The latest happenings from the vineyard and cellar.....
The month of May for Buoncristiani is bottling season and that means another round of delicious wines to finally put to bed so to speak. This week we worked tirelessly and focused on many La Famiglia member-only wines to bottle. The 2019 vintage was the focus and the wines getting ready to ship to the warehouse included THE CORE, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Meritage, Merlot, Malbec, Port, and a Riserva Chardonnay. We look forward to supplying these new wines to you all in the future and hope you enjoy them with friends and family. Salute!
The Buon bros just finished bottling sessions at The Caves at Soda Canyon last week and safely tucked away under cork and capsule a new Sauvignon Blanc, Rosato, Dolcetto di Nonno, Pinot Noir, and a unique blend from Mendocino that Jay came up with consisting of Cinsault, Syrah, Mouvedre, Tannat and Viognier! Step aside all GSM's, the Buon's have a CSMTV now. It is always a great feeling to finally get these beauties into bottle after much hard work and great attention to detail ensuring the best quality possible. Soon, these will be ready for their final journey from vineyard to your home for you all to enjoy with your friends and family. Salute a tutti.
This week has proven very cold for Napa Valley, but not unusual with night temperatures dipping into the 20s F. It is mustard seed season here which means not only gorgeous flowing bright yellow waves amongst the dark gnarly vines, but also many of those vines going through bud break and awakening from their long-dormant slumber.
I was woken this week many nights in a row with the sound of what seemed to be a continuous helicopter at three in the morning hovering close to my home and lasting until sunrise. Military invasion? Not exactly! The sound is normal this time of year as the forty-foot tall steel poles supporting the sharp propeller blades from helicopters lay a continuous watch over its bounty of future grape clusters. These devices are peppered strategically around certain vineyards, running through the dark of night until first light with a sound mimicking a helicopter or small plane. Why? The cold temperatures (anything below 32 degrees) will basically kill most of the newly formed green growth shoots emerging from the buds. This proven preventative measure pushes the warm inversion layer air down to replace the cold air settling near the precious vines. When the sun rises, the warm rays take over and the machines rest until called upon again at night. Note: Sprinklers are also used to form ice around the buds thus preventing any temp from dipping below 32 degrees F protecting against severe wilting. Grape buds do not grow back until the next season so it is imperative to protect against cold weather, deer, bear, and wild boar who also like to feast on these tasty sprouts!
Last week the brothers hosted their quarterly La Famiglia members-only tasting via Zoom. Many from all around the country joined in to enjoy the February releases of our member-only wines including the Dolcetto, the Petite Sirah Garagiste, and the new CORE Cabernet Sauvignon. Thank you to those who attended and see you next time!
Join Matt, Jay, and Nate Buoncristiani, as well as your fellow La Famiglia members, Thursday, March 11th via Zoom for a fun-filled virtual, get-together. We'll be popping the corks on the three suggested wines from this recent La Famiglia shipment, but please join in the event with any Buoncristiani wine of your choosing.
2018 Buoncristiani Napa Valley - THE CORE - Cabernet Sauvignon
2017 Buoncristiani Dolcetto
2016 Buoncristiani Napa Valley Petite Sirah
Join the brothers in an evening of joy, laughter, and great wine at either 6:00 PM Eastern Time or 6:00 PM Pacific Time.
Reprinted from the October 15, 2014 issue of Wine Spectator
Brothers of the Vine
by: James Laube
Around this time of year in Napa the signs of harvest are everywhere. The sun bakes, but the days are shorter and the nights cool by half. Kids are back in school and the tourists have gone home. The scent of ripening grapes fills the air. Garages and driveways are cleared to make room for crushers, presses and fermentation vessels—the standard equipment for home winemaking. People's hands—and sometimes their teeth and feet-are stained deep purple. Everything is sticky.
In Browns Valley, west of downtown, Mimi and Rob Buoncristiani have for decades made their own award-winning garagiste cuvées, turning their home into a production facility, with winemaking apparatus filling the garage. The family's operation is the envy of any home winemaker—a bonded garage with a permit to produce 250,000 gallons of wine a year. What gives the Buoncristianis' story a different twist is that all four of their sons, raised on a quiet street in middle-class suburbia, parlayed their family's hobby into professional wine careers.
It began in 1972, when Rob Buoncristiani made wine with another new father to commemorate the births of their respective children. In 1976, Rob and Mimi moved from Campbell, near San Jose, to Napa, and Rob began buying grapes for the family's wines. An educator for 38 years, Rob, 69, loved farming and found some choice vineyards in nearby Sonoma for their project. He even planted part of their backyard to all five Bordeaux varieties. It's not big enough to make wine, but it's a way to see the viticultural process first-hand, as the vineyard changes through the seasons. Mimi, 67, was a homemaker and second-grade teacher for 20 years and is the resident chef, graced with the best palate.
Rob taught the boys winegrowing as soon as they could walk. They learned how to prune vines and drive a tractor, each of them sharing time on his lap as he plowed vineyards. When they were old enough, they did everything from picking to crushing to fermenting to bottling. And Rob taught them to be creative as well. When he needed to heat the must during fermentation, he used heating blankets or an aquarium heater. To chill the fermenting wine, he ran icy water through the coils of an old refrigerator he'd placed in the tank.
Even as the boys grew up and went their separate ways to different colleges, the family passion kept them bonded. After years of home winemaking, they decided to try wine as a business even as their father attempted to steer them into grapegrowing. In 1999, the Buoncristianis had their garage bonded as a winery, receiving at the time the last winery bond within Napa city limits. Then over the next decade, they increased production, buying and crushing 5 to 15 tons a year in the driveway, making small 150- to 200-case lots. It was a noisy endeavor, with trucks coming and going, but the neighbors never complained.
Each of the sons started off on the bottom rung at various wineries. When it came time to set up their winery, they turned to Matt, 42, to run the nascent business, now 4,500 cases, mostly sold to wine club members. Jay, 40, is the winemaker and a much-in-demand consultant for a handful of other wineries, including Krupp Brothers and Hollywood Classic. Aaron, 36, is winemaker at Roy Estate, a tiny Cabernet winery, and an artist. Each year he designs a new label for the brothers' Artistico label. Nate, 34, is part of the winemaking team at Black Stallion.
The lineup of Buoncristiani wines is an eclectic mix of tradition and innovation. The brothers make small lots of Syrah and three different Cabernets, along with bottlings of Dolcetto, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Their homage to Mimi's father—called O.P.C., or Ol' Pa's Cuvee—is a blend of Cabernet with Syrah, Merlot and Malbec, and their white blend called Triad Blanc uses Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Chardonnay.
"They're very, very hard workers," says Mimi. "They've got a passion that's unreal. If it were me I'd be so tired of it. But they're unrelenting."
"If my dad was not in home winemaking and got us out in the vineyard I don't think we would be this involved in the wine business," says Matt. "We might be in the wine business, but not this capacity, going full bore."
(Hover over the photos above to see the captions)
Thank you for the overwhelming love, support and prayers we've received as a result of the 6.1 earthquake that recently shook our little corner of the world here in Napa last Sunday. First and foremost all four of us Buoncristiani brothers and our families are safe. Our homes were quite shaken up, especially Matt, Aaron's and our parent’s homes. We've had quite a mess to clean up, but none of us sustained any structural damage to our homes.
As for Buoncristiani Family Winery, that’s a different story. The two warehouses where we store all of our finished wine in bottle sustained no damage, and luckily we did not lose a single bottle of wine there! The Caves at Soda Canyon, our winemaking home dug deep into the hillside, didn't have a single bottle or barrel disturbed either. We were extremely fortunate in both regards.
On the less fortunate side, since only half of the Caves at Soda Canyon has been constructed yet, we have many overflow barrels at two different facilities in Napa, more than 200 to be exact. Both of these facilities sustained heavy damage. The small downtown winemaking facility (Walnut Street) we have been utilizing since 2001has been red-tagged, meaning no one is allowed to enter the building. The roof has collapsed. In fact the only thing holding the roof partially up is our stack of barrels (see photo above). I also had a good chunk of my personal wine library stored there that will probably be lost as well. Clearly I should have had far more dinner parties!
The other warehouse we utilize to store about 200+ barrels of ours, is Napa Barrel Care. They are home to barrels from close to 100 wineries in the valley, and of all the barrel houses I’ve seen, they’ve taken one of the hardest hits from this earthquake. I have hopes that several of our barrels have simply toppled over without breaking, but they expect the cleanup effort to take over a month. A huge heartfelt thank you to Mike Blom, Jorge Vargas, the staff at Napa Barrel Care and all the volunteers working tirelessly to recover the 15,000 barrels stored there.
Vintners Collective, a historic tasting room in downtown Napa that we and 15 other vintners call home has been red-tagged as well. The beautiful exterior stone façade that has graced the building since the late 1800s has cracked and crumbled all around it. I have not heard yet when it will re-open for tastings. In the meantime they still have many fabulous wines avilable for sale from their website. All our thoughts and prayers are with Garret, Kim and the entire staff at Vintners Collective as they try to rebuild.
We are just one of many wineries in Napa that have been hit by this earthquake. Far worse than us are the hundreds of people whose homes have cracked, shifted, collapsed or been red-tagged, meaning that they are no longer habitable. Many Napa residents have been displaced, including our dear friends Dave and Julie Guffy.
Many people have asked how they can help, and I truly thank you for your desire to assist the people of Napa in a time of need. There are several ways in which you can assist. The first, and easiest way, is to support all things Napa. Come visit us in Napa! Most of our businesses, hotels, world-class restaurants and wineries are open, including our own. Buy Napa wine – buy a bottle or two of Buoncristiani, Fontanella, Lagier Meredith, Guffy Family Wines or any bottle of your favorite wine from the many wineries in Napa. Several Napa wineries have taken a serious hit as a result of the earthquake, but the three family wineries just mentioned are worth pointing out as they are quite small and have sustained considerable damage.
Donate money – The Napa Valley Vintners, of which we are members, has established a fund to help families and businesses most in need. The Napa Valley Vintners themselves have pledged $10 million dollars, a spectacular start, however depending on the source the most recent estimate calculates the total damages and losses sustained could top $1 billion dollars. To make a tax-free monetary donation to the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund please click here.
In addition our friend and fellow winemaking colleague, Jason Moore from Modus Operandi has established a fund to assist the volunteers at Napa Barrel Care as well as other cellars in Napa. As I mentioned earlier, Napa Barrel Care is the barrel home for close to a hundred Napa Valley wineries. This fund supports all of the brave men and women who are volunteering to extract the 500+ pound barrels that have been strewn about. Monies raised will go toward providing lunches, dinners and childcare for the staff and volunteers. (I will be firing up the pizza oven with broken Buoncristiani barrels and bringing wood-fired pizzas to the crew as time permits.) To make a monetary donation to the Napa Earthquake Volunteers Fund please click here.
Thank you again to everyone for all of your kind words, thoughts and prayers. Truly, it’s business as usual at Buoncristiani and we look forward to having one of our wines grace your table sometime soon or hosting you in Napa on your next visit.
Burning the midnight oil as I write, two things are at the forefront of my mind during the Harvest Season...First of all, the successful launch of our new wine membership opportunity, La Famiglia. What better time of year to kick off a long relationship of sharing our family library of special wines we brothers have worked so hard on than The Crush! We are so excited and thankful to include you all into La Famiglia. Secondly, the stellar quality of the 2012 Vintage, Wowsers!! All whites on the dancefloor are amazing (heads up for the killer Triad Blanc proprietary white coming down the pike), and even though the reds are just now in the barn, the concentration of color and flavor, quality of tannin and depth of complexity already in the tanks all point to a Classic Vintage in the Napa Valley.
Here are some pics from Harvest 2012 so far: (Hover over the picture with your mouse for captions)
May 28, 2021
March 29, 2021
March 19, 2021
March 15, 2021
March 8, 2021
September 18, 2015
September 23, 2014
August 28, 2014(3 Comments)
October 25, 2012(5 Comments)