Richard Carleton Hacker
Cuvaison 2013 Pinot Noir ($38) – Estate grown in the Carneros Valley, this carefully crafted 100% Pinot Noir comes from twenty different blocks and represents the best that this varietal has to offer, with lots of spicy fruits and a silky finish.
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Russ Winton, Wine Columnist
I have found that excellent Chardonnays fall into what I call “splurge” or special occasion wines. I like to take them to dinner parties or open them on important dates, like anniversaries. Here are four well-balanced chardonnays I’ve enjoyed this year; the 2013 Cuvaison Kite Tail ($44)...
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I am just beginning to see the first signs of veraison in our Pinot Noir, our earliest ripening variety. Veraison is when the grape skins begin to soften and change color as the berries start to accumulate sugar instead of acid and the process of ripening begins. This is about 10 days earlier than “normal,” therefore we are on track for an early harvest. As vines enter veraison, the Brix level (percent of sugar in the berry) is quite low and varies with variety and season. We don’t begin checking the Brix level until about 3 weeks into veraison. For Chardonnay we often start harvesting around 22.5 brix and harvest slightly higher for Pinot and other reds.
At the same time, shoot tips have stopped growing and the vines are slowly turning their energy away from vegetative growth and into fruit and sugar development. I expect the period of veraison to be longer than usual, and believe we could start harvest in the third week of August, which will make it one of the earliest in my 14 vintages here at Cuvaison. With this early harvest and the cool weather during bloom and berry set, I anticipate a light crop for 2015.
Anticipating an early harvest, I moved all our traditional bottling dates up by a few weeks. We finished bottling the 2014 Estate Chardonnay in late June and just bottled the 2014 Estate Pinot Noir, 2013 Brandlin Estate Cabernet and 2013 Henry’s Keep in July. Then we can put the winery back together in time for Harvest!
Steve Rogstad, Winemaker
Carneros Vineyard Walk Walk at Cuvaison
On this vineyard walk, you’ll learn what San Pablo Bay looks like from a relatively high vantage point. You’ll learn a bunch of random farming lingo. You’ll learn what a bunch of wines taste like. So much to be learned. 411: Cuvaison, $30, 1221 Duhig Rd, Napa, 707-942-2455.
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Jay Schuppert, President of Cuvaison Estate Wines, will be an honored guest speaker at The Resort at Pedgregals' Art of Taste Food & Wine Festival 2015 on July 15-19!
The Resort at Pedregal, Los Cabos’ premier luxury resort, is proud to announce its fourth annual Food & Wine Festival, debuting this year as The Art of Taste. On July 15-19, 2015, the resort will host a four-day epicurean adventure showcasing internationally renowned chefs and wine makers. The Resort at Pedregal’s Executive Chef Yvan Mucharraz will be joined by award winning guest chefs including Tim Hollingsworth, Chef/Owner of Barrel and Ashes, and Former Chef de Cuisine of The French Laundry; Rory Herrmann. Culinary Director of Sprout LA and Co-Owner of Barrel and Ashes; Brian Malarkey, Executive Chef and Restaurateur of Searsucker and Herringbone; and Devin McDavid, the newly Appointed Executive Pastry Chef of The Resort at Pedregal, and formerly of Quince and Cotogna, The French Laundry and Blue Hill.
Other notable guests during this summer’s festivities will be a unique combination of international mixologists, spirits and wine experts, which include:
Ulysses Vidal of Employee’s Only New York
Danielle della Pola of Un Lounge Bologna, Italy
Bertha Gonzalez, Master Tequilier of Casa Dragones Tequila
Regine Sumeire of Sumeire Wines Provençe, France
Antonio Escalante, Bodega Roganto, Baja California
Jay Schuppert of Cuvaison Estate Wines, Napa Valley
Pete Przybylinski , Vice President of Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley
House of Ruinart Champagne, France
Offering four days of meaningful interaction with the select group of master chefs best known for their innovative and seasonal cuisine, tickets to this exclusive event are available to the public and limited to 120 participants, creating an intimate, hands on atmosphere for participants to flourish and learn. Tickets start at $1,290 USD per night plus 19% tax and 15% service fee for the Ocean View King room for the Food & Wine Festival Package. Guests may reserve their spots online at or by calling (844) 773-7342.
In light of Club Cuvaison's summer promotion, Hot Diggity Dog! we would like to introduce you to the dogs of Cuvaison Estate Wines. We love your four legged friends as much as we love ours, and therefore our Carneros Tasting Room is dog friendly!
We just ask that you keep Fido on a leash.
|Diesel, age 6, favorite activity: chasing squirrels, popping any sort of ball (basketball, football, soccer ball), and climbing on his mom and dads lap (ouch!).
Dog's Auntie, Paula Farmer, Marketing / Tasting Room
Dexter, age 3, favorite activity: playing, going for walks or hikes and napping.
Dog's owner, Ethan Holbrook, Tasting Room Associate
|Luna (the pup waiving hello), age 1 month, favorite activity: napping
Dog's owner, Matt Sunseri, Assistant Winemaker
|Pixie (left), age 11, favorite activity: snacking.
Buster (right), age 3, favorite activity: chasing wild turkeys in the vineyard.
Dogs' Owner: Steven Rogstad, Winemaker
|Jasmine, age 7, favorite activity: swimming in the pool.
Dog's Owner: Bonnie Schoch, CFO
|Rosalina, age 11, favorite activity: taking walks in the park.
Dog's Owner: Alvaro Bautista, Cellarhand
Bodhi (left), age 7, favorite activity: chasing and catching the Frisbee at the park and running through the Cuvaison vineyard off leash.
Indigo, age 2, favorite activity: playing
Rudy, age 4.5, favorite activity: sleeping, playing at the beach, running thru the vineyard.
|Scooby, age 6, favorite activity: fetching the tennis ball and going on walks on Brandlin.
Dog's Owner: Ray Lamon, Landscape and Maintenance
|River, age 4, favorite activity: running around in the grass and playing chase.
Dog's parent: Melody Royval, Staff Accountant
Stephen Hawk, June/ July 2015 Issue
Established in 1969, Cuvaison (French for maceration, the period of time grape juice spends in contact with the skins and seeds) is an estate vineyard and winery that produces primarily Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, both grown exclusively in the Carneros AVA on the
northern end of both Sonoma and Napa. When the winery was founded, the Carneros region was little known for grape growing, and much of the acreage was pastureland. But, the area’s cool bay breezes and frequent fog are ideal for wine, and it is now home to thirty-one wineries and an equal number of growers.
Cuvaison is certified sustainable under the Napa Green designation, meaning they have been recognized for their work in reducing the impact on the environment. The winery is 85% solar powered; they have invested in a water recirculation/conservation program (quite critical now that California is suffering from severe drought); and they started a cork recycling program where wine club members and neighboring wineries bring their popped corks to be ground for repurposing.
Steve Rogstad, yet another graduate of UC Davis’ viticulture and enology program, has been winemaker since 2002. While workingon a six-month post-graduate internship in Beaujolais, Steve discovered that, “Working with just one varietal and tasting fifty different wines from one region, I really started to understand the concept of terroir. It made an impression that lasts to this day.” The experience also taught Rogstad how to isolate and work with small wine lots, a practice that is at the core of his winemaking philosophy. In addition to Cuvaison, Rogstad has worked at such well-known wineries as La Crema, Saintsbury, Rombauer, Spring Mountain, and Clos Pegase.
2012 Estate Chardonnay $25
This Chardonnay is over half of Cuvaison’s yearly production, so a lot is riding on what’s in the bottle. 20% of this Chard saw new French oak for 8 months. There was about 60% malolactic conversion, but it is not overly buttery or lacking in varietal characteristics. It presents a pale yellow in the glass, understating the fulsomeness to come. On the nose, you are greeted with aromas of honeysuckle, honeydew melon, and sweet citrus. These continue on the well-balanced palate, plus the addition of crisp stone fruit such as white peach, apricot, and nectarine.This is supported by a nice lemon/lime acidity.
Enjoy this wine with Smoked Shellfish Quesadillas with Fresh Corn Salsa, Cool Honeydew-Mint Soup, or Shrimp Kabobs with Lemons and Bay Leaves..
2013 Estate Pinot Noir $38
This Pinot Noir is classically transparent ruby in the glass. It features a light, silky mouthfeel, and the nose offers subtle hints of grass,green herbs, and berries. The palate bursts with raspberry, strawberry, fresh cherry, and cola. These flavors are complemented withalanced acidity and round, understated tannins. This wine should cellar for five years, but since it’s so attractive now, why wait?
This wine would pair nicely with Tomato and Onion Tart, Summer Vegetable Calzone, or Nut-Crusted Trout with Romesco Sauce.
May 18, 2015
Cuvaison is an iconic brand in Napa Valley and producer of beautifully crafted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Lesser known about Cuvaison is its ties to Mt. Veeder's Brandlin family; its green initiatives and commitment to the environment; and state of the art tasting room in the heart of their Carneros vineyards. Discover two incredible wineries in one very cool story!
For many years, Cuvaison has been regarded as an iconic winery and brand in Napa Valley, consistently producing beautifully balanced Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Located in the Carneros AVA (American Viticultural Area), the winery was originally founded in 1969 and purchased ten years later by the Schmidheiny family of Switzerland. At the time of purchase, the Carneros region was little known for grape growing and the newly acquired 400 acres was pastureland. Today, Cuvaison’s 250 acres “under vine” produce a portfolio of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah – all world class wines thanks to Carneros’ cool bay breezes and fog unique to the growing area. The majority of the winery’s staff has held long tenures; Jay Schuppert, the President and CEO of the winery, has been with Cuvaison for 17 years. The family itself reinvests all profits back into the business for its long term success – both testaments to the Schmidheiny family and its values.
Two lesser known facts about Cuvaison are their ties to Napa Valley’s Brandlin family and commitment to sustaining the environment through various initiatives.
In 1998, Cuvaison purchased a historic Mount Veeder property owned by Chester Brandlin. Located on a 1,200 foot ridgeline – this is one of Napa Valley’s most difficult but acclaimed mountain regions for grape growing. Dating back 140 years when the immigrant Swiss family first moved to Napa, they purchased various mountain properties instead of land on the Napa Valley floor; they began growing grapes as early as the 1870s. In the 1920s, Henry Brandlin purchased this estate and started planting zinfandel which are still producing great wines almost 90 years later. Cuvaison purchased the property from Henry’s son, Chester, who was very involved in grape growing until the age of 89 when he passed. It’s hard to believe, but after so many years of growing grapes on Mt. Veeder, the Brandlin family never produced a bottle of wine with their family name on a label. As a tribute and to pay homage to the family, the Mount Veeder wines – a Cabernet Sauvignon, a proprietary red Bordeaux style blend and two zinfandels – are marketed as an independent label called Brandlin Vineyards.
Both estate vineyards, Carneros and Brandlin, are certified Napa Green, meaning the company has been recognized for their work in reducing the impact on the environment. Both estates are certified sustainable, practice Fish Friendly Farming and the winery/tasting room have Bay Area Green Business certification. The winery is solar powered producing 85% of their power use; they have invested in a very sophisticated water recirculation/conservation program; and they spearhead a cork recycling program where wine club members and neighboring wineries bring their popped corks to be grinded for repurposing.
Winery Visits & Tasting Experiences
The staff at Cuvaison is dedicated to providing winelovers with a unique tasting experience at their recently built tasting room in the heart of their estate. Their original vision for the structure was to place their guests where they could get a true sense and appreciation for the vineyards and the picturesque, rolling hills of Carneros. All visitors enjoy sweeping, 270 degree views with 22 feet floor to ceiling windows all while enjoying a 2-in-1 tasting experience with both Cuvaison and Brandlin wines. Together, Cuvaison’s emphasis on lifestyle and celebration and Brandlin’s focus on exploration and discovery make for one unforgettable Napa Valley experience!
With the drought being a prominent topic of conversation in the news today, we'd like to share some "fun facts" on our water usage and what we do to make sure that we are utilizing every last drop:
A couple weeks ago we hosted a family friendly Club exclusive event in our Carneros Estate Vineyard - Fly A Kite Day. Adults had the opportunity to taste through a variety of Cuvaison and Brandlin estate wines, while everyone enjoyed a delicious lunch in our barrel room.
The children were especially excited about flying kites in the vineyard, and Mother Nature couldn't have given us better weather and kite flying conditions. Needless to say, a good time was had by all and we hope to repeat this event in the future.
Here's a quote from one of our excited attendees:
"I wanted to thank you so much for such a fun and unique family-friendly kite-flying event last weekend. It was so refreshing and wonderful to be able to enjoy some of our favorite wines, at the vineyard, with our children - while they were catered to as well! With that one event alone (notwithstanding the exceptional wines), I think we might be life-time members!! It was incredibly thoughtful and practical of you to plan an event centered around our children, yet just as much fun for us. Wine country is lacking in family-friendly activities, and being wine lovers with children, our time spent enjoying wineries (which is something we love to do, even now after having children, ha ha!) is rare. You made our day! Heck, you made our month!! We loved it, they loved it, and we all made wonderful memories. Thank you thank you thank you. Can you please do this event every year (monthly wouldn't be too bad either ;-) ?
- Kim G."
"When the Carneros American Viticultural Area, or AVA, was approved in 1983, it was a chance to capture the region’s distinct coolness, its ability to grow chardonnay and pinot noir - initially, in many cases, for making sparkling wine.
Like so much of the North Coast, Carneros is affected by the proximity of the Pacific Ocean. In its case, the within-view San Pablo Bay brings fog, wind and cooler temperatures to the AVA. Covering 37,000 acres overall, about 6,000 of them planted to wine grapes, Carneros is also the only AVA to span both Napa and Sonoma counties.
This year, the Carneros Wine Alliance, a collection of the region’s wineries, celebrates its 30th anniversary, established two years after the official AVA designation to bring together wineries and grape growers in a collective mission to up the quality of that which is grown and made in Carneros.
Today, so much has evolved in Carneros and yet it remains the home of mostly longstanding producers, household wine names that have earned their reputations over decades — Etude, Saintsbury, Donum, Schug, Bouchaine and Cuvaison — as well as many distinguished vineyards regularly designated by wineries within the region and beyond.
Some of these marquee vineyard sites include Hyde Vineyard, a historic source of Old Wente clone chardonnay; Grace Benoist Ranch, a sprawling hillside estate farmed by Etude; Stanly Ranch, a pinot spot long associated with Saintsbury; and many of the Sangiacomo family’s sought-after vineyards, including Green Acres, the family’s first parcel in Sonoma, purchased in 1920, which Saintsbury sources for chardonnay, also Old Wente clone.
Cuvaison was selected as one of the 7 wineries to be 'discovered' in Carneros.
Julie Fadda Powers, March 2015
“Cuvaison” is the French term for the period of time during alcoholic fermentation when wine is in contact with the solid matter—such as skin, pips and stalks—to extract color, flavor and tannin.
Not sure if you’re in the mood for silky Pinot Noir and Chardonnay or robust mountain reds? How about something in between? No worries, Cuvaison has you covered. With two distinctly different Napa Valley locations (we visited the Carneros estate; see the website for details on the Calistoga location on Silverado Trail), the winery offers both convenience and individual attention.
Cuvaison’s estate vineyard, in the Carneros region of Napa Valley, is 400 acres of rolling hills along San Pablo Bay. There are 240 acres planted to predominantly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as a smaller amount of Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. Its onsite, solar-powered winery was completed in 2004, and its sleek, modern tasting room opened its doors in 2009. All Cuvaison wines are grown on the certified Napa Green Land and Winery programs.
The tasting room itself is unique in that it’s set up as a sit-down, intimate experience. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can enjoy either a simple tasting in the room (or on its expansive deck, which has beautiful views of the vineyards and the valley below—you also can take in the view from inside through the expansive windows that, on warm days, open to let the outdoors in) or you can schedule a tour (they take place at 9:30 a.m. Fridays through Mondays, April through October, and require 24-hour advance notice), where you’ll step into the vineyards and learn about them in detail. On a clear day and from the estate’s highest point, you can see all the way across San Francisco Bay to the City (binoculars are recommended; you also can see Mt. Tam and even Mt. Diablo). Tastings include four wines, which vary by season; you’ll also learn about the winery, its history and the surrounding area at a level that best suits your interests. Ask the right questions and you’ll learn all sorts of interesting things. The Brandlin gallery (there’s all sorts of artwork throughout the tasting areas) is an ideal spot for private tastings and wine and cheese pairings.
The estate was established in 1969 and, in 1979, was purchased by its current owners, the Schmidheiny family of Switzerland. The family planted the vineyard in 1980 but phylloxera was discovered in the late 1980s, which required replanting that started in 1991 and was completed 13 years later. The estate and vineyard are locally managed by a team headed by Jay Schuppert (president) and Steve Rogstad (winemaker).
Because of its size and varied terrain, the vineyard is farmed in small blocks that vary in row direction, spacing, trellising and training. This means they’re all farmed uniquely according to what best works for the variety and location. Rogstad oversees the entire vineyard and was also fortunate enough to help design the state-of-the-art winery. He included an extensive fermentation program where he tries out different types of barrels, and concrete and stainless steel fermenters.
In 1998, Cuvaison purchased the historic Brandlin vineyard on Mt. Veeder. The Brandlin family first moved to Mt. Veeder from Switzerland in the 1870s, and the vineyard was originally planted in 1926 by Henry Brandlin. It was later tended by his son, Chester, who lived and farmed there with his brother, Richard. Chester continued to live on the property until passing in February 2013. Ten acres of the original Zinfandel planted there is still on the property, which has plantings ranging from 900 to 1,200 feet in elevation. The newer vineyards, planted by Cuvaison, consist of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with traditional Bordeaux blending varieties of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The wine from this estate is labeled under the Brandlin name as a nod to its history and the family who farmed it for so many years.
When we visited, we first tasted the 2012 Cuvaison Estate Chardonnay, which is the most widely available offering. Crafted from 44 different bocks on the estate, this crisp offering features stone fruit and just a hint of butter with great acidity. Next was the 2012 Kite Tail Chardonnay, which is made from a single block on high ground that’s planted with the Wente clone. It goes through malolactic fermentation and the result is a silky, well-balanced wine with vanilla and crème brulée elements. The 2012 Estate Pinot Noir is an elegant ride with red and black plum flavors and hints of cherry and allspice on the nose. The 2012 Spire Pinot Noir is from the block viewable just outside the east-facing window of the tasting room (the top is the highest point on the estate) and is a smooth, well-rounded and balanced wine with a hint of spice.
From the Brandlin vineyard, we sampled the 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (earthy, masculine with dark fruit and a strong structure). Since the vineyard’s fruit is thick-skinned due to its cool temperatures and high elevation, Rogstad crafts it by incorporating air into the wine to help it become more lush and develop better tannin structures (the results are outstanding). We also tried the 2011 Henry’s Keep, a proprietary red blend made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Its name is in homage to when Henry Brandlin kept the best barrels for his family, and the result is a super complex, lush wine with dark fruit, a strong backbone and a classic Mt. Veeder profile. We enjoyed every one of these wines, along with the view, to the ultimate last drop."
Sophia Markoulakis, March 13, 2015
"In the heart of Carneros off Highway 12 is Cuvaison’s newer tasting room, completed in 2009 by Gould Evans Architects. It’s a modern wood-and-steel structure that juts out from its perch overlooking the winery’s 400-acre property.
The sustainable design with wraparound terraces, seamless glass window and door openings, and native-grass landscaping, creates a Northern California vibe that’s complemented by the youthful energy of the guests who come to sample the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon for a $20 fee. There’s cohesion between the tasting room and barrel building, one of the goals of the design. The design also reflects the winery’s green initiatives such as rainwater collection, solar energy, waste management and water recycling. Reservations recommended."
Being farmers, we accept that Mother Nature will throw us a curve ball every now and then. With our 36 year legacy of farming our Carneros Estate Vineyard, along with Winemaker Steve's expertise, we are positioned to optimally handle just about any agricultural challenge headed our way.
Over the past few years, Winemaker Steve Rogstad has observed signs of a developing grapevine trunk condition in our prized Spire Pinot Noir block. When the condition (called Eutypa) is left unmanaged, it has the potential to cause a decreased yield, and interfere with the vine's ability to properly ripen fruit, therefore compromising quality.
Steve has chosen an uncommon yet highly innovative and sustainable solution to overcoming the trunk condition, ensuring our Spire block will thrive for many years to come.
Without getting too technical, for the past three years Steve has carefully trained an off-shoot to evolve into what will become the vine’s new trunk. And just last week, his vineyard management team removed the parts of the trunk that have been affected by the
condition. The new shoot will begin to bear fruit this year, and while the yield will be 25-30% less, we anticipate the same high quality and elegant wine we have grown to expect in years' prior.
This is one of many examples of how Steve has resourcefully approached a vineyard management challenge, exemplifying our commitment to innovation, sustainability and uncompromising quality.
Photo at left: Sharp cut across the top of the main trunk and the newer off-shoot being trained up from the base. Photo at right: Tractor carrying away a load of vines).
|San Francisco Magazine|
|February 2015, Rachel Ward|
Cuvaison Estate Wines' Carneros Tasting Room recently made it on WhereSF's short list of Napa Valley Tasting Rooms with a View!
|February 2015, Hayley Hamilton Cogill|
|"I met Jay Schuppert several years ago at an event in Napa Valley but didn’t have a chance, at the time, to understand the history of the land he manages everyday as President of Cuvaison. Established in 1969 and purchased by current owners, the Schmidheiny family of Switzerland, in 1979, Cuvaison is dedicated to sustainable farming, precisely managed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines in the rolling hills of the Carneros AVA. With a focus on individual, block by block vine management, the specific clones of each variety are allowed to shine, some adapting better to one soil type, sun exposure or elevation verses another. Forty different Chardonnay blocks and 20 different Pinot Noir blocks are planted on their certified sustainable estate in Carneros, each managed by hand and hand harvested each year, ensuring that the hand crafted wine is the best of the best, setting a standard for quality in the region."|
Our 2012 Kite Tail Chardonnay was selected as one of the "Winning Wines For Thanksgiving Dinner" by Bayou City Magazine's food writer Robin Barr Sussman.
Read the entire article here.
Enjoy some photos taken at the Club's 2014 Holiday Open House. To download a higher resolution version of these images, click here.