Italians say “Years teach more than books”. As Vincent perfects his pizza skills in our new outdoor oven, he realizes that reading and watching videos only gets him so far. He still needs a lot more hands-on experience to ensure the correct temperatures, timing, ingredients, and consistency. Grapegrowing and winemaking also benefit from years of experience (moreso than books)—as does many aspects in life!
We recently opened a bottle of 2002 Paolo’s Vineyard Syrah, the very first vintage from our estate grapes. Despite not benefiting from our widsom gathered over the past sixteen years, this wine is still tasting amazing: full of life yet more developed, it's youthful exuberance giving way to deeper thoughts. The years have "taught" this wine well.
Speaking of wine, the weather is starting to cool around the US so we are starting to ship wine again. If you ordered some bottles over the summer or have been waiting to order, know that we are planning to start shipping on September 17th.
Fall Featured Wines: six reds with shipping included
Crisp apples, wool sweaters, and racking leaves were the hallmarks of fall where we grew up (Vincent in Chicago, Lise in Massachusetts and upstate New York). These days, we prepare for fall by breaking out the red wine!
To help you prepare, we're offering six bottles of our most popular reds, and we're even including shipping. Two bottles of Syrah, two of Syrafina, and two of Nobile will warm you up from the inside out. These wines will take the chill out of an afternoon barbeque, pair well with hearty fall meals, and even accompany you curling up next to the fireplace.
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Harvest outlook is good, despite labor and fire concerns
The grape harvest started in Sonoma County around mid-August, perhaps a bit later than in recent years but actually fairly normal. As usual, the first grapes were picked for sparkling wine—the lower ripeness means higher acidity and lower alcohol, which makes for a zippy, effervescent drink. Some whites and Pinot Noirs are starting to be picked, but harvest has slowed down due to cool weather. Red-winemakers definitely appreciate the extended time in which grapes hang on the vine which brings out more complex flavors without a huge rise in alcohol.
The 2018 vintage looks to be a very good vintage—good quality, reasonable quantity—due to an uneventful growing season. We received a decent amount of rain during the winter and into the spring. No wild temperature swings during the summer. So as we say, no news is good news when it comes to growing grapes. There’s still time for things to go wrong however, especially if the rains start early.
The big news with the 2018 vintage is labor shortages and fires. First for the fires—unfortunately wineries getting grapes from Mendocino and Lake County may have smoke taint issues to deal with. The massive Mendocino Complex fires started in July, just as the grapes were undergoing version (when they turn from green to purple)—which is when they are most susceptible to smoke taint. Luckily, Sonoma County was not affected!
As for labor, over the past five years or so harvest labor has become increasingly tight around Sonoma and Napa. Obviously, tightening controls on the borders have had an effect. Secondly, there’s been a lot of competition for labor from the construction industry, which has been booming in Northern California--even more so with the Sonoma fires of last year. Low skilled construction workers make $20/hour year round, whereas vineyard wages only average $16 during the regular growing season. And thirdly, there’s competition from the now-legal marijuana industry: this work is generally easier, indoor work that gets paid in cash. As a result, vineyard managers have had to pay as much as $30/hour to attract harvest workers this year.
Join the Club!
Do you enjoy mountain-grown Syrah and other Rhône-style wines? Do you appreciate winemakers who care enough to make wines from organic and biodynamic grapes? Do you like to support small family businesses?
Consider joining the Montemaggiore Wine Club, which has flexibility with benefits! You will receive wines twice a year: once in the Spring and once in the Fall. You choose either six or twelve bottles each time, and you have the flexability to choose the wines you prefer—AND you receive a 15-20% discount. What's not to love?
Wine Club Party on October 20
We look forward to having Wine Club members join us on Saturday, October 20th at the Geyserville Inn for our annual Vendemmia Party! Doors will be open from 1-4pm with lots of wine (of course) and appetizers. We’ll be pouring the upcoming Wine Club Release, 2015 Paolo’s Vineyard Syrah, a vintage of great quality and flavor concentration but very low yields. You’ll be able to pick up your Fall Wine Club wines, and we’ll also have some library wines available at special pricing. Come say hello, we’d love to see you. RSVP on our website with event tickets, which are free for members, $35 for guests.
Club Wines shipping on October 22
Our full Wine Club email will be coming in the next few weeks, providing the details regarding the latest wine release and all your options. Note that the regular shipment will be comprised of the 2015 Paolo’s Vineyard Syrah and will be shipped the week of October 22nd. We just want to give you a heads up now!
Pasta al Limone: a weeknight favorite
Are you as reluctant to let go of summer as we are? We’re still enjoying the vegetables from our summer garden, especially added to one of our favorite weeknight recipes: Pasta al Limone. It's zesty yet creamy, and a great way to extend the summer. Chef Gloria first introduced us to this dish at our Campania Cooking Class several years ago, and it's been a favorite ever since.
Pasta al Limone comes together in about 20 minutes, and if you toss in whatever vegetables are in season, you will get an extra bonus. Some of the best pasta dishes are the simplest!
Sebastopol Tasting on Thurs, Sept 13
Join Vincent and other esteemed Rhône style wine producers from Sonoma County for a delightful evening of wine, music and appetizers—all before harvest kicks into high gear! Sample lively aromatic white wines along with vibrant, elegant and spicy reds and zippy. And let's not forget those tasty, zippy rosés! Perfectly paired appetizers will be prepared by Chef Bob Simontacchi. Tickets are $25. It's a great way to spend a Thursday night!
From Lise: Wine is like Art in that YOU are the Expert
“Wine is like art: there’s no right or wrong!” It's advice I’ve given over and over. Yes, wine can be intimidating at times, but only if you let it. Every person has a different experience with a wine, and your unique experience with is what matters most. Just like art, you aren’t “supposed” to like a particular bottle. You are supposed to have confidence in your own taste!
Recently, I read a New York Times article entitled “How to Fall in Love with Art”, which empowers readers to trust their own taste in art And every time I read the word “Art” in this article, I really want to substitute “Wine”! In fact, the author articulated the concept of getting the most out of wine much better than I could. Whether you are a novice or expert, Mr. McDermon’s words have some valuable lessons for all of us.
I want to share a few excerpts from this column that really spoke to me (especially since you may not be a NYT subscriber which is necessary to read the original article). WARNING: I’m quoting directly from the article, translating my own “wine” words in orange for the original “art” words (and deleting other words). For more fun, you should play with the translation back and forth between art and wine.
- Wine can seem like a very complicated subject, but it all comes down to one thing: Your own reaction is the one that counts. There is no single right answer. There is no value in mouthing the conventional wisdom, or in taking the word of an esteemed critic as gospel and convincing yourself that you agree. Identifying your own reaction, in its emotional and intellectual and spiritual dimensions, is the whole point of the enterprise.
- JUST TASTE. Don’t immediately rush over to read the label. Once you’ve found something you want to spend more time with, dive in. Don’t worry too much about whether it’s good or great or terrible. Just try to see the thing, from every angle you can, and take note of your own reaction.
- Taste something you just don’t understand? Or really dislike? Try this:
- Read the label. Here’s where text can be really helpful, giving you context that may change what you initially thought.
- Figure out what bugs you about the wine in question and try to articulate a reason.
- If something seems wrong, incomplete or out of place, ask yourself: How could it be improved?
Still hate it? That’s O.K.
- You have permission to dislike what’s popular and to champion what’s unfashionable. And don’t fake it. Wine isn’t a competition or a test. There’s no prize awaiting you. If something feels gimmicky, or cold, or boring, and resists every attempt to understand it, here’s what to do: Walk away.
- You may only really like about 50 percent of what you taste. But that doesn’t mean that the remainder is worthless. The value comes from engagement. It’s not about trying to rack up the highest score. The things you don’t like will teach you a great deal about the things you do.
- Experts can be off-putting. Sommeliers, bloggers, and critics have all devoted themselves to the study and appreciation of wine. They spend years tasting, reading, thinking, writing and talking about it. They know a lot. But you needn’t feel cowed. The experts’ job is not to supply answers that you must commit to. They can instead help you, if you want, to come up with your own questions: "How was something made? What other wine is relevant? Is there a hidden story or a backing idea that isn’t apparent?"
- Remember that an expert opinion is still an opinion. It’s not a judgment that you necessarily have to agree with.
Above all, remember that you alone are the expert on what you like!
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Enjoy the autumn!