The Napa River Terroir Project – Prelude

I, Andrew Lazorchak, have been clamoring about the Napa river since I first came to Napa a few years back.  I was always dumbfounded reading about the Napa River, which told me that it is a “Climate Moderator”.  What is one to think when they only see the river in the dry months of the  summer & fall?  The river in these months, is never more than a trickle?

However, in living in Napa for almost a full year, an el Nino Year at that, I have been awed in the dynamics of the Napa river.    Not only I have  I witnessed it surge 20′ higher than it was all summer (image 1).  I have also witnessed the cool air that lingers in its void.  Even in the absence of water, the riverbed is a restless channel for cooler air.    Further, the tributaries coming down from the hills all carry cloudy water this time of year, which I suspect is mineral rich.  And these tributaries are air-shoots as well, aiding in the convection to the valley floor.   That said, there are countless factors impacting the river.  These factors are not localized, they are all encompassing.  The river is a rhizome, very literally an arterial system of systems, elegantly woven into a spine that one must agree has great impact on the valley, and the notion of terroir.

Please click below, and you will see a rough chronographic collection of images of the river.  You will see it fluctuates considerably, and this in the course of 3 months.   In witnessing the factors above and the river flows below, I am compelled to explore, understand, and take journey in a river often under appreciated, and rarely credited in what it provides for the wines of Napa.

Snapshots from my phone when I jog.

So what has risen from personal curiosity to good party banter – is now a project and is an imminent journey slated to start 4/24/10.  I have been lucky enough to lure in a well-respected wine writer, Ward Kadel of VinoPanion and, as a partner in this venture.  Together we have crafted a google map (below) and have aligned ourselves with Tudal Winery, Titus Vineyards, Round Pond, and others!  These partners will give us their insight of being neighbors to the Napa river, and be the most important contributors as they will help us birth, The Napa River Terroir Project.

“Our goal is to take a  voyeuristic journey down the Napa River from Calistoga to Oakville.  As you know the Napa river is an element of the valley that bears consequence on the “terroir“.  We’d like to explore this artery of the valley, as we feel not much emphasis or discussion has been had about it with respect to terroir.”

Click here to see our adventure

And in keeping in-line with the guts of what  Vineyard Vlog is all about, this is a study that runs deeper than the vines.  Our motto for VineyardVlog has been Everything Behind The Bottle, and the Napa River Terroir Project, is another degree deeper than that.  We have our hunches as to what we will learn, but I know we will be blind-sided by striking  information and observations.

As our team of wine passionate people, 5 total, embarks on this journey, we are looking for some basic information which should provide a nice data set to extrapolate upon.

  1. What are the varietals planted along the river?
  2. What is the soil profile along the river?
  3. How is the slope/ alluvial flood plain?
  4. How are yields effected along the river.  Root vigor?
  5. Ripeness of varietals / fungus etc?
  6. Vineyard  feeling on terroir.  Is there an effect on the grapes?  What is your terroir?
  7. What would you plant there now if you could plant anything?
  8. Stories about the river – everyone I have spoke to thus far has a story about the river and I think these will be the most valuable.
  9. How does the river affect your water table throughout the year?
  10. What are your conservation methods to preserve the river’s ecosystem?
  11. Are you a member of any of the conservation groups or conservation certifications in the county or state? Why or why not?

From these questions, our observations, and the stories we hear from people along our way, we are undoubtedly about to stumble upon a wealth of information and insight into the concept of what is The Napa Valley River Terroir….

I welcome you to view a sister posting of this on Ward’s site:  VinoPanion.

Please stay tuned, add comments, add tips, add ideas, and feel free to join us!

And oh ya – wish us luck!

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3 Responses to The Napa River Terroir Project – Prelude

  1. Pingback: Vinopanion | Blog | The Inaugural Napa River Terroir Project Launches!

  2. Pingback: Vineyard Vlog » Blog Archive » Napa River Terroir Project – River Trip Part I & II

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