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.
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!