Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Shipping Update

Here's the latest on shipping.

Orders from states listed on our 'ship to states' section on the allocation letters have all been released to the fulfilment center. Those orders that came in before 4/21 went out last week and tracking emails have been sent. Orders after 4/21 went out yesterday and tracking emails should go out today or tomorrow.

If you did not receive a tracking email yet it is because of one of two reasons.

First: a number of states require 'label registration'. This means the state government must approve the label for shipment. Yes, even though the federal government has already approved it, each individual state has a right to approve it also. Currently the following states have registration pending: NY, NJ, FL, MA, NC (I've given up on NC, they still have not approved the 05 labels after over a year). In addition VA has approved the Syrah label but not the Haut Tubee label. All those approvals (except NC) should be done no later than 6/1. As soon as the label clears, the shipment will release.

Second: States not listed on our allocation letter have to be shipped directly using our Bonded Winery Permit / Type 2. Those go out directly from the winery and have to be picked up by UPS with us present or delivered to a UPS office by us. We will begin shipping those states next week.

I'll begin sending updates directly to individuals next week who are going to have delays beyond 5/15 to let them know the status.

Write your state legislator or visit, to see what you can do to make this situation easier for all of us wine lovers!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Glamour Day in the Wine Business

I originally posted this on the Wine Spectator site, but I liked it so much, I'm reposting here.

Monday turned into a long day. Visited the new vineyard site from 8-10am. Whacked one gopher. You know what winegrowers talk about when they get together? Killing gophers. We all keep a count, it's like kill marks on a fighter plane. "How many did you get?." "I got 14 so far this year." "That's good, I've only got 7."

Everyone keeps an up to date count, plus a vintage history. "I got 11 this year, but nothing like 05 I got 104 that year." I heard someone actually say that on Saturday. I know winegrowers who can't remember exactly what the weather was like 5 years ago, but they can remember how many gophers they killed. Monday was my first kill of the vintage. Millie's comment. "11 more and your even with me."

Glamour of the wine life.

I meet with our Bay Area sales reps for lunch and did barrel samples for them. Good kids. They seem so young.

The crew had a spat and I had to go back on site after lunch. Daniel was filling the post holes with too much water and Millie was mad about working in mud. Turned out it was a Spanish translation problem. Last week I had a simliar problem. I backed the forklift around the truck to unload it, and Jerry had said he'd turn the truck around. My Spanish isn't good enough to tell the difference between "go around the truck" and "turn around the truck".

Monday the problem was Daniel's English wasn't good enough to tell the difference between 'put water in the holes' and 'fill the holes with water'. Everyone made up though and they have 5 of the 34 rows complete.

Total wine stuff 10 hours.
Total miles:104.
Rows installed :5
Sales Reps met: 3
Dead Gophers: 1

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Bottling Day Photos

Hey folks!

I didn't get an opportunity to take very many photos during the process as all available hands were on the line working, but follow the link below to see a handful of pictures from our April 1st bottling.

I was grateful that this bottling was small since it was our first time managing the process from start to finish. Inconveniences with suppliers were many, mistakes to be corrected happened, but overall the logistics came together and even the rain stayed away for just one more day.

Once the truck finally settled in (after much ado about the driveway and tree limb) and was sterilized, we hooked the hoses up, got the people in their work positions and hit the big green "Go" button!

Earplugs were passed around, thankfully, and for the most part the operation went very smoothly. There was some fine tuning needed with the fill level of the bottles, the depth of the corks, and the position of the new labels. Once we got started though, we all found or rhythm and hustled through two hours of hands-on assembly line work.

Loading empty bottles onto the line was Millie, getting empty boxes to the end of the line was Kathy - both of them short enough to fit under the overhead racks. The bottle fill station, cork station and label station were all monitored by the bottling crew, then Daniel and I were at the tail end putting the full bottles back into the cases.

We struggled at first, but with coaching from the bottling crew we found a great rhythm and hustled through the two hours.

Paul told me later that he and Jerry were sweating keeping up with us - they had to stop loading the finished cases on pallets when there was an empties pallet change. He thinks next time we bottle we'll need one or two more bodies to keep the flow moving better.

I thought we did just fine, but that's because I had my head down and focused on my bottle count the entire time - and the earplugs kept me from getting too distracted.

An enormous THANK YOU to our crew, Jerry Anderson "Winemaker Emeritus" for coaching us, the folks at Top It Off Bottling, and CWT for taking such good care of us.

Leaving the SCMWA

After 9 very frustrating months of dealing with the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association, I've decided to give up. I notified them yesterday that we are pulling our membership application and asked that they return our membership check. I also let them know we will be withdrawing Chaine d'Or from the SCMWA next year.

Going forward we will not be participating in any events that the organization sponsors. I've also removed the link to the organization here.

It was sad and difficult to deal with the organization from the very start and with as little time as Stefania and I have we could not continue to dedicate time to the organization. It appears to me that the organization is headed in a direction to promote the small 50-75 case backyard vanity projects that exist in the mountains rather than real commercial wineries, and we are headed in a different direction.

I encourage people who are looking for information on the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA to go to:

Dave Tong's wiki is accurate, extensive and has information on all the wineries in the area, including those like Varner, Ryhs, Clos la Tech and ourselves who do not belong to the SCMWA.