Hello from emerald green Mount Veeder! It has been a wet winter in the Mayacamas Mountains and, although we officially celebrated the spring equinox last week, winter conditions persist. Near-record rainfalls have deluged us since December, and several of the more intensive, multiday storms resulted inchallenging situations up here in the steeps and down below in the valley. Creeks and streams have been at capacity across the mountain range. Drainages in our own vineyards have been tested by the sheer volume of water. Further down the grade, landslides have closed county roads including ours, reminiscent of two years ago. Even though Mother Nature feels the need to repeat lessons, we do learn from the past. Case in point: we spent a good part of the dry summer months shoring up creek banks and culverts in the vineyard and they held up very well, minimizing runoff and erosion.
What does the massive amount of rain mean for our vineyards and our future wines? The good news is that the underground aquifers across our property are filling higher with every rainstorm, storing water for our deep-rooted, non-irrigated vines during the dry and hot summer and fall. It is always hard to predict what the rest of the growing season will bring – heat spikes, early or late precipitation, or high winds — all of which can have an impact on the vintage, but at least it looks like the vineyards will have enough to drink this year.
In between wet spates, we have had some beautiful bursts of sunshine that have brought forth wildflowers, green grasses, and fruit blossoms. It has also allowed our work crew to get into the vineyards, complete the annual vine pruning, and prep the trellises for the inevitable growth we expect in late spring and summer. Cutting the old canes to allow for new shoots to emerge from the aged spurs that stretch across the cordons is essential to the health of the vineyard, the land, and each future vintage of wine grapes. Vines want to grow and spread and will do so wildly, at the expense of grape growth and maturity, if left untended. Cutting back last year’s growth conserves the vines’ energy so they can go full bore when the new buds break in a few weeks.
Leaving the pruned canes in the vineyard rows to decompose allows the natural cycle of composting to reinvigorate the soils with minimal intervention. The grasses, clovers, and mustard that comprise the cover crop between the vinerows not only hold the soils in place during winter rains but also compost back into that same soil when mowed in late spring. Stewardship of the land sometimes means trusting nature to function as it’s designed, with perhaps a little help here and there through natural means.
The payback is a yearly bounty of juicy, delicious grapes and the wines that we create from them.
More soon, Christina and Rob
Season’s Greetings and a Look Back the Year Just Passed
May this letter find you in your “happy holiday place,” wherever that may be, with family, friends, traveling, or cozily ensconced at home.
We continue to feel so blessed in living where we do on Mount Veeder in the Napa Valley, being able to enjoy the towering coastal redwoods surrounding us and savor the apples, pears, persimmons, pomegranates, and quince growing in our orchard.
The crowning glory of our estate is, of course, the Paratus vineyards! They continue to produce the most extraordinary, single-vineyard, estate-grown Cabernet in the region. Adding to this, we have recently released the first-ever Paratus Chardonnay, made with grapes grown by our neighbor on Mount Veeder, and just the fourth vintage of the carefully selected and august 2014 Paratus Reserve. Along with these two releases was our twelfth vintage of the Paratus Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, the superb 2014. A dozen vintages, something we are very proud of.
In this past year immediately following the Napa Valley fires, we have spent a good amount of energy in recovery mode, making infrastructure repairs and rebuilding elements of the vineyard. We continue to support our brave Mt. Veeder/Dry Creek volunteer fire department in many ways including bringing lunch to their twice-monthly training sessions. Our hearts go out to the victims of the most recent devastating fires who lost so much in Los Angeles and Butte counties. Please consider a year-end gift to the Red Cross, or other fire-related charity.
To have added many new club members this year is gratifying, and we are delighted to have met so many of you in person at Paratus wine dinners and tastings. Our network of distribution has expanded in Florida, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Wisconsin and California, bringing Paratus to numerous new restaurants and fine wine stores.
We hope you are liking the added new flexibility of our Paratus Wine Club membership and new privileges, such as free shipping at the Supremus level and a low flat shipping rate for Magnus members. Let us know how else we might be helpful.
Thanks very much for your interest in and support of Paratus. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Christina and Rob Jennings
Remember, there are no absolute rules for what wines pair with what foods. Some people just love Cabs and are happy to enjoy what they love regardless of the dish while others prefer to find a wine that truly enhances the food it is enjoyed with. When planning a dinner or party for more than a handful of guests it is great to have at least two wines to offer – one white and one red. The whites can generally pair with early courses or lighter fare that would be overwhelmed by big red. And most holiday main courses and side dishes can stand up to a beautiful rich Cabernet. Keeping both wines available throughout the dinner or party lets your guests make their choice.
Paratus Vineyards introduced its first ever Chardonnay this fall just in time for the holidays. The style is classic “European-styled” Chardonnay with no exposure to oak and no malolactic fermentation resulting in a crisp and bright wine that retains the true fullness and flavor of its Mt. Veeder Chardonnay grapes; perfect for pre-dinner sipping and for pairing with a variety of hors d’vouvres and dishes. Paratus Mt. Veeder Chardonnay.
When it comes to Cabernets your Paratus choices are extensive with vintages ranging from our current 2014 release back to the 2009 vintage – even older wines including our inaugural 2003 vintage for Paratus Wine Club members. Plus we have the incredible Paratus Reserve wines from 2012, 2013, and 2014 for a truly special holiday experience.
Another wonderful choice, especially for a large dinner, is a magnum of Paratus Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon – we have 2011, 2013, and 2014 mags still available. Whether looking for a gift for your hosts or a feature at your own dinner or party, we can take care of you.
Now, a few holiday menu tips we have picked up along the way.
- If you are making turkey make sure you brine the bird for a minimum for 4-6 hours and preferably overnight. This will absolutely help keep your bird nice and juicy as the brining helps retain moisture in the meat. Cooks Illustrated provides great step-by-step instructions on brining turkey. (Link here)
We have found that brining pork is great too at keeping things moist during cooking.
Happy holiday prep!
Rob and Christina
It is harvest time in Napa – exciting, busy, and strikingly beautiful. The hills are streaked with reds and yellows, the skies are clear and blue, and the sweet aromas of grape must and fermenting juice waft through the air. We love it!
At Paratus, we have been busy for many weeks in the orchard and vegetable garden harvesting sweet apples, pears, plums, figs, and tomatoes, but the pomegranates and persimmons still have some hang time and will add beautiful orange and red highlights to the ranch’s landscape as we move into the holiday season. The autumn weather has been great with warm days and cool nights – perfect for the October “wrap.” We did have some unexpectedly big rains several weeks ago but things dried out just fine and now we see a soft green carpet of new young grass in the meadows.
After letting our Cabernet grapes bask in the warm October sun to fully ripen and balance out the essential acids, tannins, and sugars, we finally brought in the 2018 Paratus vintage this week. We experienced a lighter than normal yield this year, partially due to losing some vines to the fires last year, but the quality of the grapes is exceptional. Just wait until 2022 to see what we mean!
Four years may seem like a long time to wait but that is what it takes for our Paratus Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon to fulfill the Latin root of its name – “ready.” In that spirit, we have just released the 2014 vintage of our Paratus Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon and Paratus RESERVE – spectacular!
Many thanks to our year-round vineyard team, many of whom have been with us for over a decade; we could not make Paratus without them. Some of our seasonal crew have worked our harvests for six, seven, even ten straight years. It is great to have them back.
Now on to the winemaking!
Happy autumn, Rob & Christina