Stags Leap Harvest Immersion – Day 5

Posted by | Posted in Terroirist | Posted on 11-06-2012

As regular readers know, I spent mid-October in Napa Valley doing a five-day harvest immersion with the Stags Leap District Winegrowers. I’ve been detailing my activities over the past few weeks. (The first installment was published on October 17; the second on October 19; the third on October 25; the fourth on October 29.)

My fifth and final day began just before 7:00 am at Stags’ Leap Winery, where I joined the assistant winemaker in touring the property’s vineyard to monitor the harvest, which was in full swing.

At 10:00 am, I headed to Odette Estate, a brand new winery on the Silverado Trail. Located on the former site of Steltzner Vineyards, one of the oldest vineyards in the Stags Leap District, the property was purchased by The PlumpJack Group in February of this year. Plumpjack put Jeff Owens – formerly the assistant winemaker at CADE – in charge of winemaking, and obviously has very high hopes for the property.

Winemaker Jeff Ownes chatting with his assistant.

Upon my arrival, Jeff put me to work with pump-overs, barrel punch downs, and tank sampling.

Afterwards, we walked around the 36-acre vineyard — much of which is being re-planted — and Jeff showed off the property’s plantings Tintoria, an obscure Portuguese grape, and Pinotage. Jeff also gave me a tour of the property’s caves, which are currently being updated and retrofitted.

At around 12:30, we sat down for lunch with the entire harvest crew.

About an hour later, I headed back to Chimney Rock to meet with Doug Fletcher, who oversees winemaking for the entire Terlato Wine Group. Doug didn’t put me to work. Instead, the two of us headed out for a 2.5-hour vineyard walk, where I picked his brain on anything and everything. The conversation was incredible.

Doug has been working with Stags Leap District Fruit for nearly 35 years – and working at the Chimney Rock property since 1987. So when it comes to winemaking in the Stags Leap District, one could easily argue that Doug is up there with legendary vintner Warren Winiarksi with his knowledge of the terroir.

Interestingly, Doug doesn’t like to pull leaves or drop fruit – preferring instead to practice what he calls “a balanced vine method.” So long as a vine is healthy, Doug doesn’t believe a vineyard manager should need to pull leaves or drop fruit to produce healthy, delicious berries. (For an in-depth article on Doug, check out Alan Goldfarb’s 2006 article in Appellation America.)

Without question, spending so much time with Doug was the highlight of my trip. So it was a wonderful way to end things!

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