Dave Bos, vineyard manager extraordinaire and head honcho at Bos Wines, is one of our favorite viticulturalists. Not because he farms organically and biodynamically, and not because he sometimes brings his delicious home-made salami down to the shop (ok, that’s part of it). He’s a favorite at Back Room Wines because of the consistent quality of the grapes he grows; a quality reflected in the many wines made from his vineyards.
I got to tag along with Bos at Tres Sabores Winery as he led a group tour of the vineyard, barrel room and winery. The morning began on the open-air crush pad, doing punch downs and taking brix and temperature readings from the dozen or so bins filled with what will soon be 2016 vintage wines by producers you’ve seen Back Room: Tres Sabores, Calder, JonEVino, and of course Bos. The wines were little more than grape juice that day, thick with sugar, showcasing a lush, ripe vintage.
From there it was a short walk to the vineyard, where Bos guided us through the vines, explaining some of the principles and merits of organic and biodynamic farming. He takes a holistic approach: focus on the health of the vineyard, particularly the soil, and the grapes will take care of themselves. The grapes are a by-product of a healthy vine: the healthier the vine, the better the fruit.
After stopping to visit the goats and guinea hens who live on the property, we circled back to the winery room for barrel samples and an exploration of the effects of different types of oak, levels of barrel toast, and barrel age on wine.
We tasted the 2015 Bos “Deo” Cabernet Sauvignon and 2015 Bos Sauvignon Blanc, each from several barrels, to get a sense of the way a barrel changes the complexion of a wine. If you’ve ever wondered, as I have, how so many different producers could make wine from the same varietals in the same area yet achieve such different results, the comparative barrel tasting provides a small window into the enormous effect of just one factor on the aromas, flavors and textures of the resulting wine.
Even after such an eye-opening barrel tasting, Bos made it clear that the most important factor is still, and always will be, the grapes. You can’t make great wine with bad grapes, and you can’t get good grapes from bad vines. All the barrels and aftermarket additions in the world won’t fix a wine built on a shaky foundation.
Believe it or not, this still qualifies as “new thinking” in some circles. Wine country is home to many who came up during a time when chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides were the only way they knew how to grow grapes. Thankfully, Bos and his methods are no longer as “weird” as they used to be—he’s getting more frequent calls from more established wineries to help them learn how to work with compost and complementary crops to address the needs of the plant from, literally, the ground up.
This is shaping up to be another fantastic year in Napa wine. At every winery I visited the fruit looked and tasted great, and every winemaker we’ve seen in the shop this season has had nothing but good things to say about the quality of the 2016 vintage.