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Behind the Scenes

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October 5, 2017

This Year’s Sangiovese Grape Harvest

Rising before the sun is the daily life of our vineyard workers during harvest season. In Napa Valley, harvest runs from mid August to late October. It’s a busy time for all wineries but it’s also the most rewarding time. Winemakers and cellar masters go into action as soon as the grapes line up in 1 ton bins on the crash pad. A year of hard work is realized as they crush the clusters, receiving the “juice” of their labor.

The grapes that become our Sangiovese Riserva are sourced from Game Farm Vineyard along the valley floor in Oakville. This is one of our winemaker’s favorite locations for many reasons. It is a place that holds fond memories for her and her family. Her young daughter, once strapped onto Shawna’s chest during vineyard walks, now helps collect grape samples with her mom.

The Game Farm Vineyard is also cherished for its extraordinary fruit quality. It was selected for its Brunello clone and shallow, rocky soil. In these soils, the stressed vines produce the superior quality Sangiovese we pick.

This harvest, we picked the Sangiovese in mid-September during the cool, fog-covered hours of the morning. The crew works fast, very fast. Acres of vines can be covered in just a couple hours as the men and women use their sharp, crescent-shaped knives to remove only the finest clusters. It’s truly a skill that is memorizing to see firsthand.

Once the berries are collected and filled to the brim, buckets weighing about 40 pounds are carried overhead to the tractor-pulling bin. All at once, the berries are flung into flight, landing perfectly on the bed of purple fruit.

All we can say, is thank you to these hard workers who make each glass of wine possible.

 

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September 20, 2017

What is Noble Rot?

Photo taken by Geoffry Hansen

The Luna Pinot Grigio Vineyards are in a very special location. Their proximity to the San Francisco Bay and the Napa Valley River provide morning fog, creating ideal growing conditions to make a fully botrytized late harvest wine.

These grapes are left on the vine until 30 brix. At this time, naturally occurring botrytis sets in the grape clusters, also known as Noble Rot in classic Sauternes production. But what is Noble Rot? According to Wine Folly…

‘Noble Rot’ (aka Botrytis cinerea) is a type of Ascomycota within the Funghi kingdom. Other ascomycetes include the antibiotic penicillin, Stilton blue cheese and the fungus responsible for athelete’s foot. Botrytis cinerea can occur on fruits, vegetables and flowers –imagine a moldy strawberry. However with wine, it’s considered a good thing. Wines such as Sauternes from Bordeaux; Tokaji Aszu from Hungary, and Spätlese level German Riesling all are made from ‘Noble Rot’ grapes.

The botrytis intensifies the sweetness of the grapes naturally, creating uniquely concentrated dessert wines. For us, it produces luscious honey notes and mouthfeel which perfectly complements the grapefruit and delicate floral aromas of our Pinot Grigio.

Want to taste botyrytized Pinot Grigio in action? Uncork a bottle of our Mille Baci. Only 200 cases of this rare wine are produced yearly, making it a hard find in Napa Valley. See why it’s the perfect pairing for hard cheeses, strawberries, and blue cheese and honey.

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September 13, 2017

Luna After Dark

Luna’s nightlife has been very active lately. Harvest season is in full swing which means our crew has been working long hours, day and night, to bring in this year’s fruit. All of our grapes are harvested by hand at night or early morning. We do this to take advantage of cool temperatures. Not only are the temperatures more tolerable for the workers, but they benefit the grapes as well. Picking in 50°, as opposed to 90°+, ensures the grapes are firmer, making them easier to work.

This photo gallery showcases our unsung heroes of harvest as they pick Pinot Grigio at 3:00 a.m. from our Estate Vineyard in Napa, California.

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September 7, 2017

Early Morning on Howell Mountain

“It’s not ready” says Luna Winemaker, Shawna Miller as she expels the seeds of a Cabernet grape. We’re walking through Luna’s special Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard which sits at an elevation of 2,200 feet on a remote part of Howell Mountain. It’s 6:30 in the morning and the sun is just starting to make it’s appearance over the eastern mountains. Fog is lining the Napa Valley beneath us and the morning is peaceful.

During harvest, Shawna makes weekly, sometimes daily trips to all of Luna’s vineyard locations to check on the ripeness of our grapes and put a plan in place for when they are ready for picking. Today, we traveled to our farthest reaching vineyard site at day break to get a head start of the process.

Planted in 1990, Luna’s Cabernet vineyard on Howell Mountain struggles to produce two tons of grapes per acre, but yields Cabernet Sauvignon of extraordinary intensity and structure. This vineyard is dry farmed specifically for low yields to produce incredible tannins. As a bonus, these grapes are certified farmed organic.

Only a couple more weeks of hang time and these exceptional grapes will be on Luna’s crush pad at our Napa Estate – stay tuned!

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August 31, 2017

Uncorking the Art of Marketing Wine

We first met Marisa McCann as an Wine Marketing MBA student at ProWein, Germany this past spring. The connection was immediate; fast forward one month and Luna was lucky enough to bring her on as our full-time Marketing Specialist. Marisa sat down with us as we dove deep into the ingenuity that drives her creativity, inspiration, and discipline, as a wine marketer in Napa Valley. We are by no means alone – Forbes Magazine featured Marisa and Luna Vineyards in a Women in Wine article during VinExpo Bordeaux in June. We’ve included a link to the Forbes article here: “Women in Wine Embracing the Offbeat.”

Tell me what drew you to the wine industry?

After studying abroad in Italy and Spain my Junior year of college, I caught the travel bug hard. I found myself living in the epicenter of some of the finest wine regions of the world and had opportunities to explore my palate with Riesling in Germany, Brunello in Tuscany, and Sherry in Jerez (just to name a few).

Experiencing wine from their distinctive regions inevitably brought me closer to the people, traditions, and cultures of a certain place. It was then I discovered how connected wine, food, and travel were and found myself at the beginning of a lifelong love story.

Specifically, to Napa Valley?

As a girl from a small town in Connecticut, you can imagine the confused faces and questions I received when I announced that I wanted to break into the wine industry. I was immediately drawn to Napa Valley, not only for its prestige and beauty but also for its myriad like-minded wine enthusiasts and professionals. Wanting to give wine prominence in my life and career, I ultimately moved to Napa Valley to live near the vines – to experience firsthand the lifecycle of the grape and to become immersed in all things wine. I’ve been out here for almost five months now and I’d say I made the right choice.

And further, why wine marketing?

While I found my calling in wine, my first love was in marketing. It instantly clicked during my first semester of college. Marketing has the creative freedom that many other business fields don’t have. As a marketer, you wear many different hats – social media specialist, graphic artist, content creator, event coordinator, and the list goes on. Fusing my love for wine and marketing together has been the most satisfying aspect in my role as Marketing Specialist at Luna Vineyards.

What is your favorite varietal? 

That’s difficult to say – I love so many wines for so many different reasons. I always gravitate towards wines loaded with memories or a good story – like a special bottle of Cabernet I’ve been saving from my first trip to Napa Valley or a bottle of Inniskillin Cabernet Franc ice wine my boyfriend and I picked up during an anniversary trip to Ontario last summer. But, if I had to choose my favorite varietal, I would say Chardonnay. It’s such a diverse and appealing wine, found virtually anywhere that grows grapes. I love steely Chablis, creamy California styles, and my personal favorite, Blanc de blancs from Champagne, France. What girl doesn’t love a little bit of bubbles? 

Aside from Napa (duh!), what other visited wine regions are most memorable for you? 

I am very lucky to have traveled to so many amazing wine regions around the world (and I’ve just begun to scratch the surface). My most memorable wine region is Porto, Portugal. My best friends and I took an extended weekend trip to Porto and the Duoro Valley in early January. We had an unforgettable time riding rabelo boats down the river, tasting different styles of port wine paired with yummy egg based pastries called, pastel de nata, and exploring the colorful riverfront city of Porto. Wine travel takes you to the most amazing places!

What would be your dream role ten years from now?

I can imagine myself in a couple different roles in the future. I’m open to taking on new places and curious where the expansive wine world will take me. I love photography and writing. It would be interesting to pursue a career in wine journalism – writing a book, working for a major publisher, etc. But, what I would love most of all is to own and manage a winery someday. I want to create it from the ground up and market it. It’s simply a dream at this point, but keep your eyes out in the next decade or so!

Tell me about an individual/(s) who have been highly influential to your growing passion for wine.

There have been many influential people in my development as a wine marketer. While studying at the Bordeaux International Wine Institute this past year, I found a wholesome group of girls with the same passion for wine. We call ourselves the ‘wine tribe’ and we’re made up of four different nationalities – United States, France, Italy, and Spain. The three girls, Alice, Chiara, and Elena who make up the group with me have been there through the ups and downs of studying in a foreign place and always made sure I had a glass of wine in hand. Although we are all spread out, London to Verona to Napa Valley, these girls still provide my daily dose of inspiration and this journey is all the more special with them by my side.

You’ve lived in Bordeaux, what makes Bordeaux and their traditions so unique?

Bordeaux is arguably the worldwide capital of wine. Their winemaking traditions date back centuries and a piece of this history can still be seen throughout the untouched region to this day. The city of Bordeaux itself reminds me of a little Paris – equally chic but less crowded. A major draw to this city is its proximity to surrounding vineyards.

The Chateaux of the Bordelaise countryside are more often than not, family owned and secluded from the public. Although this is starting to change. Bordeaux Chateaux are offering more access to their estates, some providing tours and tastings. The wine tasting scene is very different in Bordeaux compared to Napa or Sonoma Valley, where wine tourism is first and foremost. It’s nice to experience the difference. Some of my favorite wine tasting experiences have been in Bordeaux where the atmosphere is more relaxed and intimate, spending one-on-one time with winemakers and your visit is not squeezed into a time slot.

Thanks for taking the time, Marisa!

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August 23, 2017

Blessing of the Grapes

Yesterday marked the first day of harvest 2017 for Luna Vineyards. Our dedicated crew worked through the night to pick the first crush, guided by early morning light to fill the bins with only the highest quality of fruit. These first fruits of harvest hold a special place of honor, symbolizing the hands and hearts who nurtured them throughout the year.

A ceremonial Blessing of the Grapes is a ritual Luna embraces each year to kick off this rewarding season. The blessing, delivered by Pastor Eric Daniel from Hillside Church in Napa Valley, signifies our thanksgiving for another bountiful harvest and acknowledges its official start. It prepares our team for an intense, but satisfying period where we pull together to move toward a common goal. The harvest season is both hard work and incredibly satisfying for all of us involved.

Tracing back to the Old Testament, this custom of blessing the grapes allows us to take a step back and to gather everyone – to usher in the harvest. We invite you to follow along with us during this busy season and witness the true beauty of nature’s gifts.

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August 8, 2017

Vineyard Walk with Winemaker, Shawna Miller

“If I work 40 years, I only have 40 chances to make something great,” says winemaker, Shawna Miller on her drive up to Luna’s contracted Sangiovese Vineyard on Atlas Peak. Harvest 2017 is quickly approaching and Shawna was meeting with the vineyard proprietor and manger to inspect the progress of the grapes. On the way up the windy road, nothing was off the table for discussion and we discovered some amazing things about our humble yet extremely talented winemaker.

Shawna first discovered her passion for winemaking on a vacation to Napa Valley with her husband, who was her boyfriend at the time. Both with a background in biology, forestry to be more specific, loved nature and the cyclical patterns of life. Visiting from Florida, the two immediately fell in love with the wine region of Napa Valley. Shawna was asked if she would be interested in working a harvest, and the rest is history.

About thirteen vintages later, 6 of which were spent at Luna Vineyards, Shawna has learned a thing or two along the way. Her winemaking style has evolved, becoming more refined and boutique-driven. She takes pride in her “old world meets new” winemaking approach, personally gravitating to big, bold reds with a feminine touch. Shawna strives to let the true expression of each of her vineyards shine through, intervening in the cellar as little as possible.

But, if you ask our winemaker to pick her favorite wine in the Luna collection she cannot decide, making a case that “picking your favorite wine is like picking your favorite day in the year – impossible.”

As we walked through the hot and sunny Piccolo Vineyard on Atlas Peak, studying the the veraison and size of our Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon clusters, Shawna was in disbelief that another harvest season was upon us again. While harvest is this winemaker’s favorite time of the year, the season also requires careful planning and preparation. But in the end, nature takes the course it was meant to take and we can only go with the flow. As Shawna, a mother of two, cleverly relates, “Harvest is like having a baby. You can prepare all you want but ultimately the grapes decide when they’re ready and all you can do is hope you are too.”

Thanks, Shawna for all your hard work year-round to produce Luna’s award-winning wines. Good luck with Harvest 2017!

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July 7, 2017

Vineyard Update: Grape Ripening Underway

It has been a very busy and fast-moving growing season for us at Luna Vineyards. The generous rains the Valley experienced throughout the winter and early spring of 2017 have been a blessing in disguise, officially ending a five-year drought across most of the state.

Although above-average rainfall is certainly a lot to absorb, the vines are growing at an unbelievable pace at about an inch a day. The stored water in the vineyard soil has already proven useful, especially when Napa experienced a heat wave of temperatures 100+ degrees a couple weeks back.

Canopies are growing lush and hedge-like, protecting our delicate berries from the mid-day sun. Most berry clusters are well into the growing season, and some have even begun to turn. In viticulture, the term used to describe the changing color of the grapes is, Veraison. Once grapes hit this stage, it represents their transition from growth to ripening and can last between 6 and 8 weeks.

Veraison characterizes the initial stages of color development and represents the onset of berry ripening

As preparations are being made behind the scenes for our annual Harvest Party, we’re finding it harder to believe just how quickly this season has come and almost gone. Fingers crossed for a continued great season as we head into the final months of what’s turning out to be a phenomenal vintage.

 

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April 28, 2017

Spring Do Your Thing

After a rainy winter, spring blooms are bringing life and color back to the Napa Valley. Blossom-laden vineyards are sprouting with signs of a new vintage and our team is working diligently to prepare for the season ahead.

The show is just starting at Luna Vineyards as small Pinot Grigio clusters begin to form. The warm weather and sunny days ahead mean vine suckering is just around the corner!

Vines are not the only thing coming alive at the estate. Our covered veranda is buzzing with commotion as bees pollinate the hanging white wisteria. The olive trees are waking up once again and the lemon trees are bearing bright fruit that hang in the sunshine.

Napa Valley is so special in the spring time – thanks for stopping by to share it with us!