Why Wines Taste Different from Year to Year

Have you ever wondered why you might love a particular Pinot Noir from 2013, but may not be as fond of the 2014? If so, you’re not alone.

The answer is complex, just like the winemaking industry. Having an understanding of these variations will give you a greater appreciation of just how much goes into making that 2013 vintage that you love so much.

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Why does a wine differ in taste from year to year?
There are an endless number of variables that can have an effect on how a particular year’s yield will taste. However, there are two main factors that winemakers can confidently rely on being ever-changing.

  1. Weather and climate
  2. Winemaker’s growing, harvesting and aging process

How Weather & Climate Affect Wine
There are countless variables in nature that can have a major impact on the outcome of grapes. There are a few main factors that winemakers must pay close attention to.

  • Precipitation. The amount and timing of rainfall directly impacts a winemaker’s end product. If there is too much rainfall around harvest time, vines will absorb water, diluting the grape and causing an imbalance in flavor. Growers are looking for just the right amount of precipitation before harvest.
  • The land the grapes are grown in (soil). The soil that grapes are grown in can have an astounding impact on wine. For example, grapes that are planted in rich, fertile soil with lots of moisture will often produce light and fruity wine. However, the same grapes planted on a hill-side with broken up, dry soil cause the vines to work harder to get nutrients. This produces a more robust wine with higher tannins.
  • Temperature. The temperature that grapes are grown greatly impacts what kinds of varietals should be grown in a given region. Some grapes flourish in moderate temperatures, while others grow best with warm days and cooler nights. And some grapes grow best in extreme heat (for example, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel).


How Winemaking Process Affects Wine
To make great wine, it’s crucial to have quality grapes. But, how the grapes are harvested and processed also has a considerable impact on the end product. Among many factors, three of the most important that winemakers must consider include:

  • The date of harvest. The exact time that grapes are picked has a much higher impact on the overall taste of a wine than you might think. If grapes are harvested earlier, the wine they produce will have a lower alcohol content and higher acidity. Conversely, if grapes are picked later in the season, there will be more sugar present, which translates to a higher alcohol content and less acidity in the wine. The goal is to pick grapes when acidity and sweetness levels are balanced.
  • Aging process. Wine is aged in either oak or steel. The result? Oak-aged wine is more traditional and produces natural aromas like nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon. Steel barrels produce a zestier, more refreshing wine, like Pinot Gris. Wine aged in steel barrels has become more common in recent years due to its value proposition (reuse of barrels, easier cleaning, more control over oxygen exposure).
  • When it was bottled and how it was stored. What might sound like a very simple step in the winemaking process is another critical phase that demands a winemaker’s planning and expertise. Exposure to oxygen can make or break a wine during this important step. Winemakers must walk a fine line between aging (good) and oxidizing (bad) wine. This means wine must be stored at the right temperature in properly sealed bottles. Other factors include keeping the wine in a dark, consistently cool space, minimizing movement and knowledge of what wines usually improve with age.

 

These, among many other factors, all contribute to why that 2013 Pinot Noir was so outstanding!

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Tips to Learning More About Wine

Whether you’re new to loving wine, or someone who has been tasting for years, there’s always more you can learn. However, the seemingly endless pages of fine wine at nice restaurants, hundreds of ways to describe wine, and varietals changing from year to year, can make wine education intimidating.

So, where do you begin?

In order to handle the wine list with confidence, discover what wine qualities you like, or simply expand your taste, we have a few ideas for you.

1. Get a wine-centric group of people to form a tasting group.

Glass in Hand 2Find a group of individuals who have the same interest in wine and plan to get together once or twice a month to taste and discuss preferences. Try to mix up the wines you are tasting to expose your palette to as many wine varietals as possible.

If you live near vineyards, have everyone meet at a winery’s tasting room (visit us at Regale!). The pourers will be able to enhance your depth of knowledge and bring new perspectives to your tasting group. They’ll be able to tell you more about each wine you taste, including where it was grown, how it was barreled, and how long it was aged, among other factors.

2. Find a favorite local wine bar. Get to know the staff. Become a regular.

Stop by the wine bar once or twice a week for a glass of wine. Become acquainted with their menu by trying different wines each time you visit. This will help you to identify characteristics that you like and dislike in wine.

3. Host a dinner party with a themed wine selection.

Pick a wine that you would like to know more about (for example, Pinot Noir). Have everyone bring a bottle of Pinot Noir so you can taste and discuss multiple bottles.

Cheers

Take it a step further.
To take your themed dinner party to another level, have everyone bring a Pinot Noir from a different region. This will allow you to draw comparisons between wines produced in different types of land and soils (like the Willamette Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains). Take detailed notes to assess your preferences and compare with your guests.

Regale-99_preview4. Taste frequently.

(Our favorite tip!) Take advantage of the resources you have around you. Find a good local wine shop and get to know the people who work there. Each time you buy wine, ask for one bottle that is full bodied and one that is light bodied.


5. Follow wine experts.

Pay attention to what the experts are doing. This will encourage you to branch out from wines you typically drink and allow you to find new wines you never knew you’d like.
To increase your knowledge of wine, your best bet is to experience as much as possible. Each of these tips will help you to do so, but keep in mind that the very best way you can learn is to taste.

In addition to making these tips part of your wine tasting routine, be sure to have a few good resources to reference. This will keep you on top of wine trends and ongoing education.

Some resources we like:

  • Calwineries.com – A guide to wineries in California with information about terrain, history and more.
  • WineSpectator.com – A leading wine resource, with information on just about anything you ever wanted to know about wine.

 

Meet Rosie & Sangiovese

Our expert vintners are dedicated to the fine art of making wine. But they wouldn’t be able to fully devote themselves to their craft if they didn’t have some behind-the-scenes help from two of our most important employees: Rosie and Sangiovese!

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Rosie and Sangiovese (who prefers the less formal Sangio) help keep things at Regale running smoothly. Their most important job is patrolling our vineyard and chasing away unwanted pests.

Of course, vermin population control isn’t their only duty. Rosie and Sangio also have many important administration tasks, including napping on keyboards, napping in the middle of the office floor, napping on laps, and some occasional light filing.

Rosie

Rosie, the more outgoing of the pair, is a pretty little thing. Her white and grey coat is accented with soft, sunset-orange markings. She’s also quite the charmer. You can often find her meowing for pats and attention. In her spare time, Rosie loves “collecting” bugs and lizards (which she wants to share, much to our dismay).

While Sangio is more shy and reserved, he’s still a very handsome boy with a coat of grey and tabby markings. He also has quite the appetite and can sometimes be coaxed over with the promise of food. On his braver days, Sangio will visit us in the office to make sure everyone is doing their work and staying on task.  Sangio 1.jpg

If you’re interested in meeting Rosie and Sangio (and maybe even tasting some of our delicious wine!), visit our website tasting page for days, times and details.

The Santa Cruz Mountains: An Ideal Location for Growing Grapes.

At Regale Winery and Vineyards, we’ve built our core winemaking values on honoring the traditions of those before us: To always question and innovate. We push ourselves to transcend the everyday and create wines that are extraordinary.

When you visit our winery and take that first sip, you experience not only the fruits of the labor of our master winemakers, but also the labor and experience of our vintner forefathers, who first settled in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the late 1700s.Regale Pouring Wine

The history of winemaking in the Santa Cruz region spans over 300 years. It began when the priests at the Santa Cruz Mission planted grapes that were “rough and hardy – and made terrible wine.”[1]

It wasn’t until the 1850s that the Santa Cruz Mountains region revealed its true potential — some of the most influential pioneers in California’s winemaking history sought to seed the land with grapes of a much higher quality than their unrefined ancestors.[2] Early vintners included John Burns, John and George Jarvis, Charles Lefranc, Paul Masson, and John Stewart,  men who all made substantial, lasting contributions to the growth and success of the region’s commercial wine industry.[3]

But of all the places to build a winery, why would winemakers choose the Santa Cruz Mountains? Minimal rain, warm weather that encourages and accelerates ripening, and soil that is “fertile, alluvial and loamy in nature” are the key elements responsible for the success of the region’s wineries.[4]

Jon Bonné, former wine editor and chief wine critic at the San Francisco Chronicle, poetically describes the region’s influencing factors thusly:

The mountains are sliced in half by the San Andreas Fault. The North American Plate’s sandstone and Pacific Plate’s uplifted ocean floors are constantly grinding. The result? An utter jumble of shallow, rocky soils, not unlike portions of the Sonoma Coast.

Two converging climates are also at work — cool moderating influences of the ocean to the west, and a similar, if warmer, influence from San Francisco Bay to the east. Slightly warmer sites can ripen a subtle style of Cabernet, while delicate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive nearby.[5]

Wine Bottles

Santa Cruz wineries benefit from these ideal growing conditions. Winemakers aren’t at the mercy of unpredictable weather or stingy earth. This allows wineries to become “a perfect laboratory for winemaking not held hostage to fashion.” Santa Cruz’s vintners are free to stretch their wings and create wine that is intriguing and able to stand on its own merit, avoiding what Bonné describes as the wine industry’s “steroidal tendencies of the past 20 years.”[6]

The verdant, yielding land of the region, combined with indulgent weather, allows us to handcraft batches of remarkable wines every year. The grapes from our estate-grown Pinot Noir vineyard and other exceptional local vineyards give birth to wines that stand apart from the rest with finesse, provocative personality, and balanced acidity.

January Vines

We produce some of the finest Californian wine available, yet many wine connoisseurs and experts feel Santa Cruz wineries are overlooked compared to Napa and Sonoma.[7] This is the perfect opportunity for wine lovers to delight their palates with something new. Make the relaxing, scenic drive to Regale Winery and experience the charm of Old World wine country, tucked away in the mountains of Santa Cruz.

If you’re ready to taste all that Regale Winery and Vineyards has to offer — including Pinot Noir, Cabernet, and our popular Chardonnay — visit our website tasting page for days, times and details.

 

[1] Stacey Vreeken, “Uncorked: Vines to wines — History of grape growing in Santa Cruz County,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, Aug. 27, 2012.
[2] Ibid.
[3] CA Corks, “Wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains.”
[4] Matthew Citriglia, “Bordeaux vs. California Cabernet — Why They Should Never Be Compared!” Winegeeks.com.
[5] Jon Bonné, “Santa Cruz Mountains wines reach a peak, quietly,” San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 28, 2010.
[6] Ibid.
[7] CA Corks, “Wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains.”

What’s so ‘Super’ about that Tuscan?

It is a matter of much debate who was the first to coin the now trendy moniker, although their origins are mostly attributed to the hallmark wines Tignanello and Sassicaia beginning in 1974, both marketed by Antinori. What is more clear about the history of these lovely wines is that Super Tuscans originated in Italy as wine estates aimed to make higher quality wines that didn’t necessarily fit the strict legal regulations in place for wine production as set out by the DOC.

It is hard to imagine in the relaxed landscape of California where we have some general laws about labeling appellation or varietal but otherwise are relatively free to experiment, blend, and proprietarily name to our delight. In Italy the DOC regulations mandated everything from which varietals could be grown in which regions including the strict percentages in which they must be blended (like the inclusion of white grapes in Tuscan red wine!), to precise accepted levels of alcohol, acidity, and extract as well as establishing viticultural regulations such as restrictions on yield and specific winemaking practices. These laws preserved the practices of low quality and high quantity. Wine estates that dared step outside the box were relegated to the lowest generic label of Vino da Tavola (or table wine) that had been historically the mark of bulk swill. These quality wines changed the ideology by wearing Vino da Tavola as a badge of honor, which began a revolution in Tuscan estates. With the goal of creating wines of more depth, intensity and body, estates began the previously unthinkable use of French oak barrels and blending with international varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon.

Regale Winery Super TuscanOur Regale Super Tuscan calls to mind that focus on quality that is present in all Regale Wines, and pays homage to the producers who dared to step outside the expected boundaries of the time. In classic Tignanello style, our Super Tuscan is a blend of predominantly Sangiovese with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon. While we didn’t trek to Italy, our Super Tuscan grapes were sourced from the Napa Valley on the lower end of the Silverado Trail. With a smoky, earthy nose, ripe cherry and currant on the palate and a rich tannic finish, this wine definitely represents what you would expect from a classic Super Tuscan.

Now that you know a little more about the history of Super Tuscans, come taste at Regale to see just how super a Super Tuscan can be!

Past, Present, & Future Pinot Noir

 

The winery celebrated our 5th Anniversary this month, with a tasting of different vintages of our Estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to showcase the past, present and future of Regale.  It was definitely a time to reflect on how much the winery has changed over the years, and how far we have come since we began pouring tastings in the “gardens” back when it was less garden and really just more… dirt.

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From a wine standpoint, it was great to see the progression of our Estate Pinot Noir vineyard as we tasted the 2008 Estate Pinot Noir which was the first real production vintage, the 2012 which is our current vintage, and the 2014 straight from the barrel which will be bottled later this year.  The 2008 vintage, of which we were lucky enough to have a few cases left, has aged beautifully and is definitely coming into its own – a rare treat for anyone who was able to keep from drinking it over the last five years since its release. As with people, we often see when wines age they become more of what they have always been.  A mediocre wine will only stand to disappoint, while a wine with structure, complexity, and pedigree stands to become so much more.

As a few people noticed in the tasting notes, only 188 cases were produced in the 2008 vintage, while in the 2012 current vintage, there were 433 cases produced.  When talking about our Estate vineyard this is one of the most common questions that comes up – how much wine does our vineyard produce? While this should seem like an easy formula, it is in fact anything but. On average a vineyard can produce between 1 and 4+ tons of grapes per acre under vine.  Many things affect this production level including the age of the vineyard, growing conditions, pruning style, and winemaking choices.

Our Estate Pinot Noir vineyard is all hillside with 3.5 acres densely planted – about 4,000 Pinot vines in total, which are a mix of Dijon clones 115 and 777, and Pommard clone 5.  The vineyard was originally planted back in 2006 from 2 year old rootstocks which were grafted and grown in a nursery. When a vineyard is first planted, the production is limited and will increase each year until the 4th or 5th harvest when the vines reach their full potential. For example in 2007 we only harvested 1 ton for the “test” vintage, while in 2008 we were up to 4 tons and since 2010 we have been at full capacity with around 12 tons per year from the 3.5 acres under vine.  As we ponder the wines in progress, the 2013 and 2014 vintages were both stellar in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and the wines are showcasing those great growing years.

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Looking at where the winery has come from and where we are headed, we could not be more excited to see what the next 5 years hold for the winery and for the wines still to come. The past 5 years have brought dozens of amazing wines, an Estate vineyard at full production, a gorgeous winery building with manicured gardens, and myriad celebrations of all kinds. The fond memories are not only ours, but shared with our guests and extended Regale family who have, over the past five years, celebrated birthdays, marriage proposals, weddings, babies, and new friends while sipping a glass of Regale wine or relaxing in our gardens.  So here’s to our guests- for giving us a reason to make wine, and a reason to celebrate!

Back to our Rootstock: January

Although this January has been quite a lovely one here at Regale, with uncharacteristically sunny and clear skies, our Estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines are fully aware that winter is upon us.  After harvest in the Fall, when temperatures drop and the first frost comes, vines enter into a state of dormancy (or as I like to call it Winterruhe from the German term for “winter rest”).  January is arguably one of the quietest times in the winegrowing year, with few decisions to make as both the vines, and our winemaking team can rest and look forward to the coming growing year.  During this time of dormancy, neither frost nor rain, sleet or snow can bother these normally temperamental plants.   As we look forward to February, we will enter the time when decisions must be made about pruning the now fully dormant vines. But for now we will simply enjoy the beautiful days, crisp air and time off from vineyard management.

January Vines

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