Bear Necessity - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Bear Necessity

Lava Cap’s estate vineyards planted on volcanic soil
(Photo courtesy of Lava Cap Winery)

Mourvedre is happy in the Sierra Foothills—a warm sunny growing season and devigorating volcanic soils result in wines with robust flavors, firm, grippy textures, and exceptional balance. Lava Cap’s El Dorado bottling, planted on a ‘cap’ of decomposed granite, certainly fits the bill. But we were curious as to why this one was multi-vintage.

A security camera image of the suspect (Photo courtesy of Lava Cap Winery)

When we asked for an explanation from Marketing Director Nolan Jones, he told us that the vineyard has unusual pest pressure in the fall—specifically, bears (they assume it’s more than one), who come to visit every year to feast on grapes. And even though they have a whole vineyard for the picking, planted to grenache, dolcetto, zinfandel, syrah and other varieties—the bears eat only the mourvedre. “It’s planted at the bottom of our vineyard,” says Jones, “where the hillside drops off dramatically into a dense pine and cedar forest overlooking the American River.” That, he assumes, is their home. Moreover, the bears start eating only after the fruit has reached a threshold of ripeness. “As soon as the grapes cross 22 brix, it’s game on,” says Jones. “They seem to have devised a system of putting their whole mouth over the cluster and stripping just the berries, leaving the bare rachis.” Once they start, they can clear the whole 2-acre block in a couple of days. Jones has done everything he can think of to deter the onslaught; so far, nothing’s worked. “Terroir takes many shapes,” he concedes.


Lava Cap El Dorado Mourvedre

Every week, our editors highlight a wine that intrigued them in our blind panel tastings, expanding on their tasting note in this space. These are entirely editorial choices; there are no paid placements. Subscribers can also access the original tasting note by searching here.

Patrick J. Comiskey covers US wines for Wine & Spirits magazine, focusing on the Pacific Northwest, California’s Central Coast and New York’s Finger Lakes.

This story appears in the print issue of December 2021.
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