TASTE News Service – November 26, 2014 – Wineries and grape growers in the El Dorado wine region have wrapped up another successful harvest. Though the 2014 yields appear lower than the last three years, the recent harvest resulted in extremely high-quality grapes. Significant spring rains followed by consistent, slightly above average temperatures during the growing season marked one of the earliest harvests on record.
“The quality of this year was outstanding,” said Josh Bendick of Holly’s Hill Vineyards. “2014 was the shortest harvest we have ever had. Although we’ve started picking earlier in previous years, we were done earlier this year.“
Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe, the El Dorado appellation is home to more than 70 wineries and nearly 2,000 vineyard acres perched at some of the highest elevations across California.
The ongoing statewide drought did cause expected concern across the region, but local growers acted proactively—with fantastic results. Well-timed spring rains, coupled with careful irrigation and discerning pruning practices, contributed to the harvest’s success.
Jonathan Lachs, co-owner and winemaker of Cedarville Vineyard explained, “With the prior two years of drought, plus the lack of rain in the beginning of the current year, we had insufficient water in our soil profile and feared we would need to irrigate much earlier than usual.” Forward thinking growers saw this coming and pruned aggressively, lowering bud counts in expectation of lower yields. Lachs continued, “Fortunately, March and April rains replenished the soil moisture, and enabled us to not have to tap into our water reserves. This enabled us to push out irrigating until July—and in some blocks, we did not need to irrigate at all.”
Regional fires during the harvest months also presented a challenge, though luckily, they were on the far edges of the AVA and winds pushed them away from vineyards and area wineries. “Thanks to the hard work and resolve of our local and regional firefighters, the El Dorado wineries were able to avoid extensive damage and allowed to do what they do best: make outstanding wine,” said Terrie Prod’hon, co-owner of Mount Aukum Winery.
Dryer weather, consistent above-average temperatures, without any extreme heat spikes and lower crop load overall led to a more compressed growing season. “This was our earliest harvest in the 43 years we've been growing grapes—at least a week earlier than any prior harvest,” said Greg Boeger, founder of Boeger Winery. “It’s a little too early to determine the long-term characteristics of this vintage, but color, flavor, and intensity in the reds seem excellent at this initial stage.”
Winemaker Richard Stading, owner of Auriga Wine Cellars, concurred, “We are seeing very intense grapes, smaller clusters, lower tonnage, and very high quality.”
Adding additional excitement to this year’s harvest, the early maturation and even ripening led to many grape varieties reaching optimal ripening simultaneously, creating a condensed timeframe to bring in grapes. “Our harvest was the earliest and most compact to date,” said Christine Rorden of Cantiga Wineworks.
Winemakers spoke of challenges and noteworthy qualities of the 2014 harvest, but most were content to be done early and excited to see what the vintage will bring. “It is a bit too early for me to make a declaration of how the vintage will develop except to say that all the stars are aligned for an outstanding opportunity to make truly excellent wines,” said Frank Hildebrand, co-owner of Narrow Gate Vineyards.
About El Dorado Wines
With over 150 years of history steeped in gold and agriculture, the El Dorado region is poised for its newfound resurgence in viticulture. Unique vineyard soils and a high elevation create a superior environment for a vast array of varietals. The region is gaining recognition for its ability to grow quality grapes that exhibit a sense of place. For more information about El Dorado, visit www.eldoradowines.org.
Editor's Note: If you're thinking of a visit to El Dorado County, first check out the Gold Country listings in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of all the wineries, as well as links to many Lodging and Dining options.
“Enjoy By 12/26/14”
Stone Brewing Co.
Style: Double IPA (D.I.P.A.)
Serving Style: Kegs, 12-ounce bottles (our sample from draft)
Availability: Widely distributed in California, limited in other states
Aroma: “Not much I can identify, but floral.”
Taste: “Amazing. Smooth. Can't notice the alcohol.”
Food Affinity: “Probably a burger.”
Chris Williams is this week's guest reviewer
2009 Vin de Glacière Riesling
Columbia Valley (Washington)
Alcohol: 9.% (approx.)
Suggested Retail: $ 14 (375ml)
“Too few Americans are unfamiliar with quality dessert wines. Among these are Sauternes, which are made in the southwest of France from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle grapes. They are very sweet and low in alcohol. A classic pairing is foie gras, but cheeses and fresh fruit are also good companions. (Apparently, some Brits are also unfamiliar with them, as author Ian Fleming once had his otherwise sophisticated spy character, James Bond, order a bottle of the most famous of these, Chateau d'Yquem, to accompany a steak). Germany also makes lovely dessert wines, mostly from Riesling grapes. That country doesn't get an abundance of sunshine and generally stratifies its wine definitions based on ascending levels of ripeness/sweetness. Among the most prized of German wine categories are Eisweins, which are made from grapes that are left to freeze on the vine. The resultant wines have a luscious, concentrated sweetness.
“A variation on that naturally-occurring process are Vin de Glacière wines, which are made from grapes that are frozen after they're picked. Such is the way this week's selection was created. Riesling grapes from the Selenium Vineyard above the Columbia River in southeastern Washington state were the source of this delightful—and affordable—dessert wine. Wines of this style get better as they age and our 2009 was surely better for a few extra years in the bottle after it was released. Its color was a little darker than when it was new—a deeper, richer shade of gold. The aroma was floral, evoking pears, honey and a bit of apricot. In the mouth it's rich and viscous, without being cloying. Though about 18% residual sugar, good acidity keeps the freshness and 'brightness' of the overall experience. There are more pear, honey and apricot qualities in the finish.”
Food Affinity: “Reviewer enjoyed with ginger snaps after a German dinner of sauerbraten served with potato dumplings and red cabbage. More traditional options might include a creamy blue cheese or fresh fruit. Just on its own it would satisfy an after-dinner craving for something sweet, yet not too filling.”
TASTE News Service November 21, 2014 – Winners of the Miljenko Grgich Scholarship Fund at the University of Zagreb in Croatia finally met their benefactor in the Legacy Room at Grgich Hills Estate on Tuesday.
Vintners Hall of Fame inductee Miljenko “Mike” Grgich is a graduate of the University of Zagreb’s Department of Viticulture and Enology. In 2013 he donated one million dollars to establish an endowment fund with the Croatian Scholarship Fund in the United States that will provide scholarships to students in the master’s degree program at the University of Zagreb in viticulture and enology. His goal is to help educate future grape growers and winemakers in Croatia so that they may develop a world-class wine industry there. Additionally, the scholarship will provide financial assistance each year to a small number of students seeking internship at a winery in the United States.
Mike Grgich describes his Scholarship Fund “as a way to allow me to say ‘thank you’ to those many people who helped me and at the same time help the next generation achieve their own dreams by starting a foundation for professional wine studies.”
Located at 1829 St. Helena Hwy (Hwy. 29) in Rutherford, Grgich Hills Estate was founded in 1977 by Miljenko “Mike” Grgich and Austin Hills after the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay crafted by Mike outscored the best of France in the now-famous 1976 Paris Tasting.
Today, this iconic winery farms 366 acres naturally, without artificial pesticides or herbicides, and uses its passion and art to handcraft food-friendly, balanced and elegant wines. Mike is assisted by his daughter, Violet Grgich, Vice President of Operations, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, Vice President of Vineyards and Production. For more information, visit www.grgich.com.
Editor's note: If you're planning a visit to the Napa Valley, you might first check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will links to the websites of all the Wineries, as well as links to hundreds of nearby Lodging and Dining options.