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howell mountain wines

2012 Barrel Tasting

Delia & Alan Viader tasting the 2012 VIADER blend from barrel

Yesterday, I was pulled away from my computer to join Delia and Alan for a quick barrel tasting of our blends from the 2012 vintage. We tasted through four different barrels of VIADER, two tastes each of “V” and Syrah, and finally we tried both the 2012 and 2013 vintages of our special single barrel blend of “Tribute” which is dedicated to my grandfather and Delia’s father, Walter Viader.

Wow. The wines from this vintage are so impressive. Rich fruit of the 2012 VIADER fills the mouth; the texture has an elegant roundness and fullness, with tasty caramel notes on the finish. Our 2012 “V” has the delicious bittersweet chocolate notes and brightness that we were hoping to extract from the grapes – and we did thankfully! The Syrah was fermented in the concrete egg “tank” and may be one of the best we’ve ever made. Coming around to the “Tribute,” we all took smaller samples because we only made one barrel (~25 cases), and this wine, painstakingly blended by Alan and Delia, embodies all that is Howell Mountain – red and black fruits supported by supple tannins and serious structure.

We’re looking forward to sharing these wines with you in a couple years! If you are interested in joining Alan for a barrel tasting, please view our 2014 Events Calendar. Alan will be giving a guided barrel tasting and cave tour on Friday, November 14th from 2-4pm. Space is extremely limited and an RSVP required. Cheers!

Night harvest at VIADER

The cooler grapes are processed at VIADER winery following the night harvest

Exciting happenings at VIADER as we continue with our night harvesting schedule. Our 2013 harvest officially began two weeks ago on the evening of Monday, September 9th when we brought in a small block of our Syrah. Delia and I were just returning from dinner with some old friends on Spring Mountain. As we approached the winery, we could see in the distance what looked like fireflies in the vineyards under a thin crescent moon. Our harvest crew was wearing headlamps as they skillfully moved in between the vines, quickly picking only the best clusters into their small bins.We have several reasons for picking at night. Predominantly, colder temperatures help protect the fruit at harvest, slowing natural yeast and inhibiting any bacteria growth while preserving the fresh fruit flavors and acids in the grapes. Night temperatures on Howell Mountain and around Napa Valley can drop into the 50′s or 40′s even on summer days when we experience highs in the 90′s.

Within a couple hours of the nighttime harvest, the cold fruit is processed (destemmed and “crushed”) at the winery and then moves to the fermentation tanks where it is again cooled down to 40 degrees. This allows Alan, our second generation winemaker, to to do as long of a “cold soak” as possible and extract more color and distinct flavors from the cold skins. Read more about the cold soak philosophy in these article from Wines & Vines or Wine Spectator.

Nighttime harvest crew at VIADER

Nighttime harvest crew at the VIADER estate bringing in our 2013 Napa Valley Syrah

Secondly, both Delia and Alan have found that our harvest crew works easier in the cooler weather because they are more comfortable. We have less worry or issues with heat illness or dehydration when we avoid picking during the high temperatures that can plague a typical summer day on our fully exposed steep hillside.

Moreover, we discovered that night harvesting also allows us to be more efficient with the daytime schedule at the winery, since we can work on the wines in tank first thing in the morning. Alan Viader shares, “With night harvesting, the fruit comes in early morning (finishing at 3-4am typically) and then we arrive at 6am to crush the fruit before the sun peaks over the top of the mountain while its still cold. That then gives us all day to work the wines in tank.”  He prefers this to having to wait for the fruit until late morning or afternoon and then working the wines in tank until late into the evening.Cheers to the 2013 vintage and to a Happy Harvest!

Cabernet Franc is one of the grapes Delia planted early on when settling on Napa Valley’s Howell Mountain in 1986.  Both the namesake VIADER Proprietary Red Blend (30% Cab Franc in 2009) and the DARE by Viader single varietal (100%) show how the grape’s femininity, elegance and seductiveness shines through when cultivated here in the New World.  Delia chose to focus on this particular grape variety because it had always captured her attention.  She found Cabernet Franc to be intriguing, pleasant – almost voluptuous – on the palate, and moreover it was not prevalent in Napa Valley in the early 1980′s when she established the winery.  Our inaugural release of VIADER back in 1989 had 40% Cab Franc as well.  Since the beginning, Delia has been committed to blending and bottling this noble grape to capture its finesse and character which is unlike any other grape variety.

Viader Proprietary Red Blend with Cab and Cab Franc

Viader Proprietary Red Blend with Cab and Cab Franc

The grape is one of the five Bordeaux varietals and the dominant red grape of Loire Valley’s Chinon dating back several centuries. By the 18th century, the grape was widely planted in Pomerol and St.-Emillion. And while rarely the dominant player in wines of Bordeaux, it’s a significant component in the wine that inspired Delia’s choice: Cheval Blanc.  In fact, the VIADER clone of Cabernet Franc is one of the few in existence that comes from the same St.-Emilion, Bordeaux area.

The Cabernet Franc varietal is mostly added to the VIADER Proprietary Red Blend for its lovely perfume that brings to mind violets, rich raspberries and plums, with a bit of red currant. The tannins show more restraint than those in its close relative Cabernet Sauvignon so the finish is smoother and silkier.

Here on Howell Mountain in sunny Napa Valley we love the expression of Cab Franc in both the small production VIADER and DARE by Viader wines, exploding with ripe dark plums and berries yet finishing smoothly with an elegance all of its own. If you haven’t yet tried our current releases, please come for a tasting soon or visit our website for more information.