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Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Great Dinner and fighting the European Grape Vine Moth


Once in a great while you have a truly great dinner that merits talking about.  Usually it takes place in a Michelin starred restaurant or someplace similar. Well we had one of those last week and it was not at the French Laundry. It was, in fact, at the home of friends, Ralph (or Cellar Master) and Lindsay Bashioum who, incidentally, are both great cooks. The highlight of the evening was an Organic Rabbit Risotto, seasoned with herbs de Provence, rosemary, salt and pepper, carrots and fennel bulbs with copious quantities of Parmesan cheese melted in. The idea and the recipe was created by Lindsay.  The Rabbit Risotto was served with a 1997 Piero Antinori Tiganello which is  a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc, aged in French oak barrels for 12 months and filtered without filtering.  
We are going to be putting the recipe on our website, but if anyone wants it, send me an e-mail and I will make sure that you get it, compliments of Lindsay.

THE EUROPEAN GRAPE VINE MOTH. A huge and important battle in the Napa Valley

The European Grapevine Moth (EGVM) was first reported in the United States and in Napa County vineyards in October 2009. Native to Southern Italy, it was first described from Austria and is now found throughout Europe. Feeding by larvae of European grapevine moth results in contamination of grape bunches with webbing, frass, and fungal infections. Grapevine moth larvae hollow out berries, leaving behind just the skin and seeds. And, they can destroy an entire vineyard in one generation, as happened to a few vineyards around Oakville, in the Napa Valley in 2009.

Moth Damage 

In May and June, first-generation larvae web and feed on the flower clusters. Second-generation larvae (July-August) feed on green berries. Young larvae penetrate the berry and hollow them out, leaving the skin and seeds. Third-generation larvae (August-September) cause the greatest damage by webbing and feeding inside berries and within bunches, which become contaminated with frass. Additionally, feeding damage to berries after veraison exposes them to infection by Botrytis and other secondary fungi  Secondary pests such as raisin moth (Cadra figulilella), fruit flies, and ants may also be attracted to damaged berries.

The Fight.
We are battling the EGVM with an interesting combination of approaches.  We just completed placing mating disruptors in the vineyard. We place 200 of these ties per acre. One on every 5th vine. They are small ties which are contain sex pheromones which attract males. The males are then confused about where and who to mate with and the mating is disrupted resulting in far less moths. As the season progresses we spray the vineyard every two to three weeks with an insecticide that the aimed specifically at the EGVM; an insecticide that is not harmful to the grapes or ultimately the wine.

We are Winning. 
Due to the efforts of the Napa Valley Vintners and growers in 2010, trapping finds of the EGVM were dramatically reduced from more than 100,000 in the first generation to only 275 moths during the third generation. The entire Napa Valley was under quarantine last season and because we ship grapes out of state we had to have a special inspection. Fortunately we had no moths and we could then ship.  But, we continue to be vigilant and to fight the little critters. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Budbreak - April 1 - On to a new season

The Winter rains are almost over in the Napa Valley
A week ago, our Cabernet Vineyard, looking toward Lake Cynthia was dark, gloomy and wet. Today it is basking in sunshine. It sure looks different, as you can tell from out photos. And Houston - WE HAVE BUD-BREAK.

It is almost as exciting as "lift-off" and a truly magical time of the year.  We declared April 1 our official day of bud-break at Kitchak Cellars and as you can see from the photo, taken yesterday (April 6) it took less than a week to go from bud-break to real leaves on the vines. One month from now we will have vertical canes on the vines that will be more than a foot tall (some as many as a two feet) all from those little buds. Then flowers and green clusters. By August 1 the grapes will start to turn color and around the end of September we will pick the grapes and start to make wine.  A truly magical process.  The next time you try a glass of wine, stop to think about the Magic. Dirt, Sunshine, a little water and voila' we have wine, and really special wine.

Next step in the Vineyard. Next we will mow the grass (and mustard) between the rows and disk it into the soil to add some nutrients. We will mow every other row (it reduces the risk of frost damage) and leave the grass between the other rows for a while. Growing cover crops help get the water out of the vineyard so the grapes have to struggle for water. Then the grapes will be smaller and the skin (from whence come the color and flavor) to juice ratio will be higher. The overall concentration level is higher and we get a more dense, more flavorful and higher quality wine.

Bottling Day April 4. On Monday we bottled our 2010 Scherzo (78 cases) after 5 months in the barrel,  and our 2008 Concerto (130 cases)  after 29 months in the barrel. I was worried about it, because it was our first time but it went off without a hitch thanks to our new friends John and Jennie Hofherr of J & J Bottling from Calistoga. The bottling truck and trailer got down the drive ok (I was a bit worried) and everything went as scheduled. The 2010 Scherzo will be released around June 1 and the Concerto will not be released until this time next year.  We are, at this point, very satisfied with each.

2010 Scherzo Cabernet Rosato - To release or not to release. I said that I would share our decisions and our questions with our readers. Today's big question is whether or not we should release the 2010 Scherzo Cabernet Rosato around June 1.  It is a very young wine and we think it will, again, age very well. We are sold out of the 2009 Scherzo and only have a few (less than 10 cases each) of the 2008 and 2007 left, both of which are doing just fine. The other day we tried our first Scherzo, a 2006, and it is still drinking very well. 

So, our dilemma is that we would like to release the 2010 Scherzo in time for Summer, but we think it will be drinking better in the fall after it has a few more months of age on it. A few months will make a difference. Our current thinking is to release the wine and suggest that people might watch it evolve over time.  If you have any thoughts you might consider sharing them with us.

Off to Bordeaux. In June we will be off to Bordeaux for a week. We will be there for Vin Expo - one of the largest wine trade shows in the world. We are traveling with the Commanderie de Bordeaux, San Francisco Chapter and will also be visiting some of the top Chateau in Bordeaux, indeed the best in the world.  I am expecting it to be a great learning experience.