Coming through 2020

Coming through 2020
The challenges of making wine in the Napa Valley for 40 years have encouraged reflection on the tension between our intentions and nature’s limits. This tension makes the existential pleasure in a glass of wine all the more satisfying.

With only half of a “normal” year’s rain, 2020 provided hints of its challenges from the start, of course on top of the pandemic that dominated our world.  An early bud-break during a warm Spring pushed the season ahead of the average schedule, so when forecasts for the third week of August showed a massive heat wave approaching, we saw the need to act decisively.  The decision to schedule the harvest of our Albariño was made more urgent when the Hennessey Fire broke out in St. Helena on August 17.  While the smoke from this fire was going high into the atmosphere, we were concerned that changing conditions might push it closer to the ground.  We then proceeded with earliest ever Albariño and Godello harvests, in the early morning hours of August 19 and 25 respectively.  The harvest of the Merlot and Cabernet Franc is a story which stretches further into the Fall and the dangers of a second fire to our north, but the ending is happy.

What we have learned from these challenges goes beyond the extensive (and expensive) chemical analyses we have done on these wines, which showed no evidence at all of smoke taint in our whites, and only undetectable amounts in the reds.  We are looking at what mitigating winegrowing steps might be within our control, and what the limitations of that control are likely to be as global warming continues.  Isolating in a wild and beautiful landscape and an inspiring craft is really not tenable; we have thousands of grape varieties, but only one planet.  Thankfully we have wine to enjoy as we reflect!