How to Enjoy the 2018 Expedition
“Expedition is truly the introduction to Seven Apart that will show the potential for all the other wines we will be releasing over time.” ~ Yannick Girado, Seven Apart general manager
The Journal | Special Edition
Advice from Yannick Girardo, Seven Apart General Manager, on how best to enjoy 2018 Expedition. “Expedition is truly the introduction to Seven Apart that will show the potential for all the other wines we will be releasing over time,” says Yannick. “Andy [Andy Erickson, Seven Apart winemaker] and his team have done an amazing job crafting that wine.”
Should Seven Apart wines be decanted?
Decanting, or at the very least opening the bottle up an hour prior to consuming it, will be of benefit. The 2018 Expedition, for example, is still developing and has been showing a lot of its potential since we bottled it back in May. It is consistently getting better and better.
Why decant, and for how long?
The 2018 is still young and the alcohol is definitely heavier, should you simply open it and drink immediately. I’ve found that letting it breathe for an hour, and adjusting to room temperature, softens it and shows all the characteristics of the wine.
Should 2018 Expedition be aged?
Expedition has been crafted with the thought process that you can enjoy it upon release. Still, it is a wine that has a lot of potential and would certainly show beautifully should you age it for a few years.
The ageing process will allow the wine to really express itself over time. Two to five years in the cellar will soften the tannin, alcohol and acidity of the wine.
How should Seven Apart wines be stored?
Storing 2018 Expedition and other Seven Apart wines in a 55F degree environment such as a wine cooler or cellar is preferred, especially for those looking to age and collect these wines.
What if I don’t have a cellar or wine cooler?
If you don’t own a wine cooler or a cellar, consider a dry storage space such as a pantry or closet as an alternative. Choose a spot with limited light exposure, where temperature isn’t fluctuating consistently. If you go this route, we suggest consuming your bottles at a faster pace, since the storage temperature will be higher than the recommended 55F degrees.
What else should I know?
Look forward to upcoming releases: Shale, Basalt and Summit. These single vineyard wines will focus entirely on the Stags Ridge property on Atlas Peak and will showcase singular expressions from different blocks throughout the vineyard.
The Treasures of Napa Valley
“Stags Ridge Vineyard is sort of hidden, yet sort of in the middle of everything.” ~ Andy Erickson, Seven Apart winemaker, on the richness of a Napa Valley vineyard site.
The Journal | Vol. 4
You’ve seen the legendary sign: Welcome to this world famous wine growing region. While Napa Valley is certainly well-known, it’s also exclusive and keeps many treasures. Only 4% of California’s wine production comes from our region, which is actually quite small (about an eighth of the size of Bordeaux) and exceptionally varied.
Soil + Climate
Though the valley floor is only 30 miles long and just five miles across at its widest point, our local vintners have access to half of the world’s 12 recognized soil orders and more than 100 soil variations. And while Cabernet Sauvignon is the valley’s signature grape, responsible for more than half of the overall crop value, the region is home to dozens of varieties thanks to this generous soil diversity.
A Mediterranean climate, which only 2% of the planet enjoys, provides warm and dry summer days that often creep into the 80s or 90s. Overnight, cool fog from the Pacific Ocean moves in, which can drop temps into the 50s or even 40s. But as the sun crosses the sky, the fog burns off and the process begins again.
Because Napa Valley grapes ripen in the sun, and cool off overnight, they experience a long growing season capable of retaining acidity and balancing sugar. Very little rain falls during the growing and harvest season, allowing for vintage to vintage consistency and little moisture-related disease pressure.
The area is so distinct, and so precious as a wine grape growing region, that The Napa Valley Ag Preserve, the first of its kind in the U.S., was established here in 1968. Active land-zoning protects nearly 90% of the region from development such as urban sprawl and industrial growth.
Looking Back, Way Back
150 million years ago, the Napa Valley was born from plate tectonics and volcanic activity, mixing up a parent material of bedrock and soil, which was eroded and exposed over the years.
With the formation of the San Andreas Fault, two mountain ranges were born. To the west, the Mayacamas Mountains separate Napa from some of the coolest influences of the Pacific Ocean. To the east, the Vaca Range helps shield the heat of the Central Valley. And let’s not forget the Napa River, which starts gently and grows as it rolls southward.
So how is this bountiful diversity categorized for the wine lover? The key is the sub-appellations, or sub AVAs. Napa Valley itself has been an American Viticultural Area (AVA) since 1981, California’s first and second for the U.S. as a whole.
Peppered inside Napa Valley are 16 “nested” appellations: Atlas Peak, Calistoga, Chiles Valley District, Coombsville, Diamond Mountain District, Howell Mountain, Los Carneros, Mt. Veeder, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, Oakville, Rutherford, Spring Mountain District, St. Helena, Stags Leap District, Wild Horse Valley and Yountville.
Of these, Seven Apart occupies two: Atlas Peak and Stags Leap District, both exceptionally capable of producing a string of award-winning wines year after year.
How Seven Apart Fits Into Napa Valley
Stags Ridge Vineyard is on Atlas Peak, the most prominent point in the Vaca Range. Icons such as Acumen, Alpha Omega, Antica, Chapellett, Duckhorn, Elan Vineyards and Stagecoach have been drawn to the appeal of fruit from this high elevation environment, with cool bay breezes and remarkably thin soils.
These thin soils force the vines to struggle, resulting in a tighter yield comprised of small, highly concentrated grapes. It’s a truly distinct area from the valley floor, expressed by complexity and purity derived from the volcanic soils “If you drive to the top of Atlas Peak, you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere,” says Seven Apart winemaker Andy Erickson, who describes Atlas Peak wines as dark, dense, and aromatic.
The second Seven Apart parcel is Base Camp Vineyard in the Stags Leap District, known for wines of silky texture and supple tannins. In the rolling foothills where Silverado Trail meets Soda Canyon Road on the base of the Vaca Range, mixed volcanic soil promotes deep root growth to pull nutrients and water from below the surface.
Wine lovers around the world often associate Stags Leap District as one of the most famous in Napa Valley. At the Judgement of Paris in 1976, French judges blindly awarded the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon first place, an accolade that elevated it above several French producers, including Mouton-Rothschild and Haut Brion. When the event was restructured ten years later, Stags Leap District rose to the top again, with first place going to the 1972 Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon.
Other icons here are Silverado Vineyards, Shafer, Cliff Lede Vineyards, Pine Ridge, and Chimney Rock…and now Seven Apart, led by winemaker Andy Erickson, a name synonymous with superb Napa Valley winemaking.
“As mother nature provides different challenges every year, our vineyard practices are being modified.” ~ Vineyard manager Victor Fuentes, on realizing the potential of Seven Apart Vineyards
The Journal | Vol. 3
Many of the world’s greatest winemakers say that wine is made in the vineyard. This adage is a nod to the philosophy that farm and field directly impact the final product. Victor Fuentes, the vineyard manager here at Seven Apart, has years of experience balancing the challenges and potential of world class vineyards.
“I started working with Stags Ridge Vineyard on Atlas Peak in 2009, just after finishing college. In that time, I’ve learned a tremendous amount from this property,” says Victor. “It has allowed me to gain experience in higher elevation farming along with understanding the nuances of the vineyard’s topography.”
All the labor in Seven Apart vineyards is done by hand, providing Victor and his team the opportunity to become intimate with the vines, soil, climate, and other aspects that make these growing sites outstanding.
Victor says the Seven Apart vineyards have distinct features that make them special in his book.
Stags Ridge Vineyard, Napa Valley
Planted in 1999 on Atlas peak, along the western slope of the Vaca Range facing Pritchard Gap, Stags Ridge bumps elbows with neighbors Pritchard Hill, Stagecoach Vineyard, Cordes Vineyard, and Soda Canyon Ranch Vineyard. These vines have a long heritage of producing top-scoring wines, and the Seven Apart team are the new custodians of this treasured spot, which they farm organically.
When it comes to single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, fruit from this area has been revered by such names as Phillip Titus at Acumen Napa Valley, Henrik Poulsen at Alpha Omega, and Heidi Peterson Barrett, John Schwartz, and Jim Barbour’s Au Sommet. Capable of garnering a collection of 90+-point wines, this is a sweet spot for some of today’s most unforgettable (and collectible) bottles from Napa Valley.
Stags Ridge sits above the fog line at over 1,400 feet in elevation, basking in full sunlight throughout the day. The altitude also allows for cooler daytime temperatures than on the valley floor, as well as warmer nights.
The basaltic red volcanic soils tend to be shallow and well-drained, which Victor says “capture a true sense-of-place in every bottle of wine.” The vineyard site is about ten acres, 8.4 of which are planted with primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, and a small amount of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.
Base Camp Vineyard for Cabernet Sauvignon
Base Camp is composed of mature, organically farmed vines which are believed to be around 15 to 20 years old. Over their life cycle, these vines have developed several unique qualities, Victor explains. Fruit concentration is one of them, which means slightly lower fruit yields but with more concentrated wine. Also, the roots of these vines run deep into the soil, which is a mix of sand, silt, clay and gravel, pulling nutrients and water from below the surface, which increases drought tolerance.
The site is about eight acres, half of it planted with vines, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon but also home to Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and several other varieties that are sold to neighboring wineries.
“Following a desire to be good stewards of the land, we farm Base Camp organically, paying close attention to the details in our work to ensure the health of the vines while minimizing the impact we have on the surrounding environment,” adds Victor.
Iconic Napa Vineyard, Iconic Napa Winemaking
Of course now Victor works in partnership with Seven Apart’s winemaker Andy Erickson, but he’s not the first iconic vintner to make wine with Stags Ridge fruit. Victor says that during his tenure with Stags Ridge, the vineyard has played an essential role in some of the most sought-after bottles of wine from Napa Valley.
“I have had the pleasure to collaborate with high-caliber winemakers such as Dave Phinney, Kirk Venge and now Andy Erickson,” recalls Victor. “Working with these winemakers and coming to understand their perspectives on farming, coupled with my experience, has not only helped me to grow the best fruit possible but also bolstered my understanding of how that translates into the bottle.”
2020 and Beyond at Seven Apart
Victor shares that this year has brought new challenges, and that long term concerns are still at hand in Napa Valley. The health pandemic has caused his team to focus on the safety of the vineyard workforce.
“We are meticulous on how our farming operations are being handled from social distancing, daily temperature checks, and continuous education,” explains Victor. He also says that the vineyard team continues to acclimate to slightly warmer temperatures, fires, and drought, meanwhile relying on new technology, gathering vineyard data to contribute to farming practices.
More about Victor
Victor is a Fresno State alumnus with a degree in Viticulture, the first in his family to complete college. His study experience includes summers in Mendoza and Valle del Maule in Chile. Victor’s first job out of college was with Vino Farms as a viticulturist, and after three years there he moved on to Regusci Vineyard Management where he became a vineyard manager and helped his team oversee 700+ acres in different regions of Napa and Sonoma.
Today, Victor works alongside his father Juan. Together they own and run a vineyard management company named after Victor’s mother. Victoria’s Vineyards, established in 2009, specializes in handcrafted wines with an attention to detail. Other winery clients include Lokoya, Cardinale, and Sebastiani.