Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My Brother Called - Memories of Chile

My brother called the other night. He and my mom were just in Chile, he had to be there for work, she tagged along to see friends and neighbors of ours from when we lived there. Of the various photos they have sent me in email to look at, it's clear much has changed since we were there (30 years ago!).

One thing in particular they both noted was the amount of air pollution, though I figure the dense metropolitan area is much like here, some months are worse than others. I'm sure that once you leave the big city and head toward the coast that the air is much improved.

Because my brother was there for work related business, they didn't get a whole lot of time to venture outside of the city and see the wineries or vineyards. We talked of planning a trip there together, perhaps in a couple of years when our schedules are more free and our vacation/PTO accounts have the reserves for an extended vacation.

I'm excited to think I'll be able to travel back to my childhood home and see the country and vineyards with new eyes. I remember fondly the trips to "Tio Tolo's" vineyard and winery where my best friend and I got to glue labels on the bottles and play in the winery. I also remember the smells of the wine and the oak barrels and of riding horses through the cork orchard. It wasn't until very recently that I made the connection between the cork trees and wine corks.

My dad once told me that his fantasy plan for retirement from the Army was to own his own vineyard and winery in Chile and not come back to the States. I toss that information around in my brain from time to time and wonder if maybe I inherited that passion to be a farmer and winemaker from him. It's a fun fantasy to bat around because I'm certain that the hootch my dad would have made would be just that, "vino tinto" whose sole purpose is for daily drinking and in large quantities.

I can still see pictures of him swilling wine from a basketwoven covered green jug of wine hoisted over his shoulder, his neck twisted around so his lips could drink right from the bottle. No doubt he was showing off and being silly. He loved to wear hats and act the part to correspond with the style. Sometimes he would don a FuManchu mustache that was made from real hair.

I could reminisce all afternoon and tell you all the crazy antics I pulled as a kid in Chile. I'm glad my brother called and put all those crazy memories in my head, and glad to have the time to just sit and enjoy memories of my dad and living his dream.

A toast to my dad, he would have said my wine was too fancy, but I can picture him drinking it right from the bottle just the same to antagonize me!


Thursday, March 20, 2008

E-fax and March Madness

If you're having trouble getting your order form to go through on the e-fax, hang on another day or send it by mail. No telling for sure why we're getting a "busy" signal, but we figure it may be due to the start of March Madness and the live streaming video of the games hogging the 'net.

We tested the efax number yesterday with no problems, but have gotten feedback today that some of you are sending faxes that are not going through.

Paul & Stefania

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Start of the Season

We've had bud break in almost all the vineyards now. That's when the nodes on the dormant vines swell and finally open, showing little leafs for the first time.

Each vine looks a little different when it opens up. Grenache is vibrant green. Syrah has pink-red tips. Merlot looks a little yellow. Chardonnay is bold green. They also all start at different times. Right now we are still waiting on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Mourvedre to open everywhere.
It's a busy time. We need to start spraying all the vineyards to protect against Powdery Mildew. I'm spraying an organic oil, JMS Stylet Oil to start. Stylet oil is a wood mineral oil that prevents Powdery Mildew and a host of other things. For those vineyards on a organic program, we'll spray Sulfur next in about two weeks. The non organic vineyards will get Eagle 20W in 4 weeks, or after the next rain.
I like to use Eagle 20W on new vineyards we've just taken over. Zap the mildew out of the vineyard, and then convert to an organic routine. It's too hard in the mountains to get rid of mildew once it's established in a vineyard with just organics, especially given that many of the vineyards we take over have been neglected.
We'll also add fertilizer over the next few weeks. I'm doing a spring mixture of 12-0-0 Corn Gluten, and 7-3-5 Fish Bone, both are organic treatments. The Corn Gluten also acts as an anti seed germination agent, preventing weeds where it's applied. I like to apply the treatment under the rows right around the roots, rather than spreading it over the entire vineyard with the tractor. This lets me control the overall amount better, and helps keep the weeds down. More work to walk around to each plant, but it's better in the long run.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Offer Letters on the Way

We will have the first set of offer letters out next week, maybe as soon as Monday. In the newsletter I said there would be two waves, but there are likely to be as many as four different mailings going out.

The first set will go to the 1000 pointer's. Those customers with more than 1000 points. There are about 70 of those people. They signed up early, and have bought a lot of wine! They will get an offer of two six packs of 2006 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah at $200 a six pack, and one three pack of Haut Tubee at $60. Yeah $60, $20 a bottle :) Since this group usually buys a lot of wine I'm going to judge how to get the next set of letters out.

I've broken the remainder of people on the list into three groups:

700-999 points will be offered one six pack of Syrah and one three pack of Haut Tubee
400-699 points will be offered one six pack of Syrah
100-399 points will be offered one three pack of Syrah at $105

Right now there are about 60 people with under 100 points who have signed up in the last couple of months. If I have wine left after the first few waves of mailings, I'll get a three pack offer out to them, but I suspect I'll just be able to offer them an apology that we're out of wine and hope they hold out until the Fall release.

Our list has grown about 250% since the release last Spring. This release will be a big clue about what the future looks like for us. For the next few years we really won't have much more wine to sell than 125-150 cases of each wine. I have to judge how ordering goes this time to figure out future allocations pretty closely. I don't want to get into a situation where it takes people years on a waiting list, but I'm afraid for people signing up in the near future, it might be a long wait to get wine.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Wine Drinkers

A good article I found from the LA Times:,0,5536281.story

We've seen this on our mailing list. Lots of young people, under 30 who buy our wine for special event drinking. The one piece I thought was missing was any mention of the much higher than traditional percentage of women buying and drinking wine under 30.

One of the classes I attended at UC Davis in 2002 noted that the percentage of wine over $25 bought by women was under 10%. Women made up the majority of wine purchases, they just bought daily drinking wine at the supermarket, not higher end wines. This mirrored what was traditional in Europe, where women had bought the daily drinking wine, and men bought special occasion wine.

I think for the new generation on wine drinkers, you can through that out the door. Women are buying the wine across all price points. If one has any doubts about the shift in the market place, I'd suggest looking at the ad campaigns of Budweiser. They clearly feel pressure on their core market of 21-30 year olds and are trying to counter wines growing popularity.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Links Update

I've updated the blog with a few links of friends who've written about our wines and have good blogs with food and wine info.