Monday, December 29, 2008
During bloom, the extremely hot temperatures coupled with high winds made for a poor berry set. Although this greatly decreased our yields, we benefited from loose medium sized Cabernet clusters.
During the summer there were many wildfires here in Northern California. Many winemakers and viticulturalists worried about the possibility that the grapes could be tainted with smoke flavors. Thankfully, not only were our Piña vineyards unaffected, but I haven’t heard of any Napa Valley vineyards with this problem.
The 2008 vintage was approximately 1 week earlier than average. We had two heat-waves back to back at the beginning of harvest (end of August/early September). This resulted in some shriveled berries and very rapid sugar accumulation. These heat waves were also a contributing factor to the extremely low yields. Here at Piña Napa Valley, our grape yields are down approximately 40% lower than average.
After the initial heat waves, the weather remained very mild and temperate ensuring optimum slow ripening and extended hang time conditions. It rained on October 3rd into the 4th, but the amount of rain was very small and the good weather before and after the rain resulted in no negative effects on the crop.
At Piña Napa Valley, we began by harvesting the Ames and Firehouse vineyards on September 8th and the Stice’s Stone Corral vineyard on September 12th. We continued harvesting with the D’Adamo vineyard on September 26th. We made several harvest passes through the Wolff vineyard during September and October to ensure harvesting only perfectly ripe fruit. We picked the Buckeye vineyard on October 17th, 27th and 29th.
The resulting 2008 wines are very promising. They have great color accompanied by good tannin structure and mouth feel. There is good concentration and acidity. Although we may not have a lot to drink this year, it will surely be enjoyable.
Piña Napa Valley
Thursday, December 11, 2008
He starred in a movie called This Earth Is Mine (released June,1959). Lots of the filming for this movie was done in the Napa Valley, especially in the Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford areas. It’s not considered a great movie, but it’s kind of fun to catch some glimpses of the Napa Valley landscape from 50 years ago. For those of you that haven’t peeked ahead for the answer, Rock Hudson was Leroy Harold Scherer, Jr. at birth. “Rock Hudson? Who’s that?” My 22 year old son Tyler asked.
I’ll follow this up with some pictures that should make the process easier to understand. Back to the movie: They needed somebody to teach Rock how to bud, and since he was left handed, they needed a teacher that was left handed… and this is where my great uncle Jim Pavon, enters the picture (figuratively speaking, only). He taught Rock how to bud well enough to pass for the movie. Rock even used Jim’s budding box & knife in the movie. I have always found this skill interesting, but apparently not as much as my brother Larry. Larry claims that when he was around 8 years old, he spent a fair amount of time budding and trying to get vine buds to grow. And he wasn’t going to be limited by conventional thinking. He budded vine buds onto Eucalyptus trees. Our dad told him it wouldn’t work, but he proceeded undeterred, and would give our dad daily updates on his project. Those are the trees visible directly across from the Plumpjack Winery tasting room. They appear to have survived Larry’s experiments, but we won’t be releasing a Cabalyptus wine anytime soon.
Did I mention that in-the-vineyard chip budding is hard on the back? This highly skilled work must be done on your knees. The chip bud grafting process is illustrated with pictures below taken by my brother, John C. Piña.
First, a varietal bud is cut from a pruned cane from a mature vine.
(This is an action photo - see it flying through the air?)
Then the 1st cut on the rootstock is made
2nd cut above first cut
2nd cut extends down to the first cut
And when that little section is removed,
the opening has been created for the chip bud
The chip bud is positioned in the opening
A tight fit is critical for the bud to grow*
This fit required an extra sliver of rootstock to be removed
Once the fit is perfect, a lightweight stretchy vinyl tape is wrapped around the new union to keep the new bud tightly embedded into the rootstock
And the top of the rootstock is cut off to force the rootstock to devote all of the growth energies into the bonding and growth of the bud
* After reviewing this post for accuracy at my request, John noted that while a tight bud fit is important, more important is getting part of the cambium layer of the bud to line up with the cambium layer of the rootstock.
There are newer methods of grafting that are not quite so labor intensive, or skilled. Click on the following link to Practical Winery & Vineyard magazine for a more comprehensive overview of the options available.
Great info there, but John’s pictures are better!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Wine News has rated our 2005 Buckeye as one of California’s top 10 Cabs of 2008.
In their words:
Pina, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Buckeye Vineyard, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley - Minty maraschino cherry aromas with hints of resin and cinnamon. Supple strawberry preserve flavors with a thick, nearly chewy texture. There is a richness front to back in this Cabernet with the wood tannins, fruit and minerals meshing nicely in the close. Drinking nicely right now and should continue to improve.
Very flattering and we are the least expensive wine on the list.
Click here for the full story:
Thursday, December 4, 2008
So Joe (No, the structural engineer, NOT the plumber) tells me that he ran into somebody that knew me from high school. But that guy knew me as Ranndy Pina (pronounced pee-nuh), not Ranndy Piña (pronounced peen-yuh). So, what’s that about?
Piña vs Pina – Let me explain. My grandfather left Spain as Juan Mena Piña. He accepted the first name change to John in America, but he would never give up the Piña. But slowly, over the next half century, the name Piña would evolve into Pina for nearly all written communication. Some might say that was the expected Americanization of a foreign name. I think it had more to do with the typewriterization (yea, I just made that word up) of a foreign name. You see, that little squiggly thing (~) over the n in Piña is called a tilde.
Tilde is defined as: “a diacritic (~) placed over an n, as in Spanish mañana, to indicate a palatal nasal sound”
Tildes may have found their way onto typewriters in Spain and Mexico, early on, but not here in the good ‘ole U. S. of A. So without the tilde, folks had a tough time typing Piña and it would come out as Peenya, or something equally as bad. So for many years, we just accepted Pina. Eventually, typewriters and word processors added the tilde and we started the transition back to Piña. Using the tilde got even easier with the development of computers, but it also created some problems. Searching this document or the internet for “Piña” will yield different results that searching for “Pina”. Even now, some fonts & document formats can’t deal with the ñ, and will substitute some other symbol or just leave it out altogether. So even though Piña is the correct spelling, we will frequently just use Pina.
But we thank The Cork Board for giving it a try. Now that's a blog worth reading. If you haven't checked it out, I recommend it.
Most online dictionaries will interpret Piña as Spanish for Pineapple, but we prefer the less common interpretation to Pine cone, or fruit of the Pine. After all, we’re talking Spain.
We even incorporated pine cones into our first 2 labels.
This was the label we put on our 1st wine, a 1979 Chardonnay:
We upgraded our label a few years later and the
Pine cones were embossed on the label
Yes, our first wine was a 1979 Chardonnay. We made it in a bonded winery on Action Ave. in Napa, of all places* (see my related story at the end). We were making some great wines through the 80’s, but even great wines don’t sell themselves. The Pina brothers did what they could, but the vineyard management company was growing too quickly and requiring too much time. After several years, we realized it was unrealistic to think our one employee could handle the winemaking and the sales. We had to let our one employee go and take a break from making (commercial) wine for several years. We leased space to other startup operations through the 1990’s. When we realized just how good the Cabernet was from the Howell Mountain Buckeye Vineyard, we decided it was time to get back into wine production.
Below is the original sign for Pina Cellars. Yes, some of you will recognize it as our current tasting bar. It was made from the barrel staves of a large redwood tank.
For Piña Napa Valley (AKA Piña Cellars 2.0), we decided to use
a tilde, or more specifically a red tilde, as our trademark.
The Winery under Construction
Summer 1982 - Placing the 48’ long main beam (Davie on the forklift, Dad, John C.)
July 3rd, 1982 – Davie on the scaffold, Ranndy on the roof
Here is the story that I alluded to earlier:
It was a Wednesday morning in October, 1979 and I was waiting outside the winery on Action Ave for the owner to show up. His converted warehouse was right next to a casket factory that employed several special needs people. The special needs people started showing up for work and were waiting outside the building for it to open. I sat in my car facing away from these folks, but monitoring their arrivals in my rear view mirror. Then I saw him approach. He appeared severely disfigured, but I continued to look on as many folks do when passing a bad accident on the highway. I felt so sorry for him – That poor guy, having to go through life looking like that. As he approached the waiting group, they didn’t seem at all upset by his appearance – In fact they seemed quite happy to see him. They laughed and gave him high fives! I’m thinking: Wow, is this the reception he gets every morning? Then he put his hand up to his face and removed his mask. I felt duped. How could I have forgotten it was the 31st of October – Halloween! And then I reluctantly accepted the possibility that he was enjoying life more than me. It was a very humbling experience that I remember vividly 29 years later.