Friday, December 29, 2006

Shipping Problems Already?

Since we haven't bottled wine yet, it would seem impossible to have problems with our shipping company, but we have.

I picked out a small storage and shipping facility in the South Bay in April. I wanted somewhere local, that could deliver to restaurants in San Jose and ship to people as needed. They seemed to fit the bill well and we marked them off on our permits.

Well November came, and I wanted to sit down with them and make sure they'd be able to ship inter-state well, and could handle the wide spread of our customers. So I called, and emailed, and called and emailed, and nothing. I think they are still in business, but they never called me back. So I started checking around. There's one other shipper in San Jose I found, but they were geared for large volumes. The smallest price they had was to ship a case, and they could not even quote shipping single bottles.

So I started asking around. Kevin at Copain, Randy Sloan at Match Vineyards, and Bradley Brown at Big Basin all had recommendations I checked out. Some places never got back to me, or said they would send me information and never did, or just never responded to me. I figure some of that is the holiday season, so I'll contact them all again after the 1st. Still the experience has been something. Randy Sloan had a good quote: "I can't say I'm happy with my shipping company, but they are not pissing me off at the moment and that's about as good as it gets." Everyone else had simliar comments.

So I'll spend a lot of time in January it looks like tracking down a storage and shipping company and it will likely be in Napa. More time in a truck for me, I never thought winemaking would mean so much time behind the wheel.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Visit at Big Basin Vineyards.

A couple of weeks ago Bradley Brown, owner and winemaker at Big Basin Vineyards called me. Originally he was looking for some vineyard sources in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and wanted to know if I had fruit to sell in 2007 (I won't, I'll use it all). We ended up talking for over an hour on all kinds of subjects. Mostly we talked about fruit quality in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and our marketing efforts as two new wineries in the area. Bradley is just a few years ahead of us.

He invited me to come visit his facility and taste his barrels and wines. So, I managed to get some time last Friday and took the drive over to see him and his assistant winemaker Ian. I had a good idea of where to find him, since I've been to the golf course at Boulder Creek, and he was just past that. Still in the mountains you don't want to count on Google or Yahoo, so he left me detailed instructions.

He's built a beautiful little winery on his site, all out of redwood milled on the property. The space above the winery is a yoga studio. All the equipment is state of the art for such a small operation.

We tasted wines from 05 and 06 out of barrel and a bottle of 2004 Rattlesnake Ridge Syrah. Bradley has only made Syrah's so far and he and I both agree Syrah has a great future in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He also gave me a little sample of his first ever Pinot Noir from the 2006 vintage.

All his wines are plush, deep and full bodied Syrah's. Great dark fruit, with excellent complexity and depth. If you can I'd sign up now for his mailing list, as the secret is starting to get out and scores of 90+ are rolling in from Wine Spectator and Robert Parker.

We talked over our winemaking styles, techniques and preferences and we had a great deal in common with what we are trying to do. Bradley uses a bit more new oak than I do, about 50% vs 25% for my Syrah's but his fruit stands up to it very well. He's also not made any Cabernet, and asked me to bring some samples by when I can. Everything he and Ian do is well thought out, and no corners are cut in making great wine. It was a great experience to see another start up not cutting any corners and going top of the line in making wine.

We talked at length about what we might be able to do to help each other out, particularly with some marketing ideas on how we can get the word out on the new high quality wineries just coming on line in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and if some of the other new wineries might be interested in talking with us also. He was off to visit family for the holiday's but we agreed we'd meet again in January and see where we might take things together in the future.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nope, it really is this slow.

I know it's been awhile since my last update, but there really is very little going on in the wine world right now.

In the winery everything is settled down in barrel and the 2006's are going through Maloactic. So there's no tasting and no fiddling with the wine. Just let it sit and finish it's work. The 2005's are also sitting. No more racking or changes for the Syrah until bottling in February. The Cabernet will go through one more racking in the late Spring.

In the vineyard, it's also sit and wait. I start pruning after the full moon in January, so no work on the vines for 4 more weeks. The ground has been to hard to do any work on trellis repair, but we did get some rain this week. That should soften things up enough to start work on fixing any hardware issues.

I do have a trip out on Friday to Big Basin Vineyards to report on, so the next update will be Friday or Saturday.