Cinnabar’s Distinguished Growing Regions
Cinnabar is a small winery with roots in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Sourced from diverse California vineyards, our wines express a unique sense of place and reflect our commitment to excellence.
90 points Editors Choice – Wine Enthusiast
The 2008 Mercury Rising wowed West Coast Editor Steve Heimoff of Wine Enthusiast with its richness, balance and value. Not to be outdone, the 2009 vintage garnered a Best of Class award at the 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
2012 Growing Season Summary
The 2012 California growing season was like a winding road that eventually straightened out. The year began with fairly normal weather patterns that transitioned into a mild summer, but late-season rains added plenty of drama.
Wine, fun, food and sun at the Harvest BBQ
Our annual Harvest BBQ at the Sunny Slope Vineyard Estate in Saratoga is just one of the many events we offer throughout the year.
7th Wave, an acoustic soft-rock band composed of three lead singers, is among the most popular local acts you can see and hear in The Mudd Room every month.
2012 Growing Season Summary
The 2012 California growing season was like a winding road that eventually straightened out. The year began with fairly normal weather patterns that transitioned into a mild summer, but late-season rains added plenty of drama. It was also somewhat of a drought year with the Sierra Nevada snow pack down 30–60% of normal (a statewide indication of water reserves).
January and February were fairly dry and unseasonably warm during the day with one short heat wave, however, there were sustained periods of nighttime coldness that hovered around 32°F.
Temperatures were near normal in March and April with days reaching the 50s and 60s and nights dipping to the high 30s, but the earlier near freezes delayed budbreak one to two weeks depending on the grape variety with most buds pushing late March to early April.
Several coastal regions experienced beautiful spring weather in April, May and June with days in the low 70s to high 80s, nights in the high 40s to low 50s, and occasional morning fog. There were a few storms in early April, but none threatened the infant shoots. Temperatures warmed to the low 90s in Paso and 80 degrees in other growing regions.
More rain fell on the vineyards from Monterey to Mendocino in early June. The remainder of June was clear and cool except for one heat spike around the second week followed by another in mid-July with temps well above 100°F, then another from August 1 – 13. The sum effect of these heat waves accelerated the ripening curve and prompted veraison to occur 1–2 weeks early in some locations. There was a significant cool down in mid-August, but conditions warmed up for most of September.
We picked about 25% of our fruit in late September (e.g. Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir) and 65% from October 10 – 18 (including Paso Merlot, Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay and Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir). Rain fell along the North Coast on October 10, but we were able to delay harvesting our Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon until the 16th. We brought in our last bin of fruit on November 7 right before the onset of the full rainy season.
Overall, 2012 was a high-quality vintage with rich fruit flavors. The late-season heat spikes hurt some vineyards, and many locations are still recovering from the 2011 spring frosts, but the dry conditions discouraged the formation of mildew. Finally, the slightly above average-size crop was good for wineries and growers alike, and a welcome reprieve from the smaller crops of vintages 2010 and 2011.
My Home Garden
One of life’s great pleasures is passing on a favorite tradition to the next generation. And so it goes with my love of gardening as I hand it down to my sons and their classmates at the Guadalupe Elementary School in San Jose’s Almaden Valley.
This story really begins in the early 20th Century when my grandfather, Rosario Troquato, grew fruit and vegetables and made wine in Calabria, Italy. He later moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania where he gardened and made wine with my father, Angelo Troquato, from California grapes shipped by rail. Fast-forward a few decades to Santa Clara Valley where my father taught me the ropes in our family garden and among the vineyards where he grew grapes for Troquato Vineyards.
Today, our entire household tills the family garden, and it is especially gratifying to see my two young sons get their hands dirty. We have an assortment of herbs and vegetables (sweet basil, lettuces, tomatoes, squash and pumpkins) and fruit trees including Fuyu persimmons, nectarines, apricots, naval oranges, avocado and a volunteer olive tree.
Naturally, we also grow grapes: one huge Bordeaux vine (probably cabernet sauvignon or petite verdot) that was sprouted from seeds on vertical trellising; two Pechetti clones of zinfandel that produce 20-30 pounds fruit per year; and flame seedless, red globe, and white crimson table grapes on overhead gable trellising that is high enough to walk under.
And what backyard garden would be complete without chickens? Our chicken run is home to three egg-producing hens whose manure is combined with veggie and fruit scraps in a compost rotator to make compost and compost tea for our soils.
Students at the Guadalupe Elementary School participate in the Lunch Time Garden Club. Parent volunteers provides supervision, and there is a Tuesday evening gardening session for parents and children. The goal of the program is to maximize the growing seasons so that the garden produces something edible year-round.
The half-acre school garden consists of nine raised beds with open bottoms: 10 inches high, 4 feet wide, and 20 feet long. We mostly grow vegetables (lettuces, beans, beets, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, green beans, squash and pumpkins), but we also have herbs, tomatoes, strawberries, and 13 fruit trees (stone fruits, citrus, fig and apple).
I invest about four-to-six hours per week on both projects, but I welcome spending quality time with family and friends in the great outdoors. I encourage you to try the below lunch menu fashioned from items grown in our gardens and paired with a selection of Cinnabar wines.
Lunch Menu with Garden-grown Vegetables
Onion, cucumber, tomato and squash salad with feta cheese
and balsamic vinaigrette made with fresh herbs (tarragon, oregano, thyme and basil)
Deviled eggs with toasted Acme Sour Dough French bread
(Pair with Late Harvest Semillon)
2012 Growing Season to Date
If the challenging weather patterns of the two previous growing seasons tested the nerve of California winegrowers, then the normal conditions of 2012 (as of June 30) have eased their collective consciousness.
2010 and 2011 were marked by above-average spring precipitation, cool temperatures in spring and summer, and rain during harvest. Consequently, key milestones such as budbreak, bloom, berry set and veraison were uniformly delayed, causing winemakers to strategically pick around the late-season rains before being assured of successful vintages.
Conversely, 2012 has experienced favorable conditions thus far: mostly dry and clear with very little frost. It’s also been somewhat of a drought year with the Sierra Nevada snow pack down 30–60% of normal (a statewide indication of water reserves). Some climatologists believe these dry conditions are the result of a La Niña weather pattern (lower than normal ocean temperatures in the equatorial Eastern Pacific).
January and February were fairly dry and unseasonably warm during the day with one heat wave in high 80s that lasted a few days. However, there were sustained periods of overnight coldness that hovered around the freezing point.
Significant storms ensued on March 10 and 26, bringing long-overdue rainfall to vineyards. Temperatures were near normal in March and April with days reaching the 50 and 60s and nights in the high 30s to low 40s. There were only a couple of dips below 30 degrees.
The low overnight temperatures in January and February delayed budbreak one to two weeks depending on the grape variety with most pushing late March to early April.
Many regions experienced long stretches of beautiful spring weather during April, May and early June: clear skies, days in the low 70s to high 80s, nights in the high 40s to low 50s, and occasional morning fog that burned off by late morning.
There was a cluster of rainy days beginning on April 2 followed by another storm on April 9. Temperatures warmed up on April 19: low 90s in Paso and 80 degrees in other growing regions.
In many regions, bloom occurred around May 7 for white varieties and mid-May for red varieties.
The season’s second heat spike occurred the week of April 19: low 80s in Monterey, high 80s on North Coast and Lodi, and 90s in Paso.
June 4 saw four hours of steady rain in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Clara Valley, Monterey and North Coast. The skies cleared mid-to-late afternoon and the wind picked up to dry vines. The rain did not fall on Paso Robles or further south.
The remainder of June was clear and cool except for one heat spike in the middle of the month.
It’s way too early to proclaim 2012 as a “banner year,” but it appears promising thus far. Look for a summary of the entire vintage at season’s end.
Read more from the Winemaker's Journal>>
Sulfites: Realities and Misconceptions
Consumer questions are a great source of topics for this section, and one of the more popular ones is “do you use sulfites and are there any side effects?” The short answer is “yes, but only to a handful of people.” According to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and other sources, the FDA estimates that only 1% of the population has sulfite sensitivities. Here is my take the subject from 30-plus years of winemaking, and I recommend that you seek medical advice if you have any concerns.
Winemakers have been using sulfites to prevent spoilage for thousands of years, but the practice became more prevalent in the late 1800s. Primary references are difficult to find, but sulfites are mention in several works about ancient winemaking including William Patton’s Bible Wines, T. S. Carr’s Roman Antiquities, and Samuele Bacchiocchi’s Wine in the Bible.
What are sulfites and why do winemakers use them?
Sulfites are inorganic salts that prevent spoilage (microorganisms and oxidation) and discoloration in foods and beverages. They are used to preserve the freshness of white wine and promote the longevity of red wine.
- European wines don’t contain sulfites.
Sulfites are used worldwide except for the few vintners making organic wines, but label warnings are only required in the US and Australia.
- Sulfites cause headaches.
Wine headaches are suspected of being triggered by several factors (histamines, tannins, prostaglandins, tyramine and alcohol), but sulfites are not one of the known causes.
- Sulfites are only used in wine, and/or sulfites are only added to red wine.
Sulfites may be added to prevent spoilage in foods such as dried fruits, seafood, baked goods, juices, mayonnaise and guacamole, but companies are only required to list them if the finished product contains more than 10 parts per million (ppm). Sulfites are used to make white wine.
- If a wine contains sulfites, then they must have been added.
Several sources including about.com indicate that yeasts naturally generate sulfites during fermentation (over 20 ppm by some estimates).
- High-quality barrel-aged wine can be made without adding sulfites.
Wines bottled shortly after fermentation can be made with no, or very low levels of, added sulfites. By nature, however, aging wine in barrels requires a stabilizing agent (e.g. brandy was first added to Port in the 1700s to prevent spoilage), and sulfites are the most effective means of stabilization during long-term aging (8–30 months).
- Domestic wines containing more than 10 ppm of sulfites must bear a “contains sulfites” warning on the label.
- The maximum concentration of sulfites allowed in wine is 350 ppm.
Notes: organic wines must be made with organic grapes and no added sulfites, but they may still contain less than 10 ppm of naturally occurring sulfites. It is estimated that non-organic wines contain 25–150 ppm of sulfites.
It is important to remember that thousands of winemakers around the world drink wines containing traces of sulfites daily, and we serve them to our family and friends knowing they are safe to consume. Sulfites are an indispensable tool in winemaking, and at this juncture, there are no comparable methods of creating world-class, age-worthy wines without them.