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.
|2012 Cuvaison Estate Pinot Noir
"No surprise that this selection, priced one tier above the others, wins favorite in a blind tasting—I, er, didn't even look at the tech sheet before assembling the lineup. The hint of smoky, incensey oak has a high-quality savor to it; the fruity potpourri aroma has depth; the plum and cherry flavors are intensified with cola character; and the finish is firm."
October 8, 2014, Bohemian.com
Harvest is a bustling time of year in and around the winery, however in the months preceding I begin the careful process of hand selecting the very best fruit while it’s still on the vine. It is necessary for our vineyard crews to understand our high standards, and “drop” any berry clusters that are less desirable. Dropping fruit is a measure we take in both of our estate vineyards to ensure that only the best fruit is harvested.
(Left: No grape cluster is perfect. Right: Fruit clusters that do not meet our standards are cut off and dropped.)
(The diagram above corresponds with the following discussion points.)
A: Once the berries have been hand harvested and brought to the winery, they are gravity fed into a hopper.
B: Harvest workers examine each berry cluster on a sorting table, eliminating any clusters that are undesirable.
C: The clusters that make the grade travel up a conveyor belt and are gently gravity fed into destemming equipment.
D: Following the de-stemmer, the berries are optically sorted.
Cuvaison Estate Wines was one of the first, if not the first winery in the United States to employ the use of a Pellenc Optical Sorter. We use this highly tuned French technology for both Cuvaison Pinot Noir and Brandlin Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
The optical sorter scans individual berries at a rate of 1000 berries per second, and rejects those that do not meet our stringent criteria. With its high accuracy, we have peace of mind knowing that only the finest fruit will make it into our wines.
The image above shows a comparison between berries that the optical sorter rejected (at left) and the berries that the optical sorter identified as keepers (at right).
Once the berries are optically sorted, they are pressed. Many wineries transfer the freshly pressed juice via a hose, however we believe this fresh and delicate product must be handled more gently. Therefore we gravity feed into stainless steel open top fermenters.
By now most of you have heard the news about the 6.0 magnitude earthquake that struck South Napa Sunday morning. Above all else we feel incredibly fortunate that the earthquake hit during the early morning hours and that no one from our team was injured.
Some members of our community endured greater loss and we extend our heartfelt sympathy to them.
The Carneros region where our winery and tasting room are located was hit hard however damages were minimal and isolated to our barrel rooms. After some clean up on Sunday, our Tasting Room reopened Monday morning. Our amazing and skilled cellar crew
continues to steadfastly return order to our barrel rooms, and we should be in prime position for the start of harvest!
Click the image below to watch a short video produced by CNN that features our winery and tasting room, and a short interview with Cuvaison Estate Wines’ President Jay Schuppert. This video also features Mike Drash, a winemaker who produces wine in our winery.
We are grateful for all your positive thoughts, good wishes and interest.
2012 Cuvaison Estate Chardonnay
Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
2012 Kite Tail Chardonnay
Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide
"From an organically-farmed hillside vineyard planted to the Old Wente clone,
"Lush and juicy with spice, toasty oak,vanilla and ripe pear fruit; rich and dense."
Decantress Wine Diary
August 16, 2014
"A sense of place. This phrase was echoed throughout my recent visit to Cuvaison and truly embodies the philosophy behind the winery. On my first visit, I found myself there at 6:45 am on a Sunday morning in July surrounded by nearly 3,000 other people. A layer of fog kept the temperature cool but the air still, and all of us in racing gear, arms and legs exposed to the cool morning air, were stirring about to stay warm. The grapes, however, were undisturbed. What on earth was I doing at a winery so early in the morning? I was lining up for the best half marathon I have ever experienced, the Napa to Sonoma 13.1 mile race, whose starting line happened to be at Cuvaison. Cuvaison’s location in Carneros, just a short detour off of Highway 121 had made it a winery on my “must visit” list for a while. So as the gun went off and my fellow racers and I ran through beautiful vineyards from Carneros to a finish line in the Sonoma Square, I knew I would return to Cuvaison for a proper tour of the winery, vineyards and taste the impressive portfolio of wines. A “carrot” always helps with motivation and speed, and racing towards a finish line that promises an impressive line up of wine even helped me to PR!
After enjoying a glass of sparkling wine at the finish line, and the festivities on the square, my husband and I were too exhausted to visit a winery and opted to soak up some the gorgeous Napa sun, poolside. However, I couldn’t keep Cuvaison out of my mind, and we wasted no time, returning the following weekend for a proper tasting. The team at Cuvaison, from the winemaker to the hospitality director, to tasting room staff, go above and beyond to create an environment for people to come, relax and enjoy wines in the same environment that bears the grapes. Which is certainly striking - rolling vineyard-covered hills, cooled by fog from San Pablo Bay in the Carneros Region of Sonoma. The tasting room is clean, modern, with floor to ceiling glass windows and a viewing deck intended for guests to relax and taste while looking out over a nearby lake and the vineyards; which produce the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes that have made Cuvaison famous.
Not to be overlooked is the profound influence the Schmidheiny family of Switzerland who purchased the winery in 1979. When Thomas Schmidheiny's mother visited the Carneros region in the late 1970's, she was so taken with the land and its potential for winegrowing that she brought a small bag of soil home in her suitcase. A year later, Thomas purchased the Carneros estate where Cuvaison now makes its home. In the years since, the family has thoughtfully re-invested all profits in the vineyard and winery, consistently providing the support needed to produce the highest quality grapes and wines. Winemaker, Rogstad, joined Cuvaison in 2002, and oversaw the construction of the new winery, ensuring it was "purpose built" to optimally handle the fruit from Cuvaison's estate vineyard. We toured the winery and barrel room and observed first hand the care that is taken to separate each wine by block and allow it to ferment in perfect conditions. Each vineyard block has a home in a vessel specifically meant for that wine (from French Oak to cement egg to stainless steel), and are designed so they can actually be moved into different environments within the winery as needed to ensure the wine develops perfectly. The result is high quality wine that is integrated and complex.
Rogstad manages the certified sustainable vineyards at both Cuvaison and Brandlin, Cuvaison’s sister winery, with vineyards on Mt. Veeder, that produces bolder wines like Cabernet and Malbec that require the warmer climate in Napa. At Cuvaison, you feel a shared pride about the sense of place, as well as a concern about the environment and genuine will to reduce Cuvaison's impact on our environment. A few of the initiatives practiced at Cuvaison include solar power, water conservation and energy efficiency; the winery is also certified Napa Green. It’s hard to imagine that a winery this dedicated to maintaining the environment also produces
some of the best wines Carneros has to offer and maintains friendly staff to make the experience personal and relaxing. If you’re looking for the perfect winery to stop at on the way back from Napa, this gem off Duhig Road (neighbor to the stately Domaine Carneros) is ideal. This isn’t a normal tasting experience with guests overcrowding a tasting bar. It’s recommended to call ahead and schedule an appointment as the tasting room and patio are petite and the experience is tailored to be able to accommodate guests at their own private tables, each with a sweeping view of the picturesque landscape. You’ll get a tasting of both Cuvaison Pinot and Chardonnay and the wines in the Brandlin portfolio, including an impressive Zinfandel and Cabernet.
My favorite wines are listed below with tasting notes provided by the winery:
2012 Estate Chardonnay - $25 per bottle
From a truly classic vintage, the 2012 Estate Chardonnay displays lovely aromatics of honeysuckle, lily, acacia blossom and clove spice. Upon tasting this wine, it demonstrates a charming mix of white peach, apricot, nectarine and lime zest all tied to a bright, long, refreshing finish
2012 ATS Chardonnay - $56 per bottle
An opulently styled wine, the 2012 ATS Chardonnay is richly perfumed with notes of honeysuckle, jasmine and orange blossom. The fruit is focused around a lovely core of melon, peach and lemon chiffon with a hint of vanilla and toasted almonds. It’s this interplay between the bright, floral components and the dense fruit with a long crisp finish that sets the ATS apart and pays homage to the art of blending.
2012 Spire Pinot Noir - $48 per bottle
A classic vintage, 2012 enjoyed near perfect weather and ideal conditions at harvest. The Spire Pinot was harvested over a 15 day period, rigorously selecting the best fruit with each pass. The result is a multi-layered wine with opulent fruit, intriguing spice, lush tannins and brilliant acidity. Cherry, plum and wild strawberry notes with rose petal, violet, clove and ginger spice on the nose. Round and full-bodied for Pinot Noir the Spire showcases the plush tannins and rich mouthfeel typical of this site. Aged for 16 months in French oak puncheons, this is a rare wine from a singular place.
2011 Diablo Syrah - $40 per bottle SOLD OUT
Named after the formidable Diablo soils from whence this wine springs, this wine is a lover and a fighter, with gorgeous black cherry, boysenberry, sandalwood and cardamom spice notes backed by some bare knuckle tannins. Forged in a cool and challenging vintage on unforgiving soils, this wine demonstrates that the best things are born of struggle. Both powerful and graceful, this wine should reward you with intriguing spice, ample dark fruit and a long, persistent finish.
2012 Brandlin Estate Zinfandel - $38 per bottle
The 2012 Brandlin Zinfandel captures the essence of Old Vine Zin, where delicate floral tones (rose petals) mingle with crushed red berries and dark, jammy plums. The wine also has a nice spice element, star anise and a hint of bay leaf. On the palate the flavors of raspberry, blackcherry and boysenberry jam come to the fore, while texturally the wine is quite lush with medium-bodied tannins and a silky, long, bright finish."
Ian White, August 14, 2014
San Francisco Magazine
"Openings, uncorkings, and more from Wine Country."
"Few places host a good picnic in Napa Valley, so Cuvaison's [Calistoga Tasting Room] is answering the call. They are offering a tasting flight of four wines, followed by a healthy picnic lunch in their tree-shaded picnic grounds. Make sure to try their Pinot."
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 both our Calistoga and Carneros tasting rooms are dog friendly! We just ask that you keep Fido on a leash.
|Pixie (left), age 10, favorite activity: snacking.
Buster (right), age 2, favorite activity: chasing wild turkeys in the vineyard.
Dogs' Owner: Steven Rogstad, Winemaker
|Jasmine, age 6, favorite activity: swimming in the pool.
Dog's Owner: Bonnie Schoch, CFO
|Rosalina, age 10, favorite activity: taking walks in the park.
Dog's Owner: Alvaro Bautista, Cellarhand
Bodhi (left), age 6, favorite activity: chasing and catching the Frisbee at the park and running through the Cuvaison vineyard off leash.
Indigo, age 8 months, favorite activity: playing
|Gunner, age 5, favorite activity: chasing the Frisbee.
Dog's Owner: Selma Woolfe, Club Cuvaison Coordinator
Rudy, age 3, favorite activity: sleeping, playing at the beach, running thru the vineyard.
|Kao, age 3, favorite activity: playing tug-of-war and cuddling.
Dog's Owner: Wynne Vick, Club Cuvaison Sales Coordinator
|Scooby, age 5, favorite activity: fetching the tennis ball and going on walks on Brandlin.
Dog's Owner: Ray Lamon, Landscape and Maintenance
|River, age 3, favorite activity: running around in the grass and playing chase.
Dog's parent: Melody Royval, Staff Accountant
PuppyKitty, age 3.5, favorite activity: eating her owner's shoes, chewing on laptop power cords, destroying couches and sleeping on her owner's bed.
"Ladies and gentlemen… the weekend arrived. The wine country half marathon I’ve been going on and on about for the past four months has finally come, and now gone.
I’ll bring you the race day details later (including how I did!), but now I want to introduce you to two of the optional race extras offered by Destination Races: the Welcome Reception at Cuvaison Winery, and the Pre-race Dinner in the Vineyard at Ceja Vineyards.
Can you think of a better way to kick off a weekend?
Welcome Reception at Cuvasion Winery | Friday, July 18 6pm to 8pm
Let’s just start with that view… does is get any more idyllic than that? Seriously. When people say it’s absolutely stunning out here, they aren’t exaggerating. In fact, they may be understating how awesome it is to keep the crowds to a minimum (unsuccessfully, might I add).
The Napa-to-Sonoma flagship event began with hors d’oeuvres and wine tasting at the beautiful Cuvaison Winery. This would later be the “scene of the crime,” also known as the starting point of the race on Sunday. But tonight, it was all laughter and conversation heard over the cheerful clinking of glasses. A consistent chorus of, “Ooooh… this one is good!!” complimented the cool evening breeze. This was purely a social event – a chance for attendees to celebrate the weekend finally arriving, and for soaking in the atmosphere of wine country while making friends with those who share the appreciation.
I was one of the first to arrive, hence the photo ops without people. Trust me, by 6:15 this patio was pleasantly packed with other enthusiastic wine lovers and runners. Professional runner Lauren Fleshman was present, which was (for a lack of a better phrase) really damn cool. The whole event was perfectly informal, making it an ideal setting for a solo traveler such as myself to mingle and make friends. And mingle and make friends I did.
Click here to read the entire article on the Creatrice Mondial blog site.
|By Amy Hayes, July 22, 2014 Creatrice Mondial Blog Site|
At Cuvaison we take a meticulously detailed approach to farming that starts from the ground up. After carefully mapping changes in soil depth, composition, drainage, aspect and slope, we planted the vineyard into a complicated patchwork comprised of 44 different blocks of Chardonnay and 20 unique blocks of Pinot Noir.
These blocks range in size from a few rows up to 12 acres, and each block has its own distinctive match of rootstock and clone. Each block is farmed as its own little vineyard, harvested separately and made into its own batch of wine.
By farming and crafting these wines in this way, we are able to knit together a more complex and fully realized expression of our Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir - as each block adds its own special nuance to the overall blend.
GAYOT.com website is an internationally renowned and professional guide to dining, hotels, travel and lifestyle, including spas, movies and automobiles. They recently published an article on their website where they share their "Top Summer Wines" of 2014 - and Cuvaison's 2012 Estate Chardonnay was selected!
Read the article here.
May in Carneros has been quite breezy but generally pleasant. In the early part of the month our vines bloomed and have gone through berry set. Winegrowers refer to “set” as those flowers that successfully fertilized and have become grape berries. The set looks quite good and we look forward to another fine vintage.
Although budbreak was early this year, bloom was essentially the same as last year, so we anticipate harvest starting about the same time as 2013, which at Cuvaison will most likely be the first week of September.
Post set, we start doing our leafing pass. The type and amount of leafing we do varies from block to block at Cuvaison, and takes into account row orientation to the sun and wind, as well as mildew pressure and risk of sunburn. In general, our philosophy is to prevent sunburn first and foremost, but with an eye to allowing some dappled sunlight and fresh airflow, to help season the skins and toughen them against any days of high heat or excessive moisture. We do this by hand removing interior leaves and lateral shoots in the canopy and leaves below the fruit zone.
It was wonderful sharing such an intimate and engaging gathering with Club Members at our Brandlin Vineyard Tour last Saturday.
We saw new friendships forged while learning what makes Brandlin mountain grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel wines so special. We will cherish the memories of being up there on the mountain for years to come, and hope the Club Members that joined us will do the same!
Jay especially enjoyed sharing his knowledge on what makes the Mount Veeder winegrowing region so unique, as well as sharing deeper insights on the Brandlin family's long history of farming on Mount Veeder.
We look forward to offering more intimate Club-Member-Only experiences like this in the future!
Additional photos can be viewed at this link.