Wednesday, May 23, 2007

2005 Loring Pinot Noir Cargasacchi Vineyard

A tasting note? Yeah why not. We had this wine last night with some fresh Salmon and angle hair pasta. The wine had bright cherry flavors. Ripe cherry almost like a cherry soda, and the great silky feel of fine Pinot Noir. It added spicy notes on the finish.

I thought this was the best wine I've ever had from Brian Loring. It was unique to itself. Any attempt to say it tasted like some type of Burgundy would not be accurate. It tasted like a wine from California. But not in the way many are critical of California Pinot Noir, even calling the thick, sweet over-extracted style -Pinot-Zinoir.

This wine was all Pinot Noir, silky, fresh, fruity and spicy, but there was no mistaking it was from California. A great wine, reflecting the effort of Peter Cargasacchi the grower, and Brian Loring the winemaker.

And Brian has been a hero-role model for me for many years. I've followed many of the things he's done. From customer service, to mailing list policies, vineyard sourcing, and probably most importantly, watching how Brian was able to run his wine company and keep his full time high tech job. Next year I think I'll even be switching to his policy of including shipping prices in the price of his wine.

Many people in the wine industry have told me, it's very hard to be both a great business man, and a great winemaker. Drinking Brian's wine last night, was great inspiration and proof, that you can do both.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Grape vines, at least those used for wine, are self pollinating. They don't need bees, or birds or any outside help to flower. The flower simply opens up and drops it's pollen on to the seed below. The flowers are tiny, less than 1mm across. The pollinated flowers become the individual grapes in each cluster.

So the success of flowering is very big in determining how big your crop will be each year. The best thing you can do as a farmer to help is -- Nothing. The flowers are so small that it's very easy for the pollen to 'miss' and you end up with a grape pod that won't turn into a grape. These are called 'shot berries'. If you get a lot of shot berries this is called 'shatter'. In that case you end up with a cluster with just a few grapes on it.

So when flowering starts, you want to stop doing anything to the plant. No trimming, no spraying, no shaking the plant in any way. You also hope the wind stays calm, as high wind will cause the pollen to miss, and leads to shatter. Rain or hail is the very worst, it will release the pollen and wash it away.

We've just started to see flowering. So far the weather has been very good, and I've stayed out of the vineyard. I'll have to cut my work back now to things that won't disturb the plants. When flowering is over, we call this 'set'. That means the clusters have set their good berries and the grapes will mature through the summer. Once we have set, I'll return to the vineyards.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Back and Bottled

We wrapped up our 10 days in Oregon and the California Coast on Sunday. Just in time to get to San Francisco on Monday for bottling of our 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Uvas Creek Vineyard.

The wine tasted the best of any of our samples. I think we found a real sweet spot to bottle at. My original plan was to bottle in September, but after the last few tastings I thought sooner was better than later. I didn't want to risk drying it out at all, or loosing any fruit for more wood.

The wine was a little low on free Sulfur, so we added a bit at bottling to bring it up to about 30ppm. Still pretty low, most wine gets bottled with 50ppm or more.

The bottling line went mostly with out issue. We were short a couple bottles, but found another case to finish up. There were enough labeled corks this time, and only 1-2 minor snags that slowed us down. We ended up with 48 cases of 750's and 1 case of magnums. They'll be picked up on Friday and taken to storage until we're ready to release the wine, probably in late September.

The addition of sulfur at bottling usually means it's a good idea to let the bottles 'settle' a little longer before releasing them, so we'll do that. I took home a few cases so I can check on the wine as we get close to release and make sure it's ready to go.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Little Validation or is it Support?

We're out on the road right now. Mostly vacation, our first week long one in a long time, but we're also visiting a few Pinot Noir makers in Oregon.

We're planning on making a little Pinot Noir this year, and next year we may have up to eight tons to make. So a little research was in order.

I'm picky about Pinot. I don't like Pinot to be heavy or jammy. I like Pinot Noir's that are silky and fragrant, with sexy noses that jump from the glass. I like the wine to finish long and clean with just a hint of oak. Chambolle-Musigny is the village in Burgundy I usually prefer. Noted for it's fragrant silky wines. Light, yet packed with flavor.

So we visited a few places, and wrapped up the day at Belle Pente, Stef's favorite Pinot maker. We quizzed the winemaker on everything he does. His wines are fragrant ans silky and packed with flavor.

Many of his tips, are things we do now or things we've heard from other Pinot Noir makers we like. Use gravity not pumps. Rack the wine as little as possible, don't settle the wine before barrel. 1/3 to 1/2 new oak, medium toast never heavy. It's very good to hear those things from winemakers you think are doing a good job, at least when they have those things in common.

It was also good to get some validation on things we do in the vineyard that not every one agrees with. We don't leaf pull, we remove secondary shoots and laterals. We also don't leave one cluster per shoot. We evaluate each cane and plant and then decide on one cluster or two.

Those things can be controversial, so it was very nice to hear that they do the same things, for the same reasons. A little validation we're on the right track.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Sales Status

Have we sold out yet?

Yes and No. How's that for a straight answer?

We have sold all the wine we allocated for direct sales. There's no more left. So in that sense we are sold out. People who are signing up know for our mailing list are getting a note that says: "Sorry we'll have wine for you at our next release". We're at 239 people on the list now.

There is some wine left though. I set aside four cases for 'stragglers' and shipping errors. So far we've not had any shipping problems, and all the direct shipment wine but 9 bottles have gone out, so I'm feeling pretty ok about those other four cases being available. If you already have an order form, you can still get wine. At least until 3 of those 4 cases are gone.

The wine is also available at Unwind on Almaden Expwy, in San Jose for $35 a bottle. They had 5 bottles as of a week ago. It's also available at Olio in Campbell from the wine list for $53 and Twist Bistro in Campbell. Later this month it will also be available at Baci in Vacaville from their wine list.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Vineyard Update

We spent the weekend out working in our vineyards and getting them in good shape for the Spring.

We suckered, which means doing deep knee bends on each plant and removing growth from the trunk. Stef is still sore. We also did some deer proofing, weed-whacking and sprayed for Powdery Mildew in each vineyard.

Elandrich Vineyard in Portola Valley - Looks just a little slow this year. It's been a cool spring and the plants are a little behind. Not enough to worry, if anything that may be good and flowering will happen a little later when the risk of wind is less. Wind causes the berries to not flower correctly (called shatter) and the bunches to not have full grapes. The drought has meant less weeds in the vineyard and I'll have less weed-whacking this year.

The plants are all healthy though and things look good. We'll focus on shoot thinning next, then try new bird netting this year and see if we can't get 1500-2500 pounds out of here this year.

Morgan Hill Vineyard - Had a severe deer attack. It looks like we've recovered most of the plants, and I've got the owner to close the fencing during the day. We aren't expecting any fruit from this vineyard this year, we're just training the plants. We should have about 500 pounds of Cabernet Sauvignon from here in 2008, and 2-3 tons in 2009.

Llama Vineyard - Bonny Doon - Suckering was actually pretty easy here. We have bunnies! The rabbits eat the suckers of the lower part of the plant, but they can't reach the fruiting part. Bunnies are actually a help once the plants get established. This vineyard looked really amazing. There are some signs of Powdery Mildew, but we're on top of the spraying and not expecting problems. There should be at least 1000 pounds of Merlot this year.

THings look really nice, and we're hoping for a good year!