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Wine Education

  1. A

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    1. Acidity

      One of the four taste components of wine, generally consisting of tartaric acid and comprising of approximately 0.5 to 0.7 percent of the wine by volume. It is described as sour, or tart and can be found on the sides of the tongue and mouth.

    2. Aerate

      To expose wine to air to expose the wine to air with the intention of allowing off odors to escape from an older wine, or soften the harshness of younger wines.

    3. Alcohol

      The percentage of alcohol by volume that a wine has by volume.

    4. Appellation

      The generic term for the name of a region, vineyard, or village where a wine comes from; which is legally defined by the rules of each particular country. The Appellation is defined by geography first, followed more discretely by geology, topography and custom. The Napa Valley is itself an appellation. Within the Napa Valley appellation exists 15 subappellations, or AVAs, including: Calistoga

    5. Aroma

      The smell of the grapes in wine.

    6. Astringent

      A descriptor for the mouth-drying tactile character of some wines, caused by tannin, acid, or a combination of both.

    7. AVA

      American Viticultural Area — A legally determined geographic area in the USA, which defines a particular appellation for wines grown within its boundaries. In the United States, in order for an AVA to be put on the label at least 75%, but as much as 85%, of the fruit must come from the designated region. We are located in the Calistoga AVA which is characterized by the following:

      • Climate: Warm to hot, depending upon time of year; lower humidity; summer temperatures peak to 90°F (32.2°C) and fall to low 50s°F (11°C), the result of marine air from the northwest; cool afternoon and evening breezes
      • Elevation: 300 to 1200 ft (92 to 370m)
      • Rainfall: 38 to 60 inches (96.5 to 150cm) annually
      • Soils: Almost completely of volcanic origin, soils range from rocky, stony loam on the hillsides, to gravelly or cobbly loams on the alluvial fans, to heavier clay-silt soils in the valley center areas.
      • Principal varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah

      (http://www.napavintners.com/about/ab_3_appell.aspx).

  2. B

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    1. Balance

      The inter-relationship of a wine's alcohol, residual sugar, acid and tannin; when no one component stands out on the palate.

    2. Barrel

      Barrique in French, 60-gallon wooden container for aging wine generally made from oak.

    3. Bentonite

      Clay like material used for fining.

    4. Big

      Robust, describing flavor and alcohol content.

    5. Blend

      To mix together two or more individual lots of wine. Can be different varieties, regions, and vineyards, even vintages.

    6. Body

      The impression of a wine's weight in your mouth, usually described as light, medium, or full.

    7. Bouquet

      The smell of the wine.
    8. Brix

      A scale that measures the sugar level of the unfermented grape juice (must).

  3. C

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    1. Canopy Management

      The process used in the care of the leaf canopy, such as pruning, trimming and leaf thinning. Benefits include increased exposure to the sun and reduced moisture within the canopy to protect against rot.

    2. Clone

      One of a population of plants that the descendents of a single individual and have been propagated by vegetative means.
      Cold Fermentation

    3. Cold Fermentation

      The process of performing fermentation at a controlled, low temperature usually 55ºF or less. This has the benefit of enhancing delicate primary fruit aromas, keeping the wine flavors fresher due to less oxidation, and prolonging the length of fermentation to create more aromatic compounds.

    4. Color

      The result of existence or absence of the grape skins, being red, white or pink. As the skins remain longer with the juice, the color becomes more red.

    5. Corked

      Slang for “The wine has gone bad”, but specifically related to the poor condition of the cork, possibly caused by bacteria.

    6. Crush

      The common American word for the harvest period.  Specifically, the process of gentle mashing of the grapes after they have been picked.

  4. D

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    1. Decant

      To transfer wine from the bottle to another container, either to aerate the wine or to pour wine off of its sediment.

    2. Destemming

      The process of removing the stems/stalks from the grape bunches before fermentation. Unripe stems will contribute to a green, unripe taste in the wine.

    3. Dry

      A wine that is not sweet. The word dry can also describe a texture in your mouth, but refers to the lack of sweetness in the wine.  All of our wines, are dry excepting our Port.

  5. E

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    1. Earthy

      Tasting term to describe terroir characteristics.

    2. Elegant

      What to say when there is great balance and grace in the wine, but you can’t quite find apt words of description.

    3. Enology

      American English spelling of oenology, the study of wine.

    4. Estate Winery

      "Estate" means the winery and vineyards have to be in the same AVA, have to be controlled or owned by the winery, and the wine has to be made from start to finish at the winery.

    5. Extracted

      Refers to the coloring imparted to wines during the fermentation process by the skins of the grapes used. Can also occur in a further step known as maceration when new wine is allowed to steep with the skins again. This second step usually results in a highly extracted style of wine, deeply colored with strong flavors and tannin.

  6. F

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    1. Fermentation

      The natural conversion, by the action of yeast enzymes of sugar to alcohol.

    2. Fining

      Removal of matter in suspension in a wine by the addition of a fining agent such as bentonite, which acts as a coagulant.

    3. Finish

      The final impression the wine gives you after you have swallowed it.

    4. Fortified Wine

      <p>Wine to which alcohol has been added, generally to increase the concentration to a high enough level to prevent fermentation.&nbsp; For example, our Port is fortified.</p>

    5. Fruit Forward

      A wine whose varietal fruit character is the most obvious taste perceived, and where there are less obvious structural aspects evident, such as tannin, or oak vanilla.

  7. G

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    1. Grafting

      The process of growing a cutting of Vitis vinifera on American or hybrid, Phylloxera-resistant rootstock.

  8. H

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    1. Hard

      A tasting term for a wine that contains too much tannin, and is therefore unpleasant. Hard wines often take a long time to mature.

    2. Heady

      Excessive alcohol content.

    3. Hollow

      A tasting term. This describes a wine which lacks flavor and texture, often through the midpalate, would often be described as hollow.

    4. Hot

      Defines a wine high in alcohol and giving a prickly or burning sensation on the palate. Accepted in fortified wines, but not considered as a particularly desirable attribute in Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay.

    5. Hybrid

      A hybrid grape results from a cross between a Vitis vinifera variety – such as Riesling or Pinot Noir – with an American vine. This is distinct from a crossing.

  9. J

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    1. Jammy

      Word most often encountered in descriptions of California Zinfandel wines made with Amador County grapes. Refers to the natural berrylike taste of this grape.

    2. Jeroboam

      A large bottle holding three liters, the equivalent of four regular wine bottles.

  10. L

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    1. Late Harvest Wine

      Also known as late picked, wine made from grapes that have been left on the vine longer than usual. Usually an indicator for a very sweet or dessert wine.

    2. Lees

      Grape solids and dead yeast cells which precipitate to the bottom of a white wine following fermentation

    3. Legs

      The tracks of liquid that cling to the sides of a glass after the contents have been swirled. Often said to be related to the alcohol or glycerol content of a wine. Also called tears.

    4. Light

      Describes a body lower in alcohol and easy to drink.

    5. Liter

      A metric measure of volume equal to 33.8 fluid ounces (U.S.) or 35.2 fl oz (imperial).

  11. M

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    1. Maceration

      Period of time when the grape skins are in contact with the fermenting must during red wine fermentation to dissolve the skins color and tannin.

    2. Magnum

      A bottle holding 1.5 liters, the equivalent of two regular wine bottles.

    3. Malolactic Fermentation

      Conversion of the harsh malic acid into the softer lactic acid by the action of lactic bacteria. A secondary fermentation performed by bacteria that converts harsh "malic" acid (Granny Smith apple) to smoother "lactic" acid (plain unsweetened yogurt). Done to some white wines and virtually all red wines, during or just after the primary alcoholic fermentation. Often times adds a buttery taste, and results in a smoother wine texture.  Although many Chardonnay’s in California undergo this secondary fermentaion process, our Chardonnay does not as we prefer to offer a crisp Chardonnay over a buttery one.

    4. Methuselah

      A large bottle holding six liters, the equivalent of eight regular wine bottles.

    5. Must

      Unfermented grape juice. Must can also contain the skins, seeds and pulp of the grapes.

  12. N

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    1. Nose

      The aroma of a wine.

    2. Nouveau

      Indicates young, immediately drinkable wine.

    3. Nutty

      Table wines that have been exposed to air display this aroma that resembles that of certain sherry wines. Considered a flaw by some in red wines, but a desired flavor component in certain white wines by others, (e.g.: Chardonnays with extended lees contact in the fermentation vessel).

  13. O

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    1. Oaky

      A fresh barrel taste or smell, usually positive, but can be overdone.

    2. Oenology

      The study of wine.

    3. Old Vines

      Generally a term for vines that are 40 years or older; with the presumption that the older the vine the smaller the production, hence the better the quality.

    4. Oxidized

      A wine's overexposure to air, resulting in an unfresh smell.

  14. P

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    1. Palate

      A tasting term for the feel and taste of a wine in the mouth.

    2. Peppery

      A tasting term almost solely applied to spicy wines, such as Petite Sirah. Is a component which can almost be described as pungent in quality, being reminiscent of anise, cinnamon etc.

    3. Petite Sirah

      The grape now known as Petite Sirah was first highly cultivated in California, and its origin was unknown prior to 2003. However, Dr. Carole Meredith at UC Davis has recently used DNA evidence to estimate that of the 3,200 acres of grapes labeled Petite Sirah in California, most are actually the Durif grape and about 10% the Peloursin grape. The Durif grape first originated in the Rhone Valley in 1870, as a cross between the Syrah and Peloursin grapes.

    4. Phylloxera

      A parasite louse that feeds on the roots of Vitis Vinifera, resulting in the vines' premature death.

    5. Pip

      Grape seeds.

    6. Port

      A sweet fortified wine.  This wine is fortified with the addition of distilled grape spirits in order to boost the alcohol content and stop fermentation thus preserving some of the natural grape sugars.

    7. Pressing

      The process of extracting wine by means of gently applying pressure to the mass of pulp and juice in a wine press. Today’s modern presses due this by inflating a rubber bag inside a central steel compartment that presses the must gently, thus squeezing the juice out of the berries where it flows down into a drain from the press and thence into the receiving container.

  15. R

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    1. Racking

      The process of drawing wine off the sediment, such as lees, after fermentation and moving it into another vessel.

    2. Reserve

      An undesignated term for wines that are presumably finer than non-reserve.

    3. Residual Sugar

      Sugar from the grapes that has not been converted to alcohol from the yeast. Grapes picked late in the year (late harvest) or wines that have had their fermentation process prematurely stopped are sweeter due to the residual sugar. "Dry" wines are wines that have little or no perceived residual sugar.

  16. S

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    1. Sediment

      The solid residue that settles in a bottle of red wine, which forms as the wine matures.

    2. Single Vineyard Wine

      A wine that is made from a single plot of land, and usually carries the name of that vineyard on the label.

    3. Skin-contact

      The process by which the juice of the grapes rests in contact with the skin of the grapes. In white wines it is done to enhance aromatic character in the wine.

    4. Soft

      Mild, low-acid, low tannin.

    5. Sommelier

      A trained wine expert that often works in fine restaurants.

    6. Spicy

      Smelling or tasting of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, or other spices.

    7. Split

      A wine bottle that holds approximately 6 ounces (175-187 ml) or one-fourth the equivalent of a typical 750 ml bottle; a single-serving.

    8. Sulfites

      S02, or sulfur dioxide, is a natural byproduct of the fermentation process and acts as a preservative to wine. Sometimes winemakers add S02 to a wine to ensure proper preservation – it is thus a preservative, an antioxidant, and a bactericide, killing off unwanted bugs while limiting oxygen’s ability to degrade wine. SO2 in high levels smells like a burning match, and has a harsh taste. For some people, SO2 causes allergic reactions, though they represent only a small percentage of the population. SO2 is NOT responsible for Red Wine Syndrome, which gives some people headaches, or worse.

    9. Sur Lie

      French meaning "on the lees". Refers to maturing wine, or leaving wine in a vessel with the mass of dead yeast cells (lees) that accumulate as fermentation completes.

      These lees act, during maturation, to: Retard oxidation; Build colloidal structure in the wine by bonding with certain phenol compounds such as tannins; Contribute a creamier texture to the wine; Contribute a distinctive “nutty” or yeasty flavor and aroma.

  17. T

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    1. Table wine

      Generally any wine that is not sparkling or fortified. In the US these wines must also be between 7% and 14% alcohol by volume.

    2. Tannin

      A substance in the skins, stems, and seeds of the grapes; a principle, tactile component in red wines. Tannin is also a component of oak.

    3. Tart

      Acidic piquancy mostly found in white wines.

    4. Tartaric Acid

      The acid responsible for most of the wines acidity, detectible only on the palate.

    5. Terroir

      French word that is the collective term for the growing conditions in a vineyard, such as climate, soil, drainage, slope, altitude, topography, and so on.

    6. Toast

      The charcoal that is burned into the inside of wine casks. To toast refers to that process. It also refers to the practice of drinking an alcohol beverage along with wishing good health or other good fortune.

    7. Trellis

      The system by which a vineyard’s rows are configured and held up. Usually a combination of stake posts, attached wires and often some cross members to provide the structure and angle for the main vine branches to rest upon. Most common Trellis systems today are: Vertical Shoot Position (VSP); Lyre; Geneva Double Curtain.

  18. U

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    1. Ullage

      Also known as headspace, the unfilled space in a wine bottle, barrel, or tank.

    2. Underipe

      Resulting flavor when grapes that failed to reach optimum maturity on the vine are used in the vinification process.

    3. Unoaked

      Also known as unwooded, refers to wines that have been matured without contact with wood/oak such as in aging barrels.

  19. V

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    1. Varietal

      A wine named from a sole or the principal grape variety from which it is made.

    2. Veraison

      French word for the period in the growing season, usually mid-to late summer (Late July-early August), when the grapes begin to turn color, and vegetative growth slows down. Veraison begins the vine’s final period of development and ripening of the fruit, preparatory to harvest, usually about 35-45 days later.

    3. Vinification

      The activity of making grape juice into wine

    4. Vintage

      The year in which a wine&#39;s grapes grew and were harvested. In order to vintage date a wine in the US, 95% of the fruit in the wine must come from the year printed on the bottle, in French AOC wines it is 100% and in CA and other New World countries it is 85%. Some argue that this is why Australia wines are more consistent through the vintages.

    5. Viticulture

      The activity of growing grapes.

  20. W

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    1. Watery

      Synonym for meager or thin.

    2. Weight

      A tasting term referring to a wine’s body.

    3. Woody

      Almost a synonym for oaky, however, implies an overstay in a wooden container which resulted in the absorption of other wood flavors besides oak.

  21. Y

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    1. Yeasts

      One-cell microorganisms responsible for transforming grape juice into wine. They live in sugar rich environments, and eat the sugar, dying in the process and generating as byproducts carbon dioxide and heat.