a wicked good wine that will make you cackle like a witch and howl at the moon.
2014 Drink in Peace Merlot Box Set $115
New this year, Flora Springs pays tribute to traditional Day of the Dead artwork with Drink in Peace Merlot – packaged with the wineries infamous Coffin Box. This darkly saturated plum-colored Merlot from Rutherford offers a blackcurrant and raspberry-scented nose and a palate dominated by rich black cherry fruit, spicy oak, toasty vanilla and cedary smoke.
There’s nothing to fear for this year’s Halloween party, because at least if the ghouls, goblins, zombies, and witches are afoot, you can offer them some scary-good wine from Flora Springs.
Note: The following was excerpted from an article written by David Stoneberg and published in The Weekly Calistogan. The full article can be found here.
The winter, with its abundant rain and the ensuing growing season that was perfect for ripening wine grapes has many growers optimistic about the 2017 harvest. For some, workers are already harvesting their sauvignon blanc and chardonnay grapes; others, though, are waiting for the first grapes to cross the crushpad…
Oakville – Linda Neal, grower, Tierra Roja Vineyard, “Yount Mill kicked off the Oakville season on Aug. 9, harvesting for sparkling wines, with other white varietals quickly following, reports Kendall Hoxsey-Onysko. Turnbull follows with sauvignon blanc at the winery on Aug. 23. Winemaker Peter Heitz writes, “The flavors are fantastic!” Flora Springs may have started two days later, but did so with a saber flourish as winemaker Paul Steinauer christens the first load…”