Winemaker Report
Marco Gressi, The Napa Valley Reserve Winemaker
Blending the 2014 Vintage 
The Napa Valley Reserve 2014 Red Wine is most certainly going to be one of our best offerings to date. A number of factors and variables contributed to this remarkable vintage. Positive events for the year range from the much needed and well-timed rainfall in early spring to the warm summer without many days exceeding 100 degrees to a dry harvest period. This meant that the rainfall restored soil profiles and the lack of precipitation in the fall gave us the bandwidth and time to deliberately pick grapes at optimal phenolic ripeness without the threat of impending rain.
Harvest began on September 11, 2014 and ended four weeks later, bringing us exceptional quality and yields that were right on target. The different picks were fermented in stainless tanks, oak uprights, barrels, and concrete vats. Eventually all were drained to fill brand new French oak barrels.
 
One very important strategy in our wine growing approach that benefits our winemaking is to overproduce, thereby enabling us to select only the lots that represent the best that each vintage has to offer. We typically overproduce by thirty percent, then we “weed” out the lots. First we taste all of the individual lots with our consultant Michel Rolland and the entire winemaking team. In this case, we did this last June 2015. After establishing our preferences, we create several base blends with different attributes. The four or five base blends we create are each different in character and typically range from elegance to power, from soft and approachable to structured, and from brighter fruit to darker aromatic complexities.
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Personal Blending Sessions 
We offer a range of base blends so we can give interested Members the experience of a private blending session. By doing this, Members can create a customized blend that reflects their own palette. Our goal is to provide guidance and expertise to ensure that each final blend is high quality and well balanced. 
 
The options are almost limitless given the handful of available base blends because there are no rules for or restrictions on how many of the blends have to be used or in what proportion. The wine is aged in barrel for a total of 26 months before being hand bottled. Within that time, the chosen final blend for a personal blending session is usually assembled, and placed in its own barrel a few days after the blending session and aged until it’s bottled in January. Following bottling, bottles lay down for an additional year before being hand-labeled and released. Members creating their own private blends can choose from the various formats we offer—ranging from 375-milliliter to 9-liter bottles and can design a personal label for their wine.
 
We initially started offering custom blending sessions in 2007, and I believe this is one of the most educational and engaging experiences offered here at The Reserve. Once Members participate the first time, we often see them returning year after year to enjoy the process and create a wine that inspires them to keep coming back. Sometimes Members will bring a few samples of prior blends to the blending session, and it’s always interesting to taste through the vintages and notice the common thread of personal preferences that ties them together.
 
The Art of the Blend
Another fun way to experience the blending process is to attend the Art of The Blend event in April. This event is open to all Members, and there is a competitive element to this event. Members are divided in four or five teams and are given the same five base blends and one hour to put together the best blend possible. The final blends are blind tasted by The Reserve’s winemaking team and the winners are declared during lunch and each Member on the winning team gets to go home with a bottle of Estate wine.
 
We are lucky to have multiple years of remarkable vintages from 2012 on and, as previously mentioned, 2014 is our favorite vintage to date showing its generous, luscious, and age-worthy attributes even at these early stages. 
 
Private blending sessions are offered from March through July. Members who are interested in participating in a private blending session may contact us for further details.