Checking the 2010 Set: A Virage Vineyards Tour

Lucky break, catching up with the winemakers as they took off to check the 2010 set.  For an idea of how seriously we believe ‘wine is made in the vineyards,’ Aaron wrote up a seven-page farming plan for our vineyard manager.  It all happens on the vine.


Meticulously maintained Hyde Vineyards

A privilege to buy Hyde fruit, and to meet the crew who tend ‘our acre.’  Here’s Ryan Bailey, nephew of Larry Hyde, and Eric admiring the block.  (Have I introduced Eric Hagyard?  He’s Aaron’s assistant and he’s regularly on vineyard watch.  I’m so glad he’s on the team—super smart guy.)

Our blend always includes Hyde fruit. The 2007 is about 1/4 Hyde Cabernet Franc.  The 2010 vintage will include merlot from this block we just took over from HdV.  I’m told I’m crazy to pay for Hyde fruit without making a vineyard designate wine, which would command a higher price in the market; I’ll say it again, we’re about making a great blend.

Lovely 2010 set on our Hyde Vineyards Merlot

The 2010 fruit set looks great!  After a crazy long, cool, and very wet spring in all of Napa Valley, these vines are bursting with vitality.  Even-sized berries.  All good.  Ryan and Aaron discuss shoot length, which apparently ‘never’ reaches the third wire –and some are already there this year.


Next stop: BT, our home vineyard, just two driveways closer to Napa on Hwy 12.  It’s instructive to visit nearby vineyards back-to-back, like tasting wines in a flight–you always learn something.

Aaron & Eric at the top of Block A

Looking down the row from top to bottom, the impact of BT’s steep grade catches my eye.  Rainwater flows downhill…  Once irrigation starts, we can help balance the vigor by reducing the drip rate on the lower vines.

Aaron notices the clusters are not trimmed of their “wings”–the small clusters that flank the main bunch. Doug–our farming manager–is gonna get a phone call.


Next, up the switchbacks to Mount Veeder, to “Wildcat Vineyard” starting at 1700 feet elevation, owned and managed by Lisa Chu.  It’s about 10 miles due North–as the crow flies–from our foothill sites.  My eyes are glued to Aaron’s Mini Cooper as we pass many cyclists on this popular route.  I see a Virage Classic in our future…

Flowering vines at Wildcat

What a difference elevation makes.  Check out the flowering vines–they’re well behind the growing berries down the mountain.  Looking forward 130 days, we calculate an early November harvest…

Hiking up with Lisa to our Cabernet Franc block, at the top of the knoll, the vines are looking wild and happy.

Lisa Chu and Aaron discuss the Cabernet Franc

Lisa is slowly corralling the new growth into the trellising wire. She’s a hard worker, and living here is a far cry from her days as a runway model in New York City!  I look forward to sharing a glass of wine with her one day–perhaps one we made from her vineyard.  This is a tough market, and Lisa is accepting less than she would like for her grapes.  We appreciate the head start that gives our brand.  A lot of balancing acts in this business.

Mt. Veeder Puffball

More evidence of the cool, wet Spring that has delayed fruit set on the mountain: many puffballs in our path.  Aaron offers me a beautiful specimen for dinner–“just cook it up like tofu” he says.  I think he’s trying to kill me off and take over my brand.

We talk about future plans for the grapes, and seal our deal with a handshake.

We're grateful to work with Lisa Chu

What a great day.



About Emily Richer

Investment banker turned right banker.
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2 Responses to Checking the 2010 Set: A Virage Vineyards Tour

  1. Barbara Cameron says:

    How was the puffball?

  2. Emily says:

    Don’t make me admit I didn’t cook it in time!! It looked really interesting, a huge firm mushroom, and I wanted to marinate and cook it and drink it with our wine.

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