Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Collector’s Corner

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

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Notes From the Napa Valley 2010 Harvest

It was slow to start, with heavy spring rains, and a very cool summer. A summer long on sweaters and short on, well, shorts. A season delayed by 2-3 weeks and a lot of bets that the last grapes would be greeted at the weigh station by Thanksgiving turkeys. There was a high incidence of mildew in specific locations throughout the North Coast and the ensuing leafing in the fruit zone for exposure to more sunshine was meant to help maturity. Then Mother Nature was fickle and drenched the vineyards in a searing heat. The mildew was abated, but the sunburn and berry shriveling were now the issue. There was a lot of hand-wringing and grumbling, some were convinced that swarms of locust would arrive any minute. Some veterans were saying, "Never seen anything like this before" and "we'll never be able to get all these grapes in before the rainy season."

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The pHunction of Science in Winemaking

The definition of enology is the scientific study and making of wine; however, in most California wineries, an enologist is not synonymous with a winemaker. Winemaking duties can range from overseeing vineyards to cellar operations to blending and bottling. An enologist is always focused on the wine itself, analyzing and evaluating it at every stage of development to ensure its soundness and quality before leaving the winery. “Our job is often described as keeping the wine healthy,” says Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Enologist Mark Lucci. “In another industry, we might be considered the quality control department.”

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Integrated Pest Management: It’s A Bug’s Life

When most people look at a vineyard, they see an orderly series of vine rows marching off to a distant vanishing point. But for Kirk Grace, Vineyard Manager at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, the sight is something more akin to the movie “A Bug’s Life.” He knows that beneath the neatness and symmetry there is a wealth of activity —animal, plant, and insect life. It’s a world-within-a-world, and although most people are unacquainted with it, in spring, it preoccupies Kirk on a daily basis.

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Irrigation: Turning Water into Wine

As every home gardener knows, water is crucial to the success of any plant-growing endeavor. But in grape growing, the application of water – or irrigation – is the single most influential tool growers have to affect the desired outcome of a particular vintage. Too much water and the grapes will produce an insipid, vegetal wine; too little water and the wine will be overly tannic and astringent. It’s a fine line, and it’s one that Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Vineyard Manager Kirk Grace walks every day.

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Racking: Decanting on a Large Scale

When most people think about how wine is made, they envision beautiful vineyards, tidy rows of oak barrels, stainless steel tanks, and a winemaker tasting out of a glass or two. If they’ve been to a winery during harvest, they may even think about bins of grapes being tilted into a hopper. But in reality, there is a lot more to making wine than meets the eye. Winemaker Nicki Pruss likens it to building a house.

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