All posts filed under: Terroir

Paraiso Vineyard: The backbone of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA

Spanish missionaries at Mission Soledad first planted vineyards in the region now known as the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA in the late 18th century. But winegrowing on the windswept terraces of the Santa Lucia mountain range began in earnest in 1973 when Rich and Claudia Smith established the Paraiso Vineyard. Parasio is the tenth iconic vineyard to be acknowledged by the California State Fair as Vineyard of the Year.

Twelve months of bubbles

From Asti to Champagne, bubbles were a bright spot in 2017.  While sparkling wine is no longer confined to special occasions, it continues to mark some of life’s most memorable occasions and its charm can elevate the most mundane moments. For many, 2017 was a year of exuberant highs and abysmal lows which made living in the moment and being grateful for predictable things like the quality of a DOCG Prosecco from Cartizze or the toasty aromas of a Champagne aged on the lees for a decade all the easier. Here’s a look at what I discovered about bubbles during 2017’s twelve months of tastings. January began with a traditional sparkling toast courtesy of the Boisset Collection whose exceptional Buena Vista “La Victoire” Champagne ($50) honors the history of Sonoma’s Buena Vista winery, the first to introduce méthode traditionelle sparkling wine to California in the 19th-century. “La Victoire” is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir from Premier Cru vineyards from the Montagne de Reims, and 30% Chardonnay mostly from Grand Cru Mesnil sur Oger and Chouilly. The wine …

The dark matter of dirt

With millions of unknown species existing in a ton of soil, biologist Edward Osborne Wilson has called bacteria “the dark matter of the biological world.” While our knowledge of the roles known bacteria play in the vineyard enables us to make delicious wine, the unknown far exceeds the understood when it comes to analyzing these soil microbiomes. According to biochemist Paco Cifuentes, who has compared studies from hundreds of vineyards, there’s a distinct kingdom of organisms found only in soils farmed sustainably with organic fertilizers. When evaluating the health of a vineyard, the presence of these organisms becomes a marker for sustainability and diversity. “In a conventionally-farmed vineyard, you’ll find on average 500–700 different types of microorganisms,” says Cifuentes. “In sites that are farmed sustainably, we find anywhere from 1,000–1,200 microorganisms, the majority of which are bacteria.” This promotes an environment of checks and balances where beneficial organisms can effectively suppress harmful organisms and help prevent disease. That vast array of potentially present microorganisms includes “a dozen or so very distinctive organisms that never show …

Edetària: Benchmark wines of Catalonia’s Terra Alta DO

Terra Alta is the most westerly of Catalonia’s DOs which are clustered around Barcelona and include Alella, Conca de Barberá, Costers del Segre, Empordà (on the border of France), Montsant, Penedés, Plà de Bagés, Priorat (DOPQ) and Tarragona. Both Cataluña and Cava are broader designations that also apply to the Catalonia region.

It’s a small world

Microbial fingerprints leave their mark on winery and vineyard sites — and on finished wine.

In hot pursuit of terroir

What are your beliefs about terroir? Researchers across multiple disciplines find some common ground at the 2016 Terroir Congress XI.

Your glass is half full

Minerality — Without question the most controversial and elusive of wine descriptors.   This comes as no surprise given that the exact definition of what minerals themselves are is still under debate and has been expanded as an element or compound formed through “biogeochemical” processes.  Nutrient or dietary minerals—single elements like manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, calcium, copper and zinc—are minor components of red wine. White wines have small amounts of iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc. A serving of wine can also contain several milligrams of halite, the mineral salt (sodium chloride is the chemical name for salt), and we can accurately describe its taste in wine as saline minerality. Knowing that wine contains minerals, why is describing minerality so problematic?  Largely because aside from halite, nutrient minerals are essentially tasteless. Only when they’re in a highly concentrated liquid form, for example as a dietary supplement, do they taste offensively bitter. But the elusive flavors we describe as “mineral” in some wines can be readily attributed to specific compounds. The two of the most common …

Flash Heat Treatment Shown to Benefit Vines and Wine

Many advances pioneered by the dairy industry have improved winemaking in the cellar, but when it comes to using flash or instantaneous heat, it all starts in the vineyard. Flash pasteurization was first applied to milk in 1933. Sixty years later, flashbake ovens made their debut and, shortly thereafter, the adoption of frost prevention and thermal pest control techniques for winegrowing began making news. Fast forward two decades and you’ll find the latest generation of Thermal Plant Treatment (TPT) technology gaining interest from Oregon to Monterey. After three years of rigorous trials by Walnut Creek, Calif.-based AgroThermal Systems, trials show that patented flash heat treatments to vines are producing a host of benefits that extend well beyond the disruption of pest lifecycles. Read the article here: Flash Vine Treament  

Going to Extremes

On the first day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere, a cold, dry Zonda or rain shadow wind swept down the eastern slopes of the Andes and dropped a blanket of snow over the vineyards of Mendoza, Argentina. “It’s a beautiful sight but devastating to budding vines and fruit trees when followed by a frost,” said Andrés Rosberg, President of the Association of Argentine Sommeliers. Early-budding Chardonnay (and the stone fruit trees) in the Valle de Uco and San Rafael suffered this vintage, but frost and hail storms are the exceptions in Mendoza, where wine-growing conditions are considered less than extreme. Argentina’s most rigorous wine-growing conditions are found at the country’s extremes: from remote 10,000-foot sites in Salta to the north and the cold, arid steppes of Patagonia to the south. But the country’s wine culture traces its roots to more hospitable sites. Vines first arrived in the northern province of Santiago del Estero and were brought from Chile to the San Juan and Mendoza regions in the mid-16th century. The arrival of European immigrants …

Soil Survey: a crossword puzzle for the terroir obessed

Dirt.  It’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think about the influence of terroir and its contribution to the flavor in wine is one of the most controversial and debated topics among wine enthusiasts.  I created this crossword puzzle to help my WSET Level 3 students study soil types in a creative way.  Even if you’re not a student of wine you’ve probably already encountered many of the soils I’ve included here.  So, put on your geological thinking cap and have at it with these clues Soil Survey Clues. You’ll can find the answers here. Soil Survey Answer Key