Blog Post By Brien O’Brien
Friday August 5th, 2022 was a beautiful day in the Napa Valley. A high of 86 degrees and a slight breeze turned this into what some would call a “perfect day” in the valley. My day started out with a few meetings and connects at the office, but the afternoon quickly turned into one I will never forget.
I headed south on Highway 29 from Clif Family’s Tasting Room en route to our Valle di Sotto Vineyard in the Oak Knoll District of Napa. My plan was to snap a few pictures of veraison occurring (grapes changing colors when ripening) but was lucky enough to run into our Winemaker Laura Barrett. She was testing the sugar levels of the white wine grapes and allowed me to tag along. I learned so much while walking the vines with Laura!
Here are the five things I learned while walking the Valle di Soto Vineyard with Winemaker Laura Barrett:
The Oak Knoll District is Diverse
There are 10 different varietals planted in our Valle di Sotto Vineyard. There are three white varietals on property: Chardonnay, Viognier & Sauvignon Blanc. The red varietals include the five classic Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, plus Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. The Oak Knoll District appellation in the southern part of valley floor has moderate temperatures and a daily cool breeze where all ten of these varietals grow very well alongside each other in one location.
How do you measure Brix?
Laura’s goal is to get as general of a sample of a single varietal as possible which includes walking different rows and extracting grapes from different clusters. After she collects all the grapes for that sample, she smashes the grapes to extract the juice. She then takes a sample of that juice and tests the sugar level with a DMA (density meter) which is the tool used to
When will we Harvest?
Laura tested the Sauvignon Blanc while I was there, and the sample had a sugar level of 17.7 brix. Every winemaker tends to have different preferences when it comes to optimal brix reading per varietal. These readings can range from 20 to 28 degrees brix or even more, depending on the varietal and style of wine they are trying to achieve. Without revealing all of her secrets, based on the current readings of this particular testing, she predicts we will start our 2022 harvest with a first pick of white varietals by the end of August.
How is the 2022 harvest looking so far?
I had to ask this question as we are all eager to know what the 2022 harvest has in store for us.
Laura shared that the 2022 growing season has been consistent and fairly mild. We had a few hiccups along the way, but nothing that has disrupted the even growth and ripening process. The summer has been overall warm, but without any large heat events so far. Yields seem average and the timing of harvest is earlier than usually but consistent with the past few vintages. This will be Laura’s 8th vintage with Clif Family Winery, and she is excited about it’s potential.