Release: 2015 Belharra Las Madres Syrah and 2017 Belharra Rosé

We are happy to announce the release of our 2017 Belharra Rosé and our 2015 Belharra Las Madres Syrah! Both hailing from the cool-climate Las Madres Vineyards of the Sonoma Carneros, we are continually impressed with the consistency of quality from our flagship vineyard. With our 5th vintage safely tucked in barrel, we are starting to see the truth in what the proprietors and our cohort winemakers know about this vineyard: no matter how dynamic the growing season the fruit is always expressive and pure.

Vintage 2015 brought an early wind-event in the Carneros that disrupted some of the flowering process at Las Madres. The result was a “hens and chicks” disparity in berry development that cut yields. The remainder of the growing season was favorable and uneventful, and the dark-purple fruit was harvested mid-September and passed through an optical sorter. Fermented 16-days in open-top fermenters with gentle punchdowns, we aged in roughly 30% new oak for 18-months, and bottled in March of 2017.

Recent drives to Las Madres have been a marvel of renewal, as the Carneros region continues to clean up from October wildfires. Thanks to fire crews the vineyard and buildings were spared, with the scorched hillsides a visual reminder of those that weren’t so lucky. All our grapes were picked at this point, and safe in the winery high above the smoke. Other than the stressful and hectic harvest that punctuated 2017, it was a fantastic growing year with a return to wet winters and a normal fruit set. Our Rosé was picked at the end of August and immediately pressed. A cool, slow fermentation locked in the fruit and freshness of the wine, and it was bottled in early February.

As our mailing list continues to expand, we expect demand on both of these wines will exhaust supply quickly. Orders will ship weather-permitting at the end of March, please reach out with any special requests. Check your supply of 2016 “The Search” Chardonnay, as our cases dwindle. For our Bay Area customers, remember we offer free delivery! Thanks to all for the continued support of Belharra. We are very excited about upcoming opportunities for new vineyards and varietals this vintage, stay tuned!

                                        Cheers,

                                         Anne and Camille

2016 Belharra "The Search" Chardonnay supporting MissionBlue

“The next 10 years may be the most important in the next 10,000 years; the best chance our species will have to protect what remains of the natural systems that give us life.” -Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder MissionBlue™

We are pleased to announce the release of our new label Belharra “The Search”! Featuring our 2016 Knights Valley Chardonnay, a portion of the proceeds will support MissionBlue™, an international ocean conservation, awareness and exploration foundation. As the wine has aged a year in neutral French oak and stainless steel drums, we have built the foundation of this label, ambitious for the impact it can have. This project is a cumulation of creative people with the goal of producing a great wine that supports our collective responsibility to protect the ocean environment that sustains us. “The Search” reminds us to be adventurous with vineyard sources for prospective additions to the portfolio.

Jonas Claesson, a Swedish artist who has found a home and good waves in Australia, is an immensely talented illustrator and painter. His colorful take on the landscape of the ocean, surfing life, and the whimsical animals who are always on the move for the next great wave seemed a perfect pallet to create the watercolor of the Belharra wave and “La Rhune”, the mountain overlooking the Basque coast of France. We are grateful for his participation, talent and encourage you to discover his work here.

MissionBlue™’s focus on preserving marine habitats and igniting public support for the critical role of oceans in our future is championed by their Founder Dr. Sylvia Earle. For over 60 years she has explored the oceans, and her experience and knowledge has made her an amazing resource for multiple generations of ocean scientists, and one of our planets’ greatest advocates. By establishing MissionBlue™, a network of organizations and individuals have found an association that truly impacts our present and consequential future. We are proud to be a part of this network, and look forward to continuing to grow its reach. More information can be found here, and we urge you to watch Dr. Earle’s TedTalk, and check out the “Mission Blue” documentary on Netflix.

Our second vintage of Knights Valley fruit comes from the creek-side of the vineyard, in soils that are thinner and more rocky within the block. A riper Chardonnay, stone fruits are highlighted by tropical fruit flavors, and there is a distinct crispness and line of salinity. Careful attention to the oak impact has captured the creamy texture of the varietal, without the butyraceous element.

Orders will ground ship weather-permitting October 16th, please add order notes or reach out to us with special requests. We look forward to this partnership growing with new vineyards and new varietals, while preserving the attention to detail that ensures our quality.

A reminder to check your cellars for 2016 Belharra Rosé of Syrah, featured in Decanter last month as one of the best in California. Those needing to restock should take this opportunity as our cases dwindle.  We very much appreciate all the support from our customers as we look ahead to our fifth (!) vintage. Please let us know if your future travel plans bring you through Napa or Sonoma, we always have a bottle chilled!

Cheers,

Anne and Camille

2016 Belharra Rosé featured in Decanter as one of the best in California!

We are delighted to share that our 2016 Belharra Las Madres Rosé of Syrah was featured in Decanter magazine as one of the best Rosés in California!  We are honored to be recognized for another great vintage, and humbled by the company we're included with!

The tasting note from William Kelley:

"A classy pure Syrah cuvée from the Las Madres vineyard in Carneros, this wine evokes Bandol's best. Classic notes of strawberry and watermelon inflected by citrus zest and hints of dried flowers are followed by a glossy, textural palate with lovely stony minerality and a line of fresh acidity. Probably the best rosé yet from this up-and-coming label."

Check out the full article here!

Belharra 2015 Knights Valley Chardonnay Release

Our 2015 Knights Valley Sonoma Chardonnay is officially released and available for purchase through our online store! Chardonnay has a wide spectrum of styles and pallets, so where does ours fall? Though it has seen some French oak, the impact has been in the supple texture of wine, rather than flavor. This is not an over-oaked butter bomb, but rather a refreshing and pleasing mix of stone and tropical fruits. Staying true to the style of our wines, this Chardonnay boasts a pleasurable balance of crispness and breadth of flavors.

Our single-vineyard source, on the west side of Highway 128 in Knights Valley boasts a cooling afternoon breeze through the Mayacamas Mountain Range. Looking up on Mount St. Helena, 20-year old vines of Chardonnay clones 4 and 5 sink their roots into volcanic and alluvial soils on the valley floor.

Early oak integration cemented a nutty, dulce de leche nose from a new French oak barrel. For a few months following fermentation, regular stirring and a partial malo-lactic fermentation while aging in used oak allowed the wine to gain its body, mouthfeel and balance of acids. We find this a delectable addition to our evening meal, and an easy choice to share with others, as it is friendly to those who have sworn-off Chardonnays. At $28, it is a great value in the competitive California Chardonnay market!

Orders can be made through our online store or by contacting us. We will restart our regular ground shipping in late October/early November, weather permitting. As always, let us know how we can meet your needs, how you’re finding the wines, and any issues with orders. Look out for a harvest newsletter in the near future, and there is always more content via our facebook page, and our instagram feed: @belharrawines

Thank you for your continued support, and happy harvest!

Anne and Camille

Top Ten California Rosé ~ Belharra!

Decanter Magazine has just named the Top Ten California Rosés, and our 2015 Belharra Rosé is included with a score of 91 points! We are honored to be in outstanding company, and believe in author William Kelley's forecast: 

"if the best metric of a winemaker’s talent is found in their humblest wine, some of these less heard-of producers seem destined for future stardom."

 

 

http://www.decanter.com/reviews/sonoma-coast/belharra-rose-syrah-carneros-sonoma-county-2015/

http://www.decanter.com/wine-reviews-tastings/top-10-california-rose-300699/

 

Belharra Wines Spring Release Newsletter

After a welcome winter of rain, California has started to warm again, reminding us that Spring has arrived! The budding grape vines of Napa and Sonoma were a shock to the system driving through the valleys in the past few weeks. But it is here! And why not celebrate with a new vintage of wines ready to enjoy?!

Belharra Wines is happy to announce our second release, the 2014 Las Madres Syrah and 2015 Rosé of Syrah! Both wines are from the cool-climate Las Madres Vineyard of the Sonoma Carneros. Our relationship with this unique vineyard continues to grow, as we watch the compound knowledge of John Painter and Jean Gadiot’s 15th leaf mix with our emerging comprehension of the wine Las Madres produces. In tastings throughout the process of vine to bottle, we are continually amazed with the quality, synergy and sense of place that this vineyard produces.

We have been overwhelmed this year by the positive response to our first bottlings. Camille and I have engaged with amazing people who truly enjoy our passion and labor, and often share it with those closest to them. We are honored! Our family, friends, and mentors, who continue to support us now that we have our wings built, are our foundation.

2014 was a dry and a bit above average temperature vintage that produced fruit at the height of maturity. A near perfect season meant we could harvest at our own pace, and this year was the 27th of September. The 2014 Las Madres Syrah was fermented partially in puncheons, large barrels placed on a head with the other head removed from the opening. This early oak integration initially created one of the best-smelling ferments I’ve ever inhaled. The longer-term outcome has been a rounded mouth-feel and structure that highlights the fruit of Las Madres. Aged a bit longer than 2013, 18-months in 20% new French oak, the typical spice of Syrah has been mellowed over time, and leaves a balance of fruit, spice and tannin that continues to integrate with a decant.

Our 2015 Rosé of Syrah is a cruelly rare iteration of a daily drinker. Low yields from a diminished fruit set left us negotiating to keep this wine in our repertoire for all (Camille and I very much included) who have come to enjoy this refreshing drink. Along with family and friends, we harvested a small chunk of Las Madres in late August. Picked and pressed into steel drums the same day, our Rosé embodies crisp fruitiness, with a mouthwatering nose and a finish that entices another sip. There were only 50 cases produced, and we predict it will go fast. Don’t miss out on this admittedly inadequate offering!

If Camille or I can guide you through questions about our wines, website, shipping details, ect, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Our checkout page now includes a box for notes specific to your order. We would like to start shipping the first and second weeks of April, weather-permitting. Getting your orders in early will give us the maximum window to get our wines to you. Our strength is in our personal service to you, our customers, and our goal is happy Belharra drinkers throughout the United States (and what we manage to bring to France)!

As always, thanks for your support, and we raise our glass with you to toast good times with family and friends.

 

 

Santé,

Anne Fogerty and Camille Gaïo

Harvest 2015 Newsletter

Camille and I don’t know what’s gone faster, this summer or this whole year, with the harvest following that same pattern! A compacted harvest started early, continued furiously for 6 weeks, and now is dropping off before Halloween. Usually, a return to the real-world and days off doesn’t happen until Thanksgiving! No matter, there is plenty to reflect on from this year as we turn our attention to the future of Belharra Wines.

Our first release of wines, just over 100 cases, was very successful both in distribution to retailers and directly to consumers. The highlight of our retail sales has been to the James Beard Award Nominee for Best New Restaurant, The Progress, in San Francisco. We are honored to share the Belharra Rosé with their guests, also enjoying the amazing culinary skills and local focus of their chefs.

Grape cluster “shatter” affected nearly every vineyard in Napa and Sonoma this year, with an early budbreak, long blooming period, and windy cold snap stunting growth. Coupled with a 4th year of California drought, predictions for yields were low. Weights in the end were lower than previous years (especially in comparison to high yield 2012 and 2013), but not catastrophically short. Quality of the fruit was still high, with the uniting theme of growers and winemakers “I wish there was more fruit.”

With a helpful group of friends and family, we picked the 2015 Rosé of Syrah off Las Madres Vineyard at sunrise on August 30th, nearly a year to the day of the previous vintage. Immediately put to press, the color and aromas continue to amaze Camille and I. The Las Madres Syrah came in on September 17th, and we were lucky to use a new piece of technology in the winery to help us over the hump of the “shatter” in the clusters. An optical sorter, used often in other food-producing industries takes pictures of destemmed grapes as they fall and uses jets of air to shoot out “MOG” material-other-than-grapes, or off-color or undersized grapes. What comes out the other end is just berries, known to us as caviar or blueberries. Fermentation of the Syrah went off without a hitch, and the wine is now in barrel starting through malo-lactic fermentation.

Opportunity for growth in a short year came in the form of some Chardonnay grapes from Knight’s Valley AVA in north-east Sonoma. With no expectations, we fermented in barrel and at this early stage are pleasantly surprised with what we have! As the latest picked white in the winery, flavors and aromas are still fresh and fruity. Stay tuned for this offering!

As always, a big thank you to the folks who have helped us at all levels. It has been a crazy year of growth, learning and feedback, and we are pushed by the positive response and support of our community. Up next is some rejuvenation from harvest, along with shipping, bottling, and preparing for our next year. We fear that the next two years will go as quickly as the last, but are excited for the progression and opportunity for Belharra.

Bloom!

Both vineyard blocks of Las Madres are in bloom! Grape vines are self-pollinating,  which is why you don't see blocks of beehives like in other agricultural areas (save the bees!) The flowering period usually last around 10 days. Though short, this time is critical, as grape flowers are very fragile and any unusual drop (frost) in temperature or large rain-storm can stunt or "shatter" the clusters, producing smaller yields. There is no second growth of good quality, so what you have now is what you have for the year. Our warm and dry year has meant an early bud-break and flowering, but the coolness of may has slowed down the season a bit. As John Painter, the vineyard owner told me today, by the history of Las Madres we're still about 10 days early, which is surprising considering the cool recent temperatures. The canopy growth of Las Madres and the region is still strong, so the vines are happy. Fruit set, the size and amount of clusters currently flowering ,looks great ,so I expect lots of happy clusters growing into the first green-thinning pass (more on that later).  June rains are not uncommon in the valley, so the next month will still be one to watch. So far, so good!  In the cellar, Camille and I are both focused on our summer tasks, taking care of wines and bottling at our day-jobs. We will continue to monitor and preserve the 2014 Las Madres Syrah currently aging in barrel. We hope that our followers are enjoying the long summer days, hopefully with a glass of Rosé in their hands!

Springtime Sprouts

Spring activity has been whipping through California for weeks, and I'm behind on my blogs! To catch up: Most of Napa and Sonomas vineyards have gone through budbreak in the last 4-6 weeks, roughly 3 weeks early. The sprouting of new growth from the dormant vines depends on the location, the type of grape, and the individual spot in the vineyard. In March, I was charged with checking in on Las Madres, while the owners were away.  This constituted me walking daily through the lower block (named Hulda and the one that always goes first) everyday asking myself "do these buds look more fuzzy than yesterday?" When new growth bursts through the protective layers of cell membrane, it is time for humans to protect that growth from freezing temperatures. Otherwise an entire vintage can be put into jeopardy before it has even had time to bloom. Frost protection methods are the subject of a whole 'nother post, but in summary, there are physical ways to warm the early dawn air, or enclose those little buds from the cold.  The more days that move on without activating some sort of protection is another day into the cycle of the year, and a relief from a very stressful time of the year. Luckily, the two weeks Marco, Camille and I watched the vineyard it was not matured enough or cold enough to put those protections into place, but it was a little snippet for us, full-time production workers, into the normal spring routine of vineyard management. So far, vines look great in Napa and Sonoma, and besides a continued state-wide drought, we are looking positively on this growing-season at this very early time of year.

Belharra on the move!

As our wines disperse across the country, we'd like to pass on some tips for sucessfully receiving and enjoying these beautiful vintages

  • All packages will are required to be signed by a person 21-years or older. Once you receive a tracking number and email you can schedule a delivery, reroute the package to an alternate address, or hold it at a retail location for pickup.
  • We are currently using a local company, Bodega Shipping for our needs, and their best rates use UPS. Please contact us if you would like a different carrier.
  • Although tempting to pop and pour, most of the packages are transported via trucks, so give the wines a few days/weeks to get over the vibrations and jet lag.
  • Through careful trials, we have found the Rosé is best served a few minutes out of the fridge. The aromas and body of the wine seem to be better displayed when the bottle is sweating a bit.
  • Through equally diligent trials, we have found the Syrah benefits from a few- hour decant (open air contact). This can be accomplished by an actual decanter, or like at our house, with a pitcher, mason jar or single glass pour.

Release 2015 Newsletter

There is a saying in the wine industry: “It is easy to make wine, but then you have to sell it.” Camille and I have begun that journey, and believe we have successfully fulfilled the first part of that statement. We’ve completed hours of planning, punching, pressing, topping, legalizing, crafting and prepping wines for bottle, and now have all the tools in place to bring this wine to the tables of our friends and family. 

As much as careful effort in winemaking, this project has also been a great lesson in the multiple facets of the industry -- government agencies that regulate alcoholic beverage production, packaging suppliers, art designers, and the guys who drive the trucks to get the cases to storage.  Some days the easy part really does seem to be monitoring progress of the ferment.  We have enjoyed watching the wines come along in their maturity, and are continually humbled by the support and encouragement of our friends and mentors.

So here we are, with a product we are both proud of, from a place with which we both feel a deep connection – the Las Madres Vineyards of the Sonoma Valley.  Camille and I are happy to present our first offering through our Belharra label: the 2013 Las Madres Syrah and the 2014 Rosé of Syrah. Both are now available to purchase on our website. Orders will be shipped (weather-permitting) in April. 

The Belharra label offers approachable but delightfully complex Northern California wines at a reasonable price. 

Our hope is that those who join the mailing list and purchase wine truly enjoy what ends up in their glasses, and we look forward to future releases as an opportunity to share in what we’ve created. As always, word of mouth will be the driver of a sustained market for us, so sharing our wines is key! Hoping to keep messages to your inbox minimized, we invite you to keep up with us at your leisure through the website blog the “Cellar Scoop”. 

Enjoy!

Anne and Camille

www.belharrawines.com