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…”
Join the 8th Annual Global Celebration of Cabernet.
#CabernetDay is a global celebration of the Cabernet grape, intended to give Cabernet lovers around the world a fun opportunity to express their passion for the grape. Cabernet lovers come together in person and online to discover and share everything about Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet-based blends.
We are proud to say that after more than 37 years of winemaking and more than 30 years of crafting Trilogy – our flagship Cabernet-based red blend – Flora Springs is still breaking new ground. We credit the consistent organic and sustainable farming practices of our vineyard team as well as the focus and direction of our winemaker, Paul Steinauer.
How to participate:
Open up your favorite Flora Springs Cabernet.
Join us online August 31st. We’ll be talking about Cabernet and Cab blends all day, then the conversation really picks up at 5:30 pm Pacific time.
Enter to win: Tweet or Instagram with us on August 31st using hashtag #CabernetDay and @florasprings in your tweets/posts.
We will pick one lucky Flora Springs fan using #CabernetDay and tagging us in their tweet or Instagram post! You could win a Flora Springs prize pack.*
*Must be 21+ to enter. Void where prohibited. Wine will not be included in prize pack. Chance of winning depends on number of entries.
As Flora Springs President & Proprietor John Komes says, “hard work and a stellar team are the keys to the longtime success of Flora Springs.” Nothing makes us happier than when our customers recognize these efforts by celebrating big life moments, and simple daily joys, with our wines.
While scores and reviews from wine writers and reviewers are always appreciated as well, we believe everyone should decide on their own whether they like a wine or not.
Still, it’s nice when our wines are noticed. Below are a couple of our favorite examples regarding the 2014 Trilogy, you find the complete list here.
Note: The following blog post was originally published in Briscoe Bites and can also be foundhere.
John and Carrie Komes and Julie and Pat Garvey established Flora Springs in 1977, though the vineyard has history dating back to the early 1800s, when Napa was just forming its roots as a California wine region. So the families already had a jump start on success by purchasing fertile land perfect for crafting what they’d soon be known for — Bordeaux blends. But John Komes admittedly has had a “long love affair” with Chardonnay and it was, in fact, the first Flora Springs varietal he produced 40 years ago. And though he’s seen Chardonnay styles go in and out of fashion — from the classic Cali butter-bomb to the sometimes scandalous 100% stainless steel — current winemaker Paul Steinauer maintains the winemaking methods that expresses Chardonnay in the same way that enraptured John from the very beginning.
About the Wine: The Flora Springs 2016 Family Select Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes harvested from vineyards in Oakville, Oak Knoll, and Carneros regions of California’s Napa Valley AVA — and each vineyard lot remained separate until the final blending process right before bottling. The pressed juices were fermented in combination of French oak barrels (76%) — which went through malolactic fermentation — and stainless steel tanks (24%). The portion in barrel saw 30% new oak, 34% 1 year-old oak, 24% 2 year-old and 12% 3 year-old oak.
The final blend — the best of each vineyard lot — aged in French oak, sur lie, for 7 months with bi-weekly battonage.
Flavor Profile: Open the bottle and breathe in a bouquet of soft pear, white peaches, and a subtle floral sweetness. The wine is near clear on the pour, settling into a pastel, baby yellow in the glass. Initial aromas sing of white flowers and pollen, with a crisp, yet subtle acidity that highlights those soft pears and adding to that fruit bouquet the scent of ripe melon. Swirl, and the wine releases it’s inner oak — a roundness, a softness on the nose that’s almost butter-esque, but not quite. Move your nose to the top of the glass to find the indulgent aroma of creme brûlée. And yet, everywhere you go, there’s still that thin line of acidity, keeping everything fresh, vibrant, alive.
On the palate, the Flora Springs Estate Chardonnay is quite smooth, and the beautiful stink of pollen hits immediately, along with honey essence, white-petal flower perfume, and a constant background of crisp, green pears. The acid is sneaky, not fully coming forward until about 3/4 of the way through, and leaving just a little heat on the tongue during the finish. There’s a good, light-handed use of oak that simply keeps the texture calm yet never adds any additional, stereotypical oak flavors (like popcorn, butter, or vanilla-cream). Even in the aftertaste there’s an innate freshness to this Chardonnay: raw cashews, fresh grass, fruits and flowers all linger on the palate.
Food Pairing: I paired the Flora Springs 2016 Family Select Chardonnay with an Italian flat bread topped with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and a light sauce. What I loved was how the cheese — and maybe the fresh baked bread as well — brought forth more of that subtle oak in the wine, providing an even smoother texture and a flavor just a notch more richer than previous to the meal. Had the wine been more heavy-handed with the oak, this intensity would have been too overwhelming. Conversely, the addition of the cherry tomatoes and red onion highlighted the fresher components in the wine, so the overall profile of the pairing maintained a good balance from start to finish.
Learn more about the 2016 Family Select Chardonnay.