2020 Adds Fire to the Menu of Horrors

There are many factors that conspire to make California almost uniquely susceptible to fire. In the last several years, fires in Sonoma and Napa counties have severely affected the quality of the fruit coming off vineyards. The Livermore Valley has been lucky in that it isn’t surrounded by a lot of trees and inaccessible areas where fires start and thrive. 2020, in addition to being the year of COVID, racial unrest, and a damaged economy, has added nearby blazes to the menu.

The SCU Complex fire was started on August 16th by rare dry lightning strikes and has burned more than 360,000 acres as of this writing. It is one of the largest fires in California history sending plumes of noxious smoke that blanket much of the East Bay.

Smoke in the sky will diffuse UV radiation, sending less energy down to the leaves of plants, and lengthening the amount of time it takes to get fruit ripe. This occurred in 2017 and was one of the factors that contributed to overall quality. It is the smoke, though, that can cause irreversibly negative effects on grapes. There are a number of by-products of wood smoke that can be absorbed into grapes and cause acrid, intensely smoky flavors that ruin the vintage. The amount of smoke it takes to get to this point isn’t quantifiable, so we will end up doing some small ferments to see how much, if any, smoke taint is present in the wine.

Much of winemaking is about hope…hope for a good harvest, hope for few mistakes in the cellar, hope for Mother Nature’s cooperation. We are hoping that Hope will be enough to rescue 2020.

The Fruit Abides

Never have we experienced so much uncertainty…the health of our family and friends, the long-term health of our business, the way the world will look after Covid.

In the midst of all that we do not know comes the one thing that we can count on, the one thing that creates the foundation upon which our work and passion rests: there will be a harvest.

And we will be able to turn, for comfort, to the rhythms that – from August to November –  have governed our lives and those of every winemaker before us since before Time.

A Condom for Cabernet

The senses are the winemaker’s greatest tools. The ability to smell and taste and remember what you’ve experienced from barrel to barrel are crucial in putting together consistent wines.

Outside influences, like Brettanomyces, a spoilage yeast that lives everywhere in the winery, can get in the way of the true expression of fruit and vineyard and the intent of the winemaker. Being clean in the cellar is the easiest way to keep Brett and other malign bugs at bay.

Between every barrel, we spray a 70% ethanol solution on the thief, that metal tube in the accompanying photo, that we use to steal a little wine out of each barrel.

We draw wine out into our glass, smell, taste, make notes, then sterilize the thief before it goes into the next barrel. Think of it as the prophylactic use of prophylactics…a condom for our Cabernet.

 

F-Seq™ Your Way to Greatness!

Now, of course, there have to be gradations of each of these three primary categories, right? We’re comparing a lot of wines to each other…there have to be finer shadings so as to capture the whole panoply of my tasting experience. Voila! There’s ++, +-, ++-, O++, +-+, etc. Totally transparent, yes?

Well, over the 4th of July weekend I was mercilessly skewered for my innocent little system. Some of my winemaking team going so far as to call it ridiculous and stupid. Consequently, I’ve re-thought this whole ratings thing and decided on a much simpler system…

fib imageFrom now on each wine will be given a rating based on the Italian mathematician, Fibonacci’s, Sequence. Found all over nature, the Golden Ratio (based on the Sequence in decimal form) was used by illustrious artists like Da Vinci to define perfection. So my new system has that going for it…the third-party endorsement of one of the greatest artists of all time. It also has size.

The longer the string of numbers…what I call the F-Seq, (ef-seck), the better the wine. So, I had a Zin yesterday…1,1,2. The Chardonnay – 1,1,2,3,5. And, the Cabernet? Brilliant – an F-Seq of 1,1,2,3,5,8,13!

We’re a comparing species; there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Grab some wine, give each one an F-Seq. Grab some apples, forks, carburetors…give them F-Seqs too!!

That’s the beauty of the Steven Mirassou F-Seq System™. The System fits everything, and everything fits the System!

The next time you want to differentiate two of anything, use The F-Seq. My gift to you, free of charge.