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Bill Dyer
September 22, 2016 | Bill Dyer

Almost Ripe

Here are the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in our vineyard on Diamond Mountain just waiting to be picked. We both sampled them today; Bill’s sample was 24.7 brix and Dawnine’s was 24.6 brix so we dodged having to talk about each other’s sampling technique and went on to check the other varieties. Cab Franc was a little higher and Petit Verdot a little lower, but everything is between 24 and 25 brix and looking to be on target to pick them all together and co-ferment in the same tank There was a time when they would likely have all been picked already, but that was before we had a deeper understanding of ripeness. And there was a time in Napa Valley when often there was a grower making the call as when to pick (based on hitting a minimum sugar in a contract) rather than a winemaker making the call. Today we know that sugar and flavor do not increase on the same curve, and we are evaluating other signs of ripeness, including softening of the berries, softening of the skin tannins, and browning of the seeds.  This morning a local was commiserating with me about the cool weather we are experiencing—a high of 78 degrees today and 74 predicted for tomorrow. He was looking at things the old way—knowing that sugars increase more on warmer days. But we love cool weather in the last stages of ripening, since sugars tend to stay even, while flavors increase in intensity, and tannins soften. Photosynthesis is still happening, in fact even more so than on a really hot day when the vines go into defensive mode vs. the heat and close their leaf stomates. More thoughts on grape maturity to follow. Harvesting is likely to happen next week.

Time Posted: Sep 22, 2016 at 8:17 AM
Bill Dyer
July 28, 2016 | Bill Dyer


Here at Dyer Vineyard we’re just now seeing the first hint of color in the grapes—in viticultural parlance this stage is known as veraison.  This term is borrowed from the French, and signifies the beginning of ripening.   At the beginning of veraison the berries are green, hard, and small. The green color is due to green chlorophyll.  During veraison, the berries double in size, start to accumulate sugar, loose acidity, soften, and in the case of red wine grapes, start to develop red-black color due to development of anthocyanin red pigment.

Experience tells us that from full veraison to harvest is usually 45 to 50 days, which points to the third week of September being a very busy time for Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. The last few weeks have been very intense in the vineyard. We have shoot thinned to open up the vines to light, cluster thinned to balance the crop size, sprayed sulfur to control mildew, and managed weeds. Now there is not much to do until veraison is almost complete. When about 80% of the clusters have turned color it will be time for “green thinning” in which the 20% of clusters remaining green will be removed. This will need to be done around the middle of August and will help ensure that our crop ripens evenly.

So the next couple of weeks will be about the last time for a vacation before the 2016 crush (our 20th for Dyer Vineyard, and 42nd in Napa Valley) consumes all our time time and attention.   With that in mind, we will soon be headed to the well-named Paradise Valley in Montana, where the Yellowstone River flows out of the Park, for a week of fly fishing along with sharing wine and food with some other winemaker friends. Then we will be back in Napa Valley for the duration of the season and harvest in our own paradise valley.

Time Posted: Jul 28, 2016 at 2:00 PM
Bill Dyer
July 4, 2016 | Bill Dyer

Napa Valley Winery, Dyer Straits Wine Company, Announces AVA Recognized Wine from The Diamond Mountain District

Napa Valley, California — June 16, 2016 - With its seasonal availability, Dyer Vineyard wine from Dyer Straits Wine Company is sought after by many wine aficionados. Grown in the Diamond Mountain District, the wine includes flavors that are distinct from other Napa Valley wineries. Dyer Vineyard is best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon Bordeaux-styled blend.

The 2013 blend is made of 82 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 13 percent Cabernet Franc, and 5 percent Petit Verdot. The dark wine has rich and powerful flavors including black fruit—more stone fruit than berry. 

The Diamond Mountain District American Viticultural Area (AVA) has volcanic soil that helps the grapes tolerate more direct sunlight and less fog than nearby Napa Valley wineries. The porosity of the soil combined with the altitude of more than 400 feet above sea level enables it to quickly cool down, despite the sun exposure. In summer, daytime temperatures can exceed 100 degrees, while the mornings and evenings can be up to 40 degrees cooler.

These fluctuations in the weather are said to give the area's grapes much of their unique flavors. The warm daytime allows the grapes to fully ripen, while the cooler nighttime temperatures develop firm acidity. The intense tannin, color, and flavor result from the grapes' survival methods.

The Diamond Mountain District's name comes from the volcanic glass that the soil contains. Since the district is situated 40 miles east of the Pacific Ocean and 40 miles north of San Francisco Bay, both bodies of water have cooling influences on the land. 

Dyer Vineyard has slightly more than 500 acres planted for wine—mostly for Cabernet Sauvignon—on the 5000 total acres of the Diamond Mountain District. The district was designated an AVA in 2001 after a dispute about the area's borders after its proposal in 1999. 

Although the AVA was established somewhat recently, the area has been used for wine growing since 1868 by legendary Jacob Schram. He owned and planted 100 acres and by 1892 he began to age and stored wine in underground cellars. His name lives on among Napa Valley wineries with the well-known property, appropriately named, Schramsberg Vineyards. 

Contact Dyer Straits Wine Company directly for more information regarding their wines.

About Dyer Straits Wine Company

Located in Cabernet Country, their vines send down roots deep into volcanic soils producing wines known for their concentration, intensity, and ageability. Handcrafted, Dyer Straits Wine Company produce less than 300 cases per year.

For more information, please visit or call (707) 942-5502.

Time Posted: Jul 4, 2016 at 11:53 AM
Bill Dyer
June 14, 2016 | Bill Dyer

Optimistic about 2016

We seem to have the drought behind us,  at least for this season. Here are our vines in mid-May. They have been shoot thinned, leaving about 30 shoots per vine, which results in an open canopy of leaves without too much shading of the developing fruit. The remaining shoots have been tucked into the trellis wire, so that they grow upwards, and can grab onto the wires for support to prevent them from breaking off in the wind. Soon we will be through and pinch off any extra clusters—we only want two per shoot to ensure concentration in the wine (but this year there are very few shoots with more that two, so this will be a quick pass). Traditionally May 15 is considered the frost free date, and we seemed to have dodged the bullet this year for frost. 

We go into each season with each vine carrying about 30 shoots and 60 clusters. So makes vintages different? It’s the conditions that are to come over the next 4 to 5 months. We hope for Goldilocks conditions—not too much or too little of anything. We hope for mild days without too much drama.  For example, our 2,000+ vines were in the early stages of bloom on May 21, when about one third of an inch of rain fell, which potentially might interfere with the pollination and fruit set. Only time will tell if this will affect the crop. But an early call would be that this rain, plus the relative lack of clusters (and fruitfulness is largely determined in the previous season) indicate that this season may be below average in yield. Time will tell.

Time Posted: Jun 14, 2016 at 11:06 AM
Bill Dyer
May 3, 2016 | Bill Dyer

What makes a great vintage? Take 2013 as an example

Winemakers tend to be "optimystics", which is probably a good thing as each year nature hands us a new season with its own set of challenges. When we get through a vintage, sometimes it is difficult to rein in our enthusiasm for what we produced often leading to some amusing pronouncements. Having said that, we are going to risk being fools,  since having over 80 Napa Valley vintages between the two of us should count for something. The last time we were this excited about releasing a new vintage from Dyer Vineyard was 1996—well, because it was our first vintage from our own vineyard. This time, the excitement is in the wine itself. Nature sent us one right over the plate in the 2013 vintage. The wine has the combination of intensity and concentration that mark the best Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon vintages. It reminds Bill of the 1985 Sterling Reserve he made, which was delicious in the barrel, and remains so over 30 years later. And yes, that wine had a significant amount of Diamond Mountain fruit in the blend. We think 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon will be viewed as one of the very collectable vintages that seem to come one or twice a decade (before 1985, maybe 1974 was of the same caliber)?  We made an even dozen barrels of this wine, with 290 cases bottled.

Time Posted: May 3, 2016 at 9:01 AM