Summertime Weather in January is Causing Vintners to Sweat

on January 21, 2014

Posted in: blog, Harvest

The few harvests leading up to 2012 were challenging by both the farming and business perspective.  Despite the poor circumstances, we were able to produce lovely wines that are tasting nice and showing great potential after a few years of aging!

Per contra, weather conditions from 2012 and 2013 brought Laird Family Estate great fortune in the vineyards and the vinification process.  We produced more wine than any other vintage and with some of the best quality fruit that we’ve seen in years!

So what made 2013 so prosperous?  The same thing that could possibly put 2014 at a disadvantage.  Drought.  2013 was the driest year in California’s history.  Vineyards don’t need a lot of water to survive, so with the little rain that we got early last year the vineyards were still able to flourish.  The difference now is that as we are approaching the end of January, we still have not seen a drop of rain.  Normally, we receive the most rainfall in January and February, but without any rain, the reservoirs that the vineyards depend on are all dried up and that poses a big problem.  What’s more, in a dry year, bud break usually comes early, but the early morning frost that we’ve been having creates a risk of stunting the crop.  Although Vintners are not panicking yet, they certainly are nervous.  So, if you are a wine lover, grab your friends and do a little rain dance because we need it!

–    Madeleine Rose

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Do You Actually Put Cherry Flavoring in the Wine?

on April 30, 2013

Posted in: blog, Tasting Wine

When reading wine descriptions, a number of thoughts may run through your head. “How do you get blackberry and cherry flavors?”, “Do you actually put those flavorings in the wine?”, “Pfff…”, “Graphite? Is that supposed to be a good thing?”, “Chocolate…I don’t get chocolate.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, those are all fair responses after reading how some wines are described, but when I host tastings, this is the point that I like to get across—wine is personal. Everybody has different ways of sensing and experiencing their surroundings and what they put up to their noses or mouths, and people are going to make unique connections, if any at all. Just because our 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon smells like liquorice to me, doesn’t mean that it’s going to smell like that to you. That’s just the connection that I made with the wine, so that’s what I wrote in the tasting notes. If you don’t pick up hints of liquorice, it doesn’t make you any less experienced at tasting wine. It simply means that we taste and perceive things differently, and that’s ok.

I, personally, like to have fun describing wines. Let me give you an example. I grew up in a small house in Mill Valley, California surrounded by fruit trees. We had a couple of plum trees that produced extremely ripe plums in the summertime. Sometimes we could not eat as many plums as our trees produced, so the plums would eventually fall to the ground and begin to decompose into the dusty earth beneath our feet. Laird’s 2008 Suscol Ranch Merlot smells, to me, like an overly ripe plum, covered in dirt, that has been sun-scorched during its decomposition phase, and I love it! That smell brings forth fond memories of my childhood. It puts a smile on my face and gives me warm, cozy feelings inside. That’s what I mean when I say wine is personal. Smelling our Merlot triggers happy memories that I have stored in my brain, and it is due to these connections that I am sometimes able to make between memories and the wines that I am tasting, that I have such an enormous passion for wine. For me, wine tasting is not just merrymaking, it’s an experience.

After reading that, you probably picture me with a big cheesy grin on my face, every time I take a sip of wine, gazing into nothing as I fanaticize about sunshine and fruit, while twirling in my backyard as a child, but that’s not the case. I’m not a walking Yoplait commercial, I’m just someone who gets really excited about wine and the experiences that come with it.

So, that’s my long, drawn-out, whimsical version about how I like to describe wine. Here’s a simpler explanation: describing wine by using terms like strawberry, tobacco, leather, and earth are meant to convey what the wine is reminiscent of and how each is different from one another, other than just saying “it tastes like white wine,” or “it tastes like red wine.” Perhaps the Pinot Grigio you are tasting has high acidity like citrus fruit, then one might describe the wine tasting like lemonade or tangerine. Maybe the young Cabernet Sauvignon you are tasting has grippy tannins and it feels as though you are chewing on leather boot straps or a mouthful of walnuts (whatever floats your boat). The components in the wine that you are sensing on your palate might remind you of something else that you’ve experienced that left you with the same impression; or, maybe not. Nonetheless, that’s essentially why wine descriptions are written the way they are.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if you picked up on the cherry or strawberry notes, if it reminded you of a wonderful childhood experience or not, what matter is, do you like it? Or is it not your style?

–          Madeleine Rose

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Bringing People Together

on April 11, 2013

Posted in: blog, Guest Stories, Mast Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon

This romance story begins with a bottle of Laird wine. Kristin became acquainted with Laird wines while living in the Bay Area and in Carmel, California. Being primarily a red wine drinker, she was especially fond of the Mast Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon.

Business eventually took Kristin to Houston, Texas. One evening, Kristin was out with a girlfriend and when she walked into one of her favorite restaurants in Houston she saw a man sitting at the bar eating his dinner and enjoying a bottle of Laird Cabernet Sauvignon. Now, as some of you may know, Laird wine is not widely distributed. More often than not, when I tell people where I work, they look at me blankly and nod their head in acknowledgment to what I said, but have no idea what the heck I’m talking about. Therefore, seeing another soul in a whole new state drinking a bottle of Laird Cabernet was just as exciting for Kristin as it is for me when I meet people who actually have heard of Laird Family Estate. (Actually, it was probably more exciting for Kristin, but you get the point).

Kristin approached this dashing man at the bar and shared with him her mutual love for Laird wine. Shortly after sitting down, a bottle of Laird was sent to her table by “the guy at the bar.” Their eyes met, and with a twinkle and a smile, well folks, the rest is history.

When Kristin and Charles came into the tasting room and shared this story with us, it filled me with joy. Of course, our intentions are to make wine for people to enjoy and create memorable experiences with, but I never thought about our wine as being a matchmaker. Laird wine was the catalyst that sparked a new romance among two happy people. How cool is that!

– Madeleine Rose

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Survey Says…Yummy!

on March 19, 2013

Posted in: blog, Harvest, Sauvignon Blanc

After a few disappointing harvests with low yields and small case productions, boy, did we need a harvest like 2012! The Lairds have been farming grapes since 1970, and Ken Laird admitted that 2012 was the best harvest he’s seen in the 40 years that he’s been here. Of course, this may not apply to all grape growers in the valley. With so many different microclimates and varietals that are grown in Napa, grape growers are going to have different experiences depending on their location; but for the Lairds, 2012 was a very exciting year.

This past harvest brought enormously high yields with outstanding quality. And while many of us are still enjoying our current release wines, such as 2008, 2009, 2010, or what have you, I’m sure that there are many out there who are just like me, waiting ever so impatiently to try the nectar that the Wine Gods brought us in 2012!

Well…the wait is over, sort of. We recently bottled our first wines from the 2012 harvest, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Rosé of Syrah. (Sorry, red wine lovers, you’re going to have to wait another 2 to 4 years to really enjoy this harvest…but it’ll be worth it!)

I remember tasting the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc immediately after being bottled last year, and it was extremely light. You really had to search for the fruit. Even though white wines don’t necessarily need ageing, the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc was one that did benefit from sitting in the bottle for a couple of months. However, after some brief bottle ageing, the 2011 finally released those pronounced aromas of citrus and tropical fruit that our SB typically offers.

That wasn’t the case for 2012. As soon as we cracked open that bottle of 2012 Big Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, the aromas wafted through the air and into our sinuses, sending signals to our brain that cried out, “drink me, drink me.” So we did. Brilliant flavors of tropical fruit, citrus, honeydew melon, and pear danced on our palates, inviting us to dance along with them.

Ah, yes, 2012 was indeed a great harvest.

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