Friday, January 30, 2009
February 21st - Pick up day and Open House at Chaine d'Or. We'll be open from 11-3 for pick up of our Winter release and tastings of our other wines. If the weather is nice, bring a picnic and spend the afternoon.
February 28th - San Francisco Wine Chronicle Tasting at Fort Mason.
We'll be pouring our 2006 Uvas Creek Cabernet Sauvignon and 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon
March 8th - Twist Restaurant.
We've put together an event for friends coming from out of town. We'll probably bring a little of our wine along.
March 15th - San Diego and March 17th - Pasadena Family Winemakers:
We'll be pouring at both events....and looking for a party on Monday night :)
March 27th or 28th - Nashville TN
Probably will be the first tasting of our 2007 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah.
In May we'll be hosting our Friends of the Winemakers dinner. This will probably be the only public chance to try our 2007 Pinot Noir. There will be a strict limit of 36 seats so if you're interested you MUST get signed up with the Friends of the Winemakers by following the link on the left. The last dinner had 47 seats sold in one week, so sign up quickly when the dinner is announced.
We've put an east coast trip into our budget for this year. Dates to be determined, but September is possible.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I think Dave provides by far the best coverage of local wines, certainly better than the Mercury News, and I know that last year the Santa Cruz Sentinel was going to him as a primary source for information.
I'm trying to schedule a time for Dave to come out and do some barrel samples, but with the crazy few weeks I've had with my day job it's been difficult to get the time.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
As the wine ages we also make additions to the blend from the other lots we have. In 2007 we started out with our base wine. We had 1 1/2 barrels of wine from the harvest at our home and the Ottigurr Vineyard. Mostly Syrah, with some Grenache, Zinfandel and Mourvedre in the blend. Enough to make about 35 cases again.
Our first addition was late last Spring. We had 9 barrels of Chaine d'Or Cabernet Sauvignon, one barrel of Elandrich Cabernet Sauvignon, and 4 barrels of Harvest Moon Cabernet Sauvignon. I knew what I wanted to do was blend the Elandrich and Harvest Moon together for our Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon. I also wanted to make sure we'd have enough topping wine to get us through until bottling, and I wanted to increase the percentage of new oak a bit on the Chaine d'Or.
So we pulled samples from all nine barrels of Chaine d'Or. It's not a simple process though of going, "this is best", we're looking for something called 'typicity'. Typicity means the wine taste typical, like it should. So we were looking for two things. First which one barrel tasted most typical of the Santa Cruz Mountains, but did not have distinct Chaine d'Or typicity. Second, what was the best barrel, that had the least typicity of either Chaine d' Or or the Santa Cruz Mountains. It was hard but we identified two barrels.
The first barrel was blended in with the Harvest Moon and Elandrich to become Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet. The other barrel was split. Half went into the Haut Tubee blend, half became topping wine.
Our next blending choice was a few weeks before bottling. We wanted to sample all 9 barrels of Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah we had. Again we were looking for typicity first; what barrels tasted most like Eaglepoint, and very important for us, what tasted like our Eaglepoint, since we think our version of the vineyard is more floral and less brooding that other peoples. It was difficult to do, and we did a lot of blending of samples as well, but we finally picked out a barrel we didn't think was typical.
It turned out the barrel was a special experiment I had done in 2007. It was a new Hermitage barrel, specially designed for Syrah and given extended air aging. The wine was actually spectacular. It had dark fruit with rich mocha and toasted peppery notes. I thought it was very simliar to wines from Betz in Washington or the 'scorched earth' notes of La Mission Haut Brion. A great barrel of Syrah. But, it wasn't typical for us. It did not taste like our Eaglepoint Ranch, and when we blended it in with other samples, it brought a smokiness to the wine that we haven't had in 05 or 06.
So we decided that that barrel would go into the Haut Tubee. The end result was pretty amazing and it gave us much more Haut Tubee than we had in 2006 when we had to limit people to 3 bottles each. We'll release the wine in the Fall this time, not the Spring. With the dose of Chaine d'Or Cabernet it will need some extra time in bottle, and it's a more serious wine than the 06 version. More suited to cold winter nights than hot summer days. Still appropriate for the hot tub though, and it will still be $20.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Not sure why we've never had a lot of chatter there, I know a lot of our regular customers visit the site. Maybe it's just we are a little more casual and relaxed about wine than the tone of the Parker board? Not really sure.
Anyway, Jeff has been a long time supporter from our very first release and I'm glad he put the note up. Check it out!
Sunday, January 25, 2009
I like to use old barrels to smoke with. By the time we cut up a barrel, it's about 9 years old. I put the cut up pieces with the wine section facing up so it creates a wine steam in the smoker.
Getting the line up ready for everyone to arrive. A couple of the highlights we opened were a 2005 Sea Smoke Ten. The first bottle was corked, so we went to a back up. A 2004 Modus, 2005 Match Cabernet, Betz and Lewis Syrah, and a bottle of our 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet. In all it looks like about 35 bottles where opened, including a late night run into the cellar for a 2003 Girardin Echezeaux.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
This is a young vine after pruning. This particular vine is two years old. At this point you want to leave two buds on a spur with the idea of growing two canes for the new year. In California we are usually able to get to this stage after one year, but this particular vine is in the shade on our front porch.
Here's a good close up of all the parts. The lighter wood is last years growth, the darker wood is older growth. Last years growth was called a 'cane' after it grew to full length. Right now as you see it pruned, with two 'buds', it's a 'spur'. The rings around the new growth and the small dark bit sticking out are the 'buds'. They will grow this year into new 'canes' and will be the part of the plant that produces fruit.
These are the 'head' trained vines in front of our house. Head training is when there are multiple 'arms' coming from one 'trunk' and each arm contains 'spurs' with 'buds'. On these plants we've left one spur and two buds per arm. Most head trained vines have many more buds left, but we train these up a single poll and tie the new canes upright, so we leave fewer buds. Usually in California the canes are left to flop and that creates a 'bush' like look. So those are often also called 'bush' trained. In the northern Rhone valley the vines are tied up a single stake, and that's how we do it.
This is the last of the original Haut Tubee vineyard in the front yard. Each vine ready for new canes to grow, and you can see the single post they will be tied to.
In the backyard we are converting the head trained plants to a V.S.P system. That means Vertical Shoot Positioning. We are retraining the vines into a 'cordon and spur' system. Below you see the first step. We encouraged a new shoot from an old vine and have pruned it back to two buds. These buds will produce a cane each that will be tied to a wire, called the 'fruiting wire'. After one more year the wood will be older and that will become the 'cordon'.
Here's what it will look like after one year. This vine has two 'canes' pulled down and tied to a wire. The buds will send up shoots this year, and next year those shoots will be pruned back to 'spurs'.
At this point this training method is actually called 'Guyot Simple'. Named after the 19th century Frenchman who invented it. The cane is pulled down and will send fruit producing shoots. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are often trained this way. One spur is left on the vine and next year the cane that spur produces will be pulled down and tied up this same way after the old cane is cut off.
We won't do that here. We want the canes to become cordons and produce spurs. This picture gives an idea of the 'vertical' in V.S.P. We have nicked out the buds that face downward (That's where the phrase 'nick it in the bud' comes from.) This will only leave shoots going up, or 'vertical', and into the supporting wires.
Friday, January 23, 2009
One thing I stopped saying last year was "Good Food, Good Friends and Good Wine" because I kept seeing it everywhere I went. It was in print in a food and wine magazine, on the wall at Trader Joes, and on at least two other winery websites. But as tomorrow approaches and Paul and I get ready to celebrate St. Vincents Day with friends, it really comes down to that.
We're going to smoke some pork (with used barrel staves), there will be homemade bread (I'm leaning toward rosemary rolls), and other treats that our friends are bringing.
The best part will be having a house full of friends, the food will nurture our bodies, and the wine will complement it all.
The lifestyle is a combination of many things, it's not any one thing or moment in time. It's pruning in January and observing the vineyard at the beginning of the season, it's watching the buds break, the flowers bloom, and the fruit set. It's having parties and breaking bread. It's sharing our craft at lifes celebrations, cheering each other on through good times and bad, having a tangible good to share with others. It's very personal. It's time spent in the winery or the lab, it's time spent washing barrels, tanks, hoses, and pumps. It's being hands on. It's cuts, bruises, and scrapes. It's friends showing up to help in any capacity or situation. It's the support and encouragement from friends, family, others in the industry, everyone we meet. It's being up at sunrise and harvesting then processing until after dark. It's late night pizza parties when we're still dirty and unwashed and totally exhausted.
It ends up sounding corny, but I do feel blessed to have this opportunity to connect with so many people on so many different levels. It's great to feel a belonging to a community, to my local community, and one on a much larger scale.
The economy may suck right now but we'll always have food, wine, and friends to share it with.
And that, in a nutshell, is The Lifestyle....
Thursday, January 22, 2009
This year the natural cycle seems to be working better for us. The first full moon of the year came on January 10th this year, giving us 11 days to prune, vs the one day we had last year. We didn't get it done in a day last year of course, and the vines seemed out of cycle all year.
The weather also cooperated. We had sun and moderate temperatures all through pruning. We didn't have a drop of rain. Good for working outside, but I've been a little worried about the lack of rain. Then right on schedule it started to rain yesterday.
Bottling went very well, and we got out offer letters with out incident. I think the only thing we're hoping for is good sales. We need that to keep things going of course, and we've heard many wineries are struggling right now.
We really wanted to purchase some new equipment this year. A shaker table for the de-stemmer, and a lift - sorting table combo. Right now though we're being conservative and holding off on those things until we see how the next two releases go. We still may decide to pay down some debt instead of getting the equipment. We just aren't really anxious to take more bank financing with things the way they are, and would rather hold off or offer equity in the business for the money to buy equipment.
Hopefully the moon will keep cooperating, and it will all work out in 2009.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
That means the wine needs enough friendly fruit to stand on its own, but enough balance and acidity to go with food, and finally enough complexity to be interesting when the meal is over. That's exactly what we've tried to make.
The funny thing is we rarely get to drink our own wine on those quiet nights. Most of the time we open a bottle it's a hectic social event, or a busy wine tasting. We might get to sneak a little sip, but we never get to savor an entire bottle.
A few nights ago though, we decided to make a point to open one of our bottles with a simple dinner we made.
I bought some head on prawns at an Asian market near my work and Stef spiced them with a New Orleans / Cajun style rub. I grilled them over a hot grill and we would peel and eat them right from the skewers.
Stefania loves "plain white rice", so I made us a small pot. The sweet starch of the rice would help cut the heat of the shrimp. She just bought me these silly plates with cows and pigs and chickens on them. I think they are so kitchy, and I love them.
Stef had put the kitchen tractor to work and we would have some fresh baked, hand made bread also.
Monday, January 19, 2009
It will be our first 100% Santa Cruz Mountains release, our 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains.
Our Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet is from two vineyards on the eastern side of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. Grapes from both vineyards were harvested on 10/20/2006 by hand in the early morning. The wine contains 94% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Harvest Moon Vineyard and 6% Merlot from the Elandrich vineyard. The grapes were 100% de-stemmed but not crushed and then co-fermented.
Fermentation went well and the wine was pressed on 11/2/2006 then transferred to two new Seguin Moreau French Oak barrels and two older French Oak barrels. The wine spent a total of 21 months in barrel before being bottled. Final alcohol was 14.0 % with a pH of 3.81. 97 cases were produced.
The wine is dark ruby in color with a distinct nose of mint, eucalyptus, and crushed berries. The wine is plush and long on the palate with currant, berry and dark ripe fruit. The wine shows a long and full finish with fully ripe tannins and spicy notes that compliment the deep, dark fruit. This wine promises a long life in bottle.
Three packs will be $120, with 6 packs at $220.
We've increased allocation amounts for many people this time around. With such uncertainty in the economy we think some people may be cutting back, and wanted to offer those that purchase a chance at more wine. This wine just won a silver medal at the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition. The first wine we've entered in a competition.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Here our crew is in the middle of the vineyard working on a section of Merlot. We started the day with Jerry, Estella, Ingrid, Amber, Wes, Stefania and I. Axle was there to play with the dogs, and just as Amber, Ingrid and Wes had to leave, Kathy and Millie showed up.
The sun was out, but it was cool, so we stayed covered up to avoid sunburn and stay warm. Jerry is working on a Cabernet vine here. You can see the limited number of shoots we keep on each plant. This increases ripeness and sun exposure and intensifies the fruit. This plant is very small and not typical of the vineyard. The vineyard has a very tough turn and most of the plants in the turn, like this one, have been hit by the tractor at one time or another and had to be restarted.
As the sun dropped a little fog came out in the mountains and made for a great end to the afternoon. The crew whittled away to take care of personal errands and Stefania and I left Jerry and Estella at 4PM to finish up one last row. We had to get home to clean up for a 6PM dinner. We gave Jerry Sunday and Monday off. What took us over three days last year, took just one this year.
That's a great sign that we have the vineyard in the kind of shape we want it. It was easy to prune, with few corrections to make, no suckers to deal with, and no excess shoots. Just 8-12 spurs, 2 quick cuts per spur and on to the next plant. As I pruned I was pretty excited by the prospects for this season. So far the moon cycle and weather have been perfect. Our crew is fast, efficient, and really knows the vines. We are only two weeks into the year, but I'm feeling good about the shape we've got each vineyard in and the pruning we've done is setting us up for a good start.
Friday, January 16, 2009
I wasn't melting down over him not being there, it was my own anxiety about "what if something, anything, goes wrong". The biggest item of contention was getting there by 7:45 a.m. For one, I'm never on time and I almost always get lost when I'm on my own, ok, that's an exaggeration, I mostly do ok, but still, it's a long windy road from home to Big Basin and I wasn't looking forward to a solo ride.
As the sun was coming up and the sky was a pretty pinkish hue, I was still grumbly and cursing but trying to talk myself out of the anxiety attack that I was on the verge of. I was trying to put a happy spin on being up a such an early hour. For example, the only other time I get up and go mobile that early is if we're going on vacation and we have an early flight. So there, that cheered me up, I talked myself into believing I was headed to a mini-day vacation, afterall, this isn't really hard work and it still beats a traditional day job.
The drive was fine, and I only got stuck behind a couple of slow moving vehicles twice, not long enough to make me late.
I did manage to arrive on time (woohoo!), my crew showed up just after me and we started the line around 8:30. The experience compared to the last two times was about a million percent better. Holy moly, let me tell you. Maybe it takes three times of doing it, or maybe we finally got a guy that knows how to run the line. Yep, guy. One of them.
The last two nightmare bottlings with a billion delays had 3 guys running the line, plus our help inside the truck.
Anyway, my apologies for not taking a single photo, I didn't have Pauls slick iphone and didn't remember to grab my own camera this morning.
In all we processed about 290 cases of wine today. Now in bottle are the 2007 Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains, 2007 Haut Tubee Red Wine, and the 2007 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah wines.
I headed down the mountain around 1p.m., got some yahoo poophead in a red sports car right up my rear bumper on the windy road for just a short while (until I could find a reasonable turnout) and he zoomed off ahead of me. Mind you, I drive fast and aggressive when it's just me in the car, but I wasn't in a little zippy sportster so I minded my own business and kept a steady beat. I caught up to him once, he was stuck behind a pick up truck hauling trash bins, then he over took him too. Zoom. Whoosh. Zip. Gone.
At the crossroads, I got onto highway 17, headed south, and was crawling along at the pathetically slow speed of 55 (cruise control set. boring.) and I get just to the bottom of the hill, make that first bend in Los Gatos and there he was. The Sucker got nailed by a motorcycle cop.
It was a great bottling day.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I was goofing off the other day and took a picture of my baking station, since so many people have asked me if I'm using a bread machine. The answer is no, I'm not using a bread machine, I'm using the KitchenAid stand mixer, as seen on the kitchen cart below:
If you're familiar with the wine forums at all you know that people have their own monikors that they go by. Some of them are pretty cool and keep within the theme of wine. Well, the same goes for the Kitchen Aid forum I found out. But it's not the names they go by on the forum, it's the names they have assigned to their stand mixers. While some people have named their stand mixers, I have not. We just call it the Kitchen Tractor, which is kind of a name I guess.
Long story longer about this thing -- I bought it after visiting friends (correction, Paul bought it for my birthday) who had one and they made this great dessert with it. After watching it perform I declared it a Must Have for whipping cream at home. Yep. Whipping Cream. Well, I unpacked it, I read thru all of the recipes that came with it and the first thing I tried was bread.
Since then, just over a year ago, I've baked hundreds of loaves of bread and whipped cream maybe twice. I've also made raviolis, spaghetti noodles, ground pepper relish, ground pork, beef, chicken, and juiced citrus. This is, in my opinion, the best kitchen tool you can have.
I've been taking all sorts of bread photos, and the latest and greatest was an olive loaf with roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes, and kalamata olives.
I pretty sure Paul thought I would be a bored housewife without a formal "day job" to go to, but between the pruning, the bookkeeping, the bottling, and logistics of managing it all and then some, AND getting to stay home and bake fresh bread, I am anything BUT bored. Not to mention I get to drink wine at this job...if I could sit still long enough to enjoy it.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Actually, I don't think anyone was sunburned at Crimson Clover the other day despite record high temperatures and full bright sun! It was a gorgeous California winter day. If you recall last year when we pruned at Chaine d'Or, we bailed out midday because of freezing rain. The following day it snowed in the foothills, and we definitely felt that coming!! Brrrr.
The blisters come with the territory, you toss another bandaid on and keep going. I was glad this year to notice my new work books were a bit more broken in and less rigid on my heels. Paul loves telling the story of us at Mel Cottons and asking the clerk for waterproof boots for me. She came back with some cute little slip on plastic clogs... He was very patient and explained that no, this wasn't some tidy little garden to putter in, that it was heavy duty farming and the boots needed to be sturdy and waterproof.
At one point I over asserted myself with the vine cutting and jabbed it right down onto my thigh. See, there is this thrusting motion you do when you're disengaging it from the wires, and I was perhaps a little overzealous about it. I have this fantastic welt and bruise, but I know it's temporary, just a glaring reminder I need to be more careful.
Pruning Crimson could have been more peaceful and I would have been able to let my mind wander about to other interesting thoughts, but the fumes from the neighbors gas chainsaw were a bit distracting. So was the roaring rip of each tree branch he cut. Just about the time we thought he was done, he fired up the chipper....
The greatest highlight was watching Truffles (Jazzy) play with the vineyard dog Rascal. They're about the same size, she's a French Bulldog (that snorts like a piglet, which is why I call her Truffles), and he's some type of Terrier mix. They were a cute ball of fur chasing each other about in the short grass.
I'm not sure if Paul or I have a picture of her yet, but we'll put one up soon.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
The Crimson Clover vineyard is in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains just outside of the town of Morgan Hill. The crew always likes working in this vineyard because it's a moderate 4-5% slope and a clean VSP system. We've managed this vineyard since 2007. At first it was a mess of suckers and poor training, but we got it corrected that first year, and now it's fairly easy to maintain.
This is us wrapping up for the day. Jerry is hauling out the cuttings. This is the worst part of pruning. It's like playing 'Pick Up Sticks' with 15,000 sticks, or roughly 1000 deep knee bends. I'm still sore today.
This is a picture of a finished vine. You can see the vines are still pretty young. This vineyard was put in in 2005 but since the pruning wasn't right the first two years it's really more like a 4 year old vineyard than a five year old.
The vineyard owners were out to see how things were going. I told them we're very happy with this vineyard and we think it will be a star for us. Tasting the 2008 wine in barrel before Christmas I thought it was the best wine I'd made at that stage. It's deep, dark and multi layered with tons of ripe fruit. We have it in 2/3 new oak right now, and I think this will be a great wine. I'm really excited for this vineyard in 2009. We're going to put in even more work with it this year.
The entrance to the Arastadero Vineyard. We take care of this vineyard for Big Basin Vineyards. They use the fruit for a private client. This hill is very steep and difficult to work on.
Here's an 'after'. The clipping we left for Jerry to pick up later when we're under less of a time crunch. We're trying to complete all of our pruning before St Vincent's day on the 22nd. That was the traditional pruning schedule, and since we've done that, we've had great luck with our vineyards.
Estella, Jerry and Millie working in a little bowl of the vineyard. In the summer this bowl will actually catch the afternoon sun, but in the middle of winter it was still shady at noon.
This was a hard vineyard to work. It was steep and needed a lot of expert care. One of the funny things from the day was that there are parts so steep, you need to get a running start at the vine, jump up the hill and grab it by the base. You then dig in your knees and prune. When you're done you slide back down off the hill and do the entire thing over again.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
There were plants with spurs too close together that I opened up and some on the upper hillside that are shaded thru much of the day that needed thinning. Proper pruning now means less time going back and cutting green growth.
One thing I've learned for certain is that the vines will grow no matter what you do to them, they persevere. A bad prune job, they grow anyway. Bad training, they grow anyway. Too close together or spaced too far apart, they grow anyway.
I like that as I'm working with each plant, it will tell me what it wants. When I pull a cane down to retrain the cordon, it will let me pull the one that is directionally meant to be used. With little or no resistance.
As I was working yesterday I kept myself amused by thinking of past day jobs and the trivial annoyances of working in an office environment. Nobody jammed the photocopier yesterday, the printer didn't run out of toner, no worries about the fax machine paper supply, I didn't have to drink bad coffee, and there were no extra perky in-your-face-first-thing-in-the-morning people with their sing-songy Good Mornings.
Just me, Gerry, the clippers, and the vines.
We're heading out again this morning, with Paul, Kathy, Millie, and Truffles, and Gerry will bring Estella with him. We'll finish Arastradero then make our way up the hill to Vista Verde to get started. With this size crew today we may even finish VV. I'll make sure that Paul takes pics while we're there so he can upload them tonight.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
We're calling it Vista Verde, after the small development of houses it's located in.
The vineyard is on a steep slope and is just over 1 1/4 acres. Total yield should be about 1 ton this year and 1 1/2 -2 tons long term. The trellis is a good VSP 5 wire system.
There was a landscaping crew there when we stopped by putting in some native ground cover. You can see the slope of the vineyard well in this picture.
There are about 15 dead plants we need to replace, and some poor pruning and training we need to correct, but over all the vineyard is in good shape. We expect a smaller yield this year as we fix the training and pruning on about 100 plants. Most will be 'do overs'. On those we will restart the cordons from the trunk, and those plants will only have 1-2 clusters instead of 8-10. Next year though they will be ready to produce back at normal levels.