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.
About the Artist
Currently the official Artist in Residence at Coit Tower in San Francisco, Jeremy Fish has a degree in painting and a focus in screenprinting. His education and work experience has lead to a career as a fine artist and commercial illustrator. Finding a balance between exhibiting his work both across the US, and internationally in galleries and museums, he also maintains a presence designing skateboards, t-shirts, vinyl toys, album covers, periodical illustrations, murals, sneakers – and now, wine labels. 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. Jeremy has been based in San Francisco for the last 20 years. Learn more.
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.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of Flora Springs Winery.
To celebrate, we’ve created a special bottling of our 2014 Rennie Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which received 95 points from The Wine Advocate. The label – a fanciful rendering of our beloved estate in St. Helena – is from an original painting we commissioned when Jerry and Flora Komes first purchased the property. It became the cover of the very first brochure we ever produced about the winery. If you look closely, you can see Jerry and Flora in front of the old Ghost Winery, toasting their new lives with a glass of Napa Valley Cabernet!
It was 1994 when we created our first Single Vineyard Cabernet from our estate vineyard in Rutherford – the Rutherford Hillside Reserve. Three years later we added a Cabernet Sauvignon from the St. Helena portion of our estate, a wine that would become known as our Rennie Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Today we offer five Single Vineyard Cabernets, each one from particular blocks within our estate vineyards that consistently produce wines that stand head and shoulders above the rest.
As far as the 2014 vintage goes, here’s what Robert M. Parker, Jr. had to say:
“I thought this was a very good to excellent vintage when tasting from barrel, but I now have to rate it as another superlative year based on how the wines showed from bottle.” –October 2016
Notes from Winemaker Paul Steinauer:
“2014 was celebrated by Napa Valley vintners as another vintage for the record books. Heavy winter rains nourished the vines as they emerged from dormancy, and a warm, relatively frost-free spring allowed bud break, flowering and fruit set to proceed without interruption. Continued warm, dry weather throughout the summer brought the grapes to perfect ripeness in a harvest that was relatively early and also bountiful.”
Our Preferred Palates Wine Club Members have a guaranteed allocation of these very limited wines. Learn more about the benefits of membership.
KG3 is the brainchild of Nat Komes and Sean Garvey, cousins and third-generation vintners who’ve spent their lives in the wine environs of Napa Valley. Their parents and grandparents founded Flora Springs Winery in 1978; at the time, it was one of the few bonded wineries in Napa Valley.
The 2016 KG3 Rosé is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Syrah sourced from several Napa Valley vineyards. We made the wine using a classic technique known as Saignée – or Bleeding – in which the grape skins remain in contact with the juice for a very short period of time so as not to impart too much color. After hand picking, the red grapes are crushed and separated from the stems and placed in a stainless steel tank. As the skins separate from the juice they rise to the top, forming a cap. Shortly thereafter, we open a valve at the bottom of the tank and a portion of the pink juice is pumped into another tank for fermentation and aging.
This youthful and beautifully-hued wine shows a penetrating nose of raspberry and dried cranberry with fragrant nuances of orange blossom and rosé petal. In the mouth the wine is fresh, bright and juicy, with a dense core of red cherry and tinges of minerality.