Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vincent Girardin's corks

Pictures for a posting at:

I really like Vincent's wines, I buy a lot of them, but I wish he'd invest more in his corks. Good corks are expensive, our corks actually cost more than our bottles, but I think it's worth the extra investment. This is from a 2003 wine, just 5 years old.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Last Few Days

Well we must be getting close to the finish, because we're writing less and less.

Thursday Stef and Jerry spent the day shuttling bins to Martin Ranch. We'll pick Tuesday there, and it looks like we'll just get a couple tons instead of the six we wanted.

Friday we were back in the winery (pictures coming soon) racking wine into barrels. The Pinot Noir went into one new and one used barrel with about 30 gallons left in kegs right now. We'll likely transfer that 30 gallons to a half barrel when we're all done. We tried to revive an old (1992) half barrel but it was just not going to seal back up. We want to wait on the half barrel usage until the very end. We only have 3 of them, so need to use then as little as possible.

We also put the Haut Tubee and Elandrich into barrel. Both went into new oak, a first for the Haut Tubee. The Elandrich will eventually go into a Santa Cruz Mountains blend, the Haut Tubee will be bottled on it's own, but we'll only have 25 cases for 2008.

We also stirred the lees on our Chardonnay and topped up all the 2007's.

Saturday we brought in the Cabernet at Chaine d'Or. A very small amount, just under one ton total. Last year there was 3+ tons. We didn't take any pictures of the day, but Wes posted a bunch at:

Today we'll visit Bonny Doon to see if there are any grapes left in the Llama vineyard. The owner did not want to net the vineyard, so we're expecting that birds have taken most of the crop in the last few weeks.

We'll also be boxing up orders. The weather finally looks cool enough here in San Jose to start shipping the Fall Release. The first batch will go out this week, with more going next week. We still have a little 2006 Uvas Creek Cabernet Sauvignon left, so if you've been holding on to an order form get it in soon. We did not sent allocations to the last 30-40 people on the mailing list this time, so it looks like we're at the point that it will take a couple releases after you sign up to work into an allocation.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Back From Our Short Break

We spent Thursday to Monday on our annual trip to New Orleans for our Anniversary (17th), and my birthday (19th). Tuesday we were back at work pressing off the Pinot Noir and Elandrich Vineyard Merlot. It was a full day Tuesday with both wines now settling in tanks. I like to let the wines 'rest' for 48 hours after going to press. This lets all the gross lees settle to the bottom of the tank, and we rack only clean wine into barrel. We'll finish up that process tomorrow.

In the mean time a few pictures from our trip:

Stef and Ozzy at 'Coops Place' on Decatur in the lower French Quarter.

Me and Natalie Boos at her gallery on Royal Street. Natalie started as a street artist selling her work in Jackson Square. She opened her gallery the week we visited in 2006. I got the painting in the upper right, Stef got the one on the lower left.

Our menu at Bayona on our Anniversary night. The chef signed it for us and came out to visit. We had a really nice bottle of Roumier 2005 Chambolle Musigny with dinner.

Stef getting ready for a night out. We stayed in a little apartment between Decatur and Royal about a block from Jackson Square. Rhonda and Walt from the Louisiana Loom Works were our hosts. Rhonda did the rug for our dinning room this past year.

It was a great trip. Good to see old friends and make some new ones. A really good break in the middle of harvest for us every year.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

To Get Wine...

You need to sign up on our mailing list!

I keep getting calls and email requests from people I meet about how to get Stefania Wine. I wish I could say we were in local retail stores or had online shopping, but we're not quite there yet.

The best way to get wine is to sign up on our mailing list and wait for an offer letter to come in the mail. We send those out 2-3 times per year and just finished sending out the Fall Release for the 2006 Uvas Creek Cabernet. This winter we'll send offer letters for the 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet. If there is wine leftover from the Uvas offer letters, we may include that wine also, like we did with the Syrah.

I desperately need to update the website and will do that shortly after this harvest season.

And what a season it has been. If you have been following other wine blogs at all, you're aware that the California yields are about 40% lower than previous years. Much of the decrease is attributed to low rainfall and some frost damage. We pruned aggressively in the winter so the lower yields were no surprise to us in the vineyards we manage. In all we're very excited with the fruit this year and are anxious to see what the 2008's are like once we go into barrel.

Paul has been keeping me busy with general winemaking chores and the change in routine is welcome, though I'm still getting used to it some. Monday started with a long drive to Gonzalez to pick up bins and lids, Tuesday was a long day online trying to figure out payroll taxes, and today I was running around returning borrowed trucks (and filling those gas tanks! ouch!!) and pressing another batch of the Hot Tub wine (some zinfandel from a neighbor up the street from the Crimson Clover vineyard).

This weekend we celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary and Paul's birthday...taking a little break before the last two rounds of cabernets come in.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wine Update

We've been so busy harvesting grapes the past few weeks, that I haven't given an update on how the wines are doing. Yesterday we wrapped up picking at the Woodruff Family vineyard pulling about 2 1/2 tons of Chardonnay for Storrs. The pick went late, past 4 PM and after we had to drop a bin off at Big Basin. It gave us a chance to try our wines there.

Here's the latest update:

Haut Tubee - The base for the Hot Tub wine was pressed and transferred to tank last week. It's darker than the past few years, with a really ripe Syrah nose. It will wait in tank until the other components are complete, then we will fill a barrel.

Chaine d' Or Vineyard Chardonnay. Wow. Making Chardonnay for the first time was a great learning experience. I've decided Chardonnay is like the law or sausage. If you enjoy it, you really should not watch it being made. It's pretty gross. It goes through stages of being brown, turbid, and very stinky. Stefania's quote "It smells and looks like poopy diapers."

Then like some miracle, it turns into Chardonnay. It clears up, the stink goes away, and there is a rich, savory and clear juice. This Chardonnay is going to be pretty powerful for the estate vineyard. It's already deep and rich. We're starting out with 60% new oak, and right now, the wine is just laughing it off. It's all rich fig and peach fruit. We'll monitor the oak closely, but this looks like it will be a very good, rich and deep Chardonnay.

Woodruff Family Vineyard Pinot Noir - Still at about 5 Brix, it's showing a cherry cola nose, with really deep color for the site. Big Basin's version was similar and has another week to go also.

Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah - Much lower alcohol than any previous version, this might actually finish under 14%, and for the first time, we're not having to correct the acidity. The fruit is bright again with a floral note. It's probably just 3-4 days from being pressed and going into barrel.

Crimson Clover Cabernet Sauvignon. 1-2 more days of fermenting to go, it might press on Sunday. Very strong nose of ripe Cabernet, and in the mouth, it's plush, long and the tannins are super ripe. This wine is very early of course, but we think we have a real winner.

The numbers on all these wines are pretty amazing. The alcohols look like the will be lower than 06 or 07, and that pH's are all in the 3.4 - 3.6 range. These are all 'pure' wines, and won't need additions or manipulations. The solid pH's will also mean using less sulfur. The Crimson Clover in particular has some great numbers. The BRIX was 27.5. That's going to make a huge, powerful wine. Probably close to 15% alcohol. But, that pH is 3.54, without any additions! Usually when you get to 27 Brix, pH's are in the 3.9-4.1 range. This wine will carry all that power with a balance of refreshing acidity.

Now we just have to not screw things up and we should have some very fine 2008's.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Elandrich Vineyard Harvest

The Elandrich Vineyard is one we restored from a terrible state, starting in 2003. There was no fruit in 2004 or 2005. In 2006 we harvested about 800 lbs. In 2007 it was about 1100, and this year, despite the low yield year we pulled about 1600lbs.

53 degrees, 7:06 AM, we're off for another day. We had a few pit stops to make before meeting up with the crew. They started picking at 7:30, we arrived with the bins about 8:20.

Stefania in the quality control position. Perched on the truck, removing any leafs or debris as the bins get dumped. We used the core picking team today. Just four people and me and Stef, so quality was high.
This section is Merlot, further down the hill is Cabernet Sauvignon. They actually get ripe at the same time on this site. An unusual situation caused by some shading in the Merlot, and the aspect of the Cabernet section. Usually the two grapes get ripe 2-3 weeks apart.

We just about filled up two complete bins. One of the fun things to do is jump up and down on the tailgate of the truck to get the grapes to compact down some.

Arriving at Chaine d'Or to process the grapes. Jerry and his brother Isidro have done this a couple times now, and they need no supervision from me on getting all the equipment set up. That lets me focus on the must entering the bin, taking measurements and overseeing the pump and crusher.

This is a little unusual process. Since we don't have a forklift, we don't dump the entire bin at once into the crusher. Instead we remove the grapes in 30 pound bins and dump them in slowly. You put two people in the truck, one on the tailgate to dump, and me down below running the equipment.

We then pump the must into a waiting fermentation bin. This is one reason we do so much quality control in the vineyard. There's not a sorting tray here to check the grapes. We have to make sure they arrive clean and problem free.

Once we finished the Elandrich fruit, we picked the Merlot section at Chaine d'Or. Just 8 bins this year, about 250 lbs. It will be 3 more weeks until we harvest the Cabernet it looks like. The Merlot will start off first in a small bin.

We sent the crew home about 1:00 PM. Stefania and I stayed to rack the Chardonnay down. It is almost done fermenting and we went from 6 2/3 full barrels to 4 full barrels. As it ferments you need the empty space to prevent explosions, but as it finishes, the bubbling is gentle enough to use a valve on the barrel bung, that will let gas escape.

Tomorrow we're back down to the Woodruff Family vineyard to pick the last of the Chardonnay there for the Storrs winery.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Single Use Carry Out Plastic Bags

Just this morning I got a flyer in the mail from the city asking me to complete a survey for Reducing Consumption of Plastic and Paper Single-Use Carry-Out Shopping Bags.

There's an ordinance in the works to switch over to reusable shopping bags as soon as next July.

The city claims we use 490 million single-use carry out bags per year. Doesn't really matter either if you repurpose your bag. If it goes in the trash anyway, it's in the landfill forever. Same with the plastic bags that do get recycled - the things they become are still plastic and still end up in the landfill forever. Not to mention the toxic chemical output necessary to re-process them into a new shape.

Paper, paper, paper. Trees are farmed, they grow back, yes, they do - take a quick trip into timberland and tour a lumbermill once in your life. Personally, if that's not included in the "100 Things to Do Before You Die" I think it should be.

Paper is a renewable source and not a petroleum by product and it biodegrades, naturally.

For certain bringing in your own mismatched bags to the market is goofy. It's like wearing a bike helmet for the first time as an adult, something we didn't do grow up doing. But then you get used to it and it becomes routine. Soon you don't enter the store without your own bags. And the bonus? Our local grocers give us 5 cents back per bag...over the course of the month that's about $4 back in my pocket and the satisfaction of knowing I haven't supported the crude oil producers.

I completed the survey and hope that other local businesses will also be in favor of the new ordinance.

Monday, October 06, 2008

On Being Green

This time of year it's hard for us to be green. Though we do our part at home and in the winery, there is no way to avoid driving trucks around the local area hauling grapes and heavy equipment. I was thankful and grinning ear to ear as we drove three full trucks south on 280 and were surrounded by 4 Priuses. I was greatful to them for being there to help offset our gas guzzling beasts that are a must this time of year.

Portable drinking water and personal plastic bottles are another issue. I avoid them all year long, but they are another wonderful commodity for getting portable drinking water to our crews while they pick. We do recycle the bottles and dispose of them properly, but they never leave our earth and that's what really bugs me.

The working vacation was another perk that meant less drive time and gross emissions from the trucks and vehicles used. The option to stay close to the vineyard site at a coast side resort felt more like a vacation than work, even though the days started very early. Paul already said Seascape has been a favorite spot of his since high school, and I couldn't agree more.

We did catch a glimpse of the dolphins from the balcony on our last night there and whale spouts on the horizon. Very peaceful and pleasant diversion from looking at vines all day and all week long. We lost money on that one, the price to stay overnight away from home was greater than our gas bill, but being able to catch up on the day-job part of work as opposed to spending a couple of hours on the road was a plus.

On the home front, the plan is to convert the front lawn and landscape to a mini demonstration vineyard. The vines at our suburban location require water the first year while they establish their roots and that's it. I'm letting the lawn die this year and pulling out two Sago Palms (that I'm selling) then putting in vines. Yes, vines. This effort should reduce our water usage by 60% and provide us with the grapes necessary for the grape stomp each year (thus eliminating one more truck run!).

With a little effort and education about waste and recycling, everyone can do their part to be's not always easy, but every little bit is better than none at all.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


Last night was our last at Seascape. We grilled some steaks and spent some time in the hot tub. We got a chance to walk on the wharf in Santa Cruz also. The rain stopped about 1PM.

Stef in the hotel room.

This morning we were back at it. Picking the last of the Pinot Noir for Hobo Wines, and 1 1/2 tons of Chardonnay. We started just about 7:15 and wrapped up about 11:30

The vines made it through the rain just fine. We found a little active botrytis, on about a dozen clusters and cut those out.

There was actually a pretty good amount on the first 12 rows relative to the rest of the vineyard. We were really starting to wear down today, even with the day off yesterday. This was day 6 of the last 8 we've picked grapes, and been up before dawn.

When we got home, we turned on the 49'ers game and quickly crashed. I napped for 2 solid hours. Stef cleaned up a little and then fell asleep about 45 minutes after I did. She was still asleep on the couch when I started uploading these pictures.

We have a picking break now for at least a few days. Just some winery work to do, punch downs and lab work. I'll go back to the day job tomorrow. I'll have to get all the end of Q3 paper work done. I'm sure we'll be in bed early tonight, and we'll sleep well.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Rainy Day Rest

Yesterday we pulled out our portion of Pinot Noir from the Woodruff Family Vineyard. It was a fast pick and we had just 2 1/2 bins. The grapes are amazing. I got glowing reports back from Bradley Brown and Pax Mahle on their shares. I imagine both of those guys will price their wines over $50, but it will be a fun splurge in a couple years to try the wines side by side.

Below you can see one of the reasons this is great fruit. This is an average size cluster from this vineyard. That's about 1/5 the size of an average Syrah cluster. Each little tiny berry is packed with concentrated flavor.

Bin filling up. The crew was really getting the hang of field sorting today, and the bins were free of leafs and problem clusters were left on the vine or in the field.

Everyone in Corralitos was in a harvest rush yesterday to beat a small storm that passed through last night. Apple pickers, berry pickers and strawberry pickers were all out in force. Our little crew all came over from San Jose and includes members of Jerry's extended family.

Another, sunrise picture. You can see Marcel and Charlie, the vineyard dogs guarding the rows.

Today we will not work. The vineyards will need to dry out from the rain last night and we'll stay in Seascape and relax and recover for a day. The little bit of rain should actually help the vines at this point. Giving just a little refreshment and extending harvest another 3-4 days. The fruit this year has been great, just not enough of it. I'm afraid when we release the 2008's in a few years, allocations will be tight.

We finished up the day at Chaine d'Or. We processed all the Pinot Noir. 100% destem this year and into two t-bins to ferment. It went fast and with little drama, except Jerry's brother cut open his knuckle on the must pump. I told him he was an official winemaker now that he had bleed. Jerry and I both had wounds from the pump two weeks ago.

As we handled the Pinot Noir, Stefania was prepping barrels in the winery. As soon as we finished the Pinot, the crew cleaned up, and Stef and I transferred the Chardonnay from tank to barrel. It will finish its fermentation in barrel now. We went into 3 new barrels, one Sequin Moreau Burgundy, and two Claude Gillets, and three old Claude Gillets. When it's all done we should have about 4 barrels, or 100 cases.

We wound up the day about 7:30 with Mexican food and Pacificos.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I Love Seascape

When I was a teenager I had an issue with the late afternoon classes. They interrupted Surfing.

My favorite spot to go was Seascape beach, about 10 miles south of Santa Cruz. It's not a hot shot surfing spot, but I enjoyed the rugged hike in, the beach was mostly empty, the waves were good, and a school of dolphins patrolled regularly. There really isn't anything more peaceful than sitting on a surf board in the cool Pacific, watching the sun set, and having dolphins swim all around you.

15 years ago or so a resort went in at Seascape. It's not as rugged now or isolated, but I still like coming here. It's only about 15 minutes away from the Woodruff Family Vineyard, so Stefania and I decided to stay here over night while we pick Pinot Noir.

Today we picked for Bradley Brown and Big Basin Vineyards and Pax Mahle for his new project. Tomorrow we will pick for ourselves. The day wasn't too long, started at 7 and finished at 2:30. We'll actually have a little break to enjoy the beach tonight.

I worked hard picking, sorting and hiking the hill today so just took a few pictures:

The crew getting started on Pax Mahle's grapes.

Working the center section of the vineyard for Bradley Brown. Bradley spent the morning with us and it was good to be able to talk with him some.

Seascape when we got back :)

From yesterday in the Arastadero Vineyard. This is a Syrah vineyard we manage for Big Basin Vineyards. It is so steep that only Stef and I, plus Jerry, his wife, brother and sister, harvested. I didn't trust anyone else in the vineyard.

Bradley was super happy with the fruit. We took this over this year, and he said it's the best fruit he has gotten from this vineyard. We also farmed it 100% organic for him.

Normally you would use a forklift and tractor to move bins. In this vineyard it is so steep the picking bins have to be carried out by hand and dumped by hand into the waiting truck.

Back to today's pictures. The crew snacking after we had finished for the day. There's lots of fun in translation. I tell Stef what I want done. She uses a combination of English and Spanish to make sure Jerry understands, and he then tells the crew in Spanish.

Jerry is great though. He's the kind of person you just tell him what solution you want, and he figures out a way to make it happen.

More of the crew picking away. I probably picked 15-16 bins today, Stef picked about 30. We got Bradley about 60% of what he hoped for, but he said the fruit looked and tasted excellent. He was very happy with what he got, he just wished there was more.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Eaglepoint Ranch Pick Up

Still more random photos. We drove up to Eaglepoint Ranch on Monday afternoon and had a nice dinner with Casey and Lynn. Tuesday morning it was up early for the 5+ hour drive back.

Stef at 6:10 AM getting ready to go.

Part of Casey's wall of fame. I think he'd actually like to put up pain in the ass winemakers here.

Me pulling out leafs and other MOG as we pick.

This year Casey lost almost 70% of his normal yield. We only got 1 ton.

Stef walking through our section of vines. Last year our section yielded 6200 pounds. This year it was about 700 pounds. Casey cancelled contracts with many producers so a few of us could have what little was left. We ended up picking from 17 rows to get one ton.

The 1989 Block at Eaglepoint. The Sun wasn't up over the mountain yet when we finished picking.

The mandatory, "Paul driving a truck" picture.

The Golden Gate in sight. Just 2 more hours of driving ahead of us at this point.

This was the night before driving up the road to the Ranch. It's a bumpy twisty dirt road.

More of me sorting and removing leafs. Casey is paying his crew by the hour this year. He usually pays by the ton. Most growers pay by the 30 lb bucket. His thought is that by the ton, has them work as a team and be more complete in picking. I always pay by the hour. It's more expensive, but there is less MOG and the vines never need a second pass to pick up what was left.

This is the dividing line between us and Copain. They were picking also Tuesday. We actually got 5 of their rows this year.

Me climbing up on the tractor as we moved to the next spot.

The fruit we got was actually very nice. We sorted it quickly when we got it back to Big Basin, and it was still 59 degrees in the bins. We hope we will end up with about 60 cases total. 2008 will be a tough year for people low on our mailing list. We're just not going to have a lot of wine to go around.