Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winery Update-All wines were laid down for a tasting and photo op. Unoffically, the end of the year is also the end of the winemaking season. Today marks the last day of the Malolactic fermentations for us at Prime. The Cabs have been done for several weeks but the last Chardonnay just finished up today. Actually, the PRIME Chard was arrested (SO2 added to prevent ML) but we did a small lot of full blown, new oak, full ML Chardonnay for a charity auction and that's what just finished.

Today I also tasted the '08 and '09 Cabernets. I was really amazed with the tannin levels in the '09 wines. They are babies, but way more tannin than I expected. Should age really well. The '08s are almost ready to go at this point. Very smooth and supple with great flavors. I think these are going to be some of the best wines yet. Only time will tell...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Forbes Mill Steakhouse Primes up

This week I had the pleasure of meeting up with Erin Shipp, wine buyer and sommelier at Forbes Mill in Danville. Forbes Mill is a beautiful steakhouse now in the space that I used to know as Tony Romas back in the day. I stumbled across an article in the examiner, apparently their sliders are excellent.

Erin is a delightful and extremely knowledgeable Certified Sommelier. It was great to get to talk wine with her and get some insight on how wine service works at her restaurant. Luckily, Erin liked what PRIME had going on and agreed put the D4 Cabernet on the list (and apparently secretly at the bar by the glass, if you know the secret handshake).

Erin really liked the D4 Chardonnay as well. In fact, she gave the wine some of the best compliments I could hope for. "Unfortunately, she said, I can't buy it." Funny thing about a steakhouse: they sell mostly red wine. Up to 97% red she figured. Well maybe we'll try again when the weather warms up...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Double Gold Tasting

All the double gold wines from the San Francisco International Wine Competition (Our 2006 Prime Cabernet Sauvignon D4 included) were invited to attend some traveling tastings. We attended the one based in San Francisco. It was for the trade only with wine and spirits available to sample. This was the first time I had been to Conduit Restaurant (answer to that picture for facebook peeps) and the decor was definitely inspired by its name. The food was tasty and interesting, including sweetbreads and pigs feet. All in all a fun mellow event.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

#NapaCabs take over Chateau Montelena

This afternoon St.Supery's Rick Backas (@RickBackas on Twitter) got a great group together with very little notice. The plan was sent out via Twitter: If you produce a Napa Cabernet that is <$50 show up with a couple of bottles at Chateau Montelena at 3PM for a tasting and Twitter fest. Everyone got to know each other and talk about their story.
Lots of great people attended from a bunch of different wineries including-Judds Hill, Signorello, Girard, St.Supery,Titus,Cakebread,V.Sattui,Crushpad,Raymond,Ch Montelena,Flora Springs,BV,and of course, Prime. There was not a bad wine in the pack. It was nice to see how Napa producers work together to help each other. Search #NapaCabs to see comments on how it went down. Prime got gome great complements from the tasters!

Monday, November 2, 2009

2006 Prime Cabernet Sauvignon Release!

The 2006 Prime Cabernet has arrived!

Our second vintage carries on the soon to be tradition of making well crafted restrained and elegant wines. It is our goal to make our District 4 Cabernet reminiscent of some of the great wines of Napa Valley’s past by shying away from high alcohol levels and over extraction.
By no means however, is this wine timid. The first hint that this is a serious Cabernet is the opaque ruby color in the glass. The nose is also quite impressive with aromas of black cherry, forest floor, and spice. Of course the true gratification is on the palate as additional flavors of black currant, red fruits, dried herbs, and a touch of espresso, all linger on a 20 to 30 second finish. This is a classic Cabernet profile if there ever was one. Don’t feel bad about drinking a bottle as soon as you get home, but if you have a cool place to store the wine, it should age nicely for five to seven years.

-Ted, Lisa and Curtis

$39/bottle $421.20/case (10% case discount)


Friday, October 16, 2009

Just beat it.

The rain, that is. I have never seen rain this hard during the harvest season in Napa. Light showers are fairly normal but a monsoon is a first.

We got over 6 inches of rain in 24 hours. This amount of water can really change things in the vineyard.

First, its too muddy to get a tractor into the field to harvest the grapes. (the grapes are actually harvested by hand but the tractor carries the fruit back to the winery).

Secondly, if the grapes stay wet too long they start to rot. Rain followed by warm and humid weather -the rot sets in and spreads much faster. Lots of people are worried. Check out the article "As rain lingers, vineyard worries mount", it sums it up pretty well.

How does this affect Prime? It doesn't! I was one of those who scrambled and begged to get the fruit harvested right before the rain fell.

My first call to my vineyard manager asking to pick as soon as possible was met with the same reaction the French Laundry would give a diner calling on Saturday for a 7PM reservation. He claimed to be so slammed with requests it would be over a week before they could pick the fruit. A few frantic calls later and my foreman Carlos was able to put together a crew and make it happen with a days notice. Well done Carlos...

The photos above show the beautiful Midoriya Hills Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, the grapes being dumped into the de-stemmer and the leftover stems after the crushed grapes are sent into their tank to ferment. A surprisingly low 4.1 tons but an excellent harvest after all...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Chardonnay Harvest

The wait is over, its in!

The Chardonnay was picked on Friday morning. The fruit was tasting great and just starting to get the golden color that comes from late season sun exposure. Here is a shot of the fruit resting in the winery and then one of the first bin getting dumped into the press.

Monday the juice will be removed from the solids and it will be ready to go to barrels for fermentation.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Love this symbol sign for waiting room. Pretty much whats going on at the winery right now. The Chardonnay is very close but the Cabernet is still a good two weeks away.

There is so much preparation and anticipation of harvest its hard to just be patient and let the grapes get to the ripeness we are looking for. The really good news is that the longer harvest is delayed the better the quality of the fruit (and therefore wine!).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Harvest Update- Saved by the sun

Sep 15
11 am
68° F

12 pm
71° F

1 pm
73° F

2 pm
75° F

3 pm
77° F

4 pm
77° F

5 pm
77° F

6 pm
75° F
Just looked at the latest from the weather guessers regarding tomorrow- and it looks perfect! Looks like we are not going to have to rush to harvest after all. 2009 continues to be one of the most even and long growing seasons in a long while.

It never rains in Napa Valley

This last weekend brought thunderstorms and rain to Napa Valley. This is so unusual I actually thought there were hot air balloons going overhead at 3AM. Turns out the burners they use sound a lot like thunder.

I often get asked what the rain means for this year's harvest. For Cabernet it is not really an issue. The grapes have a pretty think skin and the clusters are loose and able to dry out easily. Chardonnay however, is a more tightly compact cluster and rain can cause pretty serious bunch rot issues. I'm hoping for some warm weather and sun so the Chard can dry out and be ready for harvest in a week or so. Fingers are crossed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Brix check

Harvest is just around the corner for us at PRIME Cellars. Last year we brought in Chardonnay at about this time. My recent visit to Berry Lane puts this year's harvest about two weeks later that last year's.

I confirmed that today when I sampled Midoriya Hills (Cabernet) in Coombsville- 22.6 Degrees Brix with a pH of 3.18. These grapes are probably going to be on the vine for another three weeks depending on the weather.

Assuming no rain in the immediate future, the slow and steady weather this year could produce a truly outstanding vintage!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Chard in Court

2008 Prime Cellars Chardonnay, Napa Valley is now available in our online store.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Dude Abides

Okay, I just really like The Big Lebowski and I couldn't resist. I'm referring to a different Dude, Joe Roberts at the 1WineDude blog. PRIME was able to provide a bit of inspiration for his most recent post. Basically boiling down to "does anyone care about small production wines" (with the assumption that most people won't be able to get their hands on them).

Well, you do right? If you're reading this I'm pretty sure the answer is yes. And please read Joe's blog. And see The Big Lebowski if for some reason you have missed one of the greatest films ever.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

PRIME - update from the cellar

The 2005 "D4*" Cabernet is all but sold out (I believe we have 8 or so cases left so please feel free to re-order if you like the '05 as much as I do).

Right now were are preparing to release the 2006 D4 Cabernet as well as the (much anticipated by a certain Davis resident) 2008 PRIME Chardonnay. We are excited to have our second vintage out there and are thankful to all who supported the launch of PRIME over the last year.

The "funny thing" (read: expensive) about this business is as we sell out the 2005 and move on to the 2006 (and 2008 Chardonnay) we just had the pleasure of successfully bottling the 2007 Cabernets. After a short break its time to get ready to harvest the 2009 grapes. That's dealing with five years worth of products all at once!

That's it for now. Here's a couple shots of last week's bottling, these are iPhone versions, high quality to follow... First one is a a couple of '07 D4 Cabs going down the bottling line right after getting labeled. The last is what the whole vintage of '07 looks like in cases.

*Lingo update: D4 = District 4

Friday, July 24, 2009

WBC 2009

So here I am with 200 or so of the top bloggers in the wine industry (I however am not one of them). So I'm here to learn a thing or two from the pros. So far so good, the event is hopefully going to get me to post more often and share more of whats going on at PRIME!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Santa Monica

In case you are lucky enough to find yourself in Santa Monica any time soon. I've got a spot for you to visit: BroadwayDeli on the 3rd Street Promenade. Its more than a deli, a large resturant and bar in fact. Oh, and did I mention they have PRIME Cabernet and Listed Rose by the glass?

Thanks to Marc at Broadway, and please check them out if you get a chance!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Aspen Food & Wine Classic!

June 18-22: The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen Colorado is one of the best events that a wine food lover can ever hope for. The best chefs and wineries in the world cram into the tiny town of Aspen for a 4 day party. And if you're a sucker for Top Chef on Bravo like I am, you get to mingle with just about everyone that's ever been on the show.

This year PRIME will be there too! We are partnering with eSommelier , a wine management hardware and software company. We will be pouring at the Grand Tasting on Saturday and at a private event at Paragon Technology on Friday.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Yeah, not very glamorous

Well, I just spotted the winemaker getting ice from the freezer in order to chill a cup of water in his 4 year old's bath. I try not to ask too many questions but can we say Daddy's girl?

In any case I am taking the opportunity to mention that I stopped in to check out bottling today and he was right, nothing terribly fun about it. I got there about an hour and a half after they started and it was all on two neat little pallets already. Not much of a photo op. I guess it doesn't take long to bottle 101 cases of wine. It has been stacked, restacked (we don't have a fork lift at the warehouse) and will have a little rest before it is ready for the market. YUM!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Chardonnay- Truckin'

This is the pic you get when you are driving across Hwy 29 in Napa, hauling a truckload of Chardonnay barrels and you stick your iPhone out the window.  

The Chard is such a small ammout I am trucking the wine from the winery to a place that rents out a bottling line.  So, two trips later the wine is in place.  

First step- transfer it to a stainless steel tank and cover the headspace with a thick blanket of Argon gas.  Its now in the deep freeze at 25 degrees to drop out the tartrate crystals.  A shot of Bentonite will precipitate out excess protein and the last step is to filter out all the dead yeast and grape solids.  A week from now it will happily in bottle at out 55 degree storage warehouse.

This is when I go through my mental (perhaps I should write this down) checklist:

1. Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) -Uncle Sam needs to sign off on every single label.-Check.
2.Bottling date set.Check, confirmed 6/11/09 with Chris.
3.Labels ordered.-Check , due on 6/9/09 cutting it close!
4.Bottles ordered.-Check, I'm picking them up on 6/10/09.
5.Corks ordered.-Check, Terry's going to call me when ther're ready.
6.Pick up foils- I tried but Rui closes the office whenever he feels like it (Europeans!).  I'll try again today.

Bottling is the least fun part of winemaking.  There are a lot of vendors and supplies that need to come together at the right time.  Bit stressfull, but once its safely in the bottle its all good. (and tasty!)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Follow PRIME on Twitter!

I've found that Twitter has become my favorite way to post quick (and short) updates.   

Follow @PrimeCellars to see what's going on.  You will find its a mixup of the latest news with the winery as well as life, food and drink in Napa Valley.  Cheers!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

UC Davis Viticulture & Enology has a sweet new home

Davis is well known for its world-class wine department.  When in comes to wine, they have the best professors, staff, and researchers in the world.  One thing that was lacking was the facilities.

Built in the 1930's, the old enology building was not exactly modern or practical.  Wickson Hall was built in the 1950's as a modern home for the research labs and classrooms.  Now pushing 60 years old Wickson was showing its age.  Tiny dark rooms, slight funky smells etc.  When I was there I didn't really notice.  We had nothing to compare it to so we just made do.  

Davis wine students now have the beautiful Robert Mondavi Institute (RMI) to call home.  This is a state of the art facility with too many fancy amenities to list.  The thing looks like a luxury resort.  Its great to see this finally happen, its about time. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chardonnay label FINAL!

Thanks so much for all that commented on the creation of our Chardonnay label.  The idea of having the inverse of the Cabernet label really did work in our minds.  Several of you pointed this out so thank you again.  The colors were changed a bit, the final is darker in the both the yellow (now gold-ish) text as well as the brown-ish background.  I'm happy with the way it has turned out!  

The photo is a mock up and will be printed in a slightly different paper but you get the idea...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Quick Cork Question...

This month I've been dealing with the cork companies.  Mostly getting samples, discussing price, and most importantly, asking what they are doing to reduce cork taint.  

They all have their methods and technologies and they all claim to be the company that done the most to eliminate TCA.  I've seen the numbers, and the graphs, and the presentations.

What I really want to know is :  What is the incidence of corked bottles in the market today?  

Gary Vaynerchu(c)k says its 1 in 2500.  I strongly disagree. Please leave a comment on your corked wine experience.  I figure 1 in 60 for me.

( I know, I know...let's leave the screwcaps out of the equation) 


Monday, April 20, 2009

Fire and Ice

Well, actually that should be ice and fire.  It was really cold in Napa last week.  I believe there were five days in a row of freezing temperatures.  Now it is pushing 94 and really hot.  

The last post showed a Cab Franc bud coming to life.  Now look at him : (top photo 4/16/09)

The tissues in the plant freeze causing the cells to explode.  It sort of looks burned and wilted.

Here he is today (pic on the bottom) after a couple of really nice sunny days:

Not nearly as much damage as I expected.  A few little dead leaves but I think he'll be alright.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Vines come to life

It started about three weeks ago. The twisted stumps that appeared all but dead sprung back to life.

It is really amazing what's in each little bud that starts swelling when the weather warms in March.

All compacted in that bud is the entire year's growth. All the shoots, leaves, grape clusters, tendrils, everything. Even stranger, the following year's buds are there too. Its quite the complex structure really.

Here is Mr. Cabernet Franc with a pic taken every three days to show how these microscopic plants appear and start to telescope out just like clockwork, year in and year out.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Label Options

So we are gearing up to bottle our newest addition to the Prime Family...Chardonnay (only about 100 cases, due out in Summer 2009!). We were playing around with color schemes and these are the finalists. The yellow color will be more of a gold to match the foil if we can pull it off. The chardonnay bottle will be about the same color as the one we used for Prime Cabernet. Let us know if you have a preference to one label over the other, we are interested to know.

Option 1

Option 2

Thursday, March 19, 2009

2008 Crush Report

The yearly grape crush report is in my hand and is not good news (in my opinion).  District 4 (Napa) Cabernet Sauvignon is up to an average price of $4688.76 a ton.  Up from $4143.14 last year.  Since this is how grape growers price their fruit, we are going to be paying more $$$ for our spectacular Coombsville fruit this year.

As usual, I like to see what I would be paying if we were using Cabernet from Fresno (District 13)-  $344.08.   Quite a bargain but don't expect to see PRIME District 13 Cabernet Sauvignon anytime soon. 

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Caught with my finger in the bung hole again. I'm checking the barrels to see how low the level of the wine is. If its too low, its time for topping.

I was reading a post from the Goosecross Cellars winery blog and it got me thinking. Topping barrels probably takes up more time and costs more money that any other activity in the winery.

Barrels that are full of wine don't stay full on their own. We have to add wine to each barrel every few weeks to avoid fill the void in the barrel caused by evaporation. The void contains air and that is the enemy of wine at the ageing stage (vinegar anyone?).

Evaporation takes about 5% of your wine away every year. Prime is in barrel for about two years. So for my production of about 700 gallons of Cabernet I can expect to lose about 70 gallons of wine. That's 348 bottles of wine never to be seen again.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Show and Prime 2007

Part One-The annual Unified Wine and Grape Symposium "the Show" is wrapping up tomorrow and this year was a huge success.  The entire show was packed with thousands of people.  Vintners were shopping for tons of high priced toys.  The state of the industry lecture pieced together lots of data that pretty much reads that aside from heath care the wine industry is doing better than most in this crappy economy. 

Part Two- I just tasted through the PRIME 2007 Cabernet lots and this is hands down the best yet from our young winery.  Some of the best Cab I have had period.  Very exciting stuff.  Here's a shot of the barrels just recently racked and topped up.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thank you for the support!

So we have been meaning to mention for awhile now that there are a few places you can find Prime besides here online. So if you find yourself in Tracy, Danville or hungry (and thirsty) in Napa you can get a quick fix in the following locations! Hopefully there will be more to come soon.

Vino 100 - Tracy, CA

The Vine at Bridges - Danville, CA

The Little Gourmet - Napa, CA

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Is it January?

Its the time of year now where we venture into the muddy and/or frozen vineyards and prune the vines back to a mere trunk with arms.  Getting rid of 2008's growth gives us the ability to train the vine to get optimal fruit sun exposure, placement, and ultimately- quality in 2009.  Ok, so why is it 70 degrees and full sun out here?  I heard rumors that people saw buds pushing, a sign that the vines think it is Spring.    Spring in January?