Man Falls in the Vines – #MFITV

I’m delirious to announce a new project that I’ve stumbled into, courtesy of my fantastic sabbatical, rather sabbradical, from my work at Genentech: I am working the 2011 wine harvest (#Harvest2001) at Chimney Rock Winery (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) in the Stags Leap District (WineLog) of Napa Valley, CA.  I will be the harvest intern and cellar worker of which I’ve always dreamed…and basically working my ass off helping to produce fine Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, rosé, (Fiano), and Meritage wines.

My participation in the controlled chaos of crush at the Rock comes courtesy of Terlato Wine Group (WineLog), my best friend Jeff van de Pol, Assistant Winemaker; and Elizabeth Vianna (Twitter), Winemaker and General Manager.

Welcome to the craziest crush ever!  Elizabeth greeted with this smiling statement on my first day (10/17/11), at 6am.  Alongside fellow winery workers Cindy Cosco (Twitter, Winemaker, Passaggio Wines), Leo Almanza, Jorge Leon, Doris Garrido, and Rafa Alfaro, we crushed the annual tiny lot of Fiano, under the watchful eyes of Jeff, Elizabeth and Vineyard Manager Flavio Rodgriquez and Cellarmaster Eddie Lona.

Pressing Fiano - Chimney Rock Winery - #MFITV - photo by Elizabeth Vianna

Fiano is an ancient Italian white grape from Campania in the South, and makes a fairly powerful flavored wine, with drier grapey fruit flavors and interesting nutty and floral aromatics.  The winery team gets together to crush this small lot each year, helping to merge our efforts into one small, interesting lot of wine.  We used a small basket press to press out the little crush.

Rounding out our vino bonding session was Doug Fletcher, Vice President of Winemaking for Terlato Wine Group. Doug has been in the biz a long time and is an outstanding source for winemaking/growing knowledge, with fascinating stories from his many years as a winemaker at Martin Ray Winery, Steltzner Vineyards and Chimney Rock.  Good stuff.

 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsxP9RzHNOo[/youtube]

 

My job at the Rock has been and will be a bit of a wildcard, partly due to my experience in my day job at the lab bench.  As such, this first week has been an extremely lucky and wonderfully fulfilling amalgam of vineyard work (sampling pH, TA and grams of acid; fruit integrity, ripeness and health), enology lab work (fermentation monitoring, berry and cluster weight), cellar work (tank and barrel inoculations, pumpovers, and punchdowns) and bringing in fruit on the crushpad (crusher/destemmer work and pumping juice into the tanks) and cleaning, cleaning, CLEANING.  All of this…just in the first week!

Ripe Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon - #MFITV

Elizabeth’s opening comment quite aptly described the 2011 grape harvest. We had late, big rains in June, regretfully well timed to cause some shatter and/or poor set (or pollination), on some of the grape clusters.  This means that the 2011 NorCal grape clusters look as though they are missing grapes, a result of these late rains.  Then we had a lot of cool weather, just like last year, making the harvest much later than the average, up to 5 weeks in some parts of the state.  Yet, we finally got some stable warm (not hot) weather later in the summer, which allowed for cool, even ripening and no hint of sunburn, dehydration, nor mold, as long as you cut back a lot of foliage to allow for this slow even ripening.  Further rains and cool weather in early October enhanced the fears for mold.  Fortunately,  Elizabeth foresaw these possible weather outcomes early in the season and ordered the proper amount of defoliation, with great execution by Flavio and Rios Vineyard Management. Now we’re bringing in excellent Estate fruit, despite the somewhat ominous misty and cool weather that we had much of last week.  All that said, the day I arrived, crush finally took off and I dived headfirst into a very compressed harvest.  Indeed, we brought in 150 tons of premium Estate fruit Thursday and Friday of last week, alone!

Follow all of my adventures during this crazy sabbradical, by keeping up to date here at Vinopanion and following the #MFITV hashtag on Twitter, and all of the content that I’m pushing to my Facebook.  The project also has it’s own photo albums on Facebook and Flickr.  Lastly, all of the videos will be posted to my YouTube channel.  Don’t be shy, I’ll add you to any profiles!

Below you will find a list of Chimney Rock wines on WineLog.  I have reviewed some of these before my #Harvest2011 antics began, but I cannot, of course, review any while I am working for the Rock.  Cheers!

Chimney Rock Winery (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) wines on WineLog:

[winelist query=”Chimney%20Rock%20Winery&order=rating” num=”100″]

#Navarra5 Day 1: D.O.ing Navarra, Inurrieta & Ochoa

The #Navarra5 team hit the ground running (not yet drinking) at the start of our first full day (09/19/11) in the great Kingdom of Navarra (Twitter, Facebook) with our trusty guide and F1 driver Michael “Miguel” Mantilla (ARGOS Wine Consulting/Kraynick & Associates, Inc.).  Technically I ran the day before, through parts of the glorious and small city of Pamplona, capital of Navarra/Navarre and the setting of many a famous scene in the writings of their adopted son, Ernest Hemingway.  I ran past some of his favorite haunts during that afternoon jog, past the tolling bells of the Church of San Lorenzo, and through the ruins of the Citadel.  One of my favorite ways to get to know a new city, neighborhood or surrounding land is to take a run through it’s fresh splendor.

[Update 01/14/12: The first video from our trip can be seen below, filmed at the Palacio Real de Olite.]

We jetted South from Pamplona in our trusty Citroën towards to Olite on the AP-15 to get to our first stop of the Spanish morning.  Navarra or Navarre, while it is its own nationally recognized Autonomous Region with its own government and special privileges from the federal government, it is also of course, a Denominación de Origen (DO) or federally recognized wine appellation.  There we met with Jordi Roagout (Manager) and Pilar García-Granero (DO President), where the latter gave a great overview of the Navarra DO.  The climate for Navarra is widely diverse across its 5 sub-regions, rather unusual for Spain.  As such, they are able to grow a wide mix of both “continental varietals” such as Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay, as well as varietals that are considered more typical of Spain such as Tempranillo and that Garnacha.  Our climate and soils obligate us” to market all wines from here, Pilar said.  As winegrowers and winemakers across Navarra have learned to merge their 2000 year history of grape cultivation along with modern farming and winemaking techniques, the resulting wines have changed dramatically in both style and content.  Now Tempranillo is the dominant varietal overall, at 37%, with 5% being dry whites of mainly Chardonnay and the historically dominant rosado now comprising about 25% of the current production.

“A castle is for fighting. A palace is for living.”  Javier, our guide at Palacio Real de Olite, had just started our super-fast tour of the Royal Palace and Castle at Olite, a beautiful and ancient stone city near the heart of Navarra and an internationally recognized World Heritage Site.  Charles III (or Carlos) was the original builder of the Palace, and also the insigator of much of the newer building towards the end of his life.  The whole complex is actually made up of 3 different eras of building, all of which were eventually burned and destroyed during the Napoleanic Wars, to try and dissuade the French legions from their continual plundering and occupation during those bellicose times.

[youtube width=”383″ height=”310″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTKArCjjHFU[/youtube]

 

Our first Bodega (winery) visit of the trip was the to the young and exciting Bodega Inurrieta (Facebook, WineLog). They are an estate-only winery and family owned.  They planted the first of their 568 acres of vines in 1999, in a beautiful and tiny valley near the river Arga in the Navarra sub-region of Ribera Alta.  We were initially greeted by the tall and jovial head of export sales, Jose Antonio Pellicer  He gave us a brief tour of winery which was in full harvest swing, with all of the whites and about 1/3 of the reds already in from the vineyards.  The Sauv Blanc, Cab Sauv, and Shiraz were all already in, with the Merlot having been harvested just the day before.  With this small break in the action, we had the fortune of being joined by the head winemaker (Oenologist), Kepa Segastizabal.  The warm and kindly Kepa was very engaging, and kept apologizing for his English.  He was actually quite accomplished in our language however, and was able to lead us through our tasting with minimal help from Jose.  The wines showed a lot of what I like from Spain, exhibiting great acidity, low amounts of new oak and despite the relatively young age of some of the vines, great savory characteristics as well, including a sense of place.  This whole tasty package was wrapped in a ton of value for the quality.  Indeed, the $12 2008 Bodega Inurrieta Navarra Norte was a lesson in QPRWK.  My favorite wine of the day was a mind-opening experience about the impact that Graciano could have on this region.  The 2005 Bodega Inurrieta Navarra Laderas de Inurrieta Reserva was a tremendous wine that even with its $40 US price, is still ridiculously under priced.  Ripe black and red fruit, charred earth and tobacco and fine, medium powered tannins make this juicy wine a wonderful effort.  Following this, we retired to the dining room on the property and had a delicious meal of locally grown cuisine, including the traditional Spanish dessert, Cuajada.  We were shocked at the end to find out that our chef was none other than Bodega Inurrieta founder, José Antonio Arriola!

We headed over to Bodegas Ochoa (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog), our next stop, while still happily digesting our multi-course lunch.  Bodegas Ochoa is right down the road from the Palacio Real de Olite, which was probably quite handy once upon a time, considering that the family has produced wines since they were originally well-loved by Kings Charles II and Charles III.  The Ochoa family has been crafting fine wines from their Navarran Estate in Olite for the last 6 centuries.  The current patriarch of the family, Javier Ochoa Martínez, is still the Director of the Bodega and his wife remains the Cellar Master.  The family run winery is completed by his winemaker daughter Adriana Ochoa and youngest daughter Beatriz Ochoa now handling the domestic and international marketing.  We were met by the ebullient Beatriz and Pablo Aguirre, Sales Manager.  While tasting through their wines and very enjoyable estate olive oil, we were briefly treated to a cameo by Javier, whose joyous playful demeanor is quite clearly where Beatriz gained her own.  The wines from Ochoa were even fresher than Inurrieta, yet featured that same great mix of complex ripe fruits and underlying savory herbs, earth and tobacco.  The wines were wonderfully light with their oak treatment and my palate was again delighted to find another fantastic Navarra Graciano.  The 2007 Ochoa Navarra Serie 8a Mil Gracias Graciano, named for Javier’s penchant for signing documents with a simple “8a” (Ocho-a).  It features  a deep ruby and violet color, with another great mix of dark, ripe and juicy fruit, complemented beautifully by the white pepper and violet floral finish.  The fine and chewier tannins add mouthfeel and even more pleasure.  The 8a Mil Gracias Graciano, along with the great Inurrieta effort haunted me throughout the rest of the trip with their dark complexities and were two of my favorite wines for the entire week.

Following a short break we headed back out on foot from the beautiful Palacio Guandelain for a 9 o’clock dinner.  The small 25 room hotel is clever mix of the original 18th century design and contemporary modern touches.  Originally built by the Viceroy of New Granada, it was converted to a boutique modern luxury hotel and reopened in May of last year.  We could not have had a more glamorous #Navarra5 HQ!

The stroll to the resto in the lightly cool Navarran night lasted only 10 minutes.  We were joined by Conchi Biurrun, Manager for the Navarra DO.  She led us to one of the nicest restaurants in Pamplona, called Enekorri.  The restaurant is styled hyper-modern, with dark brushed steel and wood as the predominant features.  One of the coolest ones is a basement wine cellar with a glass ceiling…ie, the floor that you walk upon!  Our food was another exercise in amazing Navarran cuisine, but each plate was completed with a modern fusion twist: Way, way YUM.  It was a brilliant end to our first full day in Navarra.  Stay tuned for Day 2…

Our travels across Navarra and Bilbao were tagged in realtime on Twitter using the hashtag #Navarra5.  The intro post in this series can be found earlier on Vinopanion. You can find all of the photos & videos from this fabulous trip to Navarra, Spain (Twitter, Facebook) (and a little in Basque Country) on my Flickr in their own set and tagged with “Navarra5“.  All of my runs that I took (including getting lost!) are on my MapMyFitness, titled “Wines of Navarra“.  Lastly and most importantly, all of the awesome wines that we had from our first day are listed below and all are tagged with “Navarra5” so that you can list them in your own WineLog.  Cheers!

Wines from Bodega Inurrieta (Facebook, WineLog):

 

 Bodega Inurrieta Navarra Orchídea Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Color: lighter yellow, clear edges

Nose: Very tart gooseberry then an underlay of cream that is just starting to fill up.

Palate: Great tart and creamier grapefruit and gooseberry medley, zesty acidity with that cream caressing the mouth as well, light white florals in the finish, bit of lemon custard as well. Very good: NewWorldWK.

Bodega Inurrieta Navarra Mediodía 2010

Bodega Inurrieta Navarra Orchídea Cuvée 2010

Bodega Inurrieta Navarra Sur 2008

Bodega Inurrieta Navarra Norte 2008

Color: Dark ruby, medium ruby core

Nose: Black and red fruit with sweeter tones to it and lightest oak.

Palate: Black flinty fruit here, stoic, then sweeter ripe cherry comes in the mid-palate, charred earth finish with balanced acidity and coating, fine tannins. Very good: QPRWK.

Bodega Inurrieta Navarra Cuatrocientos Crianza 2008

Bodega Inurrieta Navarra Altos de Inurrieta Reserva 2007

 Bodega Inurrieta Navarra Laderas de Inurrieta Reserva 2005

Color: Very dark almost inky ruby, med ruby edges

Nose: Dark fruit, earth and dust, very tight now.

Palate: Sweet and ripe black fruit, dry palate overall tho. Great charred fruit and tobacco here, with fine medium tannins, some blue fruit out into the juicy finish: AwesomeWK.

Bodega Inurrieta Navarra PV 2007

Wines from Bodegas Ochoa (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog):

Ochoa Navarra Blanco Viura & Chardonnay 2010

Ochoa Navarra Rosado Garnacha 2010

Ochoa Navarra Garnacha & Tempranillo 2010

Ochoa Navarra Crianza Tempranillo 2008

 Ochoa Navarra Serie 8a Mil Gracias Graciano 2007

Color: Deeper violet and ruby core with ruby edges, violet highlights.

Nose: Great black fruit here, closed and dusty, with white pepper and deeper violet florals. Very nice.

Palate: Beautiful, with chewy, but not overly big tannins with some fineness. Juicy acidity complements the darkest fruit here, with anise and earthiness. White pepper closes it out with those violets again. Quite an effort: AwesomeWK.

 Ochoa Navarra Reserva 2005

Color: Medium to darker ruby with ruby edges.

Nose: More fruit than anticipated, of a complex red and black medley, but then some great savory herbs, meat and earth come in, mixed with loam and leather.

Palate: Quite good, with dry, very fine tannins, wonderful acidity and black and Bing cherry, mixed with drier black fruit and deep anise. Earth, loam and leather come in here, into the more savory finish. very good: OldWorldWK.

Ochoa Navarra Dulce de Moscatel 2010

All of the wines from our trip to the Kingdom of Navarra (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog):

[winelist query=”Navarra5″ num=”150″]