On the blogby Alfred
November 27 2018

Supporting Californian wines

by Pascale Lemieux

Only one year after the extremely destructive forest fires in California affected many of the most renowned vineyards of Napa Valley and Sonoma County, new uncontrollable fires are striking the region once again. More than 20,000 acres have been destroyed by a fire that seems to have started in the city of Paradise, in the heart of the Sierra Foothills. It is a second year in a row for these fires in California, so today I decided to talk about the wines originating from this region to encourage the economy of this region. Last Thursday, I had the pleasure to attend a tasting of Napa Valley wines at the Bistro L’Atelier in Quebec where all these products from these prestigious domains were presented; here are a few of my favorites.

One of these is the Signorello Estate. Luckily for them, the harvest was already over on October 8th2017, the date at which the Estate was completely consumed by the forest fire raging in that region; a few vines and the wines of the domain were saved from this catastrophe. Amongst their most prestigious cuvees, Hope’s Cuvee Chardonnay 2015 is one of the best. The vines of Chardonnay for this cuvee are from a small parcel of 5 acres planted in 1980. Today, they can be proud to own one of the oldest plantations of Chardonnay in Napa Valley. Indigenous yeast is used to start up the fermentation in French oak casks, with the fermentation then blocked to conserve a stiffer type of wine that is aged for 9 months in French barrels (50% of them being new) before bottling. A production of only 405 cases for the 2017 vintage, soon to be available in SAQ stores.

It is no secret to say that Napa Valley wines are synonymous with the highest quality wines in the world and this can largely be explained by the fact that producers of this region have developed a real culture of excellence. To name only one of these producers, I chose Silver Oak. Indeed, in July 2017, Wine Spectator published an article stating that Silver Oak was the first domain to obtain the Leed platinum certification for the construction of the new facilities in Alexander Valley (Sonoma County). This certification is attributed to a new construction that respects strict environmental criteria. Amongst the innovations, a new water management system that treats the water used in the different steps of the winemaking process; the ultimate goal is to become fully independent of the public water service. This new system quickly became a model that many aspire to follow in this Californian climate. The economy of energy is also quite notable, with being equipped with 2500 solar panels that allow the 10,135 square meters building to produce 5% more energy than it needs to function. On top of all this, their wines are some of the flagship wines for the amateurs of Cabernet Sauvignon in the region.

With that said, if you believe that you are enjoying a single vintage wine when buying an American Cabernet Sauvignon, it is interesting to know that close to 150 AVA (American Viticultural Area) in California have a system in place that is equivalent to the AOC in France. The legislation is not very strict, as having the name AVA only requires the wine to have 85% of grapes originating from this area, 75% of it being in the bottle and 95% for the vintage. This explains why many wines that are identified as Cabernet Sauvignon on their label are 100% made with this varietal but others being Bordeaux blends (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot). Whether it be for an elegant Chardonnay from Napa Valley or for a structured Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley, I encourage you to support Californian wines in their battle against these devastating forest fires.

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