Saturday, May 31, 2008

Your Stefania Wine Order has NOT Shipped.

Sorry to everyone in New York, New Jersey and Michigan who received a message this morning that your order shipped. You probably thought, "Is he insane shipping on a Saturday?"

It's a software error at the shipping company. I sent those orders in weeks ago and they are processed and then lined up for shipment. They had a hold on them though as we were still waiting for label clearance from those states.

When the shipper removes the hold from the computer, the "Your Order Has Shipped" email goes out automatically. I complained about this last fall, and they told me they had fixed it, but it looks like the software glitch has remained.

Bottom line though is the boxes are still sitting in the climate controlled warehouse in Napa, waiting for pick up next week by Fed Ex.

Sorry for the confusion, I'll speak to the shipper about it again on Monday.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My Vineyard Notes

From 5/26

Woodruff Family Vineyard - Corralitos, Santa Cruz Mountains AVA

Needs suckering, the old Freedom rootstock is prone to throwing suckers. Mid flowering, overall excellent shape. Should yield 8-9 tons of very high quality Pinot Noir.

Llama Vineyard - Bonny Doon, Santa Cruz Mountains AVA

Needs water for 3-4 weeks, drip system has not been on at all and new plants have not had bud break. Turned on water system for owner. Needs a spraying and some suckering. Should yield 800 pounds or so if we net it, vineyard in very good shape.

Arastradero Vineyard - Los Altos Hills, San Francisco Bay AVA

Water needs to go OFF ASAP. Over vigor and throwing laterals from too much water. Needs thinning and a spray of Stylet oil. This was the only vineyard I'm not happy with, I didn't know they had the water on so much. Yields look small, the vines are putting all their energy into growth. Crew needs to spend 4-5 days fixing this vineyard.

Harrison Vineyard - Los Altos Hills, San Francisco Bay AVA

Looks awesome, plants are at wire and have recovered fully from the frost. Need to go out in 3-4 weeks and get the grow tubes off and start training the plants. I'll do this personally so that the it's done right as it's critical for future growth of the plants.

Elandrich Vineyard - Portola Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains AVA

Overall looks good, with good potential yield. Some plants suffering from mites which a sulfur spray will get rid of but no long term damage to the plants or crop. Other plants show 2,4d damage, probably from a weed and feed applied around the vineyard in error. We'll have to watch after that and do some replacements. Bummer, but it happens in suburban vineyards with lots of neighbors and lots of gardeners in the area. Expect we'll get about 1500 pounds of fruit.

Crimsom Vineyard - Morgan Hill, Santa Clara Valley AVA

Vineyard looks great! Much higher yield than expected, in fact we'll have to drop fruit for sure. This looks like it will be the replacement for Uvas Creek we'll need. Very excited to have this come on line a year ahead of schedule, this could become a top site.

Sesson Vineyard - Coyote Valley, Santa Clara Valley AVA

Some frost damage, but most plants re-pushed, others unaffected. Time to mow between the rows. This vineyard looks great. Suspect we'll have very healthy plants here. It's nice to work in these vineyards we've installed rather than rehabs. No problems to correct.

Haut Tubee - San Jose, Santa Clara Valley AVA

Flowering finishing up, which makes sense. The home vineyard is like a little lab for the other vineyards, it's always 2 weeks ahead of the other locations. Clusters look large and loose with larger berries than last year, and a lower chance of bunch rot. Yields look lower, which should help the plants get riper flavors even though the berries are bigger. Things are looking pretty good so far.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Vineyards Tour, 5/26/08

We decided to take a mini-road trip on Memorial Day and visit all* of the vineyards we take care of.

We left San Jose at 9a.m. and dragged Kathy and Millie along with us.

The vineyard agenda was:

Woodruff Vineyard, Corralitos
Llama Vineyard, Bonny Doon
Arastradero Vineyard, Los Altos Hills
Harrison Vineyard, Los Altos Hills
Private Consultation site, no photos - also Los Altos Hills
Elandrich Vineyard, Portola Valley
*Chaine d'Or in Woodside would have been here on the tour, but we skipped it
Crimson Clover Vineyard, Morgan Hill
Sessen Vineyard, Coyote Valley
Haut Tubee (home), San Jose

Photos are uploaded here:

Given that the Summit Road Fire was at 80% containment yesterday, we noted several groups of fire trucks headed home, thank goodness for that. We passed the "road closed" signage and the Red Cross station at the center of town in Corralitos (where much of the filmed news reports were taking place over the last several days) and only one remaining tv crew truck was on site.
Several of the houses, fences, gates, had home made signs thanking Cal Fire and the firemen who came to their aid.

We walked through the vines, saw Pete on the tractor mowing the grass between rows and snapped some photos before heading back over the hill part way to Bonny Doon. A quick tour through that vineyard and a few extra moments chatting with the owner about the watering schedule for the new plants and we were in Scotts Valley for a noon time snack. Yep, 3 hours, only 2 sites so far.

Heading north on 85 to 280 we chatted about Kathy and Millies trip to Washington DC and dining at Fogo de Chao, good eats.

Paul and I walked to the top of the Arastradero site, vertical stairs (!) and were amazed by how much vigor there was - it was like a jungle between the rows. Next stop was the new vineyard that Paul and Millie installed last summer and though we saw frost damage a month ago, the vines have all recovered and sent long healthy shoots.

A quick drive up the next hillside and Paul stopped in for a private consultation for a guy growing ~100 assorted vines that he is determined to get fruit from this year (past problems with powdery mildew have left him with no fruit for several seasons). I took no photos at this site but did see a jack rabbit that took off before I could get the camera ready.

Next stop, Elandrich in Portola Valley. This site was a major re-hab project when we took it on and we are smitten with the results. There is still some unknown pest though on a handful of the plants so I took several photos of that to see if we can find someone who can tell us what it is and what we should do, if anything. The zinfandel was doing great, the Merlot was happy, and all of the usual trouble spots were still troubling though still doing so much better than our first visit to the site.

At 2:30 we were back on 280 to 85 to 101 south. More fire trucks on the road headed home, I tried to get mobile photos from the car, but again, by the time the camera was on and ready, they were well past us - caravans of 5 to 7 fire trucks at a time.

The homeowner at the Crimson Clover vineyard in Morgan Hill was on his riding mower and cleaning up between the rows when we got there. The cover crop between rows here is Crimson Clover, which is gorgeous when it's in full bloom and lush green with bright red tops, but by now, it's dry and done and though the rows don't really need to be mowed it sure does look better when it's done. A blue jay kept flying through the site while we were there so we addressed that issue with the owner since there will be tons of fruit to harvest (thus requiring netting to keep out the birds) this year.

Almost done.

Our last stop was in Coyote Valley, also a Morgan Hill address, but further north on the outskirts of San Jose is the Sessen Vineyard (though I'm not certain yet if that's what they plan to call it or if I'm even spelling it correctly). This site is an installation we just planted a month ago. The little vines are looking great though you have to search for them in the tall grass and clover (yep, we put in the same crimson clover here too). We'll get the site mowed soon and do some weed control under the rows, as well as get the wires installed. No real urgency just yet on the wires as the plants are barely 6" off the ground.

It was just around 5 p.m. when we pulled in to the driveway at home, a full day with a short lunch break and market stop for rib eyes.

Kathy and Millie stayed over for dinner; fresh bread, baked potatoes, chard, and rib eyes. We opened a Belle Pente Rose to refresh ourselves with snacks while the food cooked, then Paul opened a couple of Bordeaux's to have with dinner (a '98 and '01 Calon Segur).

The road trip was just about 190 miles...billable under vineyard management.

I was glad to take the day and see all each of the sites in one shot, it gave us all a full glance into what each vineyard is up to right now. Most are in full bloom and showing great fruit set, all look spectacular. Our guys are working hard for us and it shows.

Tuesday Fire Update

Yesterday we drove over to Corralitos as part of visits to every vineyard we manage (more on that 8 hour 190 mile trip later). Things were calm and the town square was mostly empty. Home made 'Thank You Firefighters' signs were up everywhere.

We saw lots of fire crews on the roads, either headed home (North), or to Uvas Canyon (South). There was a real good sense that the Corralitos area is safe and returning to normal. It looked like there were two active areas of the fire from the smoke we could see, and that it had moved back to 5-6 miles from the Hazell Dell Road, Browns Valley Road junction.

The CDF is reporting more than 70% containment now anf that 100% containment should happen tonight.

Monday, May 26, 2008

60% contained

The CDF is now reporting that the fire is 60% contained. It looks like a succesful stand was made at Redwood Road and Hazell Dell Road at the south edge of the fire and that area is no longer in danger. Windy Oaks has reported that they've been told they are no longer in danger.

The fire looks like it has been held at the northern edge of Uvas Canyon as well. There's an access road to the summit, that's one of the hardest hikes in the Bay Area, and a claring near the top of the canyon, and it appears crews have stopped the fire there. Keeping the fire out of the canyon would have been a priority.

Once a fire gets into a canyon in California it becomes critical. Canyons become wind funnels and push flames up the sides and out, spreading the fire as flames race up the sides. There was an advatage in this fire as the fire was entering the canyon from the top, and not the bottom, making it easier to stop.

It looks like the fire has been stopped in the critical areas near housing and crews will now work to contain it in the more wild areas.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fire shift.

Just caught up on reports of the fire and it's mostly positive news. The weather has been cool, and the winds down the last two days. It looks like the crews were able to stop the fire at the junction of Hazell Dell Road and Browns Valley Road.

The Woodruff's look to be out of any danger now. We're planning on trying a visit tomorrow to see the vineyard, but suspect we won't be able to get past the fire lines. I'll send off a note today to Pete and Barbara to see how they are.

Reed's Vineyard also seems out of danger now, and there's no chance of the fire moving down Redwood Retreat Road and getting close to Martin Ranch or Fernwood Cellars.

The bad news is that it has moved into Uvas Canyon Park. The area just east of the park is more populated than the areas the fire has been burning in so far, and the construction is much older, which means very poor fire clearance and breaks. Almost all the housing in the area is build right into the forest.

Some good pictures of the density of the forest in the area are at :

For a referance point on where the fire is to us, check out our lable. The view from the label is the view from our backyard. The fire is burning right behind the twin peaks you see on the left side of the label.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Latest Posting with Updates

We're fine. Working the day jobs as normal today. Herardo was scheduled to work in the Woodruff Family Vineyard today, but I sent him to the Harrison Vineyard and Elandrich vineyard in Los Altos instead.

We could see Reed's vineyard and home in the TV coverage last night. We consulted there and helped him put in the vineyard. He hasn't called me, but I'm sure he evacuated. IF you check out this map:


He is located right where the color of the vegitation changes on Summit Road, south of the fire. There's a cluster of houses there, with a good cleared fire area, so it's likely that if the fire does reach that area it will be defended hard and they should be able to save the houses. The vineyard is organic, so all metal, but the plants could be lost. The big risk I think is that they've probably already drained his tanks so there's no water left for the vineyard.

I just spoke with Barbara Woodruff. The are located on Brown's Valley Road, just south of Avocado Road. If you check the map there you can see the terraced vineyard. It's also an area that can be defended well. They have the tractor out now incase they need to help cut a fire line. They have heard a rumor that they are in an evacuation area, but they are going to stay. They can see the smoke on Redwood Road, and the helicopter activity, it looks to them to be about a mile away now. Barbara said it looks like they are changing out the fire crews as there have been trucks on the road for the last 20 minutes.

She seemed fine and we spent more time talking about who I'd sell the grapes too this year than the fire.

Windy Oaks actually looks to be a bit closer at this point. If you follow the junction where Brown's Valley Road turns into Hazel Dell Road, and follow that, Windy Oaks is at Hazel Dell and Sweetwood. I got the email from Judy yesterday as well that they were fine. I suspect she's just not wanting to answer the phone so hopefully they'll send out an update today. They are in a bit more rugged and wooded area than the Woodruff's with less open farm land around, so a slight higher risk.

The weather is cooperating though and winds are down, so keep all fingers crossed.

Fire Update

The winds are calmer this morning and blowing north and west. The fog came in last night, and news this morning was that the fire is 40% contained.

It looks like Reed's vineyard and home are ok from the maps we've seen, but I still have not heard from him.

I'll call the Woodruffs this morning to see how they are doing. The fire was about 1 1/2 from the vineyard there. A close call and a reminder how dangerous the mountains can be. I worry all the time driving through places like Ben Lomand, or Redwood Estates, just how bad a fire would be in one of the more populated pockets of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

It looks like this one's impact will be relatively small. The weather cooperated and the area of the fire is very sparsely populated.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Reed's Vineyard

Stef and I both just spotted Reed's house and vineyard in the coverage.

It looks like the fire is 200-300 yards away. The house looked empty. The fire crews will not try and save the vineyard it won't be a priority. At the current time they are saying it is zero contained and they are focusing on evacuations and protecting homes in immediate danger.

Fire Update

Please see Dave Tong's Blog for the latest news on the fire.

It is very close to several projects we've consulted on and about 3 miles from the Woodruff Family Vineyard. Ash is falling in the vineyard there. I've spoken with Pete and Barbara today and they are ok at the moment.

We know this area very well and the rugged roads are one reason we have the 4wd Toyota FJ Crusier as our vineyard car.

Brown Valley Road is closed and I was going to send the crew there tomorrow to spray at the Woodruff's but that of course is off now.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

And The Respite

I keep a journal that I call the 'Work Order Book'. It contains the plan and schedules for all nine vineyards we have under our full time management. (I don't include the Haut Tubee vineyard, or the 20 plants at the local church we take care of.)

Each vineyard has a list of tasks, the dates they should be done by, how long it should take, any equipment or training needed, and any conditions that should be met. For instance it says, "don't spray Sulfur if the temps are over 90 degrees'.

Millie, Gerardo, and I each have a copy, and I keep it updated on a monthly basis. I mark off tasks as they are done, and insert maps, instructions, or notes that the crew will need. The Haut Tubee vineyard has actually turned into a training ground. Since everything happens in that vineyard a week or two before the others, I'm able to have the crew come over and we go over the upcoming tasks in detail.

We even let the roses get powdery mildew this year on purpose so that the crew could see it in all its stages and know what to look for in the vineyards. We've sprayed the roses now though, don't want to miss out on Spring roses totally.

Monday I updated the Work Order Books, and guess what? We are totally caught up and on schedule. In each vineyard the plants have begun to flower, so now we just leave them alone and try not to disturb them at all.

There's work to do in the winery, but for the next two weeks, it's time for a break in the vineyards!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Our web 2.0 Adventures

About 4 weeks ago I signed up on myspace. Stef had signed up because her brother Hans had signed up and sent her a note. So I thought I'd sign up too. What a pain in the ass the site was. After fighting with the set up process for 45 minutes, then spending 15 minutes figuring out how to get this Tom guy off my friends list I sent Stef a note:

"I'm on myspace now, you can make me your friend."

to which she replied:

"I'm on facebook dumbass."


So off to facebook a went. That was a marginally less stupid sign up and set up process and there was a feature to actually find people I already know who were on facebook. So I sent notes off to about a dozen people and had about a dozen people add me in. Stef even posted on my 'board':

"Facebook = Lamebook".

Feeling the web 2.0 love.

But I gave it a try and I think I've learned I am squarely in the generation that this stuff is not meant for.

I've still got those 10-12 people linked on facebook, but I find the site about as compelling as Miracle Whip. I've got no reason to go there or use it, and it doesn't really beat actually talking to those 10-12 people. I'd rather invite them over, open a bottle of wine and catch up with them, than read what they did today on line.

Myspace, well that's 'Lameface'. I'm proud to be friendless. Not that I don't get offers every few days from 'Rachel', or 'Lisa", to come be their friends and look at the naughty pictures they took, but I really didn't need another way for SPAM to reach me. I do take a certain joy though in marking those invites as SPAM. It always amazes me that their 'profiles' have notes from 10-15 guys who added them as friends with such witty commentary as 'Yo baby, thanks for lookin me up'. Which brings me back to the Miracle Whip commentary as in, "these guys are dumber than Miracle Whip."

So, you can send me an add request. I might get to it. You might even be the first myspace person to not be a porn site, but I'd still rather invite you over for a bottle of wine.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Shipping and Inventory Update

Time for a quick update on shipping.

We've released all orders for shipment. Everything is now either delivered, on its way, or holding at the shipment warehouse waiting for some state requirement and will ship as soon as the state in question approves it. Only one exception and that is a single order to Missouri, which will go out Monday.

Here is the breakdown on holds:
New York, New Jersey and Michigan: All pending state label approval. This should happen no later than 6/1 and the wines will release from the warehouse as soon as the label is approved.

Florida and Virginia: The Syrah label has been approved, the Haut Tubee has not. If your order included just Syrah, it's shipped. If it included both wines, it's pending still, also until 6/1.

We still have wine left if you have an order form you've been holding on to. Not a ton, just about 5 cases we can still release.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Last night was one of the highlights of the winemaking job.

Our friends parents were visiting from Canada and requested a winery tour, so we overlapped them with a winery appointment for a couple visiting from New York. What would have been a routine evening after work ended up being a very special night for us.

We greeted our six guests, toured the vineyard site and winery, and opened four bottles of wine to taste through. Paul opened the Chaine d'Or Chardonnay, Stefania Syrah, Haut Tubee, and Uvas Creek Cabernet. In addition to the bottled wines, Paul pulled several barrel samples for everyone.

Paul entertained the couple from New York while I answered questions and visited with our friends and their parents. For two hours we talked about the weather, grape varieties, childhood memories of rolling hills and prairies, back yards with grape vines, processing, bottling, labeling, art, music, alcoholism, social eating, aromas in wine, anything and everything.

We sent two partial bottles home with the parents, dropped off the opened Haut Tubee bottle with Jerry to drink since he had not tried it yet, and took the leftover Chardonnay with us to sushi.

Figuring it might be tough to get a spot at the sushi bar, our back up plan was to call and order a pizza. As luck would have it, there were several seats at our favorite sushi house; Tomo Sushi.

We brought in a bottle of Haut Tubee for Jun, the chef. He opened it right away and poured for the nine of us sitting there and we also passed around the last of the Chardonnay. The party was on a roll and we were loud and boisterous having a great time. Paul pulled another bottle from the car and some business cards for the folks that wanted to know where they could buy our wine.

It was so much fun meeting our neighbors and talking about growing up in the valley, and hearing their memories of the landscape before high tech took over and the population growth. We must have been there for nearly 3 hours carrying on, eating, drinking, laughing. An evening of much conviviality and joy.

I've blogged before about the coming together of mixed people and having the differences of lifestyles, opinions, backgrounds, political and/or religious views, all mesh over good food and good wine, and in this case some sake, and beer too.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Las Vegas "Trade Show" and '06 Syrah notes

By "Trade Show" I mean we had a table at Rock N Roll wine at the Green Valley Ranch in Henderson. What an awesome venue, what an awesome party.

Initially we talked about what we were going to do with the leftover wine...since neither of us really wanted to pack it up and check it on the flight home. Hah! The event was scheduled for 3 hours, from 7-10pm, and we ran out of wine just after 9. Four cases in two hours, and since the cups were small we were giving little pours, ~2 ounces or less. (I'll admit giving smaller pours to anyone on a cellphone jabbing their glass in my general direction).

Speaking of the "stemware", we did a taste test at the end of the night.

We got down to our last bottle, and put our table sign face down with people still lined up for more wine. We apologized for running out and someone pointed to the bottle in Pauls hand. Sorry guys, this is for us...and we headed to a quiet spot by the pool.

My plastic "stem" sprung a leak, as many others had thru the night, and Paul fetched me a replacement - a clear plastic water cup, no stem. Hm.

One thing I noticed with the goblet was that it didn't matter how much you tried to swirl and sniff, there was no aroma present, the goblet was so wide and flat on the bottom that it killed whatever nose you would expect. Then I poured the remaining wine from the leaker into the water glass and was pleasantly surprised, the nose returned! Ok, it was still a plastic cup, but at least I could smell the wine in it.

For those of you thinking you might like to hit an event like this, the VIP section of the party included a Riedel "O" glass, which I would say is well worth the price of admission based on our experience of leaking plastic goblets.

We poured the 2006 Haut Tubee (a cab. blend $20 retail) and the 2006 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah ($35 retail).

I've been enjoying the Syrah a lot but worried that it's so different from the average Syrah. It's bright and crisp, and has a palate cleansing acidity that lends it self well to spicy foods and solid cheeses. The nose is very floral (in the right glass) and clean.

Last night for dinner, Paul braised lamb shanks and simmered them with rough chopped carrots, celery, and potato. I made goat cheddar and herb muffins to dunk in the stew.

He opened a 2001 Cote-Rotie and poured a glass while he cooked. I wasn't ready for wine yet, but sipped from his glass and asked if we could open one more bottle for comparison. Since he almost never tells me "no", he asked what it was that I wanted.

For a side-by-side comparison I had him open the 2006 Stefania Syrah. The nose on our syrah was prettier, the CR was smoky and saltier. Both were crisp, both were savory with the stew, and both opened up over the course of the meal getting denser and fuller. We went back and forth between bites and sips and ended up finishing with the Stefania wine.

At least the wine finished better than the Sharks, what a disappointment that was....


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Chicago Trip Summary

40th Floor Condo Overlooking River : The view, the view, the view!!!
Deep Dish Pizza : Something I look forward to each trip
Fox & Obel Market : Most expensive dinner "at home"
Blue Man Group : A Must See, great venue
The Bean : Because it's cool
Chicago Art Institute : Winslow Homer & Edward Hopper exhibits
Tulips : Prettiest sign of spring in the city
Museum of Contemporary Art : Inspiring
Lightning Storm as seen from the 40th Floor : OMG Fantastically Awesome!!!
Dinner with Friends : Good Wine, Good Food, Good Party,
Great Friends

Best part about coming home :

The Rose Garden & Haut Tubee Vines :