Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Recent Photos

Stefania & Paul at Black Ridge Vineyards

Sunflower and Squash Blossoms at The Woodruff Vineyard, view of the Gewurztraminer.

Terri and Stefania at Black Ridge Vineyards.

Paul taking a break from wine tasting and enjoying the view.

The Woodruff Vineyard, checking the vines and teaching Jerry the finer points of leaf pulling.

I keep calling this the Epperson Installation, Paul calls it the Butterfly vineyard; we're waiting for the owners to name this site in Coyote Valley.

Tall ships on the bay, Paul and I played hookey on a Wednesday and sailed on the SS Jeremiah O'brien. The rest of the album photos are here: http://olympus.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=tu8n0fw.btma3dcw&x=0&y=-cclxug&localeid=en_US

Terri and I went to Half Moon Bay and saw this outdoor display.

Eric with a big smile, drinking Pinot at Testarossa.

The videographer, Eric, Terri, and the pro skydiver (While Eric and Terri were off in Hollister jumping out of an airplane, Paul and I were in Corralitos checking on the Woodruff Vineyard).

Crimson Clover vineyard in Morgan Hill.

Paul and his sisters.

The moon thru the vines no tripod. Tripod, no flash. Tripod and flash.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Still More Vineyard Updates

Saturday we were at Chaine d'Or topping wine and testing the 07's. Sunday we got out and visited the Crimson and Sesson vineyards. Here's a quick update:
First up was Chaine d'Or. We got a note from Anne Anderson last night, she said the vineyard looks the best it ever has.

This is the Chardonnay section. The plants are healthy, mildew free, and have the right amount of fruit.

We won't need to do any leaf pulling here. There thinning we've already done and the pruning in January has left perfect exposure on the fruit clusters.

Sunday we visited four vineyards. First up was the Crimson-Clover Vineyard in Morgan Hill. This will replace the Uvas Creek Vineyard for us this year, bringing our Santa Clara Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, under our farming control. The vineyard looked great.

Just a little more clean up to do before netting goes on. In about 2 weeks we'll lift the top wire to the final height and trim off any excess growth.

You can see this vineyard also will not need leaf pulling, the fruit is getting the dappled sunlight that makes high quality wine.

Next we headed to the Sesson Vineyard in Coyote Valley. This Spring we installed about 1 1/4 acre of what will eventually be a 10 acre project. The site is planted with three clones of Cabernet Sauvignon and set up for 100% organic farming.

This site is very exciting, and it's great to see the little baby plants start to take off.

Next we headed towards home and stopped at the Catholic church just a few blocks from our house. Last year they installed 20 Cabernet Sauvignon vines, but no one was taking care of them. I called the priest this past Winter and offered to take care of the little plants and see if I couldn't recover the little vineyard.

We pruned, retrained all the plants, cleared the weeds, put in some proper wires, and have been tending the 20 plants.

Finally we arrived home to the Haut Tubee vineyard. The grapes have started to turn red. That means the other vineyards will start in 2-3 weeks.

I took the last picture just to remind everyone that when we say we planted our first 50 plants around our home, it wasn't a huge house out in the country. It's just a small home in the suburbs, and the vines are planted right in the lawn and along the parkway!

Friday, July 18, 2008

More Vineyard Updates

Last weekend we went out and visited more of our vineyard sites for an update.

First up was Arastradero Vineyard on a very, very steep hillside in Los Altos. The vineyard is Syrah grown at about 300-450 feet altitude.

This picture gives a good idea of the slope of the vineyard. The little blue FJ Cruiser at the bottom of the hill is our car. This is taken from about half way up the vineyard.

More of the slope of the vineyard. Jerry had just finished thinning the vineyard and you can see the cuttings on the ground. We do this to make sure the fruit will ripen well and have enough sunlight to get great flavors.

At this point we don't remove any leafs. We want to protect the grapes from getting sunburned or overripe in the hot afternoon sun. This vineyard has a western exposure, so the afternoon sun will be very intense.

Notice the health of the clusters in this picture. The quality we're getting in this vineyard is surprising me. I had some doubts about the vineyard for a number of reasons, but the fruit looks fantastic at this point. It's all scheduled to go to Bradley Brown at Big Basin Vineyards. The fruit looks so good though I'm going to see if he might share a little with me for our Haut Tubee blend.

Next we were off to the Harrison Vineyard. A small 1/4 acre we installed last year off Page Mill Road, in Los Altos Hills. We didn't take any pictures here, as we spent most of our short visit talking with the Harrison's. They have really taken to grape growing and are doing an excellent job with the vineyard with very little help from us. First fruit from here should be in 2010.

Then we headed over to the Elandrich Vineyard in Portola Valley for a fast walk through and talk with the new owners.

This vineyard is also holding some very nice looking fruit. There was a little powdery mildew showing under one of the oak trees, so I sent Jerry out on Tuesday to spray Stylet Oil on the vineyard. This vineyard gets a lot of pressure from mildew, due to a number of 100 year old Italian oaks that over hang the vineyard.

This vineyard was a complete rehab for Stefania and I. We took it from a complete disaster to the state you see now, with healthy fruit and about a one ton yield. The vineyard has some limitations. The trellis system is not ideal, the oak trees make mildew a threat that requires more spraying, and the layout is poor, we can't use any heavy equipment. Still the grapes from this vineyard have been fantastic. We've used then in our Haut Tubee wine and our Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon.

The new owners talked with us a little about upgrading the vineyard and replanting some dead spots. That would really be fantastic if they want to do this, the fruit from here makes well structured wine with ripe tannins and a good mix of red and black fruit. With a modern trellis and a little higher maintenance budget we could get the yield up to two tons (125 cases) and make even better wine from here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Quoting My Dad -- Santiago on My Mind

"In order to avoid disappointment, expectations need to be in line with reality."

Dad has been on my mind lately - partly because of a recent day trip. A bunch of us went to DeRose Vineyards a couple weeks ago. The winemaker there is also making wines in Chile, south of where I grew up. I would have liked more time to chat with him about the vineyards and logistics, but it was a little crazy in the winery that day (a kid rattling thru the space on a big wheel - a bunch of people cemented to the pouring table - random relations popping in to chat and distract). I bought several bottles to bring home and pour at some future event, hopefully side-by-side so we can get a feel for his style. Kind of disappointing visit though, must not have had my expectations in line.

I can't even begin to express my disappointment at the 2nd winery we visited that day. The objective was to pick up a futures order I had place last year in April and taste through the new releases. There were many obvious new features to the site since the last time we visited, and it was exciting to see how much they've grown. The wines were just ok, but my tastes are changing and I found them all a little too sweet for my palate. Doesn't mean they were bad, doesn't mean I'm a valid critic, just means what I said, my tastes have changed and these wines are no longer my preference.

The huge disappointment though was picking up my box of futures, the 3rd year I've committed to this special release, and they handed me a cardboard box. Blah! I balked! I wanted to know where the very cool wood box was??!! They ditched the wood box for a double stacked, 3 over 3, cardboard lay down box - not as cool, soooo disappointing. I unloaded the bottles when I got home and recycled the box. My plan is to pull the older ones down since they are just about ready to drink and store the latest ones in the wood.

A friend of ours that was supposed to go day tripping with us that day was instead visiting with his friends that were up here visiting from Chile - on winter break. He said they're Americans though, living down there, not Chileans. Curiosity made me ask what they do for a living and he said they teach, at an international school. No kidding, I went to Nido de Aguilas, an international school in Santiago. "No way! That's where they teach!". Small world. We spent the afternoon going thru his photos from his last trip in Chile visiting them and me reminiscing about living there.

L-R: Wes, Ingrid, Amber, Millie, Kathy, Stefania, Paul (out of range Eric - sorry!)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Spicy BBQ Dipping Sauce

Stolen from a note Stefania sent out to a friend in New York:

First a paragraph about how I make it and why and the reasons I choose the ingredients that I do - so that it makes sense and you can feel free to adjust it to your tastes accordingly.

The sauce originated from a recipe my dad started, to go on his spicy ribs, as a sweet complement to them but then I fired it up and added more heat. The base was from homemade blackberries but I've substituted any jam or jelly I've had on hand in the house, including orange marmalade. The one you had at the house was from fresh blackberry sauce - easy to make and I'll put notes at the bottom if you want to experiment around.

Amounts are approximated, adjust according to your thickness and taste preferences.

In a pan, bring to a very low boil and stir constantly:

1/4 - 1/2 c. Jelly or Fruit Jam
1/4 - 1/2 c. Ketchup
1/4 c. Generic BBQ sauce
1/4 c. Brown sugar
1/8 - 1/4c. Acid, I use lemon juice but have added white wine too if I want it thinner (cider vinegar is ok to use too)
1-2 dashes Worceshtershire Sauce
1 Tbsp +/- Sriracha Sauce (1 Tbsp is a lot, start with less and adjust to taste)
1 -2 dashes Tapatia hot sauce
1 capful, never more, of liquid smoke, 1 capful = about 1/4 tsp

I don't add any dry spices - salt/pepper or seasonings because those are usually already a rub on the meat.

To use fresh blackberry sauce, take 1 container of fresh berries, heat to boiling with a little bit of sugar until they are soft and wilted, then moosh thru a sieve (gently!!!) to extract the juice. Just like the seeds in grapes, the seeds in blackberries are very tannic and if you purree in a blender or food processor or moosh them too roughly, you will get an unpleasant bitter edge to your berry sauce.

If you are using blackberry jam or strawberry jelly, sometimes they have seeds, strain those as well. Strawberry seeds will have that same tannic quality.

Other variations I've made include chardonnay jelly, apple mint jelly, apricot jam, plum, cherry...you name it. When I don't have homemade to use I'll buy whatever is on sale for 2 for 1 at Safeway (because $6 for jam in a bbq sauce seems high).

I generally add ketchup or more bbq sauce when I want it thicker, or more acid if I want it thinner, and of course as much sriracha as Paul will let me get away with.

Let me know if you have any questions and please feel free to pass this along.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Pinot Update Part II

Paul did a great job taking pictures and talking about the status of the vineyard but as I was reading thru it again I had my own commentary to add.

As we drove up Browns Valley Road, the view is of a charred and burned mountain side, the remains of the Summit Road Fire now visible as the smoke has cleared. We drove up to the fire line at Hazel Dell and looked at the ash and charred remains of the forest, even smelled the fresh stink of the recently burned terrain.

We doubled back to the vineyard and once we got up around the bend, the first view of the vines from the bottom of the road was spectacular! I know that the owners were concerned with vigor and that there was too much growth, but the work the guys had been doing was taking care of that. I couldn't help grinning from ear to ear looking at it.

While Paul walked the rows with Pete, I stayed up top in the shade with Barbara and told her about our Oregon trip and some of the vineyards/wineries we had been to. We talked a lot about making pinot and the techniques used and what Paul and I have talked about doing.

Having tasted the wine in barrel from last years harvest I'm thrilled to know we'll be able to make more this year. There is also a great deal of satisfaction knowing that we have been hands on in this vineyard where the fruit will be coming from. The care and attention to detail starts out there and is carried on inside the winery, that's been the goal all along, the dream.

It's like going to the farmers market, selecting the best ingredients and cooking a great meal and being able to share it with others.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Pinot Noir Update

Yesterday evening we headed over to Corralitos to check on progress at the Woodruff Family Vineyard. The crew has been thinning and tucking the vines after the completion of fruit set, and really we're at the point now when prime ripening gets going. The vineyard is in excellent shape and the pictures are pretty impressive.

Note the sandy/clay soil and the vine age in these pictures. The vineyard is made up of 30 year old 'suitcase' or heritage clones. These are the old style clones of Pinot Noir that have come back into style in the last two years in a huge way.

The vines are in perfect shape. Well manicured and spaced now. This is what we love to see in our vineyards. The vines are set up for perfect fruit development. We ended up dropping a lot of fruit in this first thinning. Probably a 15% reduction off the bat. Final yield will likely be 1 to 1 1/2 tons per acre.

Notice the way the sun is hitting the vines? The west side of this vineyard gets the hotter afternoon sun. We haven't done any leaf pulling yet. We'll leave the leafs as they are for the next few weeks to protect the grapes from any burn due to hot temperatures. About the last week of July we'll remove leafs from the fruit areas to expose the fruit to a little more sun. The East sides of the rows will have more leafs pulled than the West sides. This way the vines will get just a little of the hot direct afternoon sun. What we're trying to do is get dappled sunlight on the grapes, but not direct sun.

The final picture captures a large section of the vineyard. It really gives a sense of the slope of the vineyard as well as the forest near by.

We are so happy with how this is coming along. My feeling is that we'll be able to make some really great Pinot Noir from these grapes. I'm expecting a wine that will be medium colored (due to the sand in the soil) with great texture and really expressive fruit. It should be a wow wine. As in wow how did they get so much flavor in such a soft, light wine. The vineyard manager and crew are doing their jobs well, now the winemaker and winemaking crew have to keep it up. Yes those are all the same people!

Condors, The Natural World, Stickers - a rant

Face it, the wild Condors are dead. Those that have been bred and released back into the wild are pets. They have monitoring devices implanted on them, a support crew, live 24/7 assisted living. Our tax dollars paid for Power Pole Avoidance Training. Look it up.

I've been following the condor stories for years - I flew with them in Chile, back when my dad would take me up in the Cessna. I loved the condors, they were giants in the sky, soaring high in the Andes Mountains.

But it's time to let them die, it's time to evolve - tell me, why are there no reports on the dying Turkey Vultures, also poisoned by lead in their diets? I have a theory, it's because no one raised the vultures from chicks or put a government sponsored GPS sensor on them.

Know what else is dying? Nature. Yes, we are killing or natural world, in the name of science of course.

Paul & I were watching National Geographic the other night, a story of the wild cats in Africa, with huge freakin' collars on them - oh yeah, that's natural. And then, on the news, the monarchs in Pacific Grove, being tagged with stickers to track them. Stickers. Natural.

It's bad enough all the fruit in the grocery store has a sticker on it. As a nation we have become obsessed with worthless data. The 2406 number on the peaches in the market means nothing to me. I trust my grocer to post the growing region on the placard with the price - I really wish the stickering would end.

Recently the corn had a bright red "FRESH" sticker on it and I smarted off at the cashier...said I was glad it said fresh or I might confuse it with frozen, or canned, or rotten. Fresh. On an ear of corn.

Maybe if we hand feed the Fresh corn to the Condors they'll live thru the summer.