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California’s Shenandoah Valley: Here Lies a Burgeoning Wine Scene

Posted on October 24, 2018 by Estate Vineyard

A hundred miles east of both San Francisco and Napa Valley and 40 miles east of Sacramento grow some of the country’s oldest grape vines—one dating to 1869. Welcome to Amador County, home of California’s Shenandoah Valley AVA, famous for its “old growth” zinfandel vines. Its Barbera and Rhone varietals are renowned as well. Here, vineyards stretch from 1,200 to 2,400 feet above sea level. The rolling hills feature sandy clay-loam soils derived from decomposed granite (volcanic Sierra Series soils). These soils retain Amador’s 36-38 inches of annual rainfall, enabling most growers to dry-farm the vineyards. The soil composition is also low nitrogen and phosphorous and results in sparse vine canopies which allow high sunlight exposure. All of this combined creates vineyards that are naturally resistant to pxlloxera and ideal candidates for organic farming practices. (Amador boasts one of the highest percentages of organically farmed vineyards of any wine region in California.)

The majority of Amador’s vines are head-trained, spur-pruned and on low vigor rootstocks (like St. George) which produce intensely flavored red wines and the heady zinfandels for which Amador is renowned. Here lies a burgeoning wine scene.

The region was first settled during the California Gold Rush in the nineteenth century, and settlers in the region began planting the first grapevines and producing the first wine soon thereafter. In 1983 the region became a designated American Viticulture Area and was the launching ground for the Sutter Home brand and it’s popular zinfandel iterations.

As the least elevated and warmest region within the Sierra Foothills, Shenandoah Valley in known for high temperatures (what the French call “luminosity”) and low humidity resulting in very ripe fruit and full-bodied, high alcohol wines. While Amador heats up earlier in the day than appellations in Napa, it rarely exceeds 100 degrees during the growing season. Equally significant, temperatures typically drop 30-35 degrees in the evening as breezes cascade down the Sierras. This rapid cooling helps the grapes retain the acidity essential to balanced wines.

On paper in Amador, Zinfandel is king, with 60 percent of the county’s plantings dedicated to the grape and wineries vying for the recognition of whose Old Vine Zin is truly the “Esteemed Elder.” But under the layer of Zin’s dominance, it’s clear Amador’s niche is a land of seemingly infinite varietals, most considered “old world.”  The county’s climate and terroir most resemble that found in southern Europe — think Italy, Spain, Portugal and southern France’s Rhone Valley. So what you’ll find is a huge selection of bold-flavored, food-friendly wines associated with those cultures: Barbera, Sangiovese, Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache, Mourvedre, Tempranillo — and those are just some of the more common names.

In addition to a trending wine scene, Amador County is a pretty place to be–a patchwork of the rugged and serene. During the rainy months, the verdant rolling hills are pocked with vernal pools, mountain streams and more than a few herds of cattle. In the dry heat of summer, the grass is a long blonde shag scarred with rocky crags and dry culverts braced by live oaks. In most places, you can hear little but the rustling of the wind. Dilapidated stacked-stone fences and foundations of old adobe houses built by the placer miners line the winding roads. In wetter years, you can ski in the morning and make it back for lunch until June.

These days there’s a new surge of interest in the area. The overcrowding of Napa has tasting groups in Plymouth — spread languidly across the bar at the Plymouth Hotel, which serves Vino Noceto on tap  — lamenting. “You can’t even get in on a Monday in winter,” says one patron. There is a flurry of new wineries with different attitudes (and altitudes) focusing on different wines — from California heritage zinfandels to Iberian, Rhone and Italian varietals — being championed by roguish and talented winemakers and growers teeming with personality and expertise. The small town of Plymouth calls itself the Gateway to the Shenandoah Valley, fitting given its position at the fork in the road between the valley to the north and the idyllic Highway 49 towns of Amador City and Sutter Creek to the south. There are now 47 wineries in the surrounding hills, the number growing every year.

Sangioveses and barbera are among the most drinkable reds and few wineries sell anything above $30. The surprising Iberian newcomer, tempranillo, flows like water in the Spanish Rioja region of its origin. In Amador it’s bottled by at least seven wineries. As a region, this is a place that values its diverse microclimates as much as its diverse winemaking philosophies. With its very accessible wineries for the Sacramento-Metropolitan area and the discovery of Shenandoah (lately)by Reno-Tahoe folks, this is a place that promises more to come…..much, much more.

Take a look at our latest offering in Shenandoah AVA: Two State-of-the-Art Shenandoah Wineries

Sources for this article include: San Francisco Chronicle, SF Gate, Wikipedia

 

Pearl Jam & Pinot Noir

Posted on July 31, 2018 by Estate Vineyard

Photo by Kevin Mazur/Wire Images/Getty Images

Well before it was considered rock ‘n’ roll to own a wine collection, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder proudly popped and partook of Pinot right there on stageduring concerts. And in the years since the band’s breakout 1991 album Ten, the Seattle area has become as famous for its winemaking scene as its grunge scene. No surprise then that the band has tuned up a new charity label with winemakers in Woodinville, Washington’s eno-punk Warehouse District to celebrate next month’s Home x Away concerts and raise money for the Vitalogy Foundation, Pearl Jam’s Seattle homelessness awareness and relief charity.

The Home x Away limited-edition box set of reds is a release from the Underground Wine Project, a collaboration between Washington winemakers Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery and Trey Busch of Slight of Hand Cellars; each bottle of the Idle Hands Syrah/Cabernet cuvée sports a label design by Pearl Jam depicting a retro-futuristic skyline silhouette of one of the four cities along the Home x Away tour kicking off next month, including Seattle, where the Aug. 8 and 10 “Home Shows” mark the band’s homecoming after five years since last playing Jet City—and, reportedly, the biggest concert series the city has seen in more than three decades.

“We have been longtime fans,” McNeilly told Unfiltered of the project. “Trey and I have met [Pearl Jam] band members over the years at different things, and we have worked with them a little bit with some of their charities, but it’s just fun to be pulled in a little bit closer for a great cause. I think that if we can work with Pearl Jam and find some new arenas to talk about philanthropy and talk about people’s responsibilities toward charity, you can kind of open people’s eyes and let them know everybody has a responsibility to help everybody else.”

All the proceeds of the 450 cases sold went to the Vitalogy Foundation. That’s right, the new wine, alas, has already sold out—within 15 minutes of the band announcing the project via its email newsletter. But for the homers in the Seattle area, 10 of chef Ethan Stowell’s restaurants that snapped up some of the wine will be selling it by the glass, with further proceeds going to charity, starting Aug. 1, in the lead-up to the Seattle gigs. Pearl Jam’s partnership with the Underground Wine Project is one of many surrounding the Home Shows with a goal of raising $960,000, with each donation made to the Vitalogy Foundation to be matched by the band.

–story courtesy of Wine Spectator

Veraison, Smoke Taint & Napa Vineyards

Posted on July 04, 2018 by Estate Vineyard

© Daily Republic | The fire started in Yolo County and is already bigger than the Tubbs fire that ripped through Napa and Sonoma last year.

As most of you know, Napa is on fire.  Again.  And those in the “know” in regards to wine are busy postulating on the effects of smoke taint as it relates to “veraison.”  Is smoke taint becoming a thing with wine? Too early to tell and certainly interesting speculation for wine conversation.

Meanwhile, what is the meaning of the cryptic term “veraison?”  Veraison is defined this way:  “In viticulture (grape-growing), veraison is the onset of ripening. The term is originally French (véraison / veʀɛzɔ̃), but has been adopted into English use.” (Wikipedia).  Veraison has everything to do with the permeability of the grape skin.  Less ripened grapes have thicker skins, which suggests they are less susceptible to smoke taint.  That’s where we are right now, in the early part of the grape ripening season, so most likely smoke taint will not be a factor for the current fire.

Here’s more about the current fire affecting Napa County, courtesy of W. Blake Gray | Posted Tuesday, 03-Jul-2018:

Growers are keeping an anxious eye on two large fires in Wine Country

A huge wildfire has crossed over into Napa County, less than a year after the region was devastated by one of the worst fire outbreaks in northern California history.

The air was brown in San Francisco, about 60 miles south of Napa County, on Sunday morning from smoke from two Wine Country fires: the County Fire, which started in Yolo County east of Napa, and the Pawnee Fire in Lake County north of Napa.

The County Fire is growing like Godzilla: 60,000 acres as of Monday evening, with only 5 percent contained. It is already larger than the Tubbs Fire that last year devastated northern Napa Valley and neighboring Sonoma County, and it is growing at a faster rate – 33 percent on Monday alone. Cal Fire believes it started in dry vegetation; the cause is under investigation.

However, some of the news on the County Fire is so far, so good (cross fingers). CalFire says it threatens 700 structures – six times as many as 12 hours earlier – but so far has not destroyed any. At this point, no wineries are believed threatened, and we learned last year that vineyards are effective natural firebreaks.

“I’ve looked at the map many times here. It’s not anywhere in our grapegrowing vicinity,” Heidi Soldinger, marketing and communications manager for Napa Valley Grapegrowers, told Wine-Searcher. “At this time, we’re feeling like we’re pretty safe. But after what we experienced in October, I’m not going to make any predictions.”

For wineries, smoke taint is almost as big a concern as the fire itself. California wineries have had great interest in smoke taint research since last year’s wildfires.

Napa’s grapes have not yet gone through the process of veraison, where white grapes turn black, so they are less vulnerable to smoke taint than they will be soon. But that doesn’t exempt them from risk. In 2008, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir grapes were heavily smoke tainted by fires that occurred pre-veraison in June.

“We do not currently know exactly how much fresh smoke is needed for a real risk of smoke taint development in the wine,” Anita Oberholster, assistant cooperative extension specialist for UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, told Wine-Searcher. “However, we do know that pre-veraison it will take more fresh smoke and longer exposure times for smoke taint risk compared to post-veraison grapes. The less ripe the grapes, the smaller the risk. Green hard berries have low risk whereas larger, softer, green berries have medium risk, with post-veraison grapes having the highest risk.”

Fortunately, though the County Fire has leapt into Napa County, it is still north and east of Napa Valley, and the wind in Napa County tends to blow from the ocean (west) to east. Winds can change, and fires can leap, but for now it’s a worry for wineries more than a threat.

To the north of Napa, however, the Pawnee Fire has already destroyed 22 structures in Lake County. It’s only one-third the size of the County Fire, and it was 75 percent contained as of Monday morning. The cause of this fire is also under investigation.

It’s possible this fire might have more impact on 2018 Napa Cabernets than the County Fire, because much of the Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Lake County finds its way into Napa Valley bottlings. A wine labeled as “Napa Valley”, or any other AVA, must contain at least 85 percent grapes from that AVA. Lake County Cabernet grapes fetched an average of $2500 per ton last year; for Napa County Cabernet, the average was $7500 per ton. It’s also possible that the great majority of Lake County grapes won’t be affected at all.

California usually has dry summers – that’s why the wine is so good – and is thus vulnerable to fires. This season they seem to be early. The state had below-average rainfall again last winter after a rainy winter in 2016-17 ended a five-year drought. But rain might not matter: in 2017, after that wet winter, more than 500,000 acres burned in California, more than double the destruction of dry 2016.

Wednesday July 4 is the biggest fireworks day of the year in the US. Not, however, after last year in wine country.

“In Napa County we’re not having any fireworks this year,” Soldinger said. “Everyone is very aware. Our thoughts go out to everyone in Yolo and Lake County. We know how that feels.”

North Bay Wildfire Clean Up Complete

Posted on June 14, 2018 by Estate Vineyard

 

State and federal officials Monday declared the debris removal from the North Bay wildfires — the largest such effort since the 1906 earthquake — complete.

The government sponsored cleanup work in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties has been winding down for months as the number of sites remaining to be cleared has dwindled. The last of the 4,563 parcels that signed up for the cleanup program was cleared last week.

The North Bay wildfires were the costliest in U.S. history, with insured losses approaching $10 billion. They also killed 40 people and destroyed 6,200 homes. That work that resulted in an estimated 2.2 million tons of ash and fire-related debris being hauled off. In the case of concrete from foundations, some was recycled, while much of it was buried in the Sonoma County Central Landfill.

Michael Wolff, a contractor whose firm has cleared more than 150 sites and assisted in hundreds of others, said while initially skeptical of the timeline, he was impressed with the coordination federal and state officials brought to the monumental task.

“For the most part, I felt like the (Army Corps of Engineers) did a great job,” Wolff said. “I was blown away by how well things came together and how much work was done in such a short period of time.”

Wolff said his company worked on the final lot to receive clearance, a site off Crown Hill Drive in the devastated Fountaingrove neighborhood that needed additional concrete removed, he said.

The Army Corps said it has “deactivated” its Rohnert Park office and would complete any additional work from Sacramento.

Plenty of work remains in the city and county, however, said Paul Lowenthal, Santa Rosa assistant fire marshal.

“Even though the Army Corps is stating that this part of the mission is complete, the city and county are still here, and we know there is still a long road to recovery,” Lowenthal said. “We’re not going anywhere.”

There are still two lots that need to be cleared in the city — a residential property and an apartment complex on Hopper Lane. Neither went through the government cleanup nor the private cleanup processes. Instead, the city’s legal department has been forced to initiate abatement proceedings against the two properties. It’s not clear how many such properties remain to the cleared in Sonoma County.

Some cleared properties still have issues, such as over-excavation, Lowenthal said.

An estimated 200 properties in Sonoma County may have been over-excavated by Army Corps contractors, and the state Office of Emergency Services is working with the county to identify them and return dirt to the site at no cost to property owners.

Of the 4,563 properties cleared, the vast majority, 3,674 or 81 percent, where in Sonoma County, where the Tubbs fire ravaged entire Santa Rosa neighborhoods. The Corps cleared 439 lots in Napa, 306 in Mendocino, and 144 in Lake County.

While the Corps has completed all debris removal on the 4,563 parcels, 22 sites still need to have additional work, such as soil testing and erosion control, before rebuilding can proceed, Lowenthal said.

Source: NorthBay Business Journal & Press Democrat

Story by Kevin McCallum, June 13, 2018

Why 2018 is the Year to Sell Your Home: An Economic Overview

Posted on June 12, 2018 by Estate Vineyard

Considering selling your home or real estate investment? Projected economic and job growth coupled with an anticipated rise in interest rates (toward the end of this year and into the future) means that this spring and summer is the perfect time to sell your home. High demand and low housing inventory has made the first half of 2018 a seller’s market in the majority of the top housing markets in the United States.

This is a rare opportunity for sellers— you may get more than your asking price. Buyers are eager to close before the anticipated rise in mortgage payments; and the market is competitive, leading to bidding wars that are raising sales to well above listing prices, increasing your profits.

OUR ECONOMY: According to real estate economists, the economy will continue to grow over the course of the next 3 years, with 2.8% projected growth in 2018. Although the forecast is looking good for long-term growth, the anticipated surge may slow to 2% by 2020.

INVESTMENT ACTIVITY AND HOME PRICES: An economic rise featuring continuous job growth is expected to generate a boost in investment activity, making 2018 a perfect time to sell. “It appears that the forecast for strong economic growth may lead to higher levels of investment activity. According to urbanland.uli.org, survey respondents increased their expectations for transaction volumes for 2018 and 2019 (up $23 billion in 2018 and up $11 billion in 2019).” Alongside the increased investment activity, we will likely see a continuous rise in prices of homes over the course of 2018. Home prices will continue to surge until 2020, but at a decreased pace (5% in 2018 and 2.3% in 2020).

INFLATION AND INTEREST RATES: There is some anticipation that inflation rates will be on the rise until 2020 (resulting from the GDP growth rate). As inflation progresses, interest rates also increase leading to higher mortgage payments. We have already begun to witness the widespread anxiety that stemmed from an initial increase in interest rates— the stock market swing in early 2018.

So what does this mean if you are selling your home or property?  

Buyers will likely feel a growing sense of urgency to invest now, before rates surge even higher. Lingering fear from the housing collapse a decade ago may prevent potential buyers from investing as they see interest rates continue to climb. Although the fear is understandable, the average mortgage payment (adjusted for inflation) still falls approximately 36% below what we were paying back in 2006. Nonetheless, we may see some buyers leaving the market.

There is low housing inventory and buyers are ready to find their homes… But don’t wait too long, because your perfect buyers may decide to wait out this next cycle of economic uncertainty and the advantageous bidding wars that can escalate your returns $50k-300k will disappear with them.

Contact me at 707.322.2000 for information about selling your home in Northern California.

*Economic data taken from the most recent ULI Real Estate Economic Forecast

 

Wild Iris Retreat Open House this Saturday 11-4pm

Posted on May 17, 2018 by Estate Vineyard

 

Wild Iris Retreat in Anderson Valley 

OPEN HOUSE

Date: Saturday, May 19th
Time: 11Am – 5PM
20500 Tumbling MdD Road
Philo, CA 95466

Do you love Anderson Valley? Join us at our open house this Saturday, May 19th from 11am – 5pm at Wild Iris Retreat — just 11 miles away from the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival happening all weekend long! Stop by for gourmet snacks, jeep tours and an inside view into one of the most enchanting properties to hit the market this year. Wild Iris Retreat is an exquisite 300+ acre property bordering the Navarro river with plenty of sunshine and shaded groves of towering redwoods. Featuring a large main house, two guest houses, a 90K gallon pool, a beautiful stone spa, and a dance hall, this is an opportunity you won’t want to miss!

 


Learn More About Wild Iris Retreat: CLICK HERE