Note: The following article was originally and published in The Mercury News and can be found here.
4 spectacular Sonoma and Napa wineries dress up for the holidays
Countless wineries offer suggestions and specials on their wares to make the yuletide merry, but there are some that go way beyond the bottle to make spirits bright. These Sonoma and Napa estates and tasting rooms take bedecking and bedazzling to the next level as proof that it’s not just harvest that’s the most wonderful time of the year. Here are are four special spots to explore….
Winery namesake Flora Komes loves the holidays and each year, her grandkids and winery employees go up to her attic for decorations and inspiration. The main estate on Zinfandel Lane is always decorated, but it’s the main tasting room on Highway 29 that gets the full tree and tinsel treatment. A giant wreath and ornaments outside make the already eye-catching modern building even more noticeable. Inside, it’s wall-to-wall trees, wreaths and garlands.
They even bottle up their contagious Christmas cheer in special seasonal releases, including a cabernet called Holiday Helper, and a holiday red blend in a trio of etched bottles with artwork inspired by Flora’s Christmas card collection, such as this year’s toy soldier and snow globe of the estate. For true cabernet connoisseurs, the Three Kings vertical includes the 2014-2016 vintages for a gift that’s fit for, well, a king.
Note: The following article was originally written by Jess Lander and published in the Napa Valley Register on October 11, 2018 and can be found here.
Creepy visitors, ghostly wines: Flora Springs gets into the spirit of Halloween
As a tribute to their 1885 ghost winery, one of the few remaining in the area, Flora Springs Winery goes all out for Halloween.
You can’t miss the trio of enormous skeletons that dance outside their Highway 29 tasting room in St. Helena. Inside, the walls are covered in cobwebs, rooms are transformed into a crematorium and morgue, and you might just find a headless horseman sitting at your table and struggling to sip his wine (for a lack of mouth). But the decorations, done by local design team, The Baker Sisters, are just the beginning. The winery’s Halloween preparation starts months in advance.
For eight years running, Flora Springs has released a collection of limited release, Halloween wines. Featuring custom labels and usually 100 percent bottlings of varieties that are traditionally used for blending, the initiative was started by Nat Komes, general manager and son of proprietors John and Carrie Komes. He has a personal fondness for the holiday and even tied the knot on Oct. 31.
Komes’ inspiration for the Halloween collection came from an unlikely place: beer. Once a year, hundreds of thirsty fans spend hours lined up outside Santa Rosa’s Russian River Brewing Company, all for a taste of their cult release, Pliny the Younger.
He wanted his own version of that, saying, “I was trying to generate some of that excitement in the wine business.”
There might not be a line outside of Flora Springs, but there’s certainly a high demand among the winery’s followers. The Halloween wines often sell out well before Halloween each year and have become collectors items in the cellars of many wine club members.
It all started with the Ghost Winery series in 2010. For the labels, Komes partnered with artist Wes Freed, best known for his eerie illustrations on Drive-By Truckers album covers. One of those albums was a favorite of Komes’ brother.
“My brother passed away from cancer right when I was starting the Ghost Winery project,” said Komes. “That’s how I got a hold of Wes Freed, because that was his favorite record at the time. I reached out to him, started telling him about my brother, how he loved the art, and he came right back to me and said, ‘Let’s get going on this.’”
Over the years, the Ghost Winery series evolved into the Halloween collection with a Ghost Winery label at its centerpiece. Always a bottling of malbec —fittingly sourced right in front of Flora Springs’ ghost winery — the label is a modern interpretation of the 1978 label. It features a sketch of the stone ghost winery building, which was severely damaged in a fire in 1900, but has since been restored.
While the Ghost Winery Malbec stays the same every year, the labels of the others change. Komes develops his vision by scouring through children’s books, album covers, comic books and even skateboards, then contacts the respective artist and commissions them to create a one-of-a-kind wine label for that year’s release.
His favorite label of 2018 is the 2016 All Hallows’ Eve Cabernet Franc, a throwback to old school Halloween imagery of a black cat and jack-o-lantern. The art was done by artist Emmenline Forrestal, a former wig maker who illustrated the children’s book “Gloppy,” a favorite of Komes’ daughter’s.
The true collectors item this year is the 2014 Drink In Peace Merlot. On it, a hand-etched, glow-in-the-dark skeleton holds a wine bottle across its chest. It even comes packaged in a coffin box.
And then there’s the 2013 Black Moon Cabernet Sauvignon. Available only in magnums, it’s already sold out and therefore as rare as an actual black moon (defined as an additional new moon that appears in a month or in a season, or the absence of a full moon or of a new moon in a month).
Skateboard artist Dennis McNett’s illustration depicts the phases of the moon surrounded by bats, which Komes said are regulars in the steeple of the ghost winery. The art is etched and hand painted on the bottle.
The new ghost tour
Those who want to taste the Halloween wines can reserve a tasting at The Room, Flora Springs’ St. Helena tasting room, but this year, the winery is taking their celebrations to a new level of creep with a ghost tour. Flora Springs has teamed up with Napa City Ghosts & Legends to lead a paranormal tour of the ghost winery and estate on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 10:30 a.m.
Komes said he was always curious if the ghost winery was haunted and that Napa City Ghosts have since identified three spirits during their recent visits. There’s Matthew, who supposedly died in a horse-related accident, a flapper who loves to party, and another man who gave off a particularly unsettling vibe.
Let’s hope he’s not in the mood for socializing that day.
For more information on Flora Springs’ Halloween tastings and ghost tour, visit www.florasprings.com/events.
The Komes-Garvey family has spent thirty years nurturing our Crossroads Vineyard in Oakville where our proprietary Soliloquy clone of Sauvignon Blanc is planted.
The Soliloquy clone is unique to Flora Springs, certified by UC Davis as distinctive and unlike more common Sauvignon Blanc clones in Napa Valley.
Flora Springs admires the clone for its purity of flavor, and has preserved it in a block that is easily the finest in the Crossroads Vineyard.
Our 2017 Soliloquy is an evolution of this wine, the upshot of vineyard experience and winemaking innovation.
The wine is the result of five years of winemaking trials as we experimented with a variety of blending, fermentation and aging techniques to create the best possible Soliloquy.
The 2017 is unlike anything we have made before: a wine with our Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc at its core, blended with portions of Chardonnay and Malvasia for an intriguing and thoroughly modern white wine.
With a nod to our history of innovation, Soliloquy is a wine worthy of its portfolio companion, our flagship red wine blend, Trilogy.
In 2017, we used two kinds of yeast, fermenting and aging the Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc in large wood oval casks to minimize exposure to oak and preserve the wine’s fresh fruit flavors and bright acidity.
The Chardonnay comes to us from a new vineyard in the south Napa Oak Knoll district. We fermented these small lots in French oak barrels, stirring the lees every two weeks to lend a creamy texture to the wine.
We sourced Malvasia – an aromatic varietal rarely grown in California – from a small vineyard in Russian River Valley. We fermented this lot in stainless steel and aged it in seasoned French oak.
Only 300 cases were made
Our 2017 Soliloquy is a complex, multi-layered white wine blend offering bright flavors of grapefruit, lime, fresh apricot, and yellow peach along with distinctive floral notes of jasmine, honeysuckle and white gardenia. The Chardonnay anchors the wine with a soft, round mouthfeel, but this richness is balanced with the crisp acidity, bright flavors and minerality of the Sauvignon Blanc and the uplifting, aromatic tones of the Malvasia. A worthy companion to Trilogy, this is a mouthfilling, rich and layered wine with vivid, forward fruit, a pleasant creamy mid-palate and a long, smooth floral/spicy finish. Learn more about this unique wine.
Note: The infamous wildfires that swept through Napa Valley started on October 8, 2017, just one day after Flora Springs had completed its harvest. Grapes for our 2017 Soliloquy had already been picked and fermented by this date. Read more about the 2017 harvest and fires.
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.
Wine tasting should be fun and exciting and by no means overwhelming or stuffy. Wine is a beautiful thing and we at Flora Springs, enjoy educating and hosting people from all over the world. Wine appreciation doesn’t just have to happen at a winery or tasting room, but it can also happen in your very own home. Here are our tips for pulling together a fun and educational wine tasting event that you can host with family and friends from the comfort of your own home.
Tasting wine is a tactile experience that allows a person to use all five senses. When tasting wine there are typically five different components a balanced wine will have. Look for sweetness, acidity, tannin, fruit and body.
There are also different ways that you can run the tasting:
Do you want to do a vertical tasting of the same wine with different vintages or do you want to consider doing a horizontal tasting which includes different wines from the same vintage?
Another thing to consider is doing an unbiased tasting by running it blindly. Blind tastings are always educational and fun to see which wine comes out on top. Be sure to bag each wine so your guests won’t know what they are tasting until the big reveal at the end. It will also help to have a pen and paper for guests to record their notes and rank the wines based on their preferences.
Now for the process of tasting, an easy way to remember the steps of winetasting is to remember the five S’s listed below. A few things to remember, it is always better to use a white tablecloth and the same type of glass when doing a wine tasting so that you can truly see the color of each wine and have an equal comparison by having each wine hit the same part of your palate, especially when comparing wines against each other.
See – Once you have wine in your glass, look at its color. Look at the wine in the bowl of the glass as well as the color of the wine on the edge of the glass. Is it different? The color can offer clues as to whether the wine has been aged in oak, is oxidized or can offer hints to the variety of the grape.
Swirl – Next, before tasting, swirl the wine in your glass and give it some air by allowing the aromatics and bouquet to fill up the bowl of the glass.
Sniff – Now, use your sense of smell to assess the wine’s bouquet or aroma. Is it intense or subdued? Is there an odd smell or a pleasant smell that reminds you of something familiar?
Sip – Fill your mouth with a generous taste of wine and hold it on your palate for a few seconds. It is common to also slurp in some air with the wine to help your palate appreciate and recognize all the textures, flavors, weight, and overall structure that the wine has to offer. How does the wine travel across your palate? Is it full and broad in body? What is the fruit or oak profile like as it travels across your palate?
Savor – Now swallow the wine and make note of its finish. How long does the taste stay with you? Was the wine balanced in only a few or all of its components?
By following these steps, you are now ready to host your very own wine tasting at home! Below is a recommended list of items you will need:
by The Nittany EpicureanHappy #SauvignonBlancDay! In addition to being a day celebrated by Star Wars fanatics, today is #SauvignonBlancDay – a global celebration of the sauvignon blanc grape. Wine lovers and winemakers come together today across the world to celebrate this grape that makes outstanding white wines in regions across the globe. We’ll celebrate the day by enjoying this sauvignon blanc from Flora Springs:
2016 Sauvignon Blanc produced & bottled by Flora Springs (St. Helena, California).
This wine is 100% sauvignon blanc from Napa Valley. Following fermentation, the wine was aged for seven months in a combination of vessels – stainless steel tanks, large wooden oval casks, concrete tanks, small oak barrels and stainless steel drums. It comes in at 14 % ABV.
The wine showed a pale straw color. Lemon curd, peach, grapefruit, apple and whiffs of orange blossom all arrived on the nose. Apple, grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, slate and peach followed on a palate redolent with nuanced citrus notes. The wine exhibited great acidity and minerality, along with good structure and length. This wine would be a great aperitif on a warm day and would pair classically with freshly shucked oysters or poached shrimp.
Matriarch Flora Komes was born in Hawaii and Flora Springs has always had a natural affinity for all things Hawaiian. Yesterday, Flora Springs hosted the Preferred Palates Wine Club Pick Up party on a warm sunny afternoon at The Estate with a traditional luau theme. Guests got the chance to make their own leis while enjoying the sounds of the islands with the “chuck-a-chuck” acoustics and whispery nylon strings of the traditional luau-style ukulele music.Tastings of the current Wild Boar barrel sample, as well as Wild Boar library vintages were enjoyed with the festive pairing of a whole roast pig.Learn more about our Wine Clubs and the benefits of each.