Silver Lining <Harvest> Playbook: quantity ↓, quality ↑
Italians would say “Not all evil comes to do harm.” Optimistic Americans would interpret this as “Every cloud has a silver lining,” which perfectly describes the Montemaggiore perspective on our 2015 harvest—and the cooler season ahead.
Fall has arrived here in northern California! The air is crisp and clear, the nights are cold, the seasonal rains have started. Our months of crazy-hard work are behind us; and the wines are resting snugly in barrel. Now we can take a breather, renew friendships and catch up with family members. We look forward to dinners that run late into the evening, with stimulating conversations fueled by good food and good wine. In case the cold, dark months ahead mean that you could use some good wine (or good food, or a good book), continue reading.
Please help us improve our communications by answering 10 quick questions in this newsletter survey! Thank you in advance.
2015 Harvest Playbook: Silver Lining
Now that the 2015 wines are safely tucked away in barrels, we’ll take the opportunity to look back on the vintage. First the bad news: the yields in our mountainside estate vineyards were down 36%, which means the 2015 harvest has been our smallest ever (in yield per acre) in our 15 year history. This was primarily due to poor pollination in the Spring as discussed in our prior newsletter. Of course our farming costs are pretty much the same regardless of yield, but such is the life of a farmer. We are commiserating with others all around northern California: vineyards on mountainsides like ours were down up to 50%, whereas the flatlanders (valley dwellers) fared better, generally only 15-25% down.
The good news is that the quality of the 2015 wines look very good—and 2015 comes on the heels of two really good vintages in terms of both quality and quantity. Although there won’t be much 2015 wine to enjoy due to the lower yields, it should be tasty—and we really shouldn’t get greedy. If you look hard enough, there is always a sliver lining!
Great Reviews from Wine Enthusiast
Captivating and nuanced, robust yet elegant—this is why we love Syrah so! While we have always had faith that our mountainside produces a special Syrah, it’s always nice when professional wine critics agree. Over the past few weeks, we’ve gained some recognition for our Syrahs from Wine Enthusiast magazine with scores in the 90+ range.
Being awarded 93 points, you won’t want to miss our 2011 Paolo’s Vineyard Syrah, which is currently available on our website. Shipping is included to most states with a case or more. This wine was also named Editor's Choice, which means the wine is a good value at the price, and offers unique qualities that merit special attention.
|2011 Paolo’s Vineyard Syrah: “A rustic, French countryside kind of a wine, this is deliciously reflective of a cooler vintage and the nuances the variety can display in the right hands. Meat and a shaker’s worth of pepper make for a savory, sauvage taste experience that’s soft in texture and exotic, with a powerful bite of tannin on the finish. Editors’ Choice"|
|Shop for Syrah|
The other highly lauded wines, the 2013 Syrafina and 2013 Paolo's Vineyard Syrah, are currently only available to Wine Club members—which provides a great excuse to join our wine club). The Syrafina was named a Cellar Selection, which means that it is deemed to be highly collectible.
|2013 Syrafina: “An estate-grown wine, this combines 95% Syrah with 5% Viognier, co-fermented into a floral mix of violet and lavender that’s captivating on the nose. Ripe red fruit surrounds a generous tannic structure that suggests aging, though the wine now remains soft on the palate. Drink now through 2021. Cellar Selection.|
|2013 Paolo’s Vineyard Syrah: “A young, 100% varietal and estate-farmed wine, this is a soft, thick and dusty gathering of chocolate and blackberry jam, filled in with wild game and leather. Robust and still tightly wound, it needs to open in the glass to unveil further complexities of texture and black pepper."|
Fall 2015 Shipments now available
Just two weeks ago, we sent out the fall Wine Club shipment to our members. Each package was comprised of the 2013 Syrah and Syrafina, which as you can see above, recently received 90 and 91 points respectively. 2013 was a spectacular vintage overall! While these wines are definitely enjoyable now, they will also improve with age over the next 7 to 10+ years. We made less than 200 cases of each, and these won’t be available to the general public for at least another year (assuming they don't sell out).
We have a limited number of additional shipments set aside for members who join (or re-join!) in the next few weeks. We'd love to include you! Club members enjoy many benefits in addition to a 15-20% discount on wines:
- First access to new wine releases, many of which sell out to our Wine Club
- Invitation to members-only events, including our annual Harvest Party
- Ability to customize Club Selections to suit your individual desires
- Unlimited access to Library Wines, which are no longer in circulation
- Complimentary tastings at the Winery
Signup for the Montemaggiore Wine Club on-line or call us at 707.433.9499. Please contact us if you have any questions or would like further details.
Explore the Wine Club
Wine + Food Pairing: 2011 Syrah + Salsa di Parmigiano
Over the hectic holiday season, it always helps to have “something special” on hand that can be used in many culinary situations. Gloria, the vivacious leader of our cooking classes, recently introduced us to Salsa di Parmigiano and we've been addicted ever since. This versatile condiment can be spread on crostini for a special appetizer you can bring to a friend’s house, tossed in pasta for a last minute meal for your family, or used as a dip with crusty bread for your own mid-afternoon pick-me-up. The 2011 Paolo’s Vineyard Syrah goes especially well with Salsa di Parmigiano because the savory, nutty, complex character of the parmesan melds well with the multi-layered, savory, earthiness of the 2011 Syrah. Enjoy the pairing!
Holiday Gift Preview: Starting at $95
You may think it’s early to start thinking about the holidays, but we’ve already had inquiries, so...in case you’d like some wine-oriented ideas for the special people in your life:
- Friends: With our $95 Holiday Special, they will receive three bottles of great wine and you benefit from a reasonable price that includes shipping.
- Colleagues and Neighbors: Hand out bottles of a 93 pt wine! Order a Case of 2011 Syrah—you’ll get “free shipping” (added automatically at checkout). We’ll also throw in a pen for writing your “card” on the bottles.
- Corporate Gifts: If your clients, colleagues, or employees aren’t local, email us a list of name/addresses along with text for a gift card and we’ll make it happen.
- Yourself: Hosting a party or special dinner? Order a Mixed case of ‘06/’07 Syrah at 35% off. It’s perfect for drinking now, and you'll want to have delicious wine on hand for the holidays!
For mailing list customers only (yes, you!), shipping is included on all Gifts & Specials to most states using the coupon code ShipFreeHoliday (shipping is always included automatically on orders of 12+ bottles). Please note that in general, offers can’t be combined (e.g., shipping is not included on already discounted items), although you will always receive the most savings possible. Shipping is never included to AL, AK, DE, HI, KY, MS, NH, OK, PA, SD, UT.
Check your mailbox in the next few weeks for more details on the range of unique holiday gifts offered by Montemaggiore.
Browse for Gifts & Specials
Lise's Top 20 Books on Wine
The long, dark nights of winter often find Lise curled up in her favorite old leather chair with a good book and a glass of wine. About half of what she reads relates to food, wine, or travel—or in the best cases, all three. Here's what’s on her wine bookshelf in case you (or someone on your holiday gift list) also has a fondness of both reading and wine. Perhaps you'll find some of your favorites on this list, but more importantly, we hope you discover some new ones! (Clicking on the cover image will take you to Amazon.)
The Wine Bible by Karen McNeil
If Lise were suggest a single book for someone who wanted to learn more about wine, this would be it. A very readable book from front to back, serving as a thorough introduction to the world of wine. At 1000 pages though, it’s not a quick read. The first part of the book is general (e.g., how is wine made, tasting like a professional), while the vast majority covers the major wine regions worldwide, highlighting their predominant wine types and top producers.
The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson
This was probably Lise's very first wine book (her father gave it to her when she was in college)—and one that she continues to reference to this day because of the maps. Where the grapes are grown is the most important aspect of wine, thus the detailed, information-rich maps in this book are indispensable. Of course you'll find maps of California and Napa, but also detailed maps of Oakville and Stag's Leap for example. Lise also appreciates the conciseness of the writing: her 1985 edition is a brief 300 pages (Sonoma merits two pages, Napa three).
The Oxford Companion to Wine edited by Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding
An encyclopedia of wine, organized alphabetically and covering every topic imaginable. It’s Lise's go-to book for answering questions such as are Rollo and Vermentino the same grape? (Yes) Where is the pergola method of training grapes still used? (Several places in Italy but especially Trentino and Emilia-Romagna). This is not a book to read from front to back, unless you are a geek like me, but still very useful for curious people who appreciate the value of books over Google.
The Wines of the Northern Rhône by John Livingston-Learmouth
The bible for Syrah lovers, and Lise's desert island book. If you are not stuck on a desert island with only one wine book, but instead you are planning a wine-intensive trip to the region, this book is indispensable. It details each of the eight regions in the northern Rhône including it’s history, major vineyards, terroir, vinification methods and food pairings. It also goes into the major producers of the region, their significant wines, and descriptions of each vintage of that wine. A dense book, but a very enjoyable read (recommendation: skip over the vintage descriptions, which are dated anyway).
Napa: The Story of an American Eden by James Conaway
Reading like a novel with its plot twists and scandals, this social history of the Napa Valley provides great insight into the families and events that shaped the iconic valley. While the book’s coverage ends over 20 years ago, the same political battles between the vintners and the growers continue today.
When the Rivers Ran Red: An Amazing Story of Courage and Triumph in America's Wine Country by Vivienne Sosnowski
An entertaining history of the struggles of the northern California wine industry during Prohibition. Focuses on Sonoma families (Seghesio, Foppiano, Cuneo) but some Napa, too. The title refers to when winemakers had to open the valves on tanks holding thousands of gallons of (red) wine. Although the book is poorly edited, the wonderful stories backed by unparalleled research makes it all worthwhile.
The Science of Wine: from Vine to Glass by Jamie Goode
Although for the non-scientist, this book targets those who want to go a level or two deeper into viticulture and enology. Key scientific developments and controversies are explored including the future of cork, climate change, “natural” wines, terroir, brettanomyces. While this book isn’t comprehensive, it does hit the highlights of present day wine debates.
DeLong's Wine Grape Varietal Table by Steve DeLong
Not a book, but rather a poster of 184 wine grape varietals organized like a periodic table by acidity and body. From Agiorgitiko to Zweigelt, a scientifically-minded wine lover will appreciate all the information packed into this table.
Travel & Wine Classics
Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France by Kermit Lynch
This and the next book are classic wine travelogues by very eloquent writers. Kermit Lynch is a well-respected wine importer who thrives on finding small producers with profound wines. In addition to his entertaining stories with colorful characters, you will learn about the major wine regions in France: their vineyards, their wines, and their producers. Be warned that it was written over 25 years ago, and times have... evolved.
Vineyard Tales: Reflections on Wine by Gerald Asher
A collection of personal wine stories by the long-time Wine Editor of Gourmet magazine. Being both informative and entertaining, Asher expounds on his experiences in wine regions around the world. Like the prior book, this one should not be used as a travel guide as it was written almost 20 years ago.
Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey by Robert Camuto
A chronicle of the author’s journey across Sicily from the lava-strewn vineyards of Mt. Etna, to the wild interior, to the tiny island of Pantelleria. Through the lens of wine, we also learn about the history, the people, the food of Italy’s largest and perhaps least understood wine regions. Be warned that after reading this informative and entertaining book, you will want to hop on the next plane to Sicily.
The Making of a Great Wine: Gaja and Sori San Lorenzo by Edward Steinberg
One could fill their bookshelves with books on or by specific winemakers, but this is Lise's absolute favorite. The author focuses on Angelo Gaja, a renowned winemaker from northern Italy, along with a quintessential bottle, 1989 Sori San Lorenzo. Enlightening as well as poetic, the book captures the spirit of the nebbiolo grape and the Piedmont region.
A Wine Atlas of the Langhe: The Greatest Barolo and Barbaresco Vineyards by Victtorio Mangnelli
This is Lise's all-time favorite book that focuses on a single wine region. Its a coincidence that it deals with one of her favorite regions! Vineyards, vintners, and growers are depicted of course, but also grafters, barrel makers, and teachers. Additionally, the maps are excellent (I have a soft spot for maps). We only wish every wine region had such a detailed, informative, yet impactful book.
Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure by Donald Kladstrup and Petie Kladstrup
A historical thriller that recounts the trials and tribulations of French vintners during WWII, many of whom had to fight to keep the Nazis from looting their wine. We've bought multiple copies of this book because we keep gifting it to houseguests who looking for a good read while in Wine Country.
The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine by Benjamin Wallace
Another historical thriller, which depicts the “underbelly” of the rare wine and wine auction worlds. Focuses on a bottle of Chateau Lafitte supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson with interesting digressions such as how to fake an old wine bottle.
Judgment of Paris by George Tabor
Tells the story of the historic tasting of 1976 in which a panel of esteemed French wine experts ranked American wines over their French wines in a blind tasting (the Stags Leap Cabernet beat out Bordeaux classics such as Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Montelena Chardonnay won over notable white Burgundies). The 2008 movie Bottle Shock was based on this book.
The Heartbreak Grape: A California Winemaker's Search for the Perfect Pinot Noir by Marq de Villiers
The story of Josh Jensen, founder of Calera, who set out to make a California wine to rival the best Burgundies. A must-read for all California Pinot Noir lovers because it captures the entire grapegrowing and winemaking experience so poetically and dramatically.
Just for Fun
The New Yorker Book of Wine Cartoons by Jack Ziegler, James Thurbur, et al.
There's no better humor than the intelligent and sophisticated cartoons found in the New Yorker. Whenever Lise picks up the magazine, she first flips through it just to read the all the cartoons. This book cuts out the fluff (all that wordy prose!), focuses on her favorite subject, and is simply a classic.
The Grapes of Ralph by Ralph Steadman
A travel journal through different wine regions around the world by an irreverent, comedic illustrator.
Various wine-oriented mysteries from the authors Nadia Gordon, Kathleen Tosh, Michelle Scott
Mysteries are Lise's guilty pleasure (although mostly of the non-vinous sort). Several authors offer a series of mystery stories focusing on wine, such as those above. She doesn’t love any of them unconditionally, either individual authors or books, but some are fairly entertaining. Nadia Gordon’s books are the most polished, Kathleen Tosh’s are the most accurate, Michele Scott has some good plots. In her humble opinion, there’s a real void in this category—Lise is still looking for the Andrea Camilleri or Tana French of wine!
Lise has omitted plenty of wonderful books from this list. We'd love recommendations from you. What books are in your top 20 list?
View / Add Comments
Final Note: As always, we welcome your visit to our mountainside estate vineyards and winery in Sonoma County. Simply confirm an appointment on-line or give us a call (707.433.9499). If you have wine-loving friends who might be interested in learning about Montemaggiore, enjoy a glass of Montemaggiore wine with them or send them to our website!
We hope you have a wonderful holiday season! And if ever life starts to get you down, just remember the proverb and look for the silver lining.