Continuum Estate’s winery above the clouds

December 17th, 2013

Tim admires the new tanks at Continuum Estate.

Tim admires the new tanks at Continuum Estate.

Since breaking ground two years ago, we have looked forward to the day when Continuum’s winery would be ready to open. On September 2nd, 2013, we were ready! The first fruit was harvested and brought to the winery for sorting and crushing before being placed in oak or concrete tanks for fermentation. At Continuum, each of our 36 vineyard blocks are harvested, sorted, crushed and fermented independently of the rest, so our estate winery was specially designed and constructed to work in harmony with this magnificent site. Situated at the highest point on the property, the winery was designed and engineered by Backen, Gillam & Kroeger, Architects, with all construction managed and contracted by Grassi & Associates.  The winery design, informed by the number of vineyard blocks and varied aspects, has a variety of specially designed oak and cement fermentation tanks so the winemaker has a number of options with which to protect the purity of fruit and enhance each block’s unique character.

Estate based design-

The winery fermentation vessels are a combination of Taransaud and Francois Fouderie oak, ranging from 2.5- 8 tons in size (75%), Sonoma Cast Stone and Nomblot concrete vessels 3- 6 tons sizes (20%) with a small amount (10%) of fermentation in oak barrels and ¾ ton open bins. All wood and concrete fermentation tanks are equipped with automated pump over air pumps and temperature control sensors to ensure a gentle and timely extraction. In this way, with each lot handled independently, all receive the correct temperature, extraction and timing, guaranteeing a carefully tracked and balanced fermentation. In addition each fermentation area was equipped with higher ceilings, allowing for easy top of tank access.

Winemaking-

Continuum uses a variety of gentle techniques including Burgundian manual punchdowns, Bordelais rack and returns, and automated pump overs to keep the cap wet and well incorporated into the must. In addition, the wine lees that settle after fermentation on the bottom of the tank, are stirred regularly  to nourish and enrich the wine and polish the tannins. After fermentation is complete, all lots are drained and placed in 225 liter French oak barrels from various coopers, mainly Taransaud and François Freres for elevage.

Resources-

At the estate, situated on top of a mountain, water is a sparse commodity and so a unique water system has been created. Developed with the assistance of Professor Roger Boulton at U.C. Davis, all rainwater is collected, filtered, ozonated and stored in a specially designed tank in a cave within the hillside behind the winery, providing more than enough water for all production needs. In addition, solar thermal panel technology heats the water for winery use.

Another unique element is the removal of carbon dioxide produced during fermentation. The Co2 is vented away so that the winery more easily maintains optimum temperature and humidity levels during crush, thereby reducing energy and equipment needs.

The winery is unusually quiet and clutter free with design elements developed by Tim Mondavi. Winery equipment is provided with shock absorbers and rubber casters to keep the facility relatively quiet even during crush. Additionally, Tim’s design removes the exhaust and noise produced by winery pumps by venting it into the ground and so away from the winery building. Whenever possible, equipment is mobile and so, after use, is put in storage.

All of us are thrilled with how well the winery has worked this first harvest; we think it’s the beginning of a beautiful estate and winery friendship.

 

Tim talks about the 2010 Continuum

March 11th, 2013

Tim Mondavi harvests Cabernet Sauvignon Continuum Estate

Tim Mondavi harvests Cabernet Sauvignon Continuum Estate

March 2013

2010 was a superlative vintage here at Continuum Estate. There are a number of reasons for our success but as always it was our fabulous site on Pritchard Hill, which really made the difference.

The cold and the rain were the most significant climatic factors in 2010. Rainfall broke the drought cycle we had experienced for the previous 3 years with a total of 42 inches for the year. Yet it was the unseasonably cold weather, which really made a difference. Bud break was later than normal, as was bloom and set, followed by a late veraison and a later than usual harvest. The ripening season itself was dry overall until mid October when early storms threatened. However we were able to pick the estate before the heaviest rains arrived and deliver the fruit safely to the winery.

Located 1350-1600 feet above the valley floor, our vines are ideally situated for full photosynthetic optimization. Our hillside estate enjoys a more moderate climate, which protects the vines from shutting down as a result of too much cold or too much heat during the growing season.

Being above the fog, Continuum Estate has more sunlight and warmth, which is particularly important in a cool, wet year like 2010. With a southerly by westerly aspect, our vineyards receive and absorb more solar energy than colder sites at lower elevations.

Pritchard Hill vineyard soils are shyer and thinner with less water holding capacity than valley floor vineyards. Continuum’s estate vines, averaging 17 years of age, used this moisture efficiently in 2010 resulting in excellent fruit ripeness and a lower degree of brix than we typically find.

This vintage is particularly noteworthy for its textural qualities- our mountain tannins are ripe with great nuance and length, the fruit compounds exhibit wonderful floral and aromatic complexity while the wine’s mid-palate is rich, long and layered.

2010 really is a fabulous vintage for Continuum. It offers the rich intensity of hillside grown Cabernet enhanced by the complexity of a unusually cool, long growing season. It really is a special wine and while delicious now, the 2010 will repay a decade or more of aging in your cellar.

We hope you enjoy our wine as much as we have enjoyed growing it.

 

In Continuum,

 

Tim

Greg & the new winery build

November 1st, 2012

Winery under construction, Continuum Estate, Halloween 2012

Winery under construction, Continuum Estate, Halloween 2012

Well, well well, it does not seem like it was that long ago when we were talking about architectural designs, use permits and building permits.  Now, we are looking at walls going up, plumbing and electrical going in the ground and some strange notion expressed by Tim, Marcia and their families that we need to have harvest 2013 in the new winery.  Something about commemorating what would be their father/grandfather Robert Mondavi’s 100 year birthday.  That is a big deal but do you really think it warrants all of that stress? Well, the answer to that is “your damn right it does”.  So let’s just say here comes harvest 2013; the first one in our new facility come hell or high water.  So where do we stand now just 10 months, 8 hours and 46 seconds from the writing of this note; I will give you a quick peek.

The winery project has been split into two phases, the first is our functioning winery building and supporting infrastructure and the second, hopefully only a few years after completion of the winery is our caves used for our 1st year and 2nd year barrel storage.  Until that time all barrels will be kept in the new winery.

We have completed all the earth work and grading at the winery site which entailed moving and crushing lots and lots of rock. Big rocks too!   Since we are not able to take any rock off of our site once we have pulled it out of the ground, we have had to come up with some creative ways to use the rock.  Some of the rocks are being placed around the property and maybe even a few will be reserved for our new aesthetically pleasing entrance area.  Most of the rock is being crushed and screened onsite for use on new road ways, base rock and drainage rock for the winery construction and gravel for our vineyard roads.  Ryan Gerhardt our Vineyard Manager loves that; more ways for us to get in his way.

Once the earthwork was completed we moved to all fun underground stuff that no one sees but definitely notices when it does not work.  This is the drainage, process and domestic waste lines and some fun stuff that we are incorporating to help this be an environmentally sensitive operation.  We started with something relatively new to the winery world, CO2 sequestration.  While we might not have the exact method of sequestration defined, we are building in plumbing that will take the CO2 from each tank and evacuate it from the building.  This way, we do not have to use the energy needed to restore the humidity and temperature to each room as would be the case if we released the CO2 in the rooms.  This allows us to put in smaller more energy efficient equipment and still meet our winemaking requirements.  In the future when the actual sequestration process is more defined we can fold in a system that captures the CO2 and converts it to something productive.

Water conservation is also very important to us, especially way up on top of this hill with only well water.  As such we have put in a 154,000 gallon underground water tank that will store our rainwater that we capture from the roof of the winery.  This water will then be put through a filtration process and used for our fire water and all the water needs of the winery.  We will be 100% self sufficient in the winery as a result of  this collection process.  The entire infrastructure for this system is in place and ready for the roof system to follow.

Footing sand stem walls have been completed and we are currently working on the plumbing and electrical within the building footprint. 

All of our new oak and concrete tanks, 16 oak and 4 concrete, have been ordered and are being built for delivery in June.  These tanks were designed to align with what we are doing in the vineyard.  We have 37 individual 1-2 acre blocks in the vineyard and we want the ability to keep them separate in the winery.  We farm each one individually so we do not want to lose that focus once the grapes get to the winery.  This will provide us with the flexibility and research capability to continually refine our knowledge of each aspect of this great vineyard estate.

Soon the walls will be going up, exciting… hold on!!….I am getting a little ahead of myself…Focus now!!

Anyway back to work and hopefully in just a few months we will be saying damn, what was the big deal?

Have a great next 10 months,  7 hours and 46 seconds and hope to see you soon!!!

Greg Brady

Continuum Estate

General Manager

Continuum Estate in 2012!

August 31st, 2012

Cabernet Sauvignon, 3B Top block, Continuum Estate 2012

From Kurt Niznik,

Continuum Estate winemaker:

2012 is a Presidential election year and, since I don’t have any grapes to pick yet, I’ve looked back through my memory to see how recent election year vintages have stacked up. ’92 gave us some nicely structured and long-lasting Napa cabernets that are fairly classic in their style and proportion. ’96 was a very memorable one for quality, and was one of those special once-in-a-decade (or more) years when merlot really stood out. 2004 was a relief after the super-hot harvest weather of 2003 and the wines were again of excellent quality, although a bit softer than the ’06s or ’07s that generally outshine them. 2008 was a stunner in my book; intense, densely tannic wines bursting with rich fruit flavors, the best of which will be immortal in the cellar.

Then there was 2000. That year was not considered so memorable. I recently popped open a magnum of wine I worked on that harvest and although it was a pleasant companion for the evening’s festivities, it really didn’t have that magic that a special vintage has.

So here we are again on the cusp of much political theater and we are looking down the barrel of what has the potential to be a stellar vintage. The year’s weather has been thankfully steady, mild, sunny and dry. The crop yield may be a tad low in some areas due to some weather issues at bloom, but otherwise everything is humming along beautifully in the vineyards and wines should be excellent.

New vineyards! We planted more vineyards (19 acres worth) a while back, and our wonderful vineyard team headed by Ryan Gerhardt has been carefully tending to them now for two years. This year we get to pick a small amount of fruit from these baby vines and get a taste of Continuum’s future. Very exciting stuff this is, as this also means that this year we will be 100% estate grown fruit at harvest. Up until now we have contracted with other Napa valley growers to supplement our fruit supply from the estate while we waited for our new vines. No longer. We’re home grown now!

Exciting news from Continuum doesn’t stop there. We have a new winery under construction that we will be moving into next year. It will feature solar power supplementation for electricity and water heating, rainwater capture for winery water supply, smart grid technologies for optimizing power usage and a bunch of other goodies that will make the winery not only a great instrument for the creation of our wines but a very efficient one with low environmental impact. We will be very happy to have our production running right up there on the estate among the vineyards, in a modern facility of our own design ably assisted by architect Howard Backen and associates.

This fall, as the grape harvest begins high on Pritchard Hill, we will be treated to one of the world’s greatest spectacles. There will be impassioned speeches, grandiose hand gestures and throngs of cheering supporters wearing goofy looking outfits holding big signs in support of their candidates. In addition there will be much commentary from people talking to cameras about people who talk about other people and vast sums of money spent on broadcast advertisements made of electrons and radiation that disappear in an instant.

When it is all over and the dust settles there will inevitably be an anticlimactic letdown, no matter which party wins, and it may seem as if nothing has really changed for us.

But if you look closely in Continuum’s barrel room, in the vessels marked with that fateful “2012″, there I predict you will discover that indeed a great and meaningful change in our lives has happened after all- a new Continuum is being created!

Good harvest,

Kurt

New beginings with Ryan

April 24th, 2012

Continuum Estate budbreak with ladybug April 2012

Continuum Estate budbreak with ladybug April 2012

State of the Estate

Ryan Gerhardt

Continuum Estate Vineyard Manager

It’s that time of the year again at Continuum Estate when, after rest, relaxation and vacation, the vineyards are beginning to wake up around Pritchard Hill. Budbreak is well along on the Hill now though still behind if compared to the valley floor. All our reservoirs are full, and while the season was not as wet as last year, the rainfall, so far, is typical. In fact, in thinking about the state of the estate, I am reminded that every year, in a way, is a repeat of the previous one.

For me it all begins with the end of harvest, which happens every year without fail.  At that moment when the last of the fruit has been picked and delivered to the winery and all is now safely under the care of the wine making team, this is when I find myself dizzy with relief. With a rush I realize; no more worrying about frost, pests, mildew, correct or incorrect irrigation, no more fear of rain next week or anxiety that blazing hot weather is on the horizon.  No more wondering if the vineyard crews will show up on time, no more wondering if there is something I missed, is there (was there??) something more I can do to better express this site, something else which would make all the difference in bringing the flavor, concentration and intensity to a higher level. Growing great grapes is very much a full time job and I take it very seriously.

For a few hours  after completing harvest, I am confused, not quite believing it’s over, and then ecstatic, knowing it’s all done, that all the fruit is safely in the winery. Then I find myself at the bar having a beer feeling kind of numb with thoughts of “there is absolutely nothing that I have to do tomorrow” crossing my mind. This last’s for a surprisingly long time; anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours and occasionally for a few days. Eventually though I come back to normal, but normal in a post harvest world.  This is a sweet time when the need to live the vineyard 24/7 is reduced to 10/7, a window when I can come up for air and re-charge for the next year.

Gradually though, things begin to gear up for the new year with the arrival of winter. Then it’s time for the budgeting meetings, to go over the costs in 2011 and budget effectively for 2012, the planning meetings necessary to evaluate what we can change and improve in our farming operation and the tastings of the new vintage’s unfinished wines to evaluate the prior year’s results. It does not happen quickly but things slowly start to speed up and before I know it, on a day like today, we are fully in bud break and I am back in the loop; tracking the new growth, watching the weather, making the many necessary adjustments to block, row and vine in order to bring greater vitality and health to this mountain estate. I am only at a brisk walk today but soon it will go to a trot and then a gallop which will not end until the last fruit is once again picked and carefully delivered into the hands of our winery team later this fall.