July 18, 2017
Note: The following blog post was originally published in Briscoe Bites and can also be found here.
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.
July 15, 2017
Exclusively for Great Tastes Wine Club Members
Please join us at The Room from noon to 3 pm on Saturday, July 15th.
It’s a great excuse to enjoy a fun day and pick up your July wine club selection. Enjoy lunch catered by Kinder’s BBQ and live music by Al James.
We will also have special event-only pricing on select wines.
As always, there is no charge for this event (for 2 members and up to 2 guests). Great Tastes members interested in attending please RSVP to (800) 913-1118 or email@example.com by July 9th. If you are able to come and enjoy the day with us but are not regularly a pick up member, please notify us no later than June 30th to ensure your pick up will be available.
Learn more about the benefits of Wine Club membership.
July 5, 2017
We’re excited to announce that The Estate is now open for tours & tastings on Sundays.
Our historic estate is located at the end of a quiet country lane surrounded by majestic oaks, lush fruit trees and panoramic vineyard views. Both a working winery and the family home of our proprietors, The Estate is Napa Valley at its most authentic and intimate.
We offer many distinctive experiences. Explore your options and make your reservation today.
June 20, 2017
It’s that time of year when the bottling season is upon us.
We have completed bottling all of our 2016 white wines, and are now bottling the 2015 red wines. Seen here, we are currently bottling our 2015 Petit Verdot.
The bottles are first sparged with nitrogen on a sparging wheel. This serves two purposes – to displace any packaging cardboard dust, as well as to remove oxygen from the bottle.
Then the wine flows into the bottle from the upstairs tank via the 16-spout filler seen here.
The bottle then continues on the conveyor belt to the corker. The corker pulls a vacuum in the headspace of the bottle to displace the air, allowing the cork to enter the neck of the bottle without pressure.
As it enters the foiler, a foil is placed on the bottle and crimped tightly to the neck of the bottle.
The bottle then continues on to the labeler, where both a front and back pressure-sensitive label is applied.
Finally, each bottle will be checked for fill level height, any glass, label or foil imperfections, and then placed in a 12-bottle case box.
We bottle approximately 1,000 – 1,200 cases per day, or 12,000 – 14,400 bottles depending on the bottle shape, and stack the cases on a pallet of 56 cases per pallet. The wine then gets delivered to our cellar where it will age until the release date. At which point, it may find its way to your very own glass…
May 12, 2017
Note: The following article about Flora Springs Winery 40th Anniversary was written by Sasha Paulsen and published in The Napa Valley Register can also be found here.
Say “Flora Springs Winery,” and many people will think of the distinctive tasting room on Highway 29, just south of St. Helena, the one inspired by the imaginative Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí that looks a bit like a soft-swirl ice cream cone, chocolate and vanilla.
But there’s a story behind the unusual tasting room — about a mile behind it, at the end of West Zinfandel lane in a stone ghost winery that is, literally, the roots of Flora Springs, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, as well as the 30th anniversary of its celebrated red wine, Trilogy.
Travel down this road to taste a few wines. And if you chance to meet John Komes, proprietor, you will hear stories about everything from how each wine in the Flora Springs portfolio got its name to why there is a statue of a wild boar greeting visitors on the grounds.
“Some people say I saved this property,” Komes remarked with chuckle as he surveyed the vineyards in front of the winery. “My dad was a gin drinker. If we’d left it to him, he’d have replanted everything in juniper.”
That was in 1977 when his parents, Jerome and Flora Komes, were looking for a place to retire after Jerome’s long, successful career with Bechtel Corporation. “He wasn’t that interested in wine,” Komes said. “A lot of his friends were retiring up here, just for the climate and the life. I think he thought he’d be a gentleman farmer.”
It’s well documented what happens to people who purchase land in Napa Valley, intending to retire. It this case, however, it was son John Komes who inspired — and took the lead on turning his dad into a vintner.
This was because just a few years earlier, John Komes’ wife, Carrie, had signed them up for a wine appreciation class. “I said ‘OK, I’ll do my social duty and go with you.’” They were living in Lafayette at the time, where John was a building contractor. He was in for a surprise.
“I loved the stuff. I’d never really tasted wine,” he said. “I was the kind of guy who went three times to the buffet and said that’s dinner. But I loved this. We tasted Burgundy, Bordeaux, Italian wines.”
Then came the real coup de foudre. He said, “A couple of people in the class said, ‘Wow, you are really enthusiastic. Would you be interested in joining our home-winemakers’ group?’”
He joined. “We really had fun making the wine. And it served a good purpose: I gave it to family and friends, and they never bothered me again.”
But when John Komes saw the property his father was going to buy, he decided they had to take it back to its original purpose — a winery.
The stone winery on the grounds had been built in 1885 by two brothers, James and William Rennie, immigrants from Scotland. “They were in the building trade too,” Komes said. “They built the winery and planted 60 acres of grapes.”
Then the brothers hit a patch of bad luck: phylloxera in the vines, and a fire in 1900 destroyed their wine press and cooperage. In 1904, they sold the winery, and 15 years later it was hit by an even greater calamity: Prohibition. The winery was closed until 1933. That year, Louis Martini, one of the valley’s wine-making legends, sensed the approaching collapse of the government’s experiment in teetotalism and bought the Rennie property. He built a new stone house, and made a reserve wine from the hillside vineyards but the old winery remained a ghost until the Komes bought the property, 325 acres, an old farm house, the newer stone house, and 60 acres of vineyards.
Komes said he originally thought he’d persuade his dad to restore the old winery by proposing to name it Chateau Jerome; but although it had been designed by Hamden McIntyre, the architect of other classic 19th-century Napa wineries, by 1977, the fire-scarred ghost was in all but a wreck. “The tin roof of the building had a million holes in it,” Komes said; “so many we called it the starlight roof. My dad looked at it and said, ‘ I’ve worked all my life for my good name. I don’t want to squander it now.’”
John’s mother, Flora, however, sided with her son on the potential of the property. And Carrie Komes suggested they could name the winery for her mother-in-law. Combined with the abundant springs on the land, they decided the name would be Flora Springs.
“That was the sure way to my mom’s heart and my dad’s pocketbook,” Komes said. Flora Komes, born and raised in Hawaii, had come to San Francisco during the Depression to study nursing at St. Mary’s College. There, she met Jerome. “He was a Fresno boy,” Komes said. “My dad was a tough old German. My mom was perfect, a great lady. My dad traveled a lot for his work, so she was the one who really raised us. We were a really happy family.”
Komes put his construction expertise to work to renovate the old winery, which still had scorch marks on the walls. So skeptical was his father about his son’s wine-making project, they divided the winery building and John rented half where he put his first fermenting tank, which he named R2D2.
He invited a couple of friends from his wine-making class to help make wine at the new place. He also hired MaryAnn Graf, who in 1965 had been the first woman to graduate from the viticulture and enology department at UC Davis to help manage the project. “She told me, John, if you don’t hire a winemaker, I’ll quit.” He did, and the 1979 Flora Springs chardonnay won a gold medal at the Los Angeles County Fair.
“In those days, it was fairs, not ratings, that made the difference,” Komes said. “This was my first lesson in marketing. We’d sold the wine before we won the medal.”
Their 1981 cab they submitted to eight fairs and won seven gold medals.
From there, the winery just kept growing. “We were the 67th winery in the county,” Komes said. “My sister, Julie, was a big part of building the winery. Later she left to go religious school, but I like to say she’s still in the spirits business.”
Julie Komes Garvey earned a degree in spiritual studies from the San Francisco Theological Seminary and the Franciscan School of Theology and now works in St. Helena. Her husband, Pat Garvey, and son, Sean, are the vineyard managers for the Flora Springs vineyards.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” Komes said. “But we kept growing. We started small, but kept moving ahead. We were pretty much self-schooled.”
One highlight was the creation of Trilogy, one of the first meritage blends in the valley. By 1984, Komes said, they’d planted the Bordeaux varietals, malbec, merlot, cab franc, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot. They wanted to create a blend “by taste, not by formula for a nice smooth wine that goes deep into the palate.” he said. “We want a little of this, a little of that. What God forgot, we added.”
The first Trilogy was cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cab franc was soon dubbed “velvet in the mouth. A lot of what we do is ‘taming the tanins,’ Komes said. ‘One man who buys Trilogy by the case said it’s the only red wine his wife will drink young.” From the “leftovers,” they began making single-varietal estate wines.
Another highlight was the discovery of a unique clone of sauvignon blanc in vineyards his dad bought in Oakville. UC Davis could identify nothing like in in their vast library of clones. “We were a bit ahead of the times, but this clone showed us what sauvignon blanc could be. It takes all the grassiness out of sauvignon blanc.”
It took eight years to register and then propagate the clone, an effort Komes said was well worth it. “We paid UC Davis $7,000-$8,000 to keep the clone so we are the only ones that have it.” They named the clone — and the wine it creates — Soliloquy “because of its uniqueness.”
“We’ve gone through some difficult stages, too,” Komes said. In the 2000s, they spent three years cleaning up a brettanomyces taint in the winery, which rigorous cleaning and replacing all of their barrels. “But we got through it,” Komes said, “Our winemaker, Paul Steinauer, is producing great wines. I think you’ll be amazed by them.”
John and Carrie also lost a son to cancer, but their other son, Nat, is increasingly taking a leadership role in the winery, and they are spending winters at their second home in Arizona.
Today, the Flora Springs portfolio is as rich as its history, and the labels tell its stories: The Rennie Reserve Cabernet, the Holy Smoke Cabernet (named for exclamations of Carrie Komes’ German father as he inspected the Flora Springs vineyards) and the Ghost Winery malbec. The expansive list includes luscious bargains like a $40 estate cabernet sauvignon and as $25 estate sauvignon blanc. Library wines are being made available for this 40th anniversary celebration.
Flora Komes died just three months short of her 101st birthday; her husband had died 10 years earlier. “We had a great 100th birthday party for her and she shook everyone’s hands,” Komes said. Flora’s legacy lives on, not only name of a winery and the larger-than-life-size portrait in the tasting room of Flora arriving from Hawaii at the age of 23, but in her own label, the Flora’s Legacy wines.
There are, in all, too many wines for one article to describe, although this writer attempted to taste as many as possible and thoroughly enjoyed them all. The best way to discover them is to make an appointment, and drive down Zinfandel Lane and into Napa Valley’s history. You’ll meet the wild boar statue, and just in case John Komes is not on hand to tell you the story, here it is:
“My dad was a great businessman, and when he came to the valley, land was selling for as much as $25,000 an acre. He thought that was shocking, so he decided when he was going to buy land in Pope Valley. He found 500 acres for sale that had 10 acres of grapes. He bought it for $1,000 an acre.
“Then he called me up. ‘John,’ he said, ‘I found an old house on the property I didn’t know it was there.’” A strange house, it had nine bedrooms and eight bathrooms and no living room. “And there were a lot strange tales about that house.”
“I asked him, ‘What do you want me to do?’ He said, ‘I want you to come over and build a living room so I can sell it.’”
So Komes built the living room and sent a plasterer to finish the project. “Then I get a call from him, ‘John, John, there’s a wild boar in the yard.’”
The upshot was the plasterer wanted Kome’s permission to shoot it. “I said I was a city boy; I didn’t know about wild animals, but then I said, ‘OK, as long as I can have the hind quarter.’ So the guy left to go get his gun, and then I got a call from the ranch foreman. ‘John,’ he said, ‘you won’t believe what’s going on here. Your workman just shot the neighbor’s pig.’
“So now we have the statue here so everyone knows what a wild boar looks like.”
And the wild boar has a wine label too. Wild Boar Cabernet Sauvignon.
May 11, 2017
“To ensure we are obtaining only the most premium fruit, we have had to make the difficult decision to replant vineyards when the quality starts to deteriorate due to various forms of vine disease. Two of our Cabernet blocks in our Oakville Crossroads vineyards have recently been pulled out. This vineyard site in Oakville at our Crossroads vineyard had previously been planted to Chardonnay, and has now been re-developed and will be planted to Cabernet very soon.
This is a newly-planted vineyard, also at our Oakville Crossroads vineyards. This was formerly Pinot Grigio, and has also now been planted to Cabernet.
Crews are currently going through all of our vineyard blocks and suckering. Buds, or nodes at the base of the leaves, produce shoots called laterals or suckers. By doing this, more energy is focused on the vine – which increases grape quality. It also keeps the vine off the ground, and helps prevent unwanted molds and various insects.
The area between the nodes, the internodes, are supported with adjustable ties which are attached to guide wires. As the vines mature during the growing season, the guide wires – and thereby the vines – will be raised on the trellis system. The vines will be trained in such a way as to evenly distribute the clusters of fruit, and the canopy of leaves will protect the fruit from direct sunlight in order to prevent burn. The canopy will be open just enough to allow filtered light, as well as sufficient airflow throughout the vineyard.
Finally, we have the start of bloom in our Hillside Reserve Cabernet Vineyard.”
—Winemaker Paul Steinauer
May 8, 2017
#ChardonnayDay: Join the 8th Annual Global Celebration of the Chardonnay Grape
After thirty years of crafting world renowned wines, the Flora Springs name has become synonymous with perfectly balanced Napa Valley Chardonnay. The legacy began when our inaugural vintage in 1978 was awarded a gold medal at the Orange County Fair. A few years later our status of gold was bronzed when James Laube selected Flora Springs as one of his “First Growth” producers of Chardonnay in his book California’s Great Chardonnays.
How to participate:
- Order the 2016 Family Select Chardonnay. Order deadlines begin May 17th. Check shipping times.
- Join us online May 25th. We’ll be talking about Chardonnay all day, then the conversation really picks up at 5:30 pm Pacific time.
- Watch your email inbox the morning on the 24th for a special, limited-time offer. Not on our mailing list? Join now.
- Follow us on your favorite social site: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest.
- Enter to win: Tweet or Instagram with us on May 25th using hashtag #ChardonnayDay and @florasprings in your tweets/posts. We will pick one lucky Flora Springs fan using #ChardonnayDay 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.
April 30, 2017
2017 marks the 200th anniversary of the bicycle. We think that’s more than a good reason to raise a glass and celebrate! Join us for a special benefit mixer for World Bicycle Relief, solely dedicated to mobilizing people through the power of the bike. This special early evening event is presented by Tourissimo and supported by Keller Williams Realty.
$40 per person includes wine and appetizers, purchase tickets.
About World Bicycle Relief:
World Bicycle Relief mobilizes people through The Power of Bicycles. They are committed to helping people conquer the challenge of distance, achieve independence and thrive. For many people in rural regions of developing countries, poverty is a daily reality. In areas where walking is the only mode of transport, a Buffalo Bicycle offers the real and immediate benefit of reliable access to essential goods and services. Powered by the remarkable human spirit, bicycles are a catalyst to possibilities.
Tourissimo is a deeply authentic Italian travel company whose mission is to provide active travelers a unique way to experience the natural and cultural wonders of Italy.With its highly focused niche approach, Tourissimo aims to become the number one active travel company in Italy by designing, creating and implementing hiking, walking, and cycling tours for individuals and small groups, intimately presenting each region with a strong focus on insider access and special personal connections to maximize sense of place. Understanding that most travelers today want to be fully engaged and seek memorable and meaningful experiences, all Tourissimo journeys include breathtaking scenery and activities, gourmet food and wine and a range of accommodations that together create an unforgettable taste of Italy.
About Keller Williams, Elizabeth Olcott:
Elizabeth Olcott is a leading Napa Valley and Sonoma real estate expert dedicated to making your real estate experience seamless and satisfying. She believes that each client and property is unique, and deserves customized care. World-class real estate services, 15+ years of market experience and a proven track record of sales make Elizabeth the Realtor of choice for discerning clients. Her background in contract negotiation, market research and project management was honed over 30 years in management in the real estate, construction and hospitality industries.
April 27, 2017
Note: The following article written by Stephen Fay and published in The Ellsworth American can also be found here.
If you thought Prohibition was tough on wine drinkers, imagine what it did to wine makers.
The 13-year stretch from 1920 to 1933 just about killed the California wine industry. The Volstead Act’s ruinous disregard for a good time was especially disastrous for the Napa Valley, which had weathered the phylloxera blight of the late 19th century and the great earthquake of 1906 that flattened its warehouses only to be crushed like one of its own grapes when the “drys” prevailed.
As with any prohibition, the initial reaction was to cheat. Medicinal wines that could cure only sobriety became a hot item. But so many permits were sought for the manufacture of patent medicines that the federal authorities cracked down.
Some found religion in the Volstead Act, noting that it allowed an exclusion for sacramental wine. Religious leaders, in particular, managed to secure a steady supply with the result that attendance at Mass and temple took off. Suddenly, sacramental champagne, crème de menthe and brandy became instrumental in communing with God.
A federal judge was asked to rule on whether these alcoholic offshoots qualified for the sacramental wine exception. He ruled it was OK, saying “it is not the content of the beverage, but the purpose for which it will be used that determines whether or not it is sacramental wine.”
The Beaulieu Vineyards of Northern California sent sacramental wine to churches across the country. Wente Vineyards, Beringer and Martini also remained afloat by selling to the church. But only barely.
Because it wasn’t the same. The Napa Valley wine industry had been the finest in the nation, supplementing perfect terroir and weather with technical advice and advances from the oenological studies department at the University of California at Davis. But enforcement ramped up and production ramped down. According to an Aug. 16, 1923, story in the Napa Valley Register, the county treasury had been “enriched by $7,100 in bootleg fines from raids conducted in one day in St. Helena, Calistoga and other points in the valley.”
The result? Napa Valley wineries built between 1860 and 1900 were abandoned. Sitting empty, they were known in the valley as “ghost wineries.”
And there the story might have ended, might never have been known, were it not for the efforts of Flora Springs, arguably the source of the best reds in Northern California. A limited label — Flora Springs Ghost Winery — honors the history with an estate-grown malbec for which the adjective has not yet been invented.
It’s bull’s blood black with deep, dark fruit. The flavors of black cherry and plums join to create a single, joyous note from first sip to final swallow. This is but one of the products Prohibition sought to eradicate. And it took years before the Napa Valley recovered and restored itself to the pantheon of best wineries.
The vineyards have survived blight, earthquake, the Volstead Act and the Depression, overcoming adversity and offering a fresh take on Hemingway’s observation that “the world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong in the broken places.”
April 24, 2017
Join us for the for seventh annual global online celebration for one of our favorite varietals, Sauvignon Blanc.
Not many wineries can claim to have their own proprietary clone, but our “Soliloquy” clone of Sauvignon Blanc, certified by UC Davis in the 1980s, earns us membership in this very exclusive club. We’re so enamored of this clone that we named a vineyard after it, our Soliloquy Vineyard in the Oakville appellation. Oakville is traditionally Cabernet Sauvignon country, but our family has nurtured these special vines of Sauvignon Blanc as a testament to this extraordinary site and to the potential for Soliloquy – our Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc – to stand side by side with Trilogy, our flagship red wine.
How to participate:
*Must be 21+ to enter. Void where prohibited. Wine will not be included in prize pack. Chance of winning depends on number of entries.