We have been enjoying an amazingly warm and sunny late winter and spring so far in 2013. As I go around the vineyards, the classic refrain from the Broadway musical Hair is playing in my mind. The vines leafed out in early April (which is early for us), there is not too much moisture in the ground (which is good for us given that excess vigor is our main viticultural challenge each vintage) and 2013 is likely going to be a ripe vintage.
I recently did some calculations about how much UV light our vines receive each growing season compared to vines in the surrounding valleys. First, most of our vineyards (74% to be precise) are on the Sonoma side of the county line, which happens to be the crest of the Mayacamas mountains that wanders through our property. Those Sonoma blocks face nearly due south and slope from 5 to 9 degrees. At our latitude, the sun is not straight overhead at noon, so our southern facing exposures mean the solar intensity is increased compared to a perfectly level vineyard. When averaged for the sun’s position in the sky between June 1 and September 1, a bit of trigonometry reveals that our vineyards receive an additional 12% of sunlight compared to a level vineyard at our latitude. Further, because we are 2000 feet higher in elevation compared to the surrounding valleys, the sunlight is 8% stronger because there is less atmosphere for the light to pass through. Additionally, because we are almost always above the fog layer that invades the valleys most summer evenings, we begin the day in sunshine. This provides about 8% more UV light than valley vineyards that often start their day in fog. Last, being on a mountaintop means we have no morning or afternoon shadows, which results in roughly 2% more UV compared to a typical valley vineyard. Adding up, we receive about 30% more UV light each growing season due to our mountaintop location.
There is a temperature inversion most days in which the higher you go, the warmer it gets. During the growing season, the typical overnight low in our highest blocks is about 70 degrees F, which is much warmer than the 54 degrees inside the fog layer in the valleys. So as soon as the sunlight hits our vines each morning, the vines are already at a temperature where growth and photosynthesis are active. On that typical summer day, the temperature will only rise 15 degrees to a high of 85. Overall, our average temperature is usually cooler than the valleys during the growing season.
It is pretty clear that our enhanced sunlight and warm morning temperatures are the main reasons our red wines develop such intense phenolic concentration. Phenolic molecules give red wine its color and structure. These molecules come dominantly from the grape skins and grape seeds. The long-chain tannin molecules that are responsible for much of the weight and mouthfeel of red wine come exclusively from the grape skins and are significantly enhanced in grape clusters exposed to higher levels of UV light. We typically have 1000 to 1300 mg/liter of long-chain tannin molecules in our cabernet sauvignon, which can be compared to 400 to 800 mg/liter for cabernet from a typical valley vineyard. So a good part of our “mountain” character is directly correlated to the extra sunlight we receive. The phenolic molecule quercetin is produced in the grape’s skin to protect the grape from UV light. We have high levels of quercetin in our wines. For my skin, I need to apply a strong sunblock when I am out in the vineyards. So coated with our respective sunscreens (quercetin and Coppertone), the vines and I are ready to “Let the Sunshine In” for the rest of 2013.
March 05, 2013
The 2011 Vintage
It is the time of year that we are blending our wines that will be released from May onward. For the red wines, the blends are all from the 2011 vintage, so we have been deeply immersed in our 2011 reds these last two months. As some of you may have heard, 2011 was a difficult year for some producers in Northern California because of an early October rain event that caused an outbreak of the bunch-rot fungus called botrytis in some vineyards. Due to this rain, 2011 was a great vintage to be up in the mountains; the higher you went, the less botrytis was a problem. For our vineyards at 2100’ elevation, we had drying winds, an already exposed fruit zone on each vine, and zero problems with botrytis. October went on to be a nice warm month in 2011, with the harvest of our red grapes occurring between late October and the middle of November.
For us at Pride Mountain Vineyards, what was interesting about 2011 was how mild the growing season was; one might even say cool. One measure of the growing and ripening conditions each vintage is the so-called “Growing Degree Days” (or GDD). This is a cumulative number where the average temperature each day (minus a constant base temperature) is added up from March 1 onward. Normally, the higher the GDD come October, the riper will be the fruit. The GDD on October 31 in each of the last 14 vintages at Pride Mountain Vineyards is shown in the graph above. The 2010 and 2011 vintages, circled in red, are the two coldest vintages on record for us. Nonetheless, the red grapes at harvest achieved the level of physiological ripeness we desire (softened skins, brown crunchy seeds, great ripe flavors) just at lower sugar levels than in the riper years. The main difference between 2011 and 2010 is that 2011 was cooler throughout the growing season but warmed up more in September and especially October compared to 2010.
The reds from 2011 are off the charts. Plenty of unctuous concentration but with the bonus of loads of varietal character shining through at lower than average alcohol levels. It is one of my favorite Pride Mountain vintages ever. At the recent Premiere Napa Valley tasting and auction on February 22, 2013, which is a trade event sponsored by the Napa Valley Vintners Association, 750 wine professionals from around the country tasted through the 2011 Napa reds. During the auction, our blend of 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot garnered an average bottle price of $467 which made it the highest price ever paid for our lot of 60 bottles at the Premiere Napa Valley event, and we have been participating each year for more than a decade (ours ranked 7th overall out of 211 lots). So don’t be scared off by the 2011 vintage. Even from those producers in the surrounding valleys who had to contend with the early-October botrytis, some absolutely knock-out red wines were produced. This is a real testament to the greater-than-ever diligence of today’s winemakers.
Looking forward to sharing some of the 2011 reds with you during your next visit,
February 11, 2013
Our Approach to Blending
For me, the blending process is the most creative aspect of making wine: for most of the year, my job is to recognize the potential in our grapes and coax out maximum quality by adjusting the farming and winemaking based on my 15 years of experience. But when it comes to blending, it’s about shaping the style of the wine. The one rule I’ve learned over the years is that there are no rules. For example, it would seem logical that blending a rich wine into one that tastes too thin would add weight to the thin wine, but that is not always the case. The only way to determine what works and what doesn’t is to taste it and see.
Winemakers approach blending in different ways. Some like to assemble their blends early on, within the first or second time the wines are racked (while they are about 6 months old). At Pride, we ferment and age all of our vineyard blocks (and often multiple pick dates from the same block) separately right up until the one year mark, and then we begin to do trials and create the blends. I enjoy this approach, because it allows vineyard management decisions to be followed for a long time, and also because it gives me great flexibility in building the blends. With over 50 lots of wine from each vintage and 13 blends to make, the possibilities for blending are truly endless.
I create my first round of blends for any wine based on tasting the grapes, ferments, and frequent tasting of the wines in barrel, as well as an understanding of what’s historically worked for that wine. After tasting the first blends, I either select a few that have potential or scrap them all and start fresh if it doesn’t seem to be working. After several rounds of this, I’ll come up with about three blends to taste with Steve Pride and Associate Winemaker Romel Rivera. We taste blind and compare the wines to a bottle of the same wine from the previous vintage. We’re looking for a wine that is both balanced and a knock-out, something with intense flavor, ripe (but never over-ripe) fruit, mountaintop tannins that are not grippy or excessive, and no overt oaky or alcoholic notes to cover up the gorgeous terroir of our wines. Often we all agree on the blend that we love, but when we don’t, I continue with additional tweaking until we find something that we all feel is perfect. I’d say that on average I create about 15 blends to get each wine to this point.
Next, the blend is racked from barrels and assembled in stainless tank. At this point, I revisit the wine and try some additional tweaks before bottling. How long does this process continue? Well, there was a day that Steve Pride and I were tasting final tweaks right up until the point when the hose had to be hooked to the tank for bottling. Obviously, spitting is essential when this much tasting is required. But, it’s great fun to spend so much time tasting our mountaintop wines!
- Sally Johnson, Winemaker
September 18, 2012
Winemaker Sally Johnson's Pre-Harvest Notes
On your mark, get set…
We are ready to go! I have just returned full-time to the winery after maternity leave following the birth of my second child, and I can hardly believe my eyes as I walk the vine rows and taste the grapes that are beginning to ripen.
It’s been a near-perfect vintage so far (knock on wood) and the effects are clear: shoots have grown neatly to the top of the upper support wire and then slowed down on their own (a sign that the vines are in balance and there is no excess water in the soil), the fruit is nicely exposed and soaking up every ray of delicious autumn sunshine, and the flavors in the early-ripening varieties such as viognier, chardonnay, syrah, and even some of the merlot, are already coming on.
I am excited about some of the projects that I have in the works for this year. I am continuing my gentle evolution of our viognier program, coaxing the vines to full flavor expression at a lower level of potential alcohol than in the past, and maintaining some of the freshness and acidity that can be lost if the grapes are allowed to soar into the upper reaches of the Brix scale. I will also continue to explore the effects of co-fermentation of syrah and viognier, something that has added exciting nuances of spice and perfume to our 2009 and 2010 syrah wines. Finally, I am experimenting with adding a small amount of cabernet sauvignon to the fermentations of some lots of merlot and cabernet franc. I’ve found over the past two years that the effect on the body and texture of the wine is sometimes greater when the wines are fermented together than when the wines are blended after the fact.
It is always fun to be poised at the starting line, imagining the vintage ahead, especially when things look as promising as they do right now. If you get a chance to visit the winery during the harvest season, be sure to say hi to me and to the wine team out on the crush pad. We always enjoy meeting our visitors, both old friends and new faces.
April 27, 2012
Spring, Sprang, Sprung!
What a difference a week makes! Just seven days after the photo of our viognier vines (below) was taken, shoot growth in our vineyards has really taken off. The weekend of April 21st saw temperatures in the low 90’s in St Helena, with a high of 82 degrees up here at Pride, ideal conditions for promoting the development of our tender young shoots. These merlot vines were barely breaking bud before the weekend, but have now reached about 5” in length, and two healthy clusters per shoot can be observed. The next week should provide sunny days with highs in the high 70’s to low 80’s, giving our vines just the boost they need to get a running start on their journey towards Harvest 2012.
April 20, 2012
March winds and April showers have brought forth… a timely bud break at Pride’s estate vineyard atop Spring Mountain. In this photo, cane-pruned viognier vines are just beginning to grow, and the first delicate leaves will soon unfurl. The timing has been excellent, allowing our mostly still dormant vines to weather an April 5 – 6 freeze that is reported to have caused some frost damage in the valley below. We held off on pruning the earliest blocks, our viognier and chardonnay, as well as a particularly vulnerable block of merlot, until April 2nd, which delayed bud break just enough for us to miss the cold front. The risk of frost is not yet past, but the 10-day forecast calls for three days of showers followed by partly-sunny weather with highs in the mid 60’s and lows in the upper 40’s, a nice, safe zone that should not put our tender young buds at risk of a freeze. After spending January and February doing an unsuccessful rain dance (we experienced one of the driest winters on record in Northern California), March and April have brought the rain that we need to keep our vines healthy this vintage. Now we begin to look ahead, hoping for a dry, sunny May that will allow our grapes to bloom and “set” (self-pollinate) this year’s crop. This is always an exciting time of year since the future is entirely unknown. But we can count on one thing – Mother Nature will surely keep us on our toes!
March 07, 2012
With the 2011 harvest behind us and budbreak in 2012 still two months out, it is a restful time in the vineyards atop our Spring Mountain ranch. The quiet is deceptive, though, as this dormant period is the perfect time to evaluate the soil in a small vineyard block that will be replanted in 2012. The process begins with a soil “test pit” dug in multiple locations of the block. From there, soil from each test pit is examined visually and sent to a lab for analysis of its components. When we fully understand the makeup of the soil, we are able to select the ideal combination of rootstock and scion (the part of the vine that grows above the soil) for each soil type that is present in the block.
Extensive soil analysis of the entire Pride Mountain Vineyards property was done as our vineyards were planted, and this analysis identified six major soil groups that are woven together to make up the Pride estate. However, even this “big picture” analysis does not tell the whole story. Taking an in-depth look at the block to be replanted, a 3.25 acre block named “Callie’s,” we found one of our six main soil types, as well as veins of other soils that defy characterization.
The classic soil type that turned up in one of the test pits is the Goulding soil, which covers about 75% of the Pride estate (although it is otherwise very rare in the Mayacamas mountain range where we are located). The Goulding is a shallow soil comprised of rocky, gravelly loam formed by the breakdown of metavolcanic rocks. This soil is excellent for wine grape production due to its drainage and shallow depth which limits root growth. The Goulding section of our Callie’s block will be planted on 3309 rootstock, a moderately vigorous selection which does well on most of our estate.
In addition to the Goulding soil, we found a vein of rich, black earth running through the South-East corner of the block. This section will require a very low vigor rootstock, Riperia Gloire, which will greatly limit our vines’ access to the relatively abundant (by mountain standards) water and nutrients in this area. In the West portion of the block, we identified a red volcanic soil with higher clay content than the Goulding section. This area will be planted on 101-14 rootstock, which is a low vigor selection that is slightly less limiting to the vines than is Riperia. Each rootstock block will be on a separate irrigation system, allowing us to water each according to its own unique needs. This is a lot of fine-tuning for a block that will yield less than 600 cases of wine, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. This type of micromanagement of our vineyards is what allows us to obtain maximum quality from each unique parcel on our ranch, and creates the wines of intensity, finesse and depth that are synonymous with Pride.
Photo at top of page: Wind Whistle Replant
Below: Soil Pits, Goulding Soil, Rich Black Soil, Red Clay Soil
December 16, 2011
Holiday Tasting Room Hours
What do these people in the kitchen have to do with our holiday hours? Well, not much, other than the fact that what you are looking at is the Pride team on our annual holiday staff outing, this year to Ramekins in Sonoma for an interactive cooking class and lunch. Everyone is looking pretty serious in the photo, but we had a blast. Here's hoping your festivities are just as much fun!
This year, the winery will be closed Tuesday, December 20th through Sunday, December 25th. We will reopen on Monday, December 26th and remain open, by appointment, through Saturday, December 31st. While we are normally closed on Tuesdays, we will be open on the 27th to accommodate our friends who are in town for the holidays. We will then be closed again on Sunday, January 1st and Monday, January 2nd.
Happy holidays from all of us and many thanks for your support in 2011!
December 15, 2011
2011: A Year in Review
2011 on our mountain-top vineyard has been defined by five words: cool, wet, late and surprisingly good. Late rains and cool weather (although no frost) in March and April meant that our vines got off to a late start, budding out in mid- to late-April, about three weeks later than usual. The heavy, cold rains continued into May and early June, slowing and suppressing vine growth for the early part of the season.
Situated at 2100’ elevation, we generally track about three weeks behind the valley floor in vine development, which this year worked out to our favor. Bloom occurred during a warming period that began in mid-June, which meant that most of our vines bloomed after the passing of the shatter-inducing inclement weather that devastated many Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon vineyards (although we did have some shatter in some of our merlot and syrah). Bloom occurred over a much longer period than is typical, ending around July 1st, about a month later than usual.
With so much moisture on the vineyards in the spring, we were naturally concerned about excessive vine vigor, while the late start made us extra conscientious about crop level, since we knew ripening would be delayed. Accordingly, we waited a few weeks longer than usual to begin our spring shoot thinning, in order to allow the extra shoots to deplete some of the excess water in the soil. We were also relentless in our leafing and fruit thinning, making many passes through the vineyard to remove excess leaves and clusters in order to create an open, sunny environment for our ripening grapes.
A cooler than average July and August (described around Napa Valley as “the summer that wasn’t”) finally transitioned to a much warmer September and October. Veraison, which usually kicks off in late July or early August, was delayed until mid-August. As veraison finished up in the first week of September, we did a green drop of clusters that hadn’t fully colored up. A bit of rain in the first week of October caused a massive outbreak of Botrytis fungus in valley floor vineyards, but our windy estate dried quickly after the rains and experienced no issues with Botrytis at all.
We had a glorious October and picked most of our fruit in the first two weeks of November, wrapping up with our Reserve cabernet on November 16th. Although we heard horror stories of wines in the valley coming in at 21 Brix, our grapes averaged about 26-27 Brix, slightly lower than is typical for us, but not anything we were uncomfortable with since the flavors were very nice. Our last fermenting tanks were pressed off of the skins on December 9th, just in time for the holidays. Now that the wines are resting in barrel, we are more than pleased with the results. We were prepared for some negative flavors, such as chalky tannins or vegetal notes that are typical in cold, wet years, but the wines taste absolutely enchanting. The color in all the lots is nearly black, and the wines exhibit great depth, ripeness and structure. Malolactic fermentation of the reds should be finished up sometime in February. We hope that you can visit the winery to taste these 2011 beauties for yourselves!
- Sally Johnson, winemaker
November 21, 2011
It's a wrap!
On Wednesday morning November 16, we brought in the final eight tons of cabernet sauvignon, took the photo at left of our vineyard crew and winemaking team, and officially called the 2011 harvest a wrap. 2011 will forever be known as a vintage for mountain wines here in the Napa/Sonoma area. In the first days of October, several inches of rain followed by warm temperatures created the humid environment on the valley floors in which fungus flourishes. Botrytis (a fungus that can ruin wine) ran rampant like never before and most wineries were forced to bring in their crop earlier than normal especially given the cool growing season. However, mountain vineyards were hit much less severely by botrytis; the higher you went, the better. For us at Pride Mountain Vineyards, with all the whites already in, we kept a close eye on the relatively thin-skinned merlot after the early October rain, and dropped anything even hinting of botrytis, but were otherwise able to go about ripening as usual. October was warm (even hot on many days) and November mild and pleasant, which allowed the grapes to obtain their ideal maturity characterized by brown fragile seeds, intense complex flavors, and sugar ranging from 25 to 29 Brix depending on block and variety. The depth of color, weight and flavor intensity of the resulting wines are simply off the chart … and the most intense lots of our cabernet sauvignon are still cold soaking! Although being at 2100’ elevation means we get a later start than the valley floors in the springtime, it also means our grapes can hang through any fall weather without risk of fungus until we get just the ripeness we desire. We wouldn’t swap our situation with anybody.
September 23, 2011
20 Wine Experts Taste 20 Years of Pride
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Age Worthy? Big Reds Put to the Test
Pride Mountain Vineyards Looks Back at 20 Years
St. Helena, California – September 23, 2011 Do big California reds hold up over time? Tasters got a chance to evaluate this first hand when Pride Mountain Vineyards opened 25 red wines on Tuesday, September 20, 2011, at a retrospective tasting to commemorate 20 vintages.
Steve Pride invited 20 guests from the wine industry, including sommeliers, wine critics, wine writers, winemakers and other wine industry insiders to taste the secrets concealed beneath the corks of some of the first bottles ever produced at the winery.
“It’s a rare thing, even for top wine pros such as our 20 guests, to be able to compare side-by-side wines from so many vintages,” said Pride, co-owner of Pride Mountain Vineyards. ”The goal of the tasting was not only to see how our big, ripe mountain wines age over a 20-year time period, but to see how the subtle changes we have made over the last four years under winemaker Sally Johnson compare to earlier wines.”
Wine writer Jeff Cox commented, "There's a remarkable consistency in the Pride Cabernet Sauvignons, even after Sally took over in 2007, although she brings a touch of refinement and a little less reliance on sheer muscle. The older wines' youthfulness is astounding. . . It's almost as if the higher up Spring Mountain you go, the more the wines pull themselves up straighter and taller and make a robust statement of their character. . . The Pride wines are a wonderful achievement in winemaking, and they speak to the authenticity of the Napa Valley as one of the world's greatest wine growing regions."
The critiqued wines included a 1991 Merlot, a complete vertical (1994 – 2009) of Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a 1993 Reserve Claret, a 2001 Sangiovese, a 2002 Cabernet Franc and a range of current release wines among others. For two and a half hours flights were poured, evaluated with copious tasting notes in the hush of the caves, and ultimately discussed with candor by the crowd. Pride, who is a scientist by profession in addition to serving as CEO at the family’s winery, pushed the tasters for direct feedback. Following the final flight of wines, Chris Howell, longtime winemaker at neighboring Cain Vineyard and Winery addressed the group, “This entire series of wines is shockingly consistent, demonstrating the primacy of site. The terroir rules.”
Said Connoisseurs’ Guide publisher Charlie Olken in his blog entry following the tasting, “If this tasting is to be believed, and we think it should be, then many of the ripeCalifornia Cabs of the 1990s are going to live longer than many of the people who own them. They were delicious in their youth, and they are delicious as they grow into middle age, and they will be delicious when they are grandparents to a new set of young Cabernets years from now.”
Over the course of these 20 years, Pride Mountain Vineyards has received numerous accolades, including being named one of the world’s greatest wine estates by wine critic Robert Parker, Jr.; having its Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons appear on the Wine Spectator’s annual Top One Hundred Wines of the World list six times in the last ten years; as well as being served at the White House 25 times over the last four administrations. The winery makes 13 different wines out of eight varietals at the historic site where the first grapes were planted in 1869 and the ruins of the old Summit Winery from 1890 still stand.
The property is unusual not only because of its high 2100 foot elevation with contiguous vineyards draped across the very crest of the Mayacamas mountains, but because that crest is also the Napa/Sonoma county line which requires Pride Mountain Vineyards to produce its Napa and Sonoma grapes separately as two bonded wineries. The county line runs down the center of the crush pad and disappears into the winery’s caves. Originally purchased in 1989 by founders Jim and Carolyn Pride, the property has been owned for the last seven years by second-generation siblings Steve Pride and Suzanne Pride Bryan.
Wendy Brooks email@example.com
4026 Spring Mountain Rd
St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 963-6064 ext. 103
September 19, 2011
20 Years of Pride by the Numbers
One historic ranch, older than the two counties it straddles - Napa and Sonoma. The first grapes were planted 142 years ago in 1869. When Jim and Carolyn Pride purchased the property in 1989, the then 170 acre ranch contained 45 acres of vineyard. Today, the ranch is 240 acres with 86 planted acres of vineyard.
One stone ruins of the historic Summit Winery circa 1890, which was burned during Prohibition in 1920 for insurance money (so the story goes).
One-third of the ranch is located in Napa County, two-thirds is located in Sonoma County. The ranch is on top of the Mayacamas Mountains equidistant between two cities, St. Helena on the Napa side and Santa Rosa on the Sonoma side, at an elevation of 2,100 feet.
Six different soil types growing eight different varietals of grapes comprising 50 different vineyard blocks yielding approximately three tons per acre which are harvested and fermented separately and developed into 13 different wines.
Over 1,700 feet of caves store up to 2,500 barrels at a constant average temperature of 60 degrees.
Production divided into approximately 15% white wines and 85% red wines.
Three winemakers over 20 years.
Many blessed accolades over two decades including three unique honors: 1) being selected six times in the past 10 years for The Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of the World list with three Merlots and three Cabernet Sauvignons, 2) Robert Parker, Jr. choosing Pride Mountain Vineyards as one of the world's greatest wine estates in his book by the same name in which he selected 156 wineries from around the world for this distinction with only 22 being from California, and 3) having the honor of Pride Mountain Vineyards' wines being served in the White House 25 times.
Two dynamic founders, Jim and Carolyn Pride, leaving a legacy to two grateful off-spring, Steve Pride and Suzanne Pride Bryan, who, for the last seven of our 20 years have been honored to carry-forward their parents' vision for this wonderful, historic winery aided by 45 dedicated and hard-working team members.
Suzanne Pride Bryan
September 09, 2011
2011 Vintage Kicks Off!
Harvest 2011 began today at the top of Spring Mountain, with a scant 1400 pounds of chardonnay from a small, sunny section of our Mountain Top block. While our main block of chardonnay will require an additional two weeks of hang time, these petite, succulent clusters are ready to go. These grapes are a Burgundian selection of chardonnay, clone 96, known for low yield and intense aromatics.
2011 has in general been shaped by a late spring and a somewhat cooler than average summer. Fortunately, the last few weeks have been perfect with temps most days approaching 90F. This warmth has pushed our red grapes through veraison (the process of turning from green to red that kicks off ripening) which puts us roughly one week ahead of last year which was another late year. These cooler than normal vintages result in long hang times and lower sugar at phenolic ripeness, which is a combination that makes very complex and exciting wines with the added bonus of lower alcohol levels; the 2010 reds out in the cave are really showing great right now.
With today’s pick, the buzz of excitement that each harvest brings is officially upon us. We invite you to pay us a visit this fall and share in the fun!
August 02, 2011
Steve Pride's 20 Year Retrospective
Our first vintage as a winery was 1991 which means that we are celebrating our 20th anniversary this year. It therefore seems appropriate to indulge in a stroll down memory lane as well as to reflect on where we are and where we are going.
When Mom and Dad – Jim and Carolyn Pride – first bought the property over the Christmas holiday in 1989, they had no thought of building a wine label. The 170 acre estate had 45 acres of weak dry-farmed vines that were producing about one ton an acre. There was no winery. The grapes were sold mainly to Rombauer but also to Robert Mondavi. A vigorous program was put in place in 1990 to get water onto the vines and start replanting the most feeble blocks. A top viticultural consultant, Paul Skinner, was brought in to advise the best course for bringing the vineyards back to life, and Paul has remained as our consultant to this very day.
In 1991, after seeing that the grapes from the 1990 vintage made some pretty nice wines, Dad began working the numbers and decided that we should make some of the wines ourselves. Getting approval for a winery, however, became a bit of a struggle due to the county line running through the property. Neither Sonoma nor Napa Counties were willing to cede their part of the property to the other county, so it was required that Pride be two bonded wineries; a Napa winery for the grapes from the Napa side of the property, and a Sonoma winery for the Sonoma grapes. Despite the headaches and news that created at the time, it did not impede the goal of launching Pride Mountain Vineyards in time for the release of the 1991 vintage.
Early in 1992, winemaker Bob Foley crossed paths with Dad at Rombauer where the 1991 Pride wines were being made. Bob was very enthusiastic about the quality of the wine coming from the property. The two hit it off and Bob was hired as the winemaker, a position he held through 2006. Bob had been developing his own style of winemaking. He did not like to use a refractometer to determine sugar levels at harvest; he decided when to harvest based entirely on the taste and texture of the grapes and seeds as well as the color of the stems. He did not believe that expensive new equipment, sorting tables and the like, were necessary. He liked having a few of the crushed stems getting into the must. The wines he crafted in this manner were bold but with ripe approachable tannins, and thanks to the special climate and soils on the property, they never (or at least rarely) crossed into the pruney or porty character that defines over-ripeness, something that I consider a wine fault. Though we have modified many of our winemaking techniques over the past several years (more on that in a bit), we continue to approach harvest much as Bob initially conceived.
My brother-in-law Stuart Bryan, along with Bob and my mom and dad, helped to get the wines distributed throughout the country and get the winery on its feet as a viable business. Today, Stuart remains as our dedicated National Sales Director going above and beyond the call of duty with his outreach throughout the country. But it was when wine critics like Jim Laube, Steve Tanzer and Robert Parker began to bestow superlatives on the wines that the business really took off. Perhaps the tipping point was when Robert Parker gave our 1996 Reserve Cab a score of 99 points. We were Parker’s top-rated Napa cab that year, along with Bryant Family, and the phone never stopped ringing.
With the wines selling out rapidly through our direct-to-consumer releases, it was time to dig caves and build a winery on the property. The initial winery buildings (offices, tasting room, and fermentation room) were completed in time for the 1998 crush and the caves were begun in 1999. The first vintage that went into the caves was 2000. Since that time, everything about wine production has occurred on site. Over the first 10 years, we had grown from a couple thousand cases per year with the business run out of my parent’s house, to a nearly 20,000 case operation with around 30 employees at a state of the art facility. Mom and Dad bought two neighboring properties in 2000 that expanded the ranch to 230 contiguous acres with vineyard plantings rising to roughly 75 acres by the 10-year point.
Just when the wine quality and consumer demand were skyrocketing, tragedy struck with Dad being diagnosed with bladder cancer late in 2001. He fought valiantly through several rounds of surgery and chemotherapy, but the disease finally overtook him in the summer of 2004. During those years he was battling cancer, Mom and Dad made several significant charitable donations; they single-handedly sponsored an endowed professorship at the University of Pacific Dental School and they also made several important donations to Stanford University Hospital including a key grant to Dr. Irv Weissman that ultimately allowed, several years after dad passed away, the bladder cancer stem cell to be isolated. Mom and Dad also had the foresight to do some careful estate planning at that time which resulted in the property being sold to my sister Suzanne and me.
From the very beginning, Dad had the energy and wisdom to do all the vineyard development in-house. He bought backhoes, bulldozers and tractors and did the work himself along with a dedicated small group of year-round vineyard workers. In that manner, the development of Pride Mountain Vineyards occurred without ever having debt problems. Dad really put a lot of himself into the property and, if you have ever visited the vineyards, I believe the results speak for themselves. Mom and Dad wanted the feel of the winery to be ranch-like with friendly folks greeting our guests in a welcoming way. They succeeded in staffing the business with wonderful people most all of whom are still with us today. Kathy Bertolino, our business manager; Tim Bouchet, our manager of the tasting room and the overall guest experience; Wendy Brooks, our manager of marketing, technology and all things complicated; and David Orozco, our vineyard manager, have all been with us since the winery buildings were first constructed in 1998.
I had been a university professor for most of the 1990s in France, having married my French wife Laurence in 1992. I would come back and help Dad in the summers with vineyard development, but did not have any real intention of getting involved on a daily basis with the operation while he was in such vigorous health and spirit. But once he got sick, we moved our young family back to California and when he passed away, I took over running the operation in 2004. Suzanne had been actively involved as a business manager in Dad’s other business, a dental practice management company called Pride Institute. She too became involved with the winery bringing expertise, in particular, to our human resources needs as well as representing the winery at events throughout the country.
Up to 2004, we were making wines for several other wineries on our property (Switchback Ridge, Hourglass and Robert Foley) but we were running out of room in the cave for our own barrels. So Bob developed his own production facility near his house on Howell Mountain that was completed during harvest of 2004. That was the beginning of the need for a transition on the winemaking front. Bob had been great in developing Pride Mountain Vineyards from the very beginning, but we needed a full-time winemaker on site each day focused only on us, and Bob wanted to run his own business.
After going through a couple of transitional vintages (2005 and 2006) in which our associate winemaker Romel Rivera and I made the majority of key harvest and blending decisions, we hired a new winemaker in the spring of 2007. Sally Johnson came to us from Saint Francis and was only 34 years old at the time. Though going with somebody so young might seem like a risk, she had a great palate, was analytical and smart, and had a kind gentle personality. She was just what we needed. Our goal was to continue making our rich concentrated style of wine while taking the change in winemakers as an opportunity to rethink everything we were doing on the production side.
The first decision we made was to take any unnecessary sources of tannin out of the wines. We purchased all new crush equipment that allowed us to get all stems out of the must. We began using much less new oak and Sally brought in a wide range of French cooperage for extensive new oak trials. Prior to Sally, we exclusively used Nadalie for the cabernet sauvignon and Radoux for the merlot. We now use 8 different coopers, all French, to impart a more restrained and complex oak expression to those wines that receive new oak (the syrah and viognier do not). Sally also began pressing the wine more slowly and at lower pressure. All of this allows the wines to have a better balance of fruit and tannin, which will really start paying off when the wines are 10 years old and older.
Sally has brought in different yeasts for both the reds and whites. She has successfully experimented with saignee (bleeding off a bit of the juice prior to fermentation to enhance the texture of weaker lots) and has reduced the number of times the wines are racked to clean the lees out of the barrels so that we gain a bit more complexity. We are now using some stainless steel on the chardonnay to enhance that wine’s vibrancy and have begun co-fermenting a bit of viognier skins with our syrah to promote a floral character. Sally has also brought more thoroughness to our blending. It is my opinion that for each wine we make each vintage, there is a perfect blend sitting somewhere in our cave, but because we typically have 50 to 60 lots of wine from which to blend, finding that precise blend can be a real challenge. Sally, Romel and I are always surprised how even a 0.5% change in the make up of a blend can significantly affect the character of the wine. Blending is one of the most time-consuming, important and enjoyable parts of our winemaking, and Sally has brought a new level of rigor to the process. All of the above changes, and more, are part of our attempt to make the best conceivable wine for each of our 13 different bottlings each year. The work is ongoing but the results so far are satisfying.
Equally important to the changes in our winemaking is our enhanced focus on the viticulture over the past few years. Surprisingly, our main vineyard concern at 2100 feet elevation, at the very crest of the Mayacamas Mountains, is vine vigor. The soils for the most part are deep and they contain a significant amount of water-retaining volcanic clay. Especially in years with lots of spring rains, the canopy can grow to the point that it forgets about the clusters that need to ripen. It is very important to get the canopy to stop growing well before veraison (the time when the grapes change color in early August). We have adopted a wide number of techniques to control vigor, too many to list here, and have been experiencing great success in this regard. Part of the strategy is to actively replant any underperforming blocks. Several acres each year are being replanted. We also now make sure that all of our blocks receive the proper amount of sunshine on the clusters early in the growing season. Each of our 50 blocks is somewhat different and it takes many years to figure out what works best with each block. We have 15 full-time vineyard workers, our viticultural consultant Paul Skinner, Sally and myself all focused on the goal of improving the fruit that we harvest. All this attention and expense is paying off, but as new university research is performed, and as our experience builds, there are always new ideas to implement and tests to perform.
Our vineyards are now up to 86 acres. Although there is a final four acres we could plant, we are now happy with our total production volume. The goal for the business moving forward is not to make more wine, but to make better wine. That is our primary focus at Pride Mountain Vineyards. The wonderfully humbling thing about wine is that despite all the study and hard work, we still do not entirely understand what Mother Nature does to the fruit in a particular block in a particular year to make the resulting wine come out the way it does. But our quest each year is to better understand that connection. It is a lifelong endeavor and never gets old.
The other core focus of the business is to make our guests feel welcome and appreciated while providing them with a phenomenal wine experience. We want to share our property and our wines with as many people as possible but in as quality a way as possible. For the last couple of years, we have staged the wines that our guests taste throughout our caves so that each guest gets a tour along with the tasting. We think this is much more educational and fun than simply tasting the wine at our tasting bar. Our guests leave the property knowing that they have acquired not only an exceptional wine experience, but a friend and ally in the wine industry. We are taking nothing for granted. Just like with the viticulture and winemaking, great customer experience is an eternal quest.
So at 20 years into this, my sister Suzanne and I can be satisfied that we have seen some success, even if it also feels like the work is just beginning. I have specific aspirations for the quality of each of our 13 wines and we still have a ways to go on each of them; the bar is set pretty high. There is always something to be done better each year in the way we farm each of our 50 vineyard blocks in order to extract still better wine quality. Our ideas for providing exceptional guest experiences seem limitless and I look forward to their implementation. As we enter into our third decade, it’s both rewarding and motivating to know that we will take the winery to still higher levels of quality and customer satisfaction. I just hope these next years don’t go by too fast; I want to savor every one of them!
CEO Pride Mountain Vineyards
May 26, 2011
2011 Auction Napa Valley Excitement!
It’s the week before the Napa Valley Vintners' annual Auction Napa Valley, which is always one of the highlights of the year for me. In addition to our annual candlelight dinner in the caves for top bidders next week, I am really looking forward to the barrel auction next Friday. One hundred participating wineries each offer ten cases of their best wines for sale during an all-day silent auction. The wines are all available for tasting straight from the barrel, paired with nibblers from a who’s who of Napa’s top restaurants. It’s an amazing opportunity to taste some of the very best wines in the valley, and of course it’s great fun to craft the Pride barrel lot. For the past several years, I have made a unique blend that showcases the absolute best that our Spring Mountain estate can produce.
This year’s offering was selected from a small corner of our Rock Arch block, a 31-year old block of an unknown clone of cabernet sauvignon on a distinctive trellising system utilizing vertical cordons to create a perfect environment of dappled light for each cluster. The uppermost corner of the block, a small, triangular section of short rows, has historically yielded the ripest and most concentrated wine from the entire estate, an intense, blue-black wine with incredible structure and density which has always been a strong component of our Reserve cabernet sauvignon. For the first time ever, we have decided to bottle just ten cases of this wine in its pure, unblended form. Notes of cassis, dark sweet cherries, ripe plum and espresso frame a formidable wine with supple, unctuous body and a minutes-long finish.
The wine will only be available to the top ten bidders at 2011 Auction Napa Valley, and will surely be a showpiece within any serious wine collection. For those who can’t make it to the exciting event, you can follow all the action via twitter with #ANV11 or check out the online auction on the Napa Valley Vintners' website.
- Sally Johnson, winemaker
May 20, 2011
Carolyn Pride at the 2011 Nantucket Wine Festival
Founder Carolyn Pride made a rare public appearance at the Eleventh Annual Nantucket Food and Wine Festival. She is shown above assisting her daughter, Suzanne Pride Bryan, pouring at the Harbor Gala at The White Elephant on Thursday, May 19, 2011 .
February 16, 2011
2011 Offering Schedule
Save the date! We're all busy people who receive way too much email, but many of our wines sell out very quickly upon release. Jot down the offering dates of your favorite wines below and then watch for your offering email, so you don't miss a thing!
2011 Reserve Allocation (reserve list members): Wednesday, March 16, 2011
2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 Reserve Claret and 2009 Sangiovese
2011 Spring Offering: Tuesday, April 19, 2011
2009 Syrah and 2010 Viognier
2011 Summer Offering: Tuesday, August 2, 2011
2009 Merlot and 2009 Cabernet Franc
2011 Fall Offering: Tuesday, November 1, 2011
2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 Chardonnay
January 10, 2011
January 2011 Vineyard Update
With the 2010 Harvest put to bed, our attention shifts to the vineyards and to preparation for 2011. Vines must be pruned, jute and straw laid down to protect our vulnerable hillsides from erosion from the winter’s rains, and we prepare to replant two of our lesser-known vineyard blocks with newly grafted vines.
Our Figtree block, located adjacent to our gate, has been planted to Merlot Clones 181 and 3, but the block is a bit too shaded and cool for Merlot. In its place, we will be putting in a Wente Clone selection of Chardonnay to use in our Vintner Select Chardonnay, a small bottling that is released only to our most active mailing list customers. “The block is situated in a low-lying pocket of the vineyard that is perfect for accumulating cool air as it rolls off the mountain overnight, and with surrounding trees to provide protection in the form of dappled sunlight during the heat of the day, it should be an ideal spot to grow Chardonnay grapes with heady aromatics and crisp acidity,” says winemaker Sally Johnson.
The smallest blocks in our vineyard are two blocks consisting of two rows each of Sangiovese vines. One of them, LMT, consistently produces an intense wine with excellent concentration and structure, but the other, Callie’s, tends to set an excessive crop that requires considerable fruit thinning to produce a good wine. We have decided to remove the Callie’s Sangiovese and replant with more exciting clonal material.
Numerous clones exist within the family of Sangiovese, often divided into two main types, grosso and piccolo. Steve Pride: “Although it is generally true that the grosso has bigger berries than the piccolo, the most intense, dark and concentrated Sangioveses in the world, Brunellos, come from around the Montalcino village and they are made almost exclusively from grosso clones. There are numerous grosso clones, and some are more intense than others. We have a great grosso clone in our LMT block that we are keeping.”
Our Callie’s block, on the other hand, will be replanted with three rows of three different Sangiovese clones. One row will be planted with cuttings taken from our own LMT Sangiovese, one to VCR Clone 23, a piccolo selection from Romagnolo that seems to be doing well in California featuring spicy phenolics and dark cherry flavors, and one to VCR Clone 102, a grosso clone from Prugnolo that is relatively new to California with deep color and intensely fruity aromatics. It will be exciting to get to know these newest members of our vineyard family.
December 21, 2010
Holiday Tasting Room Hours
Thinking of paying us a visit over the Christmas or New Year's holidays? We'd love to see you, but we will be closed for a few days to spend time with our families. Check out the schedule below and then give us a call to make an appointment to visit. We look forward to sharing our wines with you!
The tasting room will be open:
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Friday, December 31, 2010
Sunday, January 2, 2011
The tasting room will be closed:
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Monday, January 3, 2011
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
We will resume our normal schedule (open by appointment every day but Tuesday) as of Wednesday, January 5, 2011.
Happy holidays to you and many thanks for enjoying our wines!
November 23, 2010
Wine Spectator Top 100 List
Congratulations to Sally Johnson and the wine team for earning the #34 spot on the Wine Spectator Top 100 List for 2010!
Each year, Wine Spectator editors survey the wines reviewed over the previous twelve months and select their top 100 based on quality, value, availability and excitement. The only California Merlot to make the list this year, our 2007 Napa/Sonoma Merlot garnered 94 points in the June 15, 2010 issue.
We are honored by being included in this list, our sixth appearance in the Top 100 since 2000.
November 15, 2010
2010 Harvest Party
Sunday, November 14th was the perfect day for our harvest party. The weather was clear and crisp and although we still had ten tons of fruit to pick the following week, the vineyard and winery crew were in high spirits, well pleased with the quality of fruit brought in after a long and challenging growing season. Almost all of the vineyard, winery, tasting room and office employees turned out with their families, bringing the total number of guests to almost 100.
Mariachi Tarasco provided the entertainment, along with the equine talents of some beautiful dancing horses and their caballeros, including our own Surf and his man Mario. Vineyard foreman David Orozco was up all night making his famous carnitas and Taqueria Rosita drove up the mountain to bring all the fixings. There were three inflatable jumpy things for the little kids and an assortment of premium small production tequilas for the grown ups. Everyone stayed safe and a great day was had by all.
Special thanks to the Pride family for treating Team Pride to such a wonderful afternoon and to retail sales director Tim Bouchet for putting it together.
November 04, 2010
Update on the 2010 Harvest
Here we are in early November with a beautiful 76-degree shirt-sleeve day and we are only a little more than half way through harvest! Still to come in is cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot. Despite some rain two weekends ago and a light sprinkle on October 30, the fruit flavors are phenomenal; deep, dark and complex with no green whatsoever in any of the skins, seeds or stems. And we are getting this flavor intensity at relatively low brix for us (averaging roughly 26).
Winemaker Sally Johnson could not be happier both with how the first lots have gone through fermentation and with the quality of fruit we are getting this year. "The bit of rain we've had has actually seemed to help get the skins fully ripe", says Sally. "I am thrilled with the flavor intensity of the fruit this year." Steve Pride is equally enthusiastic: "The first lots of merlot that have just been pressed off to barrel have as much depth and fruit concentration as any merlot lots I can remember. And the chardonnays, which are now fully dry, are without a doubt the most vibrant and beautifully flavored white wines we have ever made here. Sally has been experimenting with a range of different yeasts and this year she has gone with wild yeasts in the early part of the ferments and several of her favorite strains of saccharomyces cerevisiae to finish them off. Both with these chardonnays, and across the board with all the wines, Sally is really on top of her game. For what is supposed to be a tough vintage, we could not be happier with how 2010 is turning out."
September 29, 2010
Vintage 2010 at 2100
There’s an old saying that if you ask a winemaker what they think of the upcoming vintage, they will always tell you that it will be the vintage of the century. There may be a grain of truth to that, but up at the top of Spring Mountain, we think there is genuine reason to be truly excited about 2010. The flavors in the grapes this year are phenomenal.
In the final push toward harvest, the vine balance (ratio of fruit to canopy) is just where we want it. Significant crop thinning during the spring as well as a green drop at veraison helped to produce this result along with carefully restrained irrigation all season. With selective leaf pulling (a painstaking job done by hand), the canopy was opened to provide just enough sun exposure to maximize ripening while still protecting the delicate grapes from sunburn. As the days now shorten and we enjoy warm days and cool nights, it is a joy to watch the day-to-day development of the intense flavors and concentration in the evenly ripening fruit that is a hallmark of our vineyards.
We are also excited that some of our younger blocks are reaching maturity and should provide truly excellent fruit this year. “Jim’s Vineyard,” a block that was planted in 2006 from cuttings taken from our “Rock Arch” block (the source of our most intensely concentrated cab and always a contributor to our Reserve Cab) produced some of our most exciting lots in 2008 and 2009. Now that the vines are in their fourth leaf, they will produce fruit that is even more expressive and complex. Our “Valley” block (named because it occupies a four acre swale just to the west of the winery) was also planted to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in 2006, and shows phenomenal flavor as well. A block with cabernet clones new to us (412 and 32) was planted in 2007 and we are interested to taste the first wine from these clones. Our “County Line” blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot were planted in 2002, and are now reaching their prime. The newest addition to the ranch is a two-acre block of terraced Cabernet Franc rows above the rainwater reservoir we use for irrigation. We won’t see fruit from these vines for another two years, but they are thriving in the mountain sunshine.
Mother Nature always gets the final say, but as we wait with baited breath for the magical moment when harvest begins, the vineyards seem poised for a spectacular vintage.
- Sally Johnson, winemaker
September 27, 2010
Judgment in New York
We are pleased to report that our 2001 Pride Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon won a recent re-enactment of the famous Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 that compared chardonnay and cabernet from France and California. The Wine and Food Society of New York hosted the event at the University Club in New York City on September 21, 2010. Some of the notables in attendance included: George Taber, the only journalist who covered the original 1976 tasting and who wrote the wonderful (and highly recommended) book “The Judgment of Paris”; Frank Prial, wine columnist at the New York Times for over 25 year whose columns about the 1976 event helped put California wine on the map for many US buyers; and Warren Winiarski, who made the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon that won in Paris 34 years ago. The other 2001 cabernet-based blends in the tasting included three producers who were part of the original tasting, Chateau Haut Brion (Graves), Chateau Leoville-Las Cases (Saint Julien) and Stag’s Leap Cask 23, as well as Lokoya Diamond Mountain.
In the photo, from left to right: George Taber, Greg Hurst (executive vice president and treasurer of the Wine and Food Society of NY), and Frank Prial.
August 09, 2010
Mid-Summer News from the Vineyard
An update on how the 2010 vintage is looking so far:Throughout May and into early June, we experienced cooler and wetter conditions than normal, which led to a slow start for shoot growth.The vines were roughly two to three weeks behind their normal schedule when they finally bloomed in mid June.But the fruit set was nearly perfect with only a light shatter in the merlot and syrah (which is both usual and desired) and a full set throughout the other blocks.Come late June and July, the weather on top of the mountain really warmed up resulting in temperature inversions most mornings in which our low temperature up here was in the mid 60s while down in the valley it was 54 due to the morning fog (at 2100’ feet above the valley, we are well above the fog line).High temps have been in the low 80s and occasionally popping up into the low 90s.This is absolutely ideal weather.We have never had the canopy to fruit ratio so perfectly balanced in all of our blocks.Given how much water was in the ground in June, achieving this has been some undertaking.Our vineyard crew has really been working hard.But the shoots have now stopped growing over the last couple of weeks (which is what we want) and we are waiting for veraison to begin, which could be as soon as next week since we have already seen a few dark berries here and there in our early ripening blocks.If this great weather continues through August, we will be all caught up and looking at what seems to be a stellar vintage for us.If 2010 turns out as great as we are now anticipating, it will be our 6th straight fantastic vintage (2005 through 2010), something we have never experienced before in our 20 years as a winery.
July 08, 2010
From Steve Pride - Our Merlot Program
The first vintage we produced a merlot was 1992. After having always thought that the St. Emillion and Pomerol reds were the most delicious from Bordeaux and having had some nice examples from Markham and Duckhorn in the Napa Valley in the late 1980s, it was easy to want to feature merlot as its own varietal and not just as a blending grape. In addition to loving merlot for its expansive pleasing mouthfeel and concentrated berry flavors, it seemed wise for a winery just starting up to have a wine that is accessible in its youth.
Of our estate’s present 84 acres of vines, 40 acres are planted to cabernet sauvignon, 25 acres to merlot and the rest to smaller amounts of 6 other varieties. While it is true that the old adage of "cab is king" still holds true for the consumer and critic alike and is why we make more cab than any other varietal, I think we are best identified as a merlot producer and personally consider it to be our flagship wine. In addition to the dark berry flavors and signature unctuous texture, the merlot from our estate features a complex range of other dark flavors that include licorice, resinous underbrush, tar, tobacco and cedar. These darker complex flavors are what make our merlot really jump out at a blind tasting and I believe are the signature of our mountain growing conditions.
We make 3 merlots: (1) our estate Merlot at roughly 5000 cases per year, that has roughly 8 to 10% cabernet sauvignon blended into it and has a wide range of merlot clones from all of our twelve distinct growing blocks of merlot ($56/bottle), (2) our Vintner Select Merlot at 450 cases per year that is 100% clone 3 merlot from a particular south facing vineyard block (Lower Mountaintop) that makes a wine having such intense cassis and licorice flavors that we thought it needed to be featured as a separate bottling and have done so since 1999 ($75/bottle), and (3) our Reserve Claret at 450 cases per year that is a blend of 2/3 Vintner Select Merlot and 1/3 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and thus has even more backbone and structural intensity ($125/bottle). It’s fun to taste our three merlots side by side.
There is a perception that sales of CA merlot are down since the film Sideways came out. Though the statistics do not bear this out, and I can testify that our merlot sales last year were the best they ever have been despite the recession, there is no question that merlot is not as trendy as it was in the 1990s. This is partly the inevitable evolution of any product that suddenly bursts onto the scene and partly a reflection of the inexpensive wines produced from huge vineyards with enormous yields in the Central Valley. Production of those wines soared during the 1990s. The Sideways film just reinforced what the consuming public already sensed from the mass production merlots; a bland wine with little personality. But nobody, even Miles, has ever questioned the greatness of right bank Bordeaux or the great merlot grown in smaller yields in the top CA vineyards.
Merlot is a grape prone to large yields and vigor problems. It must be grown in the right environment and even then requires significant early season thinning. In year’s with lots of late spring rain, our merlot blocks sometimes require three or four passes prior to veraison. Planting it in deep fertile soils will never make a great wine. It can do very well in clay rich soils if the right rootstock is used. On our mountaintop property straddling the Napa/Sonoma county line along the crest of the Mayacamas mountains, our five very best (and largest) merlot blocks all face south and get sun from dawn to dusk. The other blocks that either face north or receive less sunshine make balanced and elegant wines that work well in the estate blend but are not as dark and layered as the south-facing blocks.
Compared to cabernet sauvignon, merlot is thin skinned and therefore susceptible to rot from late season rain. Rain near harvest also dilutes merlot; much more so compared to cab. Perhaps because of these many challenges, merlot is near and dear to our heart here at Pride. I can honestly say that if I were forced to only drink one wine for the rest of my life, I would choose our estate Merlot over even our Reserve Cab. If you want to be cerebral, it has much of the layered complexity of cab; but if you just want to relax, its expansive mid-palate and pleasing velvety structure is pure comfort.
May 17, 2010
Shoot Thinning - May 2010
Our dedicated vineyard crew is hard at work with one of spring’s critical tasks – removing excess shoots to create the perfect growing environment for this year’s crop of grapes.Although we prune our vines to leave the appropriate number of buds per vine during the winter (1 – 2 buds per fruiting position, depending on the vigor of the vine), spring’s rain and sunshine inevitably leads to the growth of additional shoots, called “suckers,” from buds hidden deep below the bark.This year we see an unusually large number of suckers, likely due to a wetter than average spring.In addition to being wet, this spring has also been on the cool side (with some pockets of very warm and sunny weather), so our shoots are not growing as rapidly as they would in a “typical” year.For that reason, shoot thinning is especially critical this year.By removing unwanted suckers, all of the plants’ resources will be directed towards the shoots we want to keep, helping their growth to accelerate so that they can catch up to where we’d like them to be.Mother Nature always manages to keep us guessing, but careful vineyard management can overcome many of the small bumps in the road to a successful harvest!
Shown is Javier Alcantar in Winery Vineyard.
April 29, 2010
The Perfect Vintage
One of the greatest things about producing wine is that you never get bored of doing “the same old thing”; there is an ever-changing agenda that evolves with the seasons and is never the same from one vintage to the next. The first leaves are all out on the vines now, the last droplets of rain have fallen this morning (so we hope), and what the 2010 growing season will be like is an absolute mystery at this point. Due to all the water in the ground from the considerable spring rain, we can anticipate a lot of growth and, therefore, thinning of the canopy early on (May and June). We dodged a spring freeze this season but still have vivid memories of the last one in 2008 which, in our 20 year history, is the only freeze to have produced significant damage. In the two-year aftermath of the 2008 freeze, we have performed some unique pruning each winter to guide the affected blocks back to their usual habit, and this spring, they look just like normal.
Each vintage is entirely different from the one before just like every child in a large family is unique and special. And you love each one for its unique and intriguing personality. No matter how many vintages you live through and how much you study viticulture, you still never quite know for certain what makes a great vintage for any given block. In 2006, the vines did not leaf out until early May (which is late and, therefore, a concern) and one of our Merlot blocks, Callie’s, set a huge crop which, in years past, usually meant reduced quality. We thinned it a lot through the season but it still came in with a record yield and we were reprimanding ourselves for what surely was going to be a weak lot of wine. Low and behold, the 2006 Callie’s Merlot was by far the best most concentrated wine ever made from that block in its 16-year history. What precisely happened during the growing and/or ripening season that allowed that to occur in 2006? We will never be certain but regardless of that experience we still want to avoid large yields in Callie’s!
There are multiple stories comparable to 2006 Callie’s each vintage, some in which you guess right, some wrong. And with the start of each vintage there is always that hope that everything Mother Nature does, and everything that you do with the vines in response, will conspire to make the perfect vintage, the perfect wine. But, like with children, regardless of what develops you know you will love the vintage and that it will fill you with happy memories even if, come December, you are certain to sport a few more grey hairs.
- Steve Pride
March 04, 2010
Pruning - March 2010
Calm, cloudy mornings provide the perfect opportunity to prune our terraced Cabernet Franc vines. Each winter, the previous year’s shoots are trimmed back to one or two buds per “spur” (the fingerlike projections along the horizontal arms of the vine). In the spring, these buds will begin to grow new shoots and will produce the fruit for the new vintage.
The fruit for each year’s crop is actually formed during the previous year’s growing season. Last summer, at the same time that the 2009 grape clusters were developing flavors and pigments, the 2010 grape “primordial” (groups of cells hidden deep within the buds) were being formed. The amount of sunlight reaching the buds in 2009 has an effect on the fruitfulness of the buds that will grow in 2010, so amazingly, each vintage is connected to the one that preceded it. It’s just another example of Mother Nature keeping us on our toes.
February 08, 2010
A Memorable Mating in Manhattan
Steve and Laurence Pride were in New York City on January 27th for a gala black-tie event at Thomas Keller's much-heralded Per Se Restaurant. Ten of our wines complimented an ethereal seven-course dinner hosted by the International Wine and Food Society of New York.
One thing that raised eyebrows at the dinner, besides Steve's lack of a bow tie, was Chef Jonathan Benno's gorgeous pairing of a large buttery lobster tail with our 2001 Cabernet Franc. The fact that the tender crustacean was served on a light bed of lentils and smoky ham helped to sanctify this unusual marriage. We would never have thought that lobster and one of our bold mountain reds could so perfectly harmonize. But they did, as we all did, overlooking Central Park on a festive winter evening! A special thanks to Greg Hurst for the invitation.
In the photo, from left to right, are: Joyce Hurst, Steve Pride, Sherie Reiter, Thomas Keller, Arnie Reiter, Laurence Pride, and Greg Hurst.
February 08, 2010
Upcoming Release Calendar
Last year we adjusted our release calendar to allow our wines a bit more time in bottle before release. As we received very positive input on this decision from our mailing list members and were pleased with the difference this decision made in the way the wines were showing when they were shipped, it is safe to say that this is a schedule you can now come to expect. For those of you who would like to be able to anticipate the coming year's offerings, we present them here:
March 16, 2010: 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 Reserve Claret, 2008 Sangiovese (reserve list members)
April 27, 2010: 2008 Syrah, 2009 Viognier
August 3, 2010: 2008 Merlot, 2008 Cabernet Franc
November 2, 2010: 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Chardonnay
January 11, 2011: 2008 Vintner Select Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 Vintner Select Merlot, 2009 Vintner Select Chardonnay, (most active list members)
We look forward to sharing these two terrific vintages with you!
January 18, 2010
Sammy Hagar wins Pride lot at Carnival du Vin
Chef Emeril Lagasse and his wife Alden hosted their fifth annual Carnivale du Vin in Las Vegas in November raising over $1.9 million for his Emeril Lagasse Foundation serving underprivileged youth.
Suzanne Pride Bryan and her husband Stuart Bryan are charter supporters of Emeril’s Foundation. Here, Suzanne auctions a weekend at Pride Mountain Vineyards during the live auction which was purchased by guitar rock star Sammy Hagar. Party at Pride!
December 21, 2009
Steve Pride's 2009 Harvest Synopsis
With the 2009 vintage wines tranquilly resting in barrel, there is finally a moment to reflect on what has been a fabulous year for us here on top of Spring Mountain. The feeling of contentment is particularly strong knowing just how phenomenally concentrated the fruit expression in our 2009 red wines turned out to be. Every lot of Cabernet Sauvignon that came in this year has made a stunning wine. This is in part due to our years of figuring out the idiosyncrasies of each block with the goal of achieving proper vine balance, as well as to having more patience at harvest and bringing in the grapes in smaller lots only when they are ready; we have invested in a lot of smaller 500 gallon fermentors!
The year started off well with no spring frost whatsoever (a huge change compared to 2008). The budbreak in mid April was followed by considerable spring rain that, fortunately, stopped in time for glorious weather during our late-May flowering. We therefore had a full and even fruit set which is something we have not always enjoyed in recent vintages. All the rain water in the soil led to a busy May and June keeping the number of shoots under control. However, a beautiful summer with plenty of sunshine dried things out without any severe heat spells. Veraison was complete by the second week of August which is very typical for us. A warm September transitioned to an October harvest that was all wrapped up by the first week of November. We like when our grapes, in the final stages of ripening, get to experience a week or so of autumn mornings with temperatures in the low forties or high thirties and we got that in the later part of October. In short, 2009 was a beautiful year.
The Cabernet Sauvignon lots are the highlights so far with amazing flavors and a consistency across all lots that we have never seen before. The mellow ripe lushness of the 2008s and the saturated complex intensity of the 2009s remind us of 2002 and 2001 respectively; though there is an elegance to the ripe tannins in 2009 that seems to take this vintage above and beyond 2001.
Please come visit us this winter and taste the 2008s and 2009s out of barrel for yourself. We look forward to seeing you!
October 02, 2009
2006 Merlot "best American Merlot at any price"
The October, 2009 issue of Food & Wine Magazine gives the results of their 12th Annual American Wine Awards. A 33-member panel of sommeliers, critics, winemakers and retailers blind tasted wines in 20 different categories and awarded the Pride Mountain Vineyards 2006 Merlot ($56) as "the best American merlot at any price". Boy does that feel good! Especially since the 2006 red wines are the first that the winemaking team of Sally Johnson (head winemaker), Romel Rivera (associate winemaker) and Steve Pride have crafted together. What feels even better is that we know this is just a first verification of the many good things coming your way. Wait until you open the profoundly unctuous 2007 Merlot that is about to be shipped. Yowza! And the 2008 Merlot coming down the pike is quite simply mind blowing...we have never had such concentrated flavors in our Merlot before. Enjoy!
October 01, 2009
Pride wines, MC Hammer and a tribute to Ed DeBarto
It's late September and we've only harvested fifteen tons of fruit - nine tons of Chardonnay and six tons of Pinot noir, most of it for client winery, Schoolhouse Vineyards.
What better way for winemaker Sally Johnson to enjoy a little unexpected down time than to head to the Palace Hotel in San Francisco? Here she joined an all-star cast of pro-football players, rock stars (MC Hammer joined her for a quick photo) and politicos (including Willie Brown and Diane Feinstein) all honoring legendary owner of the SF 49'ers Ed DeBartolo, Jr. DeBartolo was inducted into an internal Hall of Fame created by the 49'ers to honor the numerous legends that have emerged from their organization.
Pride Mountain Vineyards, along with a few other exceptional wineries, was invited to pour our wines for the group, which included Steve Young, Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice. A ceremony was held to induct DeBartolo featuring tributes from many luminaries and a serenade from his good friend Paul Anka, who had re-written the lyrics to his classic song, My Way, to commemorate DeBartolo having done it "Your Way."
A night to remember, we were thrilled to share our wines with the guests.
More information about the event can be found on the 49'ers website.
There is a new face at the top of Spring Mountain – kiwi Renée Dale, who joins the Pride wine team as this year’s international harvest enologist. Originally from Auckland, New Zealand, Renée has traveled the world learning about winemaking, studying in Italy and working at Coldstream Hills winery in Australia, Stags’ Leap Winery in Napa, and Villa Maria and Trinity Hill wineries in New Zealand. While traveling the globe working two harvests each year, she has also created a poster featuring the beautiful winery doors of New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay region (visit http://www.fotorap.com/wine.htm to take a peak), and writes an insider’s blog about her winery experiences at www.harvesthopper.blogspot.com. She can also grill up a mean steak, so she has become quite popular around the winery. Come on up to say hello!
August 28, 2009
The Battle of the Bay
Pride Mountain Vineyards joined San Francisco 49ers owner Dr. John York and his daughters Jenna and Mara York in the owner’s suite at Game 2 of the 2009 pre-season. Guests from Pride Mountain Vineyards included founder Carolyn Pride, her daughter and son-in-law Suzanne Pride-Bryan and Stuart Bryan, and their children Elizabeth Bryan (pictured) and Katy Bryan, and winemaker Sally Johnson and her husband Max Blum. Katy is currently training as a photographer, and spent the day photographing the game from the sidelines. The game was the annual “Battle of the Bay,” pitting the San Francisco 49ers against the Oakland Raiders, and provided the 49ers with a nail-biting win in the fourth quarter. Dr. York’s guests, including the Reverend Cecil Williams from San Francisco’s Glide Memorial Church and legendary retired linebacker Dan Bunz, enjoyed a selection of Pride wines – our 2007 Chardonnay and Viognier as well as our 2006 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
August 21, 2009
Birdies for Breast Cancer Charity Golf Classic
LPGA leader Cristie Kerr is also a leader in the fight against breast cancer. Every year she hosts her Birdies for Breast Cancer Charity Golf Classic to raise funds to help women with breast cancer, and most recently has created the Cristie Kerr Women’s Health Center on the campus of the Jersey City Medical Center. The Cristie Kerr Women’s Health Center will provide screening, education, recovery and support services for women with breast cancer. Services will be available for women with and without medical insurance.
Kathy Bertolino, Pride Mountain Vineyards’ CFO enjoys playing golf with the LPGA pros at Liberty National Golf Course in New Jersey on August 14, 2009. Kathy golfed like a pro herself, with Team Bertolino shooting a 67 on 18 holes.
Cristie Kerr is joined by Suzanne Pride Bryan for the Birdies for Breast Cancer gala dinner and auction.
Pride Mountain Vineyards provided the wines and Celebrity Chef Todd English and his team provided dinner for the event at Liberty National overlooking the beauty of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. Here Suzanne poses with Chef Todd and his team in a calm moment before dinner.
August 21, 2009
Sun Valley Center Wine Auction
On July 22nd, we headed to Idaho to participate in the 28th Annual Sun Valley Center Wine Auction. On hand to present our wines was Stuart Bryan, national sales manager.
Events for the 2009 program included Vintner Dinners at area restaurants and private homes, educational seminars featuring Riedel Glassware, the annual Wine Auction Gala, and a Wine Tasting Extravaganza for the wine trade and consumers.
Pictured here at the Vintner Dinner at Chip and Sandra Fisher's residence are hosts Chip and Sandra Fisher (left), Trina Peters, board president, Courtney Gilbert, curator of visual arts, and Bill Ryberg executive director for the Center. The dinner featured the wines of Pride Mountain Vineyards and Hyde de Villaine paired with five courses from acclaimed chef John Tesar from Tesar's Modern Steak & Seafood in Houston, Texas. Forty people enjoyed the evening in a magical creek-side setting.
Shown in preparation for the Vintner Dinner are Stuart Bryan (left), Chef John Tesar of Tesar's (center) and Sous Chef Jeremy Robison in the Fisher's kitchen.
August 20, 2009
Two engagements in one day!
Ezra Williams chose the view at the top of Pride Mountain Vineyards as the perfect back-drop to propose to Jenica Horn, presenting her with a beautiful engagement ring. The couple, both from Sacramento, California, are excited about planning their wedding, and say they will be back to relive this special moment.
Alexandra Samara was completely caught off-guard when Nolan Duncan popped the question at Pride Mountain Vineyards high above the Napa Valley. The couple’s dear friends, Spencer and Cindy Bain of Illinois helped Nolan plan the big moment. Alexandra and Nolan are from Texas and plan on using a 5.0 liter bottle of Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon for their guests to sign at the wedding.
August 14, 2009
Society of Wine Educators Tasting
The Society of Wine Educators held their annual conference in Sacramento the last week of July and concluded the festivities with an in depth tasting of Spring Mountain wines on Saturday, August 1 in the caves at Pride Mountain Vineyards. The Society’s goal is to foster and promote the professional education and development of the individual in particular, and the professional education and development of the wine industry as a whole. Pride’s own Scott Stooker is a member of the Society and helped lead a discussion panel explaining both the diversity and similarities of Spring Mountain District terroir, philosophy, and production. In addition to the wines of Pride Mountain Vineyards, selections by Vineyard 7 & 8, Fantesca, Guilliams, Keenan, Paloma, Barnett, Cain, Schweiger, Spring Mountain Vineyards, Newton & Erna Schein were featured at the structured tasting and served at the luncheon that followed.
August 14, 2009
Festival del Sole
Festival del Sole takes place every summer in the Napa Valley. The Festival features concerts by some of the world’s most celebrated musical artists, five-star cuisine, opulent venues, art exhibits, and wines from Napa’s top vintners, all blended in a unique celebration of the art of life. On Wednesday, July 22nd 2009, Pride Mountain Vineyards was honored to participate in the Festival, playing host to thirty guests who enjoyed a spellbinding outdoor musical program by Duo Doori-Moa (violinist Michelle Lee & cellist Taeho Oh), a three course lunch prepared by Tra Vigne Chef Nash Cognetti, and a variety of wines presented by the entire Pride family and winemaker Sally Johnson. The afternoon concluded with a barrel tasting tour through the caves, led by owner Steve Pride, who offered guests a sneak preview of the upcoming 2008 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
August 03, 2009
Veraison is upon us!
Right on schedule, purple berries have been spotted in our Sangiovese and Merlot blocks. Chardonnay and Viognier grapes are also beginning to ripen, turning from firm and green to soft, translucent and golden. Our crop is not heavy this year, although we do have more fruit than in 2008, which was the lightest year in our history. Vines appeared to be carrying a large crop when our new clusters first appeared this spring. However, as the grape flowers bloomed, many berries did not “set” (become pollinated), resulting in loose clusters with plenty of access for sunlight and air – ideal conditions for ripening concentrated, flavorful fruit. As can be seen in the photo, berry size is small, with the Merlot grapes pictured in this cluster bearing a stronger resemblance to the small berried Cabernet Sauvignon grape. Since most wine flavor precursors are found in our grapes’ skins, rather than the juice of the berry, this is an excellent sign for the quality to come. The timing of harvest at the moment appears to be typical, and we anticipate picking our white grapes in mid-September, with the red varieties reaching maturity in October and through mid-November. But, nature is always unpredictable, and we are sure to have a few surprises before this year’s vintage is put to bed.
July 07, 2009
If the final stage of a wine’s life cycle is the transfer from open bottle to waiting glass, then this is its penultimate stage….the bottling line. After going through harvest, crush, fermentation, cellaring, racking, and many, many blending trials, this is where winemaker Sally Johnson (shown), bottling manager Chris Bergen, and the rest of the Pride Mountain Vineyards crew put the final wines to bed, where they will rest for four to six months before being shared with you.
Shown here is the bottling of Pride Mountain Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 Vintner Select Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 Vintner Select Merlot, 2008 Napa Chardonnay, and 2008 Vintner Select Chardonnay on the afternoon of July 7, 2009.
July 06, 2009
Spring Mountain District Association Summer 2009
Those of you in the know, know that you can while away an entire day tasting great wines on Spring Mountain. But did you also know that the Spring Mountain District Association has a website and a mailing list through which it sends out quarterly newsletters? Click below to read the Summer 2009 Newsletter or go directly to the SMDA website for more information on the wineries in our neighborhood and to sign up for the mailing list!
Winemaker Sally Johnson (pictured on the left with mailing list clients Rhonda and Rob Porter) joined a savvy crowd of wine lovers for the fourth annual Triple Sip event in Seattle. The event featured top wineries from California and Washington, a delicious menu prepared by local restaurant Wild Ginger, and the rocking sounds of Andre Feriante, the Paul Gregutt Band and the Robert Foley Band. A portion of the proceeds from the sold-out were donated to local high school music programs.
May 27, 2009
2009 Fruit Set: Nice Mother Nature
Our vines have just started to flower and, hallelujah, the weather is calm and clear! In the photo, you see a lower cluster that has just begun to bloom and an upper cluster that is just about to. Grapes self-pollinate. In the first hour after one of the flowers bursts open, microscopic pollen grains fall from the tips of the five white filaments onto the the would-be berry at the center where they hopefully attach to the stigma (the white circle with the green dot at the center if you zoom in on the photo). This sets in process a chain of events that culminates in a grape berry. If it is raining when the flower opens, the pollen can be washed away, or if it is too hot and windy, the pollen can dry up and blow away. When this occurs, only a fraction of the berries set and this has implications throughout the entire growing and ripening season.
The amount of fruit on the vine controls the canopy vigor. A poor fruit set causes the vine to put too much energy into shoot growth. Come the ripening season, the vine has trouble diverting its energy from the canopy into the ripening clusters. So a light fruit set can actually lead to under ripe fruit at harvest, which is perhaps opposite from what you may have thought. If there is too much fruit on the vine, most commonly due to too many clusters, the canopy will not grow enough and there will not be enough photosynthesis to ripen the clusters. So there is an optimal balance to achieve between fruit mass and canopy growth. The main goal of high-quality viticulture is to achieve this optimal balance each growing season. Many factors influence this balance including: choosing the proper rootstock for each soil type, how the vines are trained and pruned, whether there was damage from a spring frost, how much water the vines receive, and quite importantly, the weather conditions at pollination. One thing is for certain: each growing season is unique.
In those years where Mother Nature has conspired to alter the optimal balance of the vine, all is not lost. But it means considerable human intervention can be required to get the vines where they need to be. Fortunately, so far in 2009, Mother Nature is in a benevolent humor: the vines are optimally poised for a great vintage.
May 27, 2009
Suzanne Pride Bryan and Peggy Fleming Raise a Glas
Suzanne Pride Bryan and Olympic Gold Medalist Peggy Fleming, both cancer survivors, share a toast with Fleming’s Victories Rosé crafted by her Fleming Jenkins winery. Proceeds from the sale of Victories Rosé go to the fight against breast cancer. Suzanne Pride Bryan and Peggy Fleming are pictured at the 49er Foundation annual Winter and Wine Fest fundraiser for disadvantaged youth at Squaw Valley on Saturday, March 28, 2009.
May 27, 2009
Pride Goes to the Nantucket Wine Festival
Suzanne Pride Bryan and her husband Stuart Bryan arrive in Nantucket for the 13th Annual Nantucket Wine Festival. Pride Mountain Vineyards presented a six-year vertical of the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000 through 2005, at the “Great Wines in Grand Houses” tasting seminar at a private home “on island” on Saturday, May 16, 2009. Pride Mountain Vineyards was also showcased at a winemaker dinner hosted by Stuart and Suzanne at Nantucket’s La Languedoc Restaurant.
April 21, 2009
Winemaker Dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen
Suzanne Pride Bryan, co-owner (left), stands with Les Goodman (center) chef de cuisine of Dry Creek Kitchen and Pride Mountain Vineyards Winemaker, Sally Johnson (right) at the April 16 Winemaker Dinner in Healdsburg. Pride Mountain will also be pairing with famed chef Charlie Palmer at their Washington D.C. venue, Charlie Palmer's Capitol Hill on October 26, 2009.
Hosts at the recent dinner, part of a series of four dinners Pride Mountain is scheduling in Sonoma County in 2009, are shown with their "favorite wine" of the night. Stuart Bryan (left), national sales manager for Pride Mountain Vineyards, is shown with the 2006 Cabernet Franc, Dan Prentice (center) displays the 2007 Viognier, and Drew Munro (right), wine director for Dry Creek Kitchen, presents the 2006 Sangiovese -- one of the few times the wine has been featured at a winemaker dinner.
April 14, 2009
Notes on the New Release Schedule from Steve Pride
For the past fifteen years we have wanted to give our wines a few more months of bottle age before releasing them to you. Our Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Reserve wines have historically been released with only a month of time in the bottle. So this year, we plan to use the slow economy to your advantage by delaying by a few months most of our offerings. This helps you in two ways: (1) you will now always receive wines that have recovered from the effects of bottling and that can be enjoyed immediately if you like your wines very young, and (2) because with every passing month the economy is getting better, you will be offered the wine with a chance that either your finances or your uncertainty about the economy will be on surer ground. Before presenting the new release schedule, let me first share a few words about the effect that bottling has on the wine.
Just before wine is bottled, it gets a small dose of sulfur dioxide (measured in parts per million) to protect it during its enhanced exposure to all sorts of surfaces (hoses, tubes, glass, etc.) and to benefit the long-term aging of the wine. During bottling, there is also very little oxygen present because the bottles are filled with nitrogen prior to the wine going in (you may not have realized that the small gap between the wine and the cork in the bottle is initially filled with nitrogen). The effect is that the sulfur reacts very slowly due to this small amount of oxygen and it can take up to several months for a wine to return to normal after bottling. During this period, the wines tend to be shut down with less bouquet and a lack of fruit concentration compared to what they had just before bottling. This is what is commonly referred to as “bottle shock”. It is not a great time to drink them.
So we have decided to eliminate your exposure to bottle shock with the following revised schedule for when our twelve wines are offered (the date corresponds to the day that the email offer is first sent out):
1. Spring Offering, April 28, 2009: 2008 Viognier and 2007 Syrah (two months after bottling; these two wines, and our Sangiovese, are the quickest to recover).
2. Summer Offering, August 4, 2009: 2007 Merlot and 2007 Cabernet Franc (four months after bottling).
3. Fall Offering, November 3, 2009: 2008 Chardonnay and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (four months after bottling).
4. Vintner Select Offering, January 12, 2010: 2008 Vintner Select Chardonnay, 2007 Vintner Select Merlot, and 2007 Vintner Select Cabernet Sauvignon (six months after bottling).
5. Reserve Offering, March 16, 2010: 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and 2007 Reserve Claret (six months after bottling) and 2008 Sangiovese (three months after bottling).
We plan to follow this yearly schedule into the indefinite future. It was chosen based on what is best for the wine and, therefore, for your wine enjoyment. We would be interested to know if there is a consensus opinion against certain of the release dates, however. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share your opinion.
With my best wishes and my sincerest thanks for your continued interest in Pride Mountain Vineyards,
April 07, 2009
Take the Elevator Home!
The Fairmont San Francisco hosts many wonderful events each year and when they do, they generously offer the winery participants a great rate so that we can "take the elevator home" at the end of the evening. As a member of our mailing list, they are now making that offer available to you! Simply call (800) 441-1414 and ask for the Take the Elevator Home rate.
The Fairmont San Francisco
March 05, 2009
Winter Road Trips
Oregon Classic Wines Auction is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2009. The recent Appreciation Dinner for this year’s Honorary Winery Ambassadors, Board of Directors and successful high bidders, was held at Domaine Serene, situated in the Dundee Hills southwest of Portland, Oregon.
Pictured at left are Stuart Bryan of Pride Mountain, Honorary California Winery Ambassador and National Sales Manager for the winery, with his daughter Elizabeth Bryan, a student in the Architecture Department at University of Oregon, Eugene. With them are Kathleen and Allen Shoup of Long Shadows Vineyards, Honorary Washington State Ambassador in 2009.
Stuart pictured with Honorary Oregon Wine Ambassadors, Grace and Ken Evenstad, owners of Domaine Serene Winery and hosts of the Appreciation Dinner. Each course was paired with wines from the Honorary Wine Ambassadors with cuisine of the Chef Pascal Chureau of Portland’s Lucier and Fenouil restaurants.
In Costa Mesa, California:
At the recent Winemaker Dinner at Charlie Palmer’s at Bloomingdales, in Costa Mesa, California, Chef Amar Santana (left) joins Stuart Bryan, National Sales Manager at Pride Mountain, Sally Johnson, Winemaker, Ahmed Labbate, General Manager of Charlie Palmer, and Michael Frumin, Sommelier for a tour of the Cellar Room. The reservations-only event was attended by 48 people and featured a four-course dinner paired with five Pride Mountain wines on January 19.
Enjoying conversation and meeting guests before the dinner at Charlie Palmer's are Sally Johnson, winemaker for Pride Mountain, and Carla King, founder of wine brokerage firm, Free Run Juice.
January 28, 2009
An Update on Our 2006 Red Wines and the Winemaking
Hello everyone, Steve Pride here. I just wanted to share a few thoughts about our current release wines and current winemaking team.
Our red wines from the 2006 vintage distinguish themselves from 2005 by having finer tannins that are better integrated at a younger age. To be sure, these wines have a definite structure to them as you should expect from us, but the ripe finish is more elegant and refined than in recent vintages. In general, all of our 2006 red wines are more forward and integrated at their young age than their 2005 counterparts were at a similar age. This flies in contrast to the reputation the vintage is acquiring for having produced Bordeaux varietals that bear an excessive tannic structure. With our own unique climate at 2000’ above the Napa Valley, the nature of our growing and ripening season is often in notable contrast to what other wineries in Napa and Sonoma experience.
For those of you who use Robert Parker’s advice to make buying decisions, please note that he reviewed our 2005 Reserve wines in his recent Wine Advocate #180. These wines were referred to as the 2006 Reserve wines in his report. Mr. Parker has not yet tasted our 2006 Reserve wines that were bottled just before Christmas and will be sold in February (more about them below).
An update on winemaking at Pride Mountain Vineyards: The last vintage in which Bob Foley was involved in all aspects of the winemaking was the 2004 vintage. Starting with the 2005 vintage, many of the harvest decisions were made by our long-time associate winemaker Romel Rivera. Romel and I put all the blends together on the 2005 wines and made all of the fining decisions. The 2006 vintage saw Romel making the vast majority of harvest decisions. It also was the first vintage to be entirely handled by the new winemaking team of Sally Johnson, who we hired in May of 2007, Romel Rivera and myself. This is the team we plan to go with into the indefinite future. The 2006, 2007 and 2008 vintages are all knock outs in concentrated ripeness and bode well of the future. Please come sample them for yourselves this winter at the winery. We would love to see you.
This new team has instilled a bit more elegance to the finish of our red wines without taking anything away from the intense fruit concentration that is one of our hallmarks. Although we want our wines to continue to stand out from the pack by having a bold structure to the finish (no worry there), we also want to emphasize a lingering sensuality that is never marred by overly gritty or chewy tannins. Mother Nature did this for us on the 2006 vintage while from the 2007 vintage onward, we have removed the stems from the must, reduced the intensity of our presses and changed certain protocols for the handling of the lees. The effect is to remove any excessive residual chalkiness from the finish of certain lots while filling out the mid-palate. Our 2006 reserve wines possess this quality and are going to be absolutely sensational after they rest in the bottle for the upcoming year; they are among the very finest wines we have ever made.
In the vineyards, the 2007 vintage saw the emergence of a new team involving our long-time consultant Paul Skinner (with us since 1990), who many believe is Napa Valley’s top expert on vines and soils, Sally Johnson and myself. The three of us have implemented many changes in each vineyard block designed to obtain optimal balance between fruit and canopy. Further, roughly 10 of our 83 acres have been replanted over the past three years in a goal of getting the optimal rootstock and clone on each block (and sub-block) across our entire estate. We now separately vinify more than 50 lots of wines in our cave each vintage in order to individually track all of the improvements we are making in the vineyards. By improving those blocks that had historically made weaker wines, the final blends are necessarily getting better with each passing vintage.
Despite the current economic situation, I wish you all a prosperous and enjoyable 2009. You can count on all of the wines to be released by us in 2009 to be as good, or better, than any wines we have produced. We are sparing no costs (this past year we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars updating our crush and production equipment, for example) and are cutting no corners, in order to make the best bottle of wine we can for you while still holding the line on prices. Your fidelity over the years is greatly appreciated. I can assure you that we here at Pride take nothing for granted and will continue to challenge ourselves to meet, and hopefully exceed, your expectations each and every vintage.
All the best, Steve Pride
Pictured left to right above: Steve Pride, Sally Johnson and Romel Rivera
December 18, 2008
The holiday season is always a time for reflection. With that in mind, all of us at Pride would like you to know that we are thankful to each and every one of you for your support of the winery. That you choose to enjoy our wines is something that we don't take for granted. There are many, many wonderful wines in the world and we sincerely appreciate the relationships we've forged with you and the investment you've chosen to make when purchasing our wines.
We wish you all the most joyous of holiday seasons and a very happy new year.
November 26, 2008
Live in the Vineyards
Hospitality tours, winery events, pouring wine, hanging around with beautiful pop music starlets…..the hard work never ends for Pride Mountain Vineyards’ Hospitality & Events Coordinator, Mike Campbell.
Over the weekend of November 8th and 9th, Pride Mountain Vineyards, along with several other notable Napa Valley wineries, participated in Live in the Vineyards, an invite-only, private concert held at Napa Valley’s famed Silverado Resort. Described as a once-in-a-lifetime private weekend getaway, with acoustic concerts featuring the hottest singer/songwriters of the moment, Live in the Vineyards provided intimate acoustic concerts, vineyard tours, and wine & food pairings for approximately 220 radio contest winners from across the country.
Headlining the standing room only Sunday night show were current pop sensation, Colbie Caillat (shown here with Mike and a bottle of 2006 Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon) and the amazing Sarah Mclachlan (shown here with Mike and future pop music starlet, Sydney Campbell). Other performers included up-and-comers Matt Wertz, Thriving Ivory, the Gabe Dixon Band, Erin McCarley and John McLaughlin.
November 10, 2008
Harvest Fiesta 2008!
Sunday, November 10th dawned clear and cool, providing perfect weather for the 150 or so vineyard, office and sales employees and their families who gathered for the annual Harvest Fiesta thrown every year by the Pride family to celebrate the end of harvest. Big inflated jumpy gyms for the kids (young and old), musical entertainment by Mariachi Terasco, our vineyard manager, David Orosco's famous pork carnitas, and libations ranging from Pride wines to some excellent tequilas, ensured that a good time was had by all.
Many thanks to Tim Bouchet, our Director of Retail Sales, for putting together such a great party!
November 10, 2008
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!
Winemaker Sally Johnson was one of a panel of test drivers for the Robb Report’s upcoming “Car of the Year” issue. After hosting the eclectic panel of test drivers, made up of car aficionados and philanthropists, for a pre-event dinner at Pride Mountain Vineyards on Thursday, November 6th, Sally and the group spent following day rating the performance of thirteen luxury sports cars by zooming through the back roads of the Napa Valley. Though the identity of the cars is top secret until the magazine is published, Sally tells us to expect some surprises among this range of innovative cars. She promises a well-rounded selection that offers something for everyone – from over-the-top luxury models to exhilarating speedsters and cutting-edge vehicles leading the charge towards breakthroughs in performance and efficiency.
Her personal favorite? You'll have to wait till the issue hits newsstands in March, 2009 to read all about it.
November 03, 2008
2008 Harvest Overview
With weary bodies but upbeat spirit, our vineyard crew paused for a photo after picking the last grapes from our Rock Arch Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard on Thursday October 30th. The crew had more than earned their moment of rest after this year’s harvest, as uneven fruit ripening conditions required multiple picks of each vineyard block.
2008 presented us with exceptionally low yields (less than one ton per acre in some blocks) and exceptionally high quality – but we sure had to work to get it. The low yields resulted from our worst freeze ever in late April and unusually hot and windy conditions at fruit set which resulted in only a fraction of the usual number of berries being pollinated. Uneven ripening began with the uneven fruit set and was exacerbated by temperature extremes during veraison, when ripening began. Our solution was to pick each block as many as three times, instructing our experienced vineyard crew to pick just the clusters that were fully ripe on each pass through the blocks. The resulting wines display a range of flavors, from luscious red fruit through jammy black fruit, coffee and cocoa. We expect 2008 to be similar to 2001, 2002 and 2006, some of our ripest, most expressive vintages.
Hours after picking the last grapes from our ranch on Thursday October 30, the skies clouded over and the rain began to fall. Now that our 2008 harvest is over, the rains are both welcome and much needed, as our soils soak up the moisture that will provide sustenance to our 2009 vintage.
October 29, 2008
2008 Touch the Terroir
The week of October 13th, the Spring Mountain District Association hosted twenty-seven sommeliers and wine buyers from around the country for four days of seminars, tastings and "work-withs" at member wineries. Participants met winemakers, worked with vineyard managers and enjoyed accomodations that ranged from guest suites in the homes of our gracious neighbors to cabins in the vineyards.
For the complete press release, click here to visit the Spring Mountain District's website.
September 20, 2008
Welcome Mari de Jager!
This vintage offers something new and exciting for the Pride Mountain Vineyards crew - we are hosting our first international harvest intern, Mari de Jager from South Africa. Mari joins the team after completing a degree in cellar management at the University of Stellenbosch and working stints in Champagne, Austria and at Vilafonte Winery where she trained under renowned winemaker Zelma Long. Her outgoing personality and her enjoyment for long days of hard work made her an instant hit with her new coworkers at Pride Mountain Vineyards, and she is here pictured paying homage to Lucy and Ethyl by stomping our first Merlot grapes of the season with her bare feet. Although we don't usually crush our grapes this way, we thought it was an appropriate induction, and Mari was happy to oblige! Be sure to say hi to Mari if you visit the winery during her stay, which will last through the end of the year. Mari will begin a degree program in enology when she returns to South Africa.
September 08, 2008
Still looking rested and relaxed, our winemaking team Romel Rivera, Ruben Ayala, Sally Johnson (winemaker) Phillip Aquino and Lawrence Cortez saw the first grapes of 2008 on Thursday, September 4th. While two weeks earlier than first pick last year, Sally reports that the year seems to be on track, neither particularly early nor particularly late. Yields are low, but fruit quality, happily, is very high. Stay tuned for more detailed reports and photos!
July 21, 2008
On Monday, July 14th, we spotted the first pink berries in our estate vineyard. This is “veraison,” always an exciting time at the winery as we look forward to another harvest. Sangiovese, one of our earliest red grape varieties, is leading the charge, beating even the white grapes in the progression towards this year’s harvest. We expect the Chardonnay and Viognier to begin to soften and turn from green to gold within a few days to a week, but color in the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc will most likely not appear for another two weeks. This is about the same as last year or even a little earlier, but it’s still too soon to predict whether this will be an early, typical, or late harvest. Last year, for example, all factors pointed to an early harvest, but in September, vineyard temperatures dropped, and we didn’t really start picking until after a week of late October “Indian Summer” finally appeared.
The onset of veraison is affected by many factors, including the timing of bloom, weather during bloom and weather after berry set. This year, bloom occurred over an extended, cool period, with occasional wind, heat spikes and rain, weather conditions that keep every winegrower awake at night hoping that the crop will set. As bloom and
berry set were completed, we saw that our Merlot vines (and, to a lesser extent, some Cabernet Sauvignon blocks) experienced moderate shatter, where some flowers were not fertilized to form berries. The result is grape clusters that are loose and open, with plenty of room for air to flow and sun exposure – a perfect environment for creating
concentrated, ripe flavors. Our crop is light this year. Frost in the early spring and shatter at bloom reduced what was already a small crop – many shoots have only one cluster and some have none at all, where they would have two clusters in an average year. With weather that has so far been excellent for fruit quality, we will produce less wine this year, but expect to achieve great intensity and concentration. Predictions are for moderately warm weather through the end of July, and we will be eagerly watching our vineyard blocks as they progress through veraison and begin the long ripening process, culminating in the 2008 harvest.
May 30, 2008
The hippest place to be on a Thursday night
It may be quite a commute for some, but the patio at Go Fish in St. Helena is the place to be on Thursday nights! The cocktails are good and the sushi is fabulous, but the real reason to go is to see our own Mike Campbell (stage left) and his partner in crime, Scott Castro, strut their stuff as they shed the trappings of their day jobs and emerge as Hall1. A soulful, alternative acoustic guitar duo, the two combine lush vocal harmonies and intelligent lyrics with well crafted guitar melodies, offering many memorable original pieces, along with a diverse and beautifully interpreted range of covers.
641 Main St.
St. Helena, CA 94574
Thursday nights from 6:00 - 9:00 all summer long
We'll look for you next week!
May 01, 2008
Spring Wine Offering - Tuesday, May 6th
Watch your mailbox! Tuesday, May 6th will be the day to order your 2007 Viognier, 2006 Merlot, 2006 Cabernet Franc and 2006 Syrah. As always, the most limited production wines in our spring offering are our Syrah and Cabernet Franc and we expect them to sell out quickly. Those of you who like to stock up on Viognier and Merlot will also want to order early, as this year we will be accepting "wishes" for a second order of one or both of these two wines. Wishes will be granted in early June as inventory allows, and in the order in which they were received. The best part? If we have enough wine to grant your wish, the shipping for your wish order is on us! (Wish orders, if available, will be billed automatically and packed and shipped separately.)
Stay tuned! Online ordering will be available once you've received your email announcing the offering. We look forward to hearing from you then!
April 08, 2008
What? You Weren't Watching TV at 3:00 Yesterday Af
After being two of the thirty-six member judging panel for the National Women's Wine Competition earlier this month, winemaker Sally Johnson and Tracy Dutton, beverage manager at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, CA were invited to appear live on the View from the Bay on Monday, April 7th. Tasting through three wines with host Janelle Wang, Sally and Tracy also had a few moments to talk about the significance of women both as wine consumers and as important players in the wine industry.
April 04, 2008
Oh, That Southern Hospitality . . .
Fortunately for those of us at the winery, the Peachtree State is a long way away . . . otherwise we might see a lot less of Carolyn Pride. Returning from a trip with son in law and national sales manager, Stuart Bryan, for the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction last weekend, it was clear that she truly enjoyed the gracious hospitality and the cultural opportunities presented by our friends 2500 miles away.
The fundraising weekend kicked off when hosts Sara and John Shlesinger opened their beautiful home to a wonderful dinner featuring Pride wines, prepared by Executive Chef Robert Gerstenecker of the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta (left, with Carolyn Pride and Assistant Sous Chef, Hakan Coskun).
Friday night brought the Gala Dinner and Auction, where after another evening of great wine, food and company, our magnum vertical of 2000 - 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and a VIP trip to the vineyard for two couples raised $11,000 for the High Museum Atlanta.
Not to be outdone by their neighbors in Atlanta, the final stop on this weekend of southern hospitality was a lovely wine dinner put on by the brothers Greg and Gary Butch at their much lauded restaurant in Savannah, Elizabeth's on 37th. Thirty plus guests enjoyed a lovely menu of Chef Kelly Yambor's creations based on locally sourced ingredients and the restaurant's own house grown herbs and edible flowers, complimented by Pride wines chosen just for the occasion.
Thank you to everyone involved in making this such a great weekend!
March 21, 2008
It Must Be Spring!
As the first sleepy shoot tips poke their way out into the crisp spring air, we begin our journey towards Harvest 2008. Sunny days and high temperatures reaching the mid-seventies signal the end of a long and unusually cold winter.
This photograph was taken on Friday March 21, 2008 in our Mountain Top Chardonnay vineyard and are the very first buds to break on the ranch this year.
Since evening temperatures are still quite chilly and regularly drop into the high-thirties, the risk of frost damage to these delicate buds is especially high. Vineyard Manager David Orozco has not been getting much sleep. Instead, he spends his nights watching the temperature dial creep down and rushing turns on our frost protection, provided by overhead water sprinklers, whenever the temperature dips.
While our earliest grape varieties, Chardonnay and Viognier, are starting to grow, Merlot buds are just beginning to swell, and Cabernet Sauvignon vines have at least two more weeks before they will begin to bud out. Pruning is now finished, leaving just two buds per spur at regular intervals along the vine’s horizontal cordon. These 24 or so buds (the exact number varies depending on the soil type and grape variety) will produce one to two clusters of grapes each. The clusters will develop over the next six to eight weeks and will bloom some time in May. At that critical point in their development, the number of berries per cluster will be determined by ambient temperature and weather conditions. Until then, we can only imagine what Mother Nature may bring us this year.
Sally Johnson, winemaker
March 10, 2008
Do You Know This Man?
That's Kirk DeAlba - standing in what will soon be our new storage building!
Rarely sighted, but always here and always busy, Kirk is the general contractor who has been responsible for all of the construction here at Pride since 1997. The old winery, the new winery, the barns, the renovation of the Pride's home . . . with a creative eye and an uncanny ability to just look at something and figure it out, he's seen them all through from start to finish. Now he's helping us get organized with a dedicated storage area so we can keep more wine on site and get Chris and the shipping department out of the cave, making more room for barrel storage and winemaking.
January 15, 2008
231 Pairs of Shoes for Soles4Souls!
In an effort spearheaded by Tim Bouchet and Katherine Rantz, there are 231 pairs of shoes in our shipping area, packed and ready to ship to Soles4Souls!
Over the holidays, co-workers, friends, and colleagues from neighboring wineries cleaned out their closets and brought shoes they were no longer wearing to Pride.
Begun in 2004, Soles4Souls was organized by Wayne Elsey, a veteran of the footwear industry, to provide aid to the hundreds of thousands of people impacted by the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. Netting 900,000 pairs of donated shoes to assist with these relief efforts alone, Soles4Souls has now distributed over three million pairs of shoes to people in need in over 40 countries on five continents, including the United States, Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Swaziland, Sudan, Uganda, Romania, Iraq, Peru, Thailand, and Nepal.
The shoes collected at Pride will be shipped to a warehouse in Las Vegas and then forwarded on to Sole4Soul's hub in Roanoke, Alabama. Once in the distribution center, the shoes will be inspected for suitability, sorted by gender and size, packaged into common Soles4Souls boxes, and shrink-wrapped together onto a shipping pallet. There the footwear will await distribution to the first qualified charity or regional partner who expresses a need.
Watch a video about the beginnings of Soles4Souls and see how you and your company or organization can help people around the world in need simply by doing a little housekeeping.
January 03, 2008
2007 Harvest Notes
The rollercoaster ride of the 2007 harvest has finally come to an end! Budbreak was early this year with a warm spring that protected the vines from frost damage. Fruit set was perfect, which is key for us to get ripeness. By September, we were poised for an early and very ripe harvest. Leading up to the picking of the first grapes, predictions were for a Thanksgiving spent eating turkey, not pumping over vats of fermenting must, but there were a few surprises in store for us along the way!
Our first pick of the season, the Lower Mountain Top Viognier block, seemed to confirm these expectations, coming in on September 19th with ripe, spicy flavors and perfect acid balance. But from that point on, it was a whirlwind of weather from hot to cold, from sunny to cloudy, and the dreaded appearance of a week-long rain storm during what would otherwise have been the busiest point in our harvest. The quality of the ferments has been excellent, but the season was a nail-biter that added more than one grey hair to the heads of our Production team.
Our Viticultural Consultant, Paul Skinner, described this harvest best when he said that it was “three harvests in one.” The “first harvest” was the initial, early harvest during the last two weeks of September, when we picked perfectly ripe Viognier and Chardonnay, with flavors bursting from golden berries and crunchy, brown seeds. As September wound to a close, the weather cooled, and we waited with empty fermenters as our red grapes stubbornly refused to ripen. Tasting the blocks each day, we wondered if the flavors would ever reach the level of concentration that we hoped for. Our early harvest was turning into an average one, not particularly early but not late either (although “late” has a different definition for us up here on Spring Mountain). Suddenly, on October 4th, the Syrah berries transitioned almost overnight from fruity/sweet to jammy, exotic and seductive! Finally, we were ready to pick our first red grapes of the season. Syrah was followed by several Merlot blocks and even one superb Cabernet Sauvignon from our terraced, rocky Canyon Ranch block.
The “first harvest” concluded by mid-October, with only about 25% of our grapes picked. From there, we faced a few days of off-and-on showers and were disappointed to taste the flavors in our remaining Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blocks going backwards. We waited anxiously, hoping the flavors would return, and our patience was tested as weather reports suggested that we might not get any more sunshine or dry weather. The risk of bunch rot and mold was extremely high, so we sent our vineyard crew into the fields to do a second round of leaf-pulling, hoping to take advantage of any sunshine that managed to squeeze through the clouds. Our valley-floor winery friends were finishing their harvest, but Spring Mountain grapes needed more time, and we weren’t sure we would get it. More rain arrived, and the flavors went backwards again. The “second harvest” was a period of inactivity and anxiety punctuated by the occasional picking of the rare block of grapes (our Sangiovese, our Wind Whistle Merlot) that reached full flavor development despite the cool, cloudy weather.
Finally, the “third harvest” arrived! Indian summer! The end of October and the beginning of November greeted us with sunshine, blue skies and temperatures in the high 70’s to low 80’s. With 70% of our grapes still on the vines, we couldn’t have been happier. We waited patiently through the first three days of heat and sunshine to let our vines soak it up, and slowly the flavors began to transform. Finally, ripeness was reached! We picked the remaining Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot blocks one by one as they ripened, culminating in the picking of our Rock Arch Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon block on November 7th and 8th. We are happy to trade our newly-grey hairs and our Thanksgiving pump-overs for the concentrated, inky-black and jammy character of our young 2007 wines. As we now begin to rack the wines from barrel to barrel, we can look back on the harvest and say that it was a good one… and we are almost ready to start thinking about the next one…
Sally Johnson, Winemaker, Pride Mountain Vineyards