Napa has been enjoying a couple of weeks of pretty days – so welcome after weeks of rain and chill.  Our Chardonnay has mostly popped new green shoots, which is the official start of our next vintage year.  Some of the Merlot has popped as well, a bit unusual.  Perhaps everything is eager to get growing after such a dismal start to the year.  My beautiful white lilac is out at the house – it makes me so happy to take a deep whiff of Spring when I walk by it.

We’re on the flat valley floor and our soil is mostly clay.  If you visit us in late summer, the cracks in the dirt are often two inches wide.  But now, the soil is so soft that heavy tractors can’t get in to work the vineyards.  Clay traps moisture between thin sheets that “float”; those sheets slide and compress as the moisture very slowly evaporates.  With those same sheets protecting the moisture from air exposure, moisture is preserved and there is little we can do to speed things up.  Which leads to the question many people are playing with, “How will this rain, double what we got last year, affect this new vintage?”

Anthony and I will not be preoccupied with this question for at least two weeks.  We leave for France soon; on April 6th, we board the AMADolce to lead a wine tour in Bordeaux, joined by forty BELL fans.  Anthony has been working out his wine presentations daily, and I have been reading up on history.  It promises to be a fascinating week of food, friends and wine.  Anthony hasn’t been back since his first trip there in 1972, where the wine bug first bit him.  We’ll return to Chateau Loudenne in Medoc, to see how much it has changed in the forty-five years since.  Expect pictures!