­­“This morning’s scene is good and fine, Long rain has not harmed the land.”
Du Fu, Chinese poet, b. 712

A month ago we were warbling about the delights of sunny days during our rainy season.  Now it’s a different tune – our last three weeks have delivered almost three times as much rain as the entire last year, more than ten inches in Napa.  Dire daily warnings about the water crisis in California have muted, although we are still less than “average” in the larger scope of things.  Our state is able to deliver a wide variety of perfect fruit routinely precisely because our climate is generally dry, with an abundant amount of water available for farm irrigation, mainly from rivers created by northern California snowpack melt.  As California has increased populations in north and south, and farmed ever more land, the need for water has become a hot button economically and politically.  For the time being, here in Napa we’re feeling much more secure in our ability to take care of our vineyards this year.  Rest assured the conversation about the rights and responsibilities regarding water use will continue – this highly divisive issue won’t go away anytime soon.

The vineyards themselves have shown early growth, pushing buds out in response to the sunny warmth of January and February when temperatures ran ten degrees above normal.  Our vines have been pruned back to three inches of cane; it is an energy/water conservation move designed to limit the amount of work the plant has to perform by limiting the amount of vine material.  Leaving several buds on the remaining stalk is our frost damage backstop.  If we lose the first buds, we can still grow a secondary cluster.

Premiere Napa Valley was an enormous success, raising $5.9 million that goes to fund the projects NVV executes throughout the year.  Sommeliers, writers, interns, consumers, trade customers – all benefit from the various programs the NVV hosts.  The annual Auction in June generates the glamor headlines, but Premiere is tightly tuned to the business of wine.  And the 2012 vintage certainly gave many bidders enough of a thrill to cause bidding exuberance.  One lot of 5 cases, the 2012 Scarecrow, went for well over $4,000 per bottle.  Everyone in the room was standing with their camera-phones aimed toward the dueling bidders from LA and Japan, and a huge roar went up as the final gavel came down.

During Premiere week, NVV hosted an event to educate new sommeliers, exactly the sort of project that funds from Premiere support.  Anthony joined a panel of local luminaries to discuss the evolution of winemaking from the 1960s through today with up and coming somms from all over the US, most of them born after 1970.  Later, while at the Premiere pouring, participants Tim Mondavi, Celia Welch, and Andy Erickson all commented that they wished the panel discussion had been recorded as it dawned on them how unusual it was to have the opportunity to share such a wide variety of perspectives and memories of the early days.  Sometimes we get so involved in the day to day of our work it takes an event like that to see the longer arc of life.  The picture from Beringer’s Hudson House includes Tim Mondavi behind the left column, Anthony, Cathy Corison, Drew Johnson, Andrea Immer Robinson, Heidi Barrett, Celia Welch, Tony Biagi and Andy Erickson.