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james laube's wine flights

A Hint of Autumn Sneaks Into Summer

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Aug 6, 2007 4:50pm ET

Subtle hints of change were evident this past weekend in Napa. It was as if autumn was sneaking into our midsummer weather.

In the vineyards the red-wine grapes are gaining color. As I biked through Carneros on Saturday, most of the Pinot Noir grapes had turned from green to black—a process known as veraison. Berries begin to develop varietal flavors during veraison, and the beginning of the process is a signal to winemakers that harvest is about 60 days away, depending on the weather.

I noticed that the level of veraison varied from vineyard to vineyard, with mostly green berries still hanging on some vines, and I wondered whether that was due to differences in clones. Anyway, the coloring looked uniform in most of the vineyards.

I had brunch at the casual Boon Fly Café, which is in the Carneros Inn, located a couple of miles from downtown Napa, off Highway 12. While I’ve heard great things about this spot, this was my first visit, and I was impressed with the creative and diverse menu (online at www.thecarnerosinn.com/pj_dining.html). I ordered the Boon Fly Benedict: grilled house-made multigrain bread, thick-sliced Hobb's ham, poached eggs and jalapeño hollandaise with crispy hashbrowns, and drank a wonderful 2005 Anglim Roussanne from Paso Robles. This was my first introduction to this rich, spicy ginger- and citrus-laced wine, and it was one of the best I’ve had. It worked well with the jalapeño hollandaise.

On Sunday, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees, from the 90s to the 70s, and it’s cool again today. I noticed a yellow leaf on the Chinese pastiche tree in my yard, and I had to turn on my patio heater at dusk to stay outside and read the paper.

One final observation about changes this time of year in Napa: If you’re in the city in the next week or so and encounter a group of muscle-bound, supersized guys, it’s a good bet they are members of the Oakland Raiders. The NFL team has its summer training camp in Napa and it’s hard to miss these wide-bodies wherever they are.

Steve Barber
Clayton, CA. —  August 6, 2007 6:25pm ET
I was also in Napa Saturday and heard the Alexander Valley went from 10 days ahead to right on schedule for this years harvest....I was told "lots of fog lately" was the reason, and the grapes look good.
Matthew Segura
Pleasant Hill, Ca —  August 6, 2007 8:12pm ET
I was also cycling in Carneros this weekend and I also noticed the veraison, though I was thinking it was probably a little while past veraison since the vines I saw that were red, were mostly uniformly red, pretty much the whole cluster. How is the '07 growing season going? I live in the area and the weather seems to be perfect for growing grapes, lots of cool days to retain the fresh acidity that napa seems to often lack in the hotter years, but what do I know.
Peter Czyryca
August 6, 2007 10:16pm ET
Good to know, if I see any Raiders during my trip, I'll be sure to wave my Terrible Towel and let them know how many rings the Steelers have!
Brad Kanipe
Atlanta —  August 7, 2007 11:21am ET
Peter your boyz didn't look so good when I saw them in Oakland last season. They should have given Big Ben another week of rest. Good luck this season.
Jeremy Craig Cpa
O'Fallon, MO —  August 7, 2007 11:50am ET
James,

Just relocated to Napa from the Midwest and am really enjoying the weather. Thanks for a local restaurant review also, still have a lot to learn about the area.

I too was wondering about the cool weather impacts on the red wines hillside. Any long term impacts or just a slow down in harvest?

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