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.
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.
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.
We’re so close to finalizing all of the tiny details of our (already) beloved Hirondelle House and it’s even better than I think any of us could have ever imagined. After many hours. . . days. . . months. . . YEARS of planning, I think we’ve ended up with a place that not only seems perfect for Clos Du Val, but also feels like home. As I walk through the space, I see a place where many friends will be met, stories shared, and bottles wrapped up to make their way into our guests’ homes to mark their own special celebrations, whether making it through a tough weekday or toasting a momentous occasion.
Just two weeks ago, if you were able to peek into the space, you’d never believe what it looks like today. There were ladders up, tools scattered, fixtures missing and regular, necessary meetings to ensure everything kept pace (a couple of make-shift beverage carts at the end of shifts also didn’t hurt!).
The past few days, it’s been all hands-on-deck to help our amazing interior design teams put everything in place and looking its best. I snapped a few photos at the end of the day yesterday and found that I couldn’t even begin to find a “favorite” spot in the building, as every spot is stunning.
So, while it’ll still be a couple of weeks until we’re able to open our new doors to our guests, the finish line is now very visible, and we could not be more excited to share it with you.
That time of year again. After a few weeks of denial, I realized that harvest is starting once again! It seems like a hardship because of the amount of time that it requires but it really is the most exciting few months of the year.
As a winemaker, we always seem to be telling people that the season is lining up to be the "vintage of the century". Most of the time we are exaggerating and doing our best to react to what mother nature is throwing at us (heat, cold, rain, hail, fires, flood etc.). This 2018 harvest is different, at least so far. The mild weather caused by a cold trough from Canada/Alaska has been remarkable. The usual August and September 95+ degree days have been replaced by 75-80 degree perfection. This is giving us a greatly expanded ripening window which is developing great flavors in the grapes and will let us slowly and carefully get those ripe characters without the drying out that excessive heat causes. This great weather along with all the amazing changes at Clos Du Val (Hirondelle House!) this time I "know" it’s going to be a great vintage!
It’s been over four years (July 28, 2014) since I took the reins here at Clos Du Val. Having grown up here in the Napa Valley, I always saw Clos Du Val as one of the Valley’s great treasures. As a 14-year-old in 1976, I remember reading the story in the local newspaper about the Judgment of Paris and how Clos Du Val was one of the wineries selected for participation in this groundbreaking event. This family-owned winery is truly a part of the fabric of the Napa Valley and I am honored and humbled to be working with a team of incredibly dedicated colleagues to position it for the next 45 years.
One of the great challenges in stewarding a historic producer is finding ways to maintain relevance to the consumer and at the same time, preserve the authenticity which defines the legacy. There are over 10,000 wines and over 100,000 individual wines vying for your attention. Can you imagine 100,000 options of dishwashing liquid or toilet paper? The competitive ‘noise’ in the wine industry is deafening, which makes it difficult for small independent wineries to get noticed over the larger corporate brands with large marketing budgets. The next time you walk down the wine aisle in your favorite store, pay attention to the screams from the shelves and I think you’ll see my point.
At Clos Du Val, we’ve chosen a different path. History and heritage are impossible to create – you either have them or you don’t. We’re immersed in this every day, whether it be Javier, Enrique and Lucio (the core of our cellar crew with over 30 years of tenure each at Clos Du Val), Bernard Portet (our founding winemaker) popping by for a tasting, our extensive cellar of wines dating back into the 1970s, or our incredible vineyards that we developed in 1972 from pasture land, you ‘feel’ the history and heritage here. This is the ‘real’ Napa Valley and this is who and what Clos Du Val is.
So, while we’ve chosen to evolve around the Goelet family’s (our owners) original vision upon which they founded the winery some 46 years ago – the crafting of the world’s finest estate-based wines, we’ve expanded this idea to include providing the world’s finest experiences. Most recently, we’ve created a hospitality space (you NEED to visit our new ‘Hirondelle House at Clos Du Val’ once it's been opened next month) that’s informed and defined by our inherent authenticity. You’ll feel and taste our evolution in the warm, personal, gracious hospitality, delicious wines and the history that is Clos Du Val when you visit us. So whether you experience Clos Du Val at your favorite restaurant, at home with friends, or here at the winery, I hope that you’ll see why we’ve chosen the road less traveled and stayed true to who we are. Hope to see you at the winery soon!
Have you ever spent countless moments, insanely short days, and sleepless nights absolutely, positively obsessing over something you love doing? When conscience and subconscious blur their lines and you find yourself wondering if a particular train of thought was something you actually voiced or simply dreamed about?
Our guests and members of Clos Du Val are my total obsession.
I am incredibly lucky to play a part and actively contribute to a proudly owned family winery with a deeply rich history. It’s not only the realization of how many hands, hard work, sweat, tears, laughter, successes and failures have played in part in our story prior to me, but the genuine desire to include each and every one of you in it. To get to know you, to hear you, and to raise a glass with you. To ensure that Clos Du Val always feels a bit like home and makes your life better . . . if even in the smallest way.
So, after 46 years, for the first time we’re putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys!) and journaling so that you have the opportunity to be intimately involved with what we’re up to. . . A chance for you to meet the people behind the brand. After all, producing some of the world’s best Cabernet wouldn’t be any fun at all if at the end of day, we couldn’t share those wines with both old friends and new.
As a family owned business, the Clos Du Val team really considers each other as an extension of our very own families. And as with all families, you begin to learn little things about each other that others may not know. So, with that, I thought it would be fun to take an opportunity in this first journal entry to introduce you to the cast of characters that will regularly be contributing here, share a little bit about myself, as well some things that I’ve learned to absolutely adore about these people I not only call my colleagues but my friends.
My name: Shannon Muracchioli, Director of DTC & Marketing
First wine ever tasted: Paso Robles Zinfandel being made by a fellow viniculture student, tasted straight out of the bucket it was “aging” in!
Tid-bits: Growing up, both of my parents were in retail management and my dad was fantastic at opening up new stores. Because of that, we moved a LOT and everyone assumed I was a military kid. I went to five different elementary schools and became a master at winning new friends over quickly with a smile and a confident hand shake. Looking back, I think it was that experience that sparked my love in meeting new people and ultimately made hospitality a really nice fit as a career. A few other little tid-bits . . . I wear my husband’s old overalls at home like most would wear sweats, and when I find a white wine I just can’t get on board with, I’m quick to grab a bottle of Campari and a lemon twist to whip up a spritz!
Name: Steve Tamburelli, President & CEO
First wine ever tasted: A Carlo Rossi Red, nonvintage, consumed directly from the 4L bottle
Tid-bits about Steve: While I’ve always had an enormous admiration for Clos Du Val, it was meeting Steve and being inspired by him that ultimately led me to join this family. More than just an admired leader within the wine industry, Steve is incredibly thoughtful, creative, and cares deeply about this winery and its team. He’s a sucker for nearly every sports game, so it makes sense to me that he seems to looks at each challenge with optimism and a confidence that with enough hard work, we’ll hit the home runs necessary.
Name: Ted Henry, Winemaker
First wine ever tasted: Beringer White Zinfandel, straight from the bottle
Tid-bits about Ted: Outside of making stunning wines, Ted is hands down the most humble and fantastic winemaker I have ever had the pleasure working with. Ted goes above and beyond and will bend over backwards to help anyone that needs help and is incredibly passionate about his craft. Outside of a wine collection, you’ll find a collection of hot sauces, different espresso options and some tequila (Ted’s favorite spirit) lining some of office shelves.
Name: Jon-Mark Chappellet, Director of Operations
First wine ever tasted: Apparently the classier one of the group, Jon-Mark’s first wine was from his parent’s cellar . . . a huge benefit of being raised by the Chappellet family!
Tid-bits about Jon-Mark: There are few people that can carry huge responsibilities with - what appears to be - complete ease, but Jon-Mark (aka JM), is absolutely one of those people. It’s hard not to find a smile on his face and a lightness in his step. Speaking of his step . . . the guy typically doesn’t walk anywhere around the winery; he runs! We always know when Jon-Mark is about to join as meeting as you can hear him bolting up the stairs or down the hall. He’s also a total push-over when it comes to sweets. Regardless of how full he may be or what plan he has to lay-off sugar, if you tempt him with something delicious, his walls will come tumbling down and happiness earned by sinking his teeth into the forbidden.