Cabernets Like Cabernets Should Be Eric Asimov writes a thoughtful and compelling treatise on the pendular swing of styles in Napa Cabernet. He visited us at the vineyard in July to taste Dyer wines (he calls our wines "... balanced and delicious") and talk about the subject. It's a fascinating subject and we were happy to be able to contribute.
Calling it The Mountain Wines of Napa: Tasting Notes from Altitude, he tasted approx 100 wines from Spring Mountain, Mt Veeder and Diamond Mountain. "The Napa Valley is ringed by mountains, but the cool, fog shrouded Mayacamas mountains to the west of the valley are perhaps the best known, and the three AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) found in this range are home to some of Napa's best wineries.
Mount Veeder, Spring Mountain District, and Diamond Mountain District are less visited than many of Napa's other AVAs. Tucked in the folds and creases of the mountains and protected by sick-inducing winding roads that lead far from the safety of Napa's main highway corridor, these mountain winegrowing regions are quiet refuges from the hustle and bustle of Napa. And that goes for grapes as well as people.
High up above the valley, vines and wine lovers alike will find cooler breezes, long shadows and lingering sunsets, and special wines that have bright, clear fruit and often beautiful intensity."
We harvested Dyer Vineyard on Sunday October 14th. Overall the growing season was quite favorable, with no spring frost, and limited rainfall keep vine vigor quite low. Mild temperatures prevailed through most of the summer, with only two peaks of over 100 degrees. Our vineyard always ripens late due to its northeast exposure, which means the final stages of ripening take place as days get shorter and cooler. We feel this leads to mature flavors at relatively low levels of potential alcohol. As we came into the first week of October, a classic La Nina pattern was beginning to set up for early rainfall. We left the grapes out through two rainfalls of about an inch, which seemed to refresh the vines without reaching the root system (which is deep into rocks) or damaging the thick skinned Bordeaux varieties. A warm day on Saturday dried the vines nicely, and with a third storm forecast for Monday we pounced on Sunday. We picked at 24.2 brix and will produce about 500 cases.
Dawnine writes the weekly update on harvest activities for the Diamond Mountain District published weekly in the St Helena Star… below is the running commentary on the 2007 harvest as a whole.
With only a few vineyards left to pick on Diamond Mountain (Constant, always among the last vineyards to ripen and the last block in Diamond Creek) we can start to take stock of the 2007 harvest. Framed by a heat wave over Labor Day and the early advent of the rainy season, harvest 07 has been long and well paced. For the majority of the district, ripening was slow and steady and grape maturity is very even. Flavors and phenolics are high and easily extractable and fermentations have been fast and complete. Crop levels are coming out slightly above average and nobodies complaining about that!
Last weekend saw a flurry of harvest activity on Diamond Mountain. Picking decisions shifted with the indisputable opening of the rainy season from “why would I pick, (if I can get any more development by waiting)?” to “what are we waiting for?” and those sitting on the cusp took advantage of the window between rains to bring in what was ready. There is still a bit of fruit out and those that have made that choice seem sanguine. Speaking from first hand experience, the fruit that came in over the weekend was in great shape.
Lots of jockeying to get the grapes that are ready in before the rain predicted for Tuesday afternoon, but no alarm. About half of Diamond Creek is in, Reverie still has Petit Verdot to harvest and Dyer and Diamond Terrace are set to ride out this next rain episode before harvesting (soon). Grape maturity has been near perfect, both in terms of sugars and tannin development. Deep, dark colors and easily extractable tannins are being reported across the board. The turkeys, fat on Cabernet, have already voted 2007 a banner year.
On Diamond Mountain harvest is officially in full swing. Von Strasser is reporting 70% complete, Diamond Creek is picking and Sterling has been bringing fruit off the mountain on a daily basis. Most everyone is either picking or counting down to harvest. Crop levels are up and down, but generally solid. There is some raisining and there are the usual discussions about how ripe is too ripe… but the real buzz is about the quality! More later… got to get back to work!
The light rain and cooler weather last weekend served only to settle the dust and seems to have jump started the vines on Diamond Mountain. All over the mountain ripening has been steady but slow. Now with seasonably warm weather and a full moon, winemakers are reporting that berries seem softer, flavors are ripe and pH’s are resolving. Sterling has picked 18tons of Merlot so far, but the bulk of the crop on their Diamond Mountain Ranch is between 22.5 and 24.5 Brix and they expect to be busy this week. Diamond Creek has started picking. AGV and TSV are both scheduled to start this week and vonStrasser is almost midway thru.
There’s a bit of a lull in harvest on Diamond Mountain and a pattern is emerging. Seems those vineyards with sugars in the 23 Brix range prior to Labor Day continued to accumulate sugar during the heat, while those under 22 Brix held tight and are just beginning to move. So far the yields have been inconsistent, but most are reporting fairly normal crops on average. There won’t be much harvest activity this week, but if current weather conditions hold out (no rain on Thursday, please!) things are looking good for vintage 2007.
Diamond Mountain District
What a difference a week makes! With these cooler days, most vineyards in the Diamond Mountain District have rebounded from the heat with little lasting effect. Sugars on some south facing slopes came up fast and will be harvested later this week but the majority of us are now looking at sometime after the 20th for Cabernet. The team at J. Shram (aka Schramsburg) would just love to finish the sparkling harvest before picking Cabernet…and as of today, it looks like they’ll make it.
Diamond Mountain District
It’s hot and Vintage 2007 on Diamond Mountain is underway- fully 5 weeks earlier than last year and coming on fast. Most of what’s been harvested so far is Merlot, Malbec or young vineyards (Graeser Vyd may have set a record by harvesting Merlot in August!). Last week saw sugars in Cabernet between 20 and 22 Brix and there are projections of serious Cabernet harvest by the middle of September.
Diamond Mountain District
Even with the expectation of an early harvest, late August is still fairly quiet on Diamond Mountain. Von Strasser’s 2nd vintage of Gruner Veltliner is in the barrel and Reverie’s Roussanne should be ready soon, but for Cabernet, the feeling is that things won’t really heat up until the 3rd or 4th week of September. Verasion and green thinning are done, with most noting that the maturity is very even. Berry size is small and people are
Decanter, Steven Spurrier, September 07 The famous Paris based wine writer (he organized the momentous Paris tasting of 1976 that catapulted Napa to the top of the wine world) has an article that revisits the comparison of Napa and Bordeaux. In a side bar titled “Better Than Bordeaux? Spurrier’s Standouts”…he features our ’05 Meteor" saying "a single vineyard Cabernet with smotth, spicy fruit, plush tannins and a nice lift of tannins"(this will be available to our mailing list a year from now—as we inaugurate a new label called simply “Meteor”). In the meantime there are 270 cases of the 2004 available under the Dyer label.
Bill Dyer speaking at Napa Valley Wine Library seminar on Aug 11. The topic of this years seminar and tasting is Napa Cabernet and Bill will be representing the Diamond Mountain District at the day long seminar preceeding the tasting.
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