In Napa Valley this time of year, you’re likely to see vineyard crews scattered amongst the vines. “What are they doing,” you ask? They are Shoot Thinning and Leaf Pulling.
Shoot thinning and leaf pulling are part of overall vineyard canopy management, as seen here in Sauvignon Blanc vines at our Soliloquy Vineyard. Learn how our Soliloquy Vineyard is entirely unique to Flora Springs and distinct from more common Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in Napa Valley.
Shoot thinning is a process in which any unnecessary shoots are removed—typically those in the lower regions of the vine. Removing select shoots allows the vines’ energy to be directed towards the primary shoots, which will ultimately bear fruit.
Leaf thinning is conducted for a variety of reasons, particularly in wet years like this one when the canopy tends to be vigorous. Too much vigor can lead to vegetative characteristics—which we don’t want! Removing the leaves curtails this issue. Leaf thinning also opens up the canopy, allowing increased air flow and quicker drying in the event of morning dew or rain, and to prevent mildew in humid conditions. This opening of the canopy also increases light penetration—which is needed for photosynthesis. Sunlight exposure improves grape quality, protects the berry, and also elevates the phenols and polyphenols that are responsible for the color, taste, and flavor of the wine.
While this work is being done, the crews are also positioning the shoots. The shoots may be 24”–36” at this point. If we are working in a vineyard that has a vertical trellis system, there will be a series of horizontal wires running from one end of the row to the other. As the vine grows, the shoots will be tucked into the wire trellis to allow for what is commonly referred to as VSP, or vertical shoot positioning. This allows further opening of the canopy. There are other types of trellises, but VSP is the primary system implemented in most Flora Springs vineyard blocks.
After the initial thinning pass, each block will be monitored in the weeks to come to determine when/if additional passes are to be made.
Ever wonder how a wine cork is made? Winemaker Paul Steinauer recently traveled to Portugal for a behind-the-scenes look into the cork-making process and the operations of Flora Springs’ cork supplier. Here’s a peek into how corks are made.
First, a cork harvester carefully strips the cork bark from the tree.
Then the cork bark dries out on pallets for several months.
After drying, the cork goes into stainless steel tanks where it is submerged in water to be rinsed, cleaned and re-hydrated.
Then, the tops and bottoms of the outer bark is removed by a stripping machine.
And the bark is cut to the proper width.
After each cork is individually punched out of the bark, it is run through a machine that measures its density, and therefore its ability to contain liquid. If it does not meet a specific density, it is discarded.
Our supplier selects cork lots from only the top-quality manufacturers, and then hauls the lots to their facility to undergo additional quality control. They test for appearance and perform a sensory analysis. The corks are warmed to enhance any odor compounds that may be present. They are looking for Trichloroanisole (TCA), which is better known as cork taint and can damage the wine—as well as any other negative odor compounds. If any negative compounds are detected, the entire lot is returned to the manufacturer.
Random samples from various lots are then placed in these small bottles to undergo a soak test. This test will detect any TCA that may not have been found during smell testing.
Once the lots have passed all quality control requirements, samples from each lot are archived at the supplier’s headquarters. If we ever discover a problem with a number of corks, the supplier can reference the problem corks with samples from the same lot to determine what issues may be present.
A great deal of work goes into the cork-making process, every cork is handled approximately ten times by the time it is approved for use. The “simple” wine cork is an expensive part of the overall wine packaging costs, but necessary to ensure the quality we expect to protect our wines.
Five Fun Facts:
Cork trees are oak trees.
Cork bark is harvested from 35 – 200 year old trees.
For most 750mL closures, the bark is harvested every seven years.
Most premium corks are harvested in Portugal; Spain is the only other significant producer.
All of the corks Flora Springs uses are harvested in Portugal.
Now that you have acquired an older wine, often referred to as a library wine, you might be asking, “How do I open this without making a mess of the cork?”—or—“What’s the best way to serve this wine once opened?”
First, the basics—it’s natural that a cork will soften with age. It’s also natural that a wine may develop some sediment as it ages. Well fear not, with the proper tools and technique, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty.
Let’s go through the steps.
1) First, store your bottle in an upright position several days prior to opening, preferably in a cool location. Doing so will allow any suspended sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle.
2) Next, choose the cork extractor you prefer—here are my recommendations:
Best – The Durand is a two-pronged wine opener—also known as an “Ah-So”—but with a built-in corkscrew. This is not an inexpensive item, but if you open a lot of older wines it could be a nice addition to your cellar.
Good – A standard two-pronged cork puller is also known as an “Ah-So.” Gently insert the longer tip between the glass and the cork, and gently rock back and forth until it is fully inserted in the bottle. Then slowly twist—while pulling up at same time.
Good – A pressurized cork extractor (like Cork Pops) is a device comprised of a needle and a carbon dioxide cartridge. Center the needle in the cork and penetrate it all the way through, then press the cartridge until the cork extracts. Hint: It’s best to cover the neck of bottle with a napkin or paper towel, as sometimes a bit of wine and/or sediment can also be extracted when under pressure.
OK – A corkscrew with a long, grooved shaft will make extracting an older, soft cork easier than using a shorter corkscrew without the grooving. Make sure it is centered directly in the cork, then twist it well into the cork. Be sure to pull up slowly.
If none of these methods work for you, as a last, last resort, find a blunt instrument that is narrower that the cork. Put the bottle in a sink and then place a plastic bag (or something similar) over the bottle neck. Then slowly and carefully push the cork down until it is no longer blocking the neck of the bottle. Hint: You definitely want something covering the opening of the bottle—as the wine will have a tendency to push upwards and out as the cork is pushed down.
3) Now that you have the cork out, you are ready to serve your wine.
Best – Carefully and slowly pour the wine into a decanter. Once you start to see sediment, stop pouring.
OK – If you don’t have a decanter, line up your wine glasses on a counter. Take a glass in one hand, and carefully pour the wine with the other hand. Be sure to keep the neck of the bottle in the same position, and fill the next glass…and so on. Hint: You want to minimize turning the bottle upright as doing so will disturb the sediment that has settled into the bottom of the bottle.
4) Maybe you didn’t have time to let the bottle sit upright for a few days, or perhaps you see pieces of cork floating in the bottle. As a last, last resort, you can pour the wine through a fine screen or coffee filter to a decanter, or even a pitcher. If you don’t want to serve from that vessel, you can always rinse out the wine bottle well, and pour the now-filtered wine back into it.
5) Remember, most older wines only require decanting to ensure that the wine is clear—not to allow the wine to “open up” or “breathe.” Library wines do not need more oxygen at this point.
6) Also, I recommend you serve and drink the wine soon after opening. The older the bottle, the sooner you will want to drink it to retain as much fruit expression as possible.
When John Komes bottled Flora Springs’ first Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – the Rutherford Hillside Reserve in 1989 – it became a benchmark for Napa Valley Cabernet, bringing awareness to the concept of site-specific wines. Since then Flora Springs has enhanced its Single Vineyard Program, and today we offer five elegant and powerful wines that reflect the small vineyard sites and even individual blocks in which they are grown – wines so outstanding they deserve to be bottled on their own.
The idea for “Flora’s Five Cuts and Five Cabs” dinner—which has been one of our most popular events since its inception four years ago—is a nod to John’s early days of selling these Single Vineyard Cabernets. Back then he developed a successful winemaker dinner pairing each Cabernet with a specific cut of premium beef. He found that the words used to describe the texture and tenderness of a steak enhanced the understanding and enjoyment of Cabernet. In true John fashion, he was well ahead of his time, and his innovative concept is still relevant today.
The latest round of emojis has been announced, and a total of 230 new ones will be coming out this year—but #wedidntgetawhitewineemoji (insert the new yawning face emoji).
So we are renewing our call for the establishment of a #whitewineemoji. We think every wine lover deserves the opportunity to fittingly share their #currentstatus while drinking white wine. There’s a rainbow of cocktails – and even two beer options – so why is there only a red wine emoji?
Help us get the word out again by sharing your summer white wine adventure story on Instagram or Facebook and use hashtag #whitewineemoji – you’ll get a chance to win a YETI cooler and Flora Springs swag!
The contest ends May 16, and the winner will be announced on #ChardonnayDay—May 23, so see the contest details and enter to win today.
For both Nat and Anne Komes, art – in its many forms and varieties – plays a central role in their busy lives. “Just as you must have wine on your table, you must have art in your life,” says Anne. “It gives you more perspective and depth, it makes life more beautiful.”
The Komeses both have artistic backgrounds: Nat was an English Literature major in college and once published a book of poetry. Anne, a native of France, is the daughter of a painter and a music agent who represented Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz. She herself is a sculptor who works in clay. The couple often go to museums and galleries with their two children and enjoy collecting artistic works during their travels. They recently brought home a piece from a local artist exhibiting at the Brinton Museum near Big Horn, Wyoming where they were vacationing with their family. “It’s wonderful to have a reminder of the places we’ve been, and Nat and I love to support local talent,” says Anne.
At Flora Springs, Nat flexes his creative muscle by working with an array of artists on special wine labels, including those he develops for his annual Halloween-themed wines. He finds inspiration all around him – from album cover art and children’s books to the skateboarding culture that has fascinated him since he was a teen. “There’s art everywhere once you look for it,” says Nat, whose recent project, Wine Love Stories, (a 2012 Red Blend) features a label straight out of the romance comics genre of the 1940s and 50s.
The wine is one of the featured offerings during Arts in April at The Room in St. Helena, a month-long celebration of the arts with a special installation by Napa-based artist John Bonick. “Each year in conjunction with Arts in April we commission an artist or artists to create original artwork for display on the exterior and interior of The Room,” says Nat. “It’s is our way of bringing wine and art together, celebrating the roles they each play in enhancing the quality of our lives.”
Note: The article excerpted below was originally published in the Napa Valley Register and can be found here.
Arts in April reception with John Bonick at Flora Springs Winery April 12
Flora Springs will hold an artist reception with John Bonick, from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, April 12, at The Room in St. Helena.
For this year’s Arts in April installation, Bonick has created “Flora’s Garden” – a series of 8 feet by 3 feet tulips of dibond aluminum adorning the exterior façade of The Room in St. Helena.
He has also created a 10-feet tall wine bottle made entirely of grapevine cuttings from Flora Springs’ estate, a signature piece that Bonick originally developed for BottleRock Napa Valley. Several of his paintings, which have been featured in San Francisco’s Andrea Schwartz Gallery and shown in museums in the Bay Area and beyond, will also be on display.
Flora Springs’ “Arts in April Artful Wine Flight,” featuring the 2017 Dashaway Chardonnay, the just-released 2012 Wine Love Stories Napa Valley Red Blend, and 2016 Ghost Winery Malbec, will be served, along with light appetizers.
In Europe it is not uncommon to find winemaking dynasties that go back dozens of generations. We can’t say the same for Napa Valley; after all, wine grapes weren’t even planted here until the 19th century. But we like to think that Flora Springs, now in its third generation, is a dynasty in the making. That’s why the term Grand Estates Tradition appears on the back label of each of our Single Vineyard Cabernets. These wines are produced from estate vineyards in Napa Valley that our family has farmed for decades. They represent some of the finest micro-sites in Napa Valley, blocks that are so distinct and outstanding they deserve to be bottled on their own. With less than five hundred cases produced each year, and consistently among our highest scoring wines, our Single Vineyard Cabernets are in high demand.
Regarding the 2016 vintage, Winemaker Paul Steinauer says, “An early bud break followed by warm weather and spring rains brought a rapid start to an ideal 2016 growing season, one with beautiful weather from bloom, to berry set, to veraison and harvest in our Napa Valley estate vineyards.”
Our Preferred Palates Wine Club Members have a guaranteed allocation of these very limited wines. Learn more about the benefits of membership.
“Captivating from top to bottom…The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignons are gorgeous wines endowed with striking aromatic intensity, nuance and depth…2016 is second only to 2013 among the top vintages of this decade so far.” – Antonio Galloni, Vinous, December 2018
Flora Springs was excited to be part of the Premiere Napa Valley 2019 wine auction, which brought in close to $3.7 million this year.
Held each February, Premiere is a who’s who of the wine world, with wineries, wholesalers and retailers coming together to celebrate Napa Valley wines. It’s a wonderful time to connect with our trade partners throughout the country, and Winemaker Paul Steinauer and National Sales Director John Schulz, who represented us at the event, were pleased to see friends and colleagues from as near as California and as far as Florida.
Our auction lot, which we dubbed IV Appellations, was a 100% 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Howell Mountain. Here’s what Paul says about the wine: “Because it was sourced from four unique single vineyards the wine imparts a great deal of complexity; melding red fruit characteristics from the valley floor in Oakville with black fruit characteristics from the other sites makes for a multi-dimensional flavor profile.”
The five-case lot brought in $10,000. Flora Springs also participated in a PNV Lot Preview event put on by the Rutherford Dust Society, which was attended by over 150 people. We poured our 2016 Rutherford Hillside Select, which will be released in April. Although it’s still young, guests commented on how approachable it is even now.
There may have been a few raindrops but they sure didn’t dampen the spirits of the folks attending our 2016 Trilogy Release Party on February 2nd!
Setting the upbeat tone were the ramp rippin’ skateboarders from OC Ramps, jumping, flipping and generally shredding to the crowd of pumped up onlookers. The lion dancers, decked out in rain-defying, bright yellow costumes, shimmied, shook and celebrated the Chinese New Year (and our new Year of the Pig Cabernet) with their traditional dance of good fortune.
Doing a little shimmying of his own was Nat Komes, Flora Springs’ third generation general manager, host extraordinaire, wearer of the Trilogy fez and mastermind behind the annual Trilogy Release Party. “One of the best parts of planning this party is deciding what special surprises we’ll offer our guests. It’s always about how can we make this event something people will remember forever…what will really set it apart?”
Nat and the extended Flora Springs family outdid themselves with stilt walkers, living statues, a cheese carver, a glass artist and a live performance by the up and coming rock and alt-country David Luning Band. The party was anchored by numerous wine stations pouring the new 2016 Trilogy and an amazing selection of Flora Springs wines – including library and current releases as well as our highly limited Flora’s Legacy Cabernet Sauvignon.
And as always, Flora Springs brought together top local restaurants to present delicious and inventive dishes, our way of sharing the celebration of our world class wine, Trilogy, with the community. We heard a lot of great comments from our guests throughout the party, but the one that’ll keep us motivated as we plan for next year’s release? “Best Trilogy Party Ever!”
See the OC Ramps team in action:
Save the date – February 1, 2020 – for the 2017 Trilogy Release Party. Learn more and mark your calendar!