Rose Wines + Tragic Fire in Sonoma County

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 THE TRAGIC FIRES IN SONOMA COUNTY (AND HOW CALLUNA VINEYARDS SURVIVED)

ROSE WINES – HOT AGAIN

Here is why rose wines are hot again. 

We recently read an interview article in the NY Times about Bon Jovi.  It featured his family’s daily preference for rose wines – so much so that he and his son have collaborated with a French producer to produce their own rose wine.

It reminded us of several interviews we have read of leading chefs.   Several answered the inevitable question of what type of wine they like to drink at home by saying their go-to wine is:   Rose.

Combine those testimonials with the market’s trend toward Provence-style dry rose wines (having no or little residual sugar).    Most of the wine produced in France’s Provence region is rose wine.   The biggest producers of rose wine are France, Spain, and the USA.  They produce both still wines and sparkling.

The earlier fad of sweet rose wines (Lancers and Mateus from Portugal, and white zinfandel from California) has been fading.

Historians say it is likely that the earliest red wines were probably similar to today’s rose wines (using less-sophisticated methods) with very little maceration time on the skins.  Reportedly the most highly regarded wines in the old English market were the “wine of one night” style made from less that a day’s contact with skins.

There are 3 principal ways that rose wine can be made from any red grape variety.  They are (1) skin contact, (2) saignee (“bleeding”), and (3) blending.  

(1)  In the Skin Contact Method dark skinned grape varieties are crushed and the juice stays with the skins for 2 to 20 hours prior to fermentation.   This extracts some of the tannins and anthrocyanins that provide color and flavors.  The skins are then used for compost  or otherwise disposed of.

We made rose wine by the skin contact method.   There is some available on our online store at www.tamarellivineyards.com           

 (2)  In the Saignee (bleeding) Method a portion of the juice from a red grape wine crush is removed from the main batch, and is fermented separately from the main batch.

We recently also made some rose wine by the saignee method.   It will be available on our online store later this year.

(3) The third method of producing rose wine (Blending of red and white grapes) is rare and is illegal in some areas.

We have not made (nor do we intend to make) any rose by blending.

THE TRAGIC FIRES IN SONOMA COUNTY ( AND HOW CALLUNA VINEYARDS SURVIVED)

You have also undoubtedly read about the tragic fires in Sonoma and Napa Counties last fall.  There were many fatalities, and huge total losses of houses, wineries, and vineyards.

As you know we are also partners in Calluna Vineyards (www.callunavineyards.com) in Sonoma County, California.  

Here is a dramatic report our Founder/Winemaker David Jeffrey sent out on October 15:

“Thank you for the many inquiries and good wishes sent our way.  I am happy to report that Calluna Vineyards is intact and unharmed by the wine country fires, as of now.  We are very fortunate. 

It has been a harrowing week since last Sunday night when our visiting niece woke me up to ask if what she was seeing on our eastern flank might be a problem.   The sky over the Mayacamas ridge toward Calistoga was lit up in a towering red glow.  Huge winds from the north were moving it quickly south.  Although it was moving away from us, the enormity of the “Tubbs Fire” was immediately clear.  We slept off and on in our clothes, observing the fire.  Then around, 3 am, a smaller fire popped up behind us in the north, and winds were pushing it in our directions.  We began discussion on how and when to evacuate.  As morning approached, the Tubbs Fire had lit up the sky all the way down to Santa Rosa to our south.  Pushed by 50 mile per hour winds, it was not a fire, it was a firestorm, and we would soon learn that it ripped through established neighborhoods in a way few would imagine possible.

From our high vantage point, with near 360 views, we have watched these fires all around us for a week.  The large fires are horrific but it is the small fires, as pictured above, and new fires which I fear the most.  With all the attention focused on the large fires and more populated areas, getting help for Calluna would likely be difficult.  When the smoke descends on our property and the night falls, we cannot monitor the situation.  With only one road out of here that is flanked by dry meadows, we have chosen to evacuate the property several nights.

Our winery site, Vinify, is in the Coffey Park area of north Santa Rosa.  The Tubbs Fire was able to jump 101 and incinerated the area.  Somehow, miraculously, Vinify was unharmed.  However, Vinify was included just within the Evacuation Zone for that area.  Nobody was allowed in.  On Tuesday morning, we found a way to get to the winery in order to do critical work on our fermentations.  Without electricity, we did punch downs on our tanks and bins wearing our vineyard headlamps.  We have had to negotiate with authorities constantly to get access to Vinify.  The management has done a great job to find the higher authorities who give us permission to work, but that has not always been transmitted to police doing their job on the ground.   But power is back and access is improving.

Between these fires and the unprecedented heat spike over Labor Day weekend, 2017 is destined to be known as the vintage from Hell.  We have lost about 30% of our crop to the heat.  What has been left behind seems very good though.  And we are fortunate again in that we picked all our fruit before the fires, except for one small block.  We can sequester that and, if it has the dreaded smoke taint, then it will not get into our finished wines.

While this is not over, it feels like the end may be approaching.  It is bad even now north of the town of Sonoma, and more houses were lost overnight.  But Cal Fire is actually predicting that it will be essentially over by this Friday.  And light rain is forecast for Thursday.  While I still worry about the fires, the big difference between now and last Sunday night is that there is an army of firefighters and equipment all over, and command and control seems to be working well.  The scope of this operation and the heroic self-sacrifice of fire fighters and police from all over the country are as awe inspiring as the fires themselves.  

I look forward to returning to normal operations soon.  Thank you for your support throughout this time.

David ”

Wayne Tamarelli