To say that we’ve had a lot of rain in February is a bit of an understatement! Our total rainfall for this month is over 16 inches which equals of ½ inch per day for the entire month. Actually ½ inch of rain in a day is fairly reasonable but some of our storms have delivered 3-4 inches in one day. That causes problems, especially for those close to the Napa River. Here at the winery we escaped the worst of the flooding but vineyards just to the south of us were submerged in the swollen expanse of the river.
At the height of the flooding, huge areas of the valley floor looked like a lake with only the tops of the vine trellises poking through the muddy water. It’s wild, if not a little scary, to see mother-nature and geology in action. The rich alluvial soils which make up the valley floor come from the surrounding hills that can’t hold a 4 inch rain event when the ground is already saturated. In drier times it often seems like just another burdensome government regulation but our appreciation for the work that goes into vineyard erosion control plans increases during times like this.
With the most recent storms now behind us and with the return of sunny weather it’s amazing to see everything still here. Besides some debris caught in the vine wires and trellises it’s hard to even imagine that thousands of acres of vineyards were underwater only yesterday. The nice weather will allow the winter vineyard work to resume but it will be several weeks before anyone dares test out the soggy soils with a tractor or anything heavier than a work boot.
So far this has been a cool and wet winter but the buckeyes, Acacias and ubiquitous yellow mustard flowers remind us that spring is on its way and the grapevines will soon be waking up.
There's so much history and storytelling behind a bottle of wine. Some of the most interesting stories are those of the people behind the bottle, the ones working countless hours sorting grapes, racking barrels, stacking cases, working behind a desk or serving guests in the tasting room. We have many people here at Clos Du Val who contribute to our story and who we are as a winery. We'd like to introduce you to a new series where we showcase The Faces of Clos Du Val, as many of them are rarely in the spotlight, but are an integral part of who we are.
I couldn't be happier to start this series off with one of the most humble people you will ever meet. He's also one of Clos Du Val's longest standing employees. Everyone, please meet Lucio Saucedo.
Q&A with Lucio Saucedo, Cellar & Production Team Member at Clos Du Val
How long have you been with Clos Du Val?
I’ve worked here for 36 years. I first started working at Clos Du Val when I was in my early 20's. It all started in the vineyards, picking grapes, during harvests.
How did you get started in the wine business?
I started working in wine because it’s what was popular in the valley for work. In this area it’s what everyone does, so I thought I would give it a try. I first started in the vineyards and worked there for 5 years, then moved to the cellar and production. I really enjoyed working in the winery, so there I stayed.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
My favorite part is working with barrels; racking them, filling them, the entire process of helping create the wine. I like this because it keeps me busy. I’m always doing something and it’s interesting.
How have you seen the industry change over your time here?
It has grown so much since I started. There are so many new and different methods, ideas and technologies. Before it was much more simple – now it’s so much more involved but is helping to lead to more options and better wine quality.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud that after all these years, I can still adjust to all of the changes. It feels good that I am still here, adapting and finding ways to keep up with the industry. I am proud that I have been around for so long and have experienced so much.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Many people are surprised by my cooking. I enjoy making food for those that I love. Some of my best dishes include ceviche, pickled habanero and I make about seven different salsas.
When you’re not working at the winery, what can people find you doing?
Relaxing. (He says with a laugh) I like to stay home when I’m not working and just relax.
Drink of choice?
I like beer, cervesa. Any beer, I’m not picky.
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Frijoles. Beans. You can cook them all different ways and choose from many different types of beans. Yeah, it would be beans.
We finish the interview and you step outside to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Pay off my debts and then help out my family and children with whatever they need. I would spend it mostly on my family, that I love. I have a son and daughter with my wife of 28 years.
Well, I hope you enjoyed the first post of our new series. Lucio was such a joy to interview. And I can personally attest to the fact that he is a great cook - he spoils us by bringing his creations in often! His pickled habanero is to die for.
Until next time on The Faces of Clos Du Val..
On the anniversary of a couple celebrating their forty-seventh year of marriage, the traditional gift of choice is one inspired by gardens and plants. How incredibly fitting that forty-seven years after Clos Du Val’s first vintage, we find ourselves still surrounded by estate vineyards that (if we dare say so ourselves) are some of the most sought after in the world. To say this is a love affair would be putting it mildly.
When John and Henrietta Goelet founded Clos Du Val in 1972, it was with deep understanding that when a piece of land is nurtured and developed with the intent to sustain its health and well-being for generations to come, that land will – in turn – take equally good care of those that call it home. It’s our Stags Leap District estate that first allowed us to shine when our inaugural wine, the 1972 Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon, was part of the group of wines that topped the French in the legendary 1976 blind tasting, and it’s the same parcel of land that continues to produce the stunning fruit that goes into our acclaimed wines of today.
However, the love doesn’t just stop there. As with any good relationship, there is so much more earned than just the admiration that is shared between two. The commitment the Goelet’s made, and continue to make, to the Clos Du Val estate is one that has played an integral part in many people’s lives. To all those that have been a part of the Clos Du Val team, to the many that call Napa Valley their home, and to the thousands of guests that have walked through our doors over the generations, Clos Du Val has been a marker for many. For myself, the incredibly special role that wine plays in bringing people together, is one of the most beautiful things about it. From its humble start as clusters of grapes in a dusty vineyard row, to a popped bottle poured into the glasses of people celebrating the most remarkable moments in their life, history has taught us all that it’s the connections that wine allows us to create that is the greatest love of all.
In our family we have already started the pre-Thanksgiving parties and are busy planning the next couple of months of holiday get-togethers and dinners. It seems every year I get asked what wine should be brought to serve with turkey, prime rib or ham, etc. I have never put too much weight in the perfect pairing, they do exist but often it's best to focus on what you like. If you only like Chardonnay you are perfectly correct in pairing it with duck breast, or whatever may be on your holiday table. Who is to say you are wrong?
Photo by David Dines
Wine is subjective and that's a part of its beauty. Your wine experience should be fun and enjoyable. Drink what you like, not what you think you should be drinking.
However, generally speaking, most of the time it is safe to pair lighter dishes with lighter wines. In adition, richer foods hold up well to the bolder more tannic wines. It’s definitely fun to experiment with like flavors. One example is butter poached scallops with Gran Val Chardonnay. The flavors really complement each other. Adding a little lemon juice to the dish is the key, it adds the acid as well as a common flavor found in the wine.
Or more traditionally, Pinot Noir is a great pairing with turkey. May I suggest our Gran Val Pinot Noir from our Carneros vineyards. Light in body, high acid and bright red fruit with slight herbacious characteristcs make this the perfect pairing to all the Thanksgiving fixins. But again, if that's not your favorite varietal, drink what you want! Most importantly, have fun!
We are finally wrapping up the endless harvest. Sort of incredible that we are into the 2nd week in November and there is still fruit on the vine. Not only a long, drawn out harvest but also a huge one. Some of our vineyards gave us twice the fruit that we had originally estimated.
Photo by Rocco Studio
What a year, very cool but still no rain in sight. 80 degrees during the day and 40 at night, day after day after day. At this point though the vines are getting tired of waking up every day and going back to work on their crop. Time for them to take some time off and sleep for a few months.
Photo by Rocco Studio
We will harvest what still remains on the vines over the next week and then start our post-harvest fertigation and seeding of cover crops. I for one am looking forward to winter and all the changes that come with it. The grapes are now in Ted’s hands for him to start crafting wines from the raw abundance that this year has given us.
So far the signs are good that there is another great vintage in the making. The long cool ripening of 2018 should result in wines that are very expressive of their variety and the greatness of the Stags Leap District.
We are excited to soon send out our fall member shipment which includes some wonderful wines to pair with your holiday celebrations. Our 2016 Gran Val Pinot Noir and 2015 Three Graces will be sure to provide a memorable experience with friends and family. We're happy to share below a note included from Clos Du Val President and CEO, Steve Tamburelli.
As I write this, the morning air in the Napa Valley has turned crisp, pumpkins adorn the porches of houses around my neighborhood and the bright sun of summer has given way to the soft Fall light. I look out my window and see the grape trucks delivering the bounty of the harvest to our crushpad – the culmination of a year of work, worry and triumph. Mother Nature took us on a trip down memory lane this year, pausing the string of very warm (hot) summers for an abnormally cool (and quite refreshing!) growing season. This has delayed harvest a couple of weeks but has given the grapes the ability to fully develop flavors on the vine. The quality of the 2018 vintage promises to be stellar!
As is typical at this time of year, our thoughts turn to the year just passed as we sort through the many things that we should take time to be thankful for. There is no shortage of these for me this year. Everyday, I am blessed to come to work with a team that is dedicated and driven to be the best that they can be. Our vineyard and winemaking team continue to raise the bar beyond what seems possible. The wines that they’re producing are not only exciting but can stand up against anything in the world. The entire visitor center and membership teams are helping our guests and Coterie members to create memories that will last them a lifetime (Our new Hirondelle House is certainly worth visiting if you haven’t yet!). Our admin team greets each day with a smile and makes it possible for everyone else to get their jobs done. I thank my lucky stars daily to work with such a group of exceptional people.
The real ‘why’ of what we do however is in the relationships that we can form with all of you and hoping that each interaction with Clos Du Val, whether it be a visit here, a phone call from our team, or a glass of our wine at home or at your favorite restaurant can make that day just a little (or a lot!) better. Our mission here is to ‘Elevate Life’ and that’s what truly drives us day in and day out. I’m thankful and hopeful that our efforts can be a part of making this true for you.
On a personal note, my wife and I became ‘empty-nesters’ this Fall as we dropped our only child (son) off at UC Santa Barbara to start his own voyage. He’s adapted well and is making the absolute most of his freshman year. Mom and dad are getting used to a very quiet house but our chihuahuas seem to be filling the noise void! I’m truly a thankful and very lucky guy.
So, from the entire team at Clos Du Val, please have a happy, healthy and safe Holiday season. Take time to give thanks and to enjoy those around you that make life worth living. Open that special bottle of wine and share it with friends and family. We hope to see you here in 2019!
While September and October are traditionally always a very busy month for wine country, this year proved itself to be quite a doozy. Between the opening of our beautiful new space, the Hirondelle House (come visit us!), harvest coming in later than it has in recent years, and a jam-packed event calendar, things were definitely rocking and rolling, leaving little time to reflect on all of the amazing moments we’ve experienced over the last few weeks; one of those being Clos Du Val’s hosting of the World Premiere of Somm III.
There are only a handful of moments in my career when things happen so seamlessly that it’s hard not to believe that serendipity does in fact have a chair at the table of life. Clos Du Val’s appearance in the film, connecting with Director Jason Wise, and then getting down to business and pulling together a filming – something I’ve never before done – was nothing short of a miracle. As Steve noted in a previous journal post, if it wasn’t for our entire team working hard to make this happen, it wouldn’t have come off as seamlessly as it did. Jason Wise and the incredible team behind the making of the film were also brilliant to partner with and some of the loveliest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
While I could go on and on about the evening as well as dive into how much I enjoyed the film itself, the images below do a much better job painting a picture than I ever could with words alone. I can’t wait for everyone to experience this film and the obvious passion behind its making.
The Somm III crew and friends celebrating the priemere of the film at Clos Du Val.
A big congrats to Jason Wise - another wonderful Somm film in the books!
Our Clos Du Val CEO, Steve Tamburelli, enjoying our new Hirondelle House during the event.
I must say, we opened some great bottles that night, including these 1979 Reserve Cabernets.
A big thank you to Hemlock House Photography for the gorgeous event photos! Such a night to remember.
Exactly one year ago we were just finishing our harvest when the fires broke out in Napa and Sonoma counties. It was a crazy time to be in the valley but after a relatively short period of time we have all but completely bounced back and you have to look pretty hard to see evidence of that scary time. The most interesting thing about this anniversary is the difference between the vintage in 2017 and 2018. Instead of almost being finished with harvest at this time last year, for 2018 we are just getting started (with Cabernet anyway).
October 10th was the first pick on Cabernet Sauvignon compared to last year’s first Cabernet Sauvignon pick on September 9th. One full month behind!
What is behind this late harvest timing? Mild weather (the winemaker’s favorite kind of weather) takes credit. As I have noted before, most years in Napa have some periods of really hot temperatures which accelerate the ripening of the grapes. With a year like 2018 there were no significant heat events which means a more natural and slow accumulation of flavors in the grapes. Generally, the longer the growing season the better the grapes. In some mild years like 2011 we had a similar temperature pattern but we had a lot of late season rain.
This year’s forecast shows sun and no rain in sight through October which puts us in about the best winegrape growing position possible. I’m looking forward to these wines!
I often find myself thinking that once we get past our current project or challenge things will calm down and get back to normal. That may be true someday but for now accomplishing one task just means that we can start trying to catch up to the next one. Case in point, our new visitor center, Hirondelle House. We just wrapped up construction and all of a sudden we are in the middle of harvest. Fortunately for us we have a team here that can tackle the challenges of a new visitor center, deal with harvest while construction crews still swarm the site, pay attention to the budgeting process for next year and still find time to have a company BBQ and laugh.
Photo by Rocco Studio
People often ask what we do in the slow season. Slow season? I haven’t experienced one of those yet but hope springs eternal and I’m looking forward to running into it when it happens. Did I say run? Maybe that’s my problem, I’m always running to catch up. Since things aren’t likely to slow down anytime soon though, we better enjoy the pace and enjoy what we do and who we do it with, as I do. Making great wines with a great team and welcoming our guests to Hirondelle House to share these wines really is our reward.
Photo by Rocco Studio
I’m excited to announce that Hirondelle House is now open. We can’t wait for you to visit and experience our pride and joy.
The last two weeks at Clos Du Val have been exciting to say the least. From scrambling to get our new visitor home, the Hirondelle House, ready for its grand opening party, to hosting the world premiere screening of ‘Somm 3’, the latest installment in the Somm trilogy, to actually bringing in the first grapes of the 2018 harvest, this place has been abuzz with activity.
Photo by David Dines
Photo by David Dines
The team at Clos Du Val possesses an incredible ‘can-do’ attitude and never was it more on display. From James, Javier and the team in the cellar completely re-configuring a barrel chai into a movie theater (during harvest!), to Laura and Scott and their member & guest services crew mopping floors, buffing mirrors and greeting guests, to the finance/admin team checking people in and pouring wine, to the cellar team and interns who were asked to move furniture after they had spent the day crushing grapes, these people all pulled together with big smiles and a great spirit to make it all work.
Photo by David Dines
I thought that we were asking too much but once again, the Clos Du Val team made the impossible happen. I couldn't be prouder of this group of incredible individuals and am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead them every day.