March is starting off with a BANG for us. Today we made our first deliveries of Wicker Vineyards Cabernet to bothWicker Cabernet Go Fish Restaurant in St. Helena, and to Mustards Grill in Yountville. We are very excited about having our wines available at both of these great restaurants.

Even though both restaurants are owned by Cindy Pawlcyn, their interests in our wine came about through totally separate circumstances. Go Fish‘s Jennifer Ingellis and Carrie Thomas Mullen had taken a liking to our silky textured Howell Mt. Cabernet some months ago, but had debated how it would fit into their fish dominated menu.  That decision was made last week, and they are now very excited to have our 2005 half bottles to offer their guests.

A short time ago, I was meeting a colleague at Mustards for  lunch, and had decided to take a half bottle of our 2005 Cabernet to share.  While waiting for him to arrive, I struck up a conversation with bartender “Mo”, whom I hadn’t seen in years, and the discussion turned to the bottle sitting in front of me on the bar.  Within minutes I had been introduced to General Manager Patrick Kellaher, and before I departed the restaurant we had discussed his interest in putting our wine on their list.  A few days later, Lisa and I stopped in for lunch, and shared samples of our 2002 and 2003 Cabernet with he and his staff.  As of today, our 2002 full bottles, and our 2005 half bottles are available at Mustards.

We are very excited to now have our wines available in some of the finest restaurants in Napa Valley.  Currently we are represented on the wine lists at Market Restaurant, Martini House, AKA Bistro, Mustards, Go Fish, The Restaurant at Meadowood and Farm at Carneros Inn.  These restaurants have been instrumental in helping develop our new brand.  I want to personally thank each and every one of them for the role they have played in creating exposure and building excitement about our Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mt.

THANK YOU, ALL!!

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SEND IT ON!!  We love this rain, even as we get impatient with the pending arrival of our Napa Valley Spring weather.

So, why do we need all this rain?

The first rains of the year wet down the ground surface, germinate our cover crop seeds and turn the hills green. As the rains continue, the soil profile fills with water and eventually starts to run off on the surface.  Additional rains continue to soak into the ground and fill reservoirs, with excess water running off to our rivers and eventually on to the ocean.

After several years of below normal rainfall, it is nice to see our Spring growing season starting with reservoirs full, soils saturated, and moisture hanging in the air.  Continued rainfall in the coming weeks will bring us close to normal rainfall totals for the year.  Normal moisture levels in Spring will also lessen the chance of the damaging frost conditions we have seen in the past three years.  Dry springs have historically been cold springs.  We don’t need another 2008 frost season.

Every year we get a week or ten days of spring-like weather in February. I’m convinced that it is always timed just for my birthday. With today’s overcast, cold and drizzly weather, it is hard to believe that LAST Sunday we rode the scooter over to Bodega Bay for lunch; on up the coast to Jenner and then back through Guerneville and Santa Rosa. It was “shirt sleeve” weather on the coast with a few brave folks actually on the beaches in swim suits.  It wasn’t THAT warm!!

Now we are back in the waiting mode for some more rain, which we still badly need. Today’s mist hardly counted. Cold and clear tomorrow, with rain to follow on Wednesday and Thursday. In the meantime, the vines are getting ready to push their Spring growth. We are waiting until the last moment to prune our Cabernet vines, but a close look this weekend revealed a few buds starting to soften as they get ready to push new shoots. A few pruning cuts confirmed that Spring is just around the corner… within a few seconds of making a cut, sap was flowing from the open end… A sure sign that the vines are getting ready to start the 2010 growing season.

As we move into 2010, it is hard to imagine we are entering our tenth vintage of Wicker Vineyards Cabernet production. This past weekend, as we shared our wine with some new friends, we were reminded of how effective our decision to hold our wines until they started to “open up” in the glass has been. With our 2003 as our current release, the first word from 90 percent of folks who taste our wine for the first time is “WOW”.  That first impression is the result of the additional bottle age which allows our nicely balanced wines to express their wonderful Howell Mt. fruit when poured.

We are now about to take another unusual move by wine industry standards:  We will jump over our 2004, and release the ’05 first.  We started pouring our ’05 half bottles earlier this winter, and I now believe the full sized 750 ml bottles are ready for enjoyment.  Look for an announcement of the entry of the 2005 Wicker Vineyards Cabernet into the market in the near future.

We will continue to monitor our 2004 as it matures in the bottle.  At the time of bottling, it was an incredibly intense, complex example of our Howell Mountain site.  We are very excited about its progress, and are looking forward to making it available as soon as it is ready.

Speaking of age:  We had an opportunity to enjoy a bottle of our initial 2001 vintage this weekend.  Any questions we may have had about the ability of our wines to age well are being answered by the grace with which this wine enters 2010.  The tannins are still tight and silky, the fruit elegant, and the long juicy finish still intact.  Here’s to a great future.

The upper rows of the vineyard are full of the black fruit flavors that run through our Cabernet vintages. The rain has washed off the dust, and given the lower elevation portion of the vineyard a chance to catch up. As soon as the ground dries up enough to get in with our small ATV’s we will be taking the first fruit of 2009 to the winery.

This may be one of those unusual years in which we pick the entire vineyard at one time. We will be tasting and testing fruit samples as soon as the sun comes out to determine where to start and how far down the hill to pick.

Cabernet Hanging

Cabernet Hanging

WAITING to see color in our Howell Mt. Cabernet.  Clusters are filling out, but the berries are small.  That means less weight, but lots of concentration for color and flavor extraction.  Vineyards on the Valley floor are starting to color up, but at our 1400 ft elevation, we are still waiting.  The berries are hard and green.  When they start to sugar up and reach about 7 or 8 Brix, they will soften and change color.  Photos to come!

The heat wave over the weekend and into Monday has passed, and we are back to more normal temperatures.  Today started out with fog covering the vineyard at 1400 feet elevation.  Burned off quickly, but lingered until 10:00 AM in south end of Napa Valley, keeping it a bit cool this morning, with highs getting near 90 this afternoon.

Tomorrow we get back into the vineyard and do some minor leaf and lateral removal to adjust the canopy so “dappled” light reaches the fruit.  It is important to leave just enough cover so the fruit is not directly exposed to the hot sun.  A few shoots will be tucked back up in the trellis wires, and a some clusters of fruit will be shifted so that no two bunches overlap.  It’s tedious work, but necessary for production of  the high quality fruit that goes into our Wicker Vineyards Cabernet.Cabernet Clusters July 1st 2009

The fruit is sizing up nicely and the clusters starting to fill out.  Looks like a good start to a great 2009.   This photo was taken at daybreak with the aid of a flash.

Cabernet Clusters July 1st 2009

Our Cabernet has finished bloom, and is now showing the crop that has set.  The berries are starting to size Fruit setup, and will continue to grow for the next couple of months.  As usual, the vines in the upper portion of the vineyard are developmentally ahead of the vines at elevations 150 to 200 feet lower.  That lag will continue right through the harvest.

The past couple of mornings, the temperatures on the mountain have been in the mid 70’s.  This is  usually a good indicator that the temps on the Valley floor will be very warm by afternoon.  And, true to test, it was in the mid 90’s yesterday, and only a little cooler today.

We are now starting to see our more normal Summer weather pattern;  increasingly warm days followed by a 3 to 5 day period of cooler marine air and fog, and then a repeat of the increasing temperatures over a week or so.  It is this cycle in our marine influenced weather pattern that makes the climate in Napa Valley one of the most desirable places on Earth to grow premium wine grape varieties.

The Spring season in Napa Valley is always beautiful, with the trees and vines a vibrant green, the wildflowers and gardens in full bloom, and the grass on the hillsides starting to dry and turn to a “golden” California color.  This year has been particularly lush with because of the last late Spring series of storms that dropped nearly 2 1/2 inches of rain.  We will get very little, if any rain from now until late October or Early November.  Most of our annual 35 inches of rainfall come from  December through April.

You might want to bookmark this page and check back weekly, as I will continue to keep you up to date on what is happening during the 2009 growing season.