2020 Wildfire Update and Folio’s CA Portfolio

2020 Wildfire Update and Folio’s CA Portfolio

Napa, CA – October 5th, 2020 – The 2020 harvest wildfire season continues with the Glass Fire ravaging both Napa and Sonoma counties, and our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the people who have lost their homes across the entire region. We are very thankful that all of our employees and their families are safe, but the days ahead will be anxious and challenging.

At the time of writing, the current wildfire is more than 65,000 acres and 30% contained, so with our current situation we wanted to share an update across our Northern Californian properties from our founders and owners:

Michael Mondavi Family Estate – Michael & Rob Mondavi
As of this morning, we believe we have lost several acres of vines on the perimeter of our Oso Vineyard. The team are also under mandatory evacuation orders from the Brasswood Estate winery north of St. Helena due to fire activity nearby. So as smoke continues to settle over Napa Valley, Rob and the team have made
the incredibly difficult decision to not produce any red wine from the Oso Vineyard. While the majority of the vineyard is still intact, the likelihood of severe smoke taint means the wine will not be the quality that we would bottle under our family’s name.

Furthermore we will not produce a 2020 Emblem Chardonnay as our source in Rodger’s Creek was severely affected by smoke taint. For the Emblem Cabernet Sauvignon, the Oso vineyard is traditionally a part of the blend and will not be available, so we are still unsure if we will produce this wine in 2020.

However, all is not lost. Thanks to the quick thinking and decisive action of winemaker Sabrina Massola, the Heritage Sauvignon Blanc was harvested on Wednesday, August 19th prior to the serious impacts of the Lightning Complex fire that started the day prior. Initial tastings of the fermenting juice is spectacular and we hope to bottle this wine before the 2021 harvest.

Meanwhile, the 2018 and 2019 harvests were both excellent for quality and volume, and both vintages will be available in the market over the next two years to help bridge any potential short supply.

Oberon – Tony Coltrin
The Oberon harvest has been one of contrasts. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from Carneros were picked before the latest fires and are nearly through the final stages of tank and barrel ferment; fruit quality is gorgeous. For Sauvignon Blanc we did reject fruit from our grower close to the Lightning Complex fire but
were able to secure alternate Sauvignon Blanc fruit from a vineyard in south Carneros which tested nondetectable for smoke exposure.

Most of our Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot comes from the middle to southern Napa Valley districts of Oakville, Oak Knoll, and Suscol Mountain away from where the active fires are burning, and we are testing and making decisions on accepting and rejecting fruit right up until picks are finalized.

We estimate that up to 35 percent of the total Oberon harvest will be rejected from areas closest to the fire zones and are walking each vineyard block, sampling and testing every day to help make our best decisions. Smoke taint analysis is ongoing, and we will make decisions post fermentation whether a wine is acceptable or not. We know from experience that the older the smoke is, and the further away the smoke travels, the less impactful it is. So with most of the fire activity focused in the hillsides and up in the Northern Napa Valley, we are hopeful of lower risk of smoke taint. Fortunately supply of the 2019 vintage is plentiful, which will help us bridge any potential shortfall in wine supply.

Above all, we will not compromise our quality and we are doing everything we can to make the Oberon wines that everyone has become so fond of from the 2020 vintage. A time like this is not about how much wine we can make, it is about making our best wine with confidence, without question or compromise.

Dutton Goldfield – Dan Goldfield
The Russian River Valley and Sonoma coast were greatly affected by this year’s fires, primarily by the Walbridge fire, which started August 18. Thank goodness our staff, their homes, and the winery and tasting room are intact; though we all have friends or family who have lost homes, and greatly loved recreational woodlands that have been destroyed (for now, as nature heals itself). The weather turned beautiful this weekend, and rain is expected later in the week.

Much of our Pinot Noir in Sonoma County was greatly smoke affected, and there will likely be no Dutton Ranch Pinot this year. Our fingers are crossed for our earliest picks (including Emerald Ridge), the Devil’s Gulch (in Marin), and our Mendocino vineyards which are finishing fermentation.

The whites seem to be less affected, as does Zinfandel – varietal differences in smoke metabolism are poorly studied, but we are learning. We will see. All the wines that are in fermentation are being closely watched and analyzed, and no wine that we don’t love will be put in bottle. Our production will be greatly reduced this year.

A huge source of gratification in this tragic year is the camaraderie amongst our respected and loved neighbors. All have gone to great lengths to share resources, information, ideas, and support in this time.

Piper Sonoma – Keith Hock
Harvest at Piper Sonoma began in early August and most fruit was harvested before the Lightning Complex fire which started in mid-August. It’s early in the base wine assemblage procesåçs, but the wines are generous in fruit and structurally and stylistically correct. We are keeping all parcels separate and conducting ongoing tasting and testing until blending to ensure parcels are smoke taint free and the quality we expect.

We are in debt to the grape growers who worked tirelessly through difficult conditions to deliver our grapes in pristine condition and we are optimistic that the wines we bottle from 2020 will be of excellent quality.

One question that we keep receiving is, “How can we help?”

The Michael Mondavi Family personally supports the Napa Valley Community Foundation and you can also find reliable resources for support and donations here at Glass Fire – How to Help Bay Area Wildfire Victims.

Above all please continue to support our Wine Country communities by opening a bottle of Napa and/or, Sonoma wine, as you hold our community in your thoughts.

Finally, to the first responders, firefighters and support teams in the community we extend our most heartfelt thanks. The firefighting teams – both CAL Fire and “Cowboy Firefighters” have been instrumental in protecting our property from further damage through their proactive work. And for those efforts, we are endlessly thankful.

Stay well,
Michael Mondavi and Paolo Battegazzore