Fete de La Fleur!

As we move into the month of July one of the most critical aspects of the 2014 vintage has just occurred in the vineyards and that is the flowering of the vines. The little white flowers that will eventually become the grapes have opened up in fine weather conditions in both California and Bordeaux this June and that is fantastic news. Both quality and quantity can be judged by the “grape set” and flowering in cold and wet conditions as well as heavy wind can greatly compromise the vintage and is a huge worry to vineyard managers around the world. After a good flowering and grape set the harvest is under 100 days away and the wineries can relax a bit.

In Bordeaux where the weather is far more turbulent and inconsistent than California the flowering is met with great celebration. The bi yearly VinExpo trade fair brings the world to Bordeaux for a week of exquisite and exclusive parties at many famous estates with the culmination being on the Thursday evening of the week at the Fete de la Fleur. The host Chateau ( Ch. Lagrange in 2013 and Ch. Lascombes in 2011) and the other chateau that buy tables for their VIP clients invite as many as 1500 people for this huge garden party. Great supporters of Bordeaux wine are inducted on this evening into the Comanderie de Bon Temps who co-sponsor the event. I was honored to be inducted in 2003 and the Fete was held at Ch. Mouton Rothschild that year and it was the 250th Anniversary of the iconic first growth. An estate I deeply love; Ch. Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande was my sponsor and it was a night I will never forget. My wife Kim and I sipped 1999 Ch. Haut Brion Blanc and 1982 Ch. Mouton Rothschild while listening to Placido Domingo; what a party!

While a good flowering is never a guarantee of a great vintage, there is a long way to go, but it is a great sign and breeds great optimism. This is badly needed because Bordeaux needs a good vintage after 3 very difficult vintages in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Bordeaux just endured one of the wettest winters ever and the water tables are more than full, so even a torrid summer of heat should not harm the crop.

In California we have been on cruise control compared to Bordeaux. It looks like we are on our way to a third outstanding vintage in a row 2012, 2013 and maybe 2014. But we do have our concerns and that would be water. We are in serious drought conditions and I’m watching my lawn turn browner every day. Unlike Bordeaux we here in California are allowed by law to water our vines when it is needed for frost protection in the winter or dehydration in the summer.

Winemaker-Owner Erik Miller from Kokomo Winery tells me “Frost was not an issue this year and helped preserve some of our reservoirs, but if we don’t get plenty of rain this winter we are definitely going to be in a predicament”. Mike Lamborn of Lamborn Vineyards on the top of Howell Mountain says the likelihood of an “El Nino/very heavy precipitation” year this winter is 80% and he hopes they get drenched!

In any case we are certainly off to a good start, keep your fingers crossed!

Cheers and feel free to contact me anytime with any questions on the wines of California or Bordeaux at RalphSands@Primecellar.com

Ralph Sands

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Mr. Ralph Sands

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