Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Nevada County (California) - 2014 Vintage Report from Sierra Starr Vineyards

Anne Starr in the Grass Valley
tasting room of
Sierra Starr Vineyards

Jackson Starr of Sierra Starr Vineyards, Vineyard Manager and Assistant Winemaker, sends along this very informative 2014 Vintage Report.    Sierra Starr Vineyards is located in Grass Valley, CA, and is part of the growing number of quality vineyards in Nevada County, CA.  You can learn more about them on their website (click here)



2014 was an exciting and extremely busy vintage here at Sierra Starr Vineyards.  The vintage began nicely with warm and dry conditions in month of April.  Although we certainly would have liked to see more rain during the rainy season, here in Grass Valley we did see 36+ inches of rain.  The cool, wet weather retreated to a warm dry spring and we saw bud break 7 days earlier than normal (what ever normal is anymore) on April 14th with the Sauvignon Blanc being the first variety to push.  Diligent canopy management began quickly after bud break to focus energy and promote growth. Soil nutrient tests were conducted on different vineyard blocks, pre bud break, to asses current soil nutrient attributes and deficiencies.  From these findings a very specific fertigation and irrigation program was designed and implemented to maximizing vine performance while still adhering to our gentle farming practices.  We escaped late spring without any frost incidents (knock, knock), and bloom began first in the Sauvingon Blanc on May 22, again keeping this season’s growing trends about 1 week ahead of average.  The Zinfandel followed on May 25th and the Cabernet Franc the week of June 1st.



With verasion beginning the second week of July we knew harvest would certainly be commencing quicker than anticipated.  And we were not disappointed.



Harvest began August 19th with the first of two Sauvignon Blanc picks.  Our First Zinfandel pick of the vintage fell on September 9th, which is 2 days ahead of last year and about 3 weeks ahead of the old normal.  On September 24th with rain looming, the Starr family, Phil, Jack, and Anne picked 3 ton of Petite Sirah (by themselves) in a 13 hour marathon, but hey, we got it in before the rain!  The Cabernet Franc, our last variety to harvest, was picked on October 3rd to immediate accolades by both Phil and Jack due to the intense development of color and flavor.   



The 2014 vintage yielded wines with intensity and freshness. These aspects are emphasized by the balance of sugars and firm acidity achieved in the winery.  We feel this is truly a symptom of our very intense farming and our vineyard site, blessed with dry days, lots of warm sun, and cool nights.   



It is also worth noting that our estate vineyards expanded during the 2014 vintage.  With the addition of 900+ new vines (about half of our new hillside), we certainly feel the expression of our vineyard site is worth exploring and expanding.  In doing so we took on two new varieties including Semillon and Riesling.  Also expanding our holdings with varieties that have showed promise for us, Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouchet. 

We at Sierra Starr are extremely excited and proud of the wines produced from the 2014 vintage and wait anxiously for their development in cask and tank before bottling down the road. 



The Starr Family

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Placer County Wineries, Including a New One, Pour at Lake Tahoe

One of the best ways to experience a variety of Sierra Foothill wines is to attend an event which features them. The recent Passport to Dining, which benefits the North Tahoe Business Association and the Community House, focused on wines from nearby Placer County wineries.

Jeff Evans and Mike Walker
of Bear River Winery
The newest winery, Bear River Winery, is located in Meadow Vista, CA.  I went straight for the 2010 Barbera, which uses grapes sourced from Viani Vineyards in the Pilot Hill area of Placer County.  Jeff Evans, Proprietor, notes that this Barbera has rich fruit-forward flavors of red cherry and raspberry. The aroma is fruity, and matches taste.  It has a nicely balanced acidity. The winemakers suggest pairing it with pasta, pizza or anything Italian.  14.6 percent alcohol.  $24/bottle. The winery also sources grapes from the Clavey Vineyards near Chicago Park, for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Syrah.  . 

Raquel Mostajo of Dono dal Cielo
Dono dal Cielo Vineyard, Newcastle, CA, presented its 2009 Daven Port 6100.  This port-like wine is  a late harvest Zinfandel, and has a ruby-jewel appearance and strong ripe black-cherry aroma.  It is a nicely soft wine, with a hint of warmed currant, and is rich on the palate.  I think a port should be in everyone’s wine rack, and this is a good one at a reasonable price!   16.5 percent alcohol.  $25 for the 375 ml bottle.

Denise Bellacera, wine educator
of Wise Villa Winery
I’ve tasted wines before from Wise Villa Winery, located in Lincoln, CA.    Dr. Grover Lee, winemaker, has a philosophy that I appreciate:  “We believe that great wines come from ultra-premium grapes, hand picked and crafted one barrel at a time. Our premium wines are aged in French oak barrels and enriched by the mineral, loam, soil of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Foothills in Lincoln, California.”At the benefit, they poured a Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  I liked the 2011 Wisdom of Wise best of all.  This wine is a blend of Merlot (54 percent), Cabernet Sauvignon (26 percent), and Cabernet Franc (18 percent).  It’s made in the Bordeaux style (think claret, etc).   Taste is of bright fruit, a fair amount of spiciness, and it has a lovely medium body.  13.5 percent alcohol.  $30/bottle.  

Lori and Mark Bonitata
of Bonitata Boutique Wines
Bonitata  Boutique Wines is located in Auburn in the original Bernhard Winery founded in 1874.  This is part of the Bernhard Museum on Folsom Road in Auburn.  Bonitata poured its 2009 Barbera, made from fruit sourced from the Boa Vista vineyards in El Dorado County.  This Barbera is a classic one, made from those great El Dorado grapes.  Rich, fruit, medium body.  14.5 percent alcohol, $24/bottle. 

The North Tahoe Business Association was founded in 1979 and is a non-profit organization that strives to improve and enhance the economic vitality and quality of life in the communities of North lake Tahoe.