Thursday, April 30, 2009
Friday night May 15th we will be pouring at the Silver Creek Country Club to help support: Parents Helping Parents and Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence. The event runs from 6PM until 9PM and tickets are $75: http://svbta.org/
Saturday May 16th we will be pouring at VinoCruz in Santa Cruz from 3PM-5PM. Tickets will probably be $10 and they usually refund that if you buy a bottle. We will be pouring our 2007 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah, 2006 Uvas Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon and 2006 Chaine d'Or Chardonnay. http://www.vinocruz.com/newcontact.htm
If you are planning to come to that event please let us know in advance. The drive back to San Jose at 5Pm kind of sucks so we will probably stay for an early dinner in Santa Cruz and maybe we could put together an 'after party'.
It is also time for our annual Friends of the Winemaker Dinner. This years dinner will be held over two nights; Saturday May 23rd and Sunday May 24th. There will be just 16 seats each night. The event starts at 5:30 PM and will feature our wines paired with 4 courses prepared by Paul and Stef. Tickets are $50 for FOW members and $60 for non members.
It will be a good chance to check out the new mini vineyard and see the growth of our new Mourvedre plants.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Over the weekend we got some together time in the vineyards and it was a blast. It's silly and a little goofy, but I love to sucker the vines. (it's especially fun because we get to hang out, kind of like a day off, but it's really work)
It's a lot like when I talk about pruning, it's something we do opposite each other down each row and the mindless work lets us hang out. I really enjoy it, even when he gets ahead of me or jumps to the next row. There is something therapeutic about walking at a leisurely pace, thinning the upper spurs as necessary and bending over to nip off any suckers. It kills my back for sure, so the chiropractor yells at me, but it's great for my thighs and buttocks, so the trainer at the gym cheers me on. It's very Yin and Yang.
One thing I like about this task is that it lets me view each plant and get an overall feel for the vineyard for the upcoming year. The first shoots of spring are very indicative of how well yields will be and how healthy the site is. Paul mentioned doubt about the new pinot site we are taking care of and after our visit over the weekend, we're both feeling confident about the grapes we'll raise there.
The plants had been poorly maintained last season so we did an aggressive pruning to help bring them back to life and to a more "normal" state of training - and it worked. I'm not getting too far ahead of myself I don't think, but I'm confident we'll have plenty of quality fruit for our next Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot.
As for the "estate" vineyard in suburban San Jose, it's doing fantastic! I'll do more photos in another few weeks, after the shoots make it to the cordon wire. At least now the wire farm looks like it has a purpose finally.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The weeds between the rows need to be weedwhacked this week. There is a lot of very high Spanish Alfalfa in the vineyard. We usually try and plant a cover crop the will discourage this plant but it was already established here when we took over this year. It will take a couple years of cutting the grass before it seeds and planting alternative crops to get it under control.
This vineyard is very steep. At harvest we will have to rent an ATV to haul up the 30 pound bins full of grapes to the road. The site is too steep to ask a crew to go up and down multiple times with a full load.
Next we headed to Chaine d'Or. It is only 4 miles away, but it takes about 25 minutes. We drive down one ridge line, back to the valley, then back up another ridge line. I finished the Bentonite fining on our Chardonnay. I added the mixture to the chilled tank and gave it a good stir to get it going. Stefania was already in the vineyard suckering and green pruning.
Vines will throw 'suckers', or new growth from their trunks, and this has to be removed by hand. Imagine doing about 2000 squats over 2 acres. When we took over Chaine d'Or the spurs had gotten very high into the trellis. We're also in the process of fixing this. It will take three years total. What we will do is prune the spur normally with two buds. We will also encourage a shoot or sucker lower on the spur. When this shoot grows, it will become the new spur next season. It's expert work though to choose what to keep and what to remove, so it's something just Stef and I do.
We headed home fairly early at 1:30 to have lunch and take a short nap. At 5:30 we headed off to pour wine at a charity event in Los Gatos. We poured four different wines, and were able to get home by 8:00 PM to see the last part of the Sharks game.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
The Syrah is probably a little easier to target since Stef and I have had vintages from other producers up to 10 years old. The Ranch really seems to be best with 3-4 years in bottle. Reports are that our 2005 is very good right now at 4 years old. The pH's are in the 3.7-3.8 range, so I would think 10-12 years would be the maximum before the wine looses freshness.
The Pinot Noir is a lot harder to call. The numbers are all very sound with a pH at @ 3.5. The vineyard is 30 years old and I'd expect the wine could be long lived. The vineyard has a checkered past though and stopped production from 1995-2002 so we don't have recent samples of aged wine to know how it's doing.
We've had older vintages 1983,84,89 but they were pretty roughly made and it's hard to separate the rough tannin in those wines to say how they age. The best modern example is Windy Oaks which is very near by. Many people think Windy Oaks should be aged for a long time, but they've only been producing since 1998, and my experience is those wine are best at age 3-5. I've had examples at 5+ years and thought they were fading.
I'm telling people have the Pinot Noir younger vs older. 2-4 years should be optimal. There's every chance it could go 12+ years, even up to 15-20 but there's just not a good history yet from the area to really know how they'll age. All the factors are there for it to develop well in bottle for a long time, but at this point it's theory vs experience.
I'll add a bit about our cabs. We do make them so that they will age and develop for 10-20 years. The pH's are good and the tannins ripe and fine. The areas the grapes come from also have great track records of long lived Cabernet Sauvignon. Stefania and I have a few bottles of 1966 'Uvas' from the same area as our 'Uvas Creek Vineyard', that are still fresh, fruity and complex.
But, I also take a lot of effort in the winery and vineyard to make the Cabs enjoyable at release. I think ideally open one a few weeks after your shipment arrives, then check in on them from time to time. I suspect they'll be really good from 5-10 years old.
Friday, April 24, 2009
The EPA decided for some reason unknown to absolutely everyone but themselves to declare that Sulfur Dioxide Gas used to disinfect barrels is now a Restricted Use Chemical. This has lead to general chaos in the wine industry as everyone has to now go out and get a license and pass a test that most have never had to do before. To make things worse no one in state or local government seems to know what we're supposed to do to take the test or prepare for it.
Bill Cooper from Cooper Garrod though stepped up and worked with the Wine Institute to put together a list of requirements and set up a training class for local winemakers today from 8am - 1pm. There were 15 of us, Jeffery Patterson from Mount Eden, Bradley Brown from Big Basin, Bill Cooper and Jan Garrod from Cooper Garrod, plus winemakers from Woodside, Bonny Doon and 1/2 dozen other wineries.
One thing we quickly established was that each of us had been told something different by our county Ag Office and the instructor from Sacramento said that Santa Clara had it the most wrong, followed by Santa Cruz, with San Mateo, 'About 70% right". I won't bore you too much with the details, but we went through the study guide and sample test and it turns out only 4 of the 105 questions we'll get have anything at all to do with using SO2 in Wine Barrels, even though this permit is just for using SO2 in wine barrels.
I scored 104/105 on the sample test and thanked Bill for putting everything together then headed off for the winery. I had to start mixing the Bentonite for fining tomorrow and do a few other minor tasks at the winery. In all I spent about 90 minutes there before heading down the hill to visit the Harrisons. We put a small Syrah vineyard in for them two years ago, and they wanted to expand it on their own.
I purchased the vines for them. Since I buy vines regularly I get a good rate from the nursery, about 50% of what they'd pay to order 75 vines, so I added their vines to my order. I spent a few minutes showing them how to plant the vines and also explained how to sucker and when to start tying up the young vines.
It was 4PM before I headed home. A full day of work on my day off. I didn't mind at all though, it's all fun work for me to do, and I enjoy the pretty rare chance to catch up with all the other local winemakers.
Stefania said to add it's Friday night, we're watching the Giants game, cooking ribs and having a margarita.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
The ingredients for ~1 pound of shrimp are:
1 lb. whole shrimp (not peeled, with heads on)
3 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 c. chopped yellow onion
1/4 c. rough chopped tomato
Liquid Mesquite Smoke*
Juice from 2 small lemons
Sautee garlic and onion in butter and olive oil, add tomato while the garlic is still semi-raw but the onions are starting to become translucent. Toss in and stir dry ingredients, then 1/2 cup of the beer, a couple of dashes of worcestershire sauce, a dash or two of liquid smoke and the lemon juice.
I use a 12" skillet, and like the sauce to be about an inch deep and burbly before adding the shrimp. Adjust the amount of beer to your liquid preference -- the whole bottle will leave you with lots of juice to soak up with crusty bread, use 1/4 of the bottle and you get a rich dense "dry" shrimp dish.
*The liquid smoke and jalapeno powder are not traditional, they are my "secret" ingredients.
The shrimp will cook up pretty quick, try to put then in a single layer and once they are showing signs of pink on the bottom, either turn them over or cover the pan with a lid.
OK, next on the New Orleans Agenda: JAZZ FEST, is this weekend and next.
And, if you do get to the Big Easy, please stop by and visit friends of ours: Ronda and Walt are the owners of Louisiana LoomWorks in the French Quarter just up the street from Jackson Square (where we got married!).
Ronda made a custom rug for me last year and it's my favorite piece of usable art.
Stef prepared the shrimp. She prepared them New Orleans style. I'll leave it for her to comment on the recipe and technique.
I decided to make some red beans and rice to stick with the theme. It was kind of ironic as Stef had been doing laundry all day. Red beans and rice is traditionally served on Monday's in New Orleans. It was the day everyone did laundry and the dish was an easy all day recipe that could be prepared with little fuss while laundry was done.
I had to cheat a little and use precooked beans, but it still came out well. I got the task of picking out the wine. Not an easy task for these two dishes. Both are very spicy and full flavored. A rich Chardonnay tends to get overwhelmed by the spice, and I'd rather save most of our Rieslings for Hot Pot. Stef wanted a red anyway so I searched through the cellar. I thought a Pinot Noir would be too light bodied, and a Cab would be too dry, so I settled on Syrah and was after something fruity but not jammy with a good nose and refreshing acidity.
I poked around for a little while pulling out bottles: Lagier Meredith, Copain, a Cotie Rotie, then went 'duh'. There was a case of our 2006 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah sitting on the floor waiting to go into our 'reserve'.
As I came back from taking the picture of the wine on the bar and the irony of the evening I snapped this picture:
This is a piece of art we purchased in Alexandria Virginia. It's woven metal, made from small strands of wire. I liked this right away and thought it would go well with our collection of metal sculptures and art. The artist was in the gallery that day and we chatted with her about the piece. Guess what? It's titled "Hits of the French Quarter". She was inspired by a trip to New Orleans to use the colors of Mardi Gras and the shapes of the iron work on balconies in the French Quarter.
We thought that was a pretty neat happenstance. As she set up shipping she asked what we did. "Grapegrower and Winemaker", and her reply was, "Me too". Her and her husband grow grapes for several wineries in Northern Virginia. Another irony.
The shrimp turned out great, the red beans and rice were spicy and good, and the wine went well. A nice evening at home.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Foils - We don't use them. They serve no purpose and are 100% decorative. They are not generally recycled.
Corks - We are a drop off winery for Recork America:
You can either drop your used corks with us or at the winery and we will package them and send them in to Recork America to be recycled. You can also mail or ship your corks back to us. We'll take any cork, not just ours.
Bottles - Are recyclable of course. We use the lightest bottle possible to cut on shipping costs and fuel use. They are smoke colored, not green, but they are as 'green' a bottle as you can get.
Packaging - We ship in 100% recyclable pulp and cardboard. Styrofoam is not recyclable. We don't buy it. We will accept your used Styrofoam shipper from other wineries though to re-ship. At least it gets one more use and stays out of the land fills a little longer.
When we started out and made all these packaging choices we were not really making a direct effort to be 'green'. At each point we just tried to make what we thought was the right decision and making sure things are recyclable and the environmental impact was as important in the choice we made as any factor. The sum of little choices though has added up over the last 5 years.
Monday, April 20, 2009
In a way even harvesting is just a logistics exercise. You have to bring together the people, bins, and trucks, right when the grapes are ripe. Then you have to get them to the winery and make sure you have everything there you need; equipment, storage, barrels, ect.
Stefania is going through a logistics 'hell' right now. It's her first time coordinating all the factors in running a bottling. She's doing it on her own for the first time. Here's the list of vendors to work with on a bottling:
Fork Lift Rental
Bentonite and Filter Supplier
Plus of course there is the TTB to deal with.
We also need to coordinate labor for the day which means 3-4 staff and 2-3 helpers.
Things have to happen in the right order too. The forklift has to show up before the bottles are delivered for instance and all that has to happen before the bottling truck arrives. If the fork lift arrives after the truck is set up, we have no room to drive it down to the pad and the hill is too steep for it to drive up from the bottom of the vineyard. In fact once the forklift goes down from the first driveway, there's no way to get it back up. It has to wait until you are finished and then be driven to the bottom of the vineyard for pick up.
Then around this all the winemaking needs to get done. Sulfur additions made, and the wine prepped in tank before the truck starts. There is always some drama. One time there was an accident on Highway 84 the day before bottling. Somehow the truck with the bottles got through, but the truck with the forklift did not. We had a 28 foot truck with no way to unload it for several hours.
By the time she's done with her checklist of things to remember and things to do and things to order, it will be over 100 items long. From major items like "Order bottles" to minor ones like "Make sure the bond stamp has ink". I'll help where I can, but it's still a lot for one person to pull together.
Friday, April 17, 2009
The Crimson Clover is just starting to come up between the rows and I still need to plant an assortment of Lavender, Sage, and Rosemary to fill in the parking strip and up near the front of the house.
So far, no complaints or unwelcome commentary from the neighbors...as they quietly water their green grass lawns. I'll ask Paul to comment on this blog about our water usage for our front "lawn" vs. how much we used to water when it was grass.
It's official. As of April 1st we signed up with Central Coast Boutique Wines:
They will be representing us in Northern California and helping us get our wines into select retail shops and restaurants.
This was something Stefania and I targeted as a primary objective for 2009. It's been frustrating for us to not be able to direct people somewhere when they want to try our wine. For our customers around the country who deal with mailing lists and order forms, it's been no big deal, but locally most people are puzzled by the idea of having to sign up and wait to get wine.
Neither Stef or I are great sales people and we don't have a lot of time to go knock on doors to sell wine, so we knew this was the best option. Now my Mom will be able to tell her friends where to go to get our wine :)
We evaluated dozens of companies starting late last year. By January we had it down to three that seemed like good fits. We finally picked Central Coast as the best match for us. Stef and I will be out helping the sales team get our brand launched. More pourings, more events, and maybe even a winemaker dinner or two.
We've budgeted in an allocation amount going forward for Central Coast so that they will be able to keep accounts stocked. Right now they will not be selling some of our lower production wines as those are already 100% allocated. Our Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Stefania 'Chaine d'Or' Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon will only be available via mailing list.
As we get information about placements in restaurants and retail outlets I'll try to get those posted up.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
We'll be pouring the 2006 Chaine d'Or Chardonnay, 2007 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah, 2006 Uvas Creek Cabernet Sauvignon and 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon. Cost is $10 and that is refunded if you purchase a bottle.
This is very late notice, but we are filling in for Grey Wolf Cellars who had to cancel at the last minute.
Saturday we will have the winery open for Pick Up Day. The winery will be open from 11 AM until 3 PM. Come join us for wine tasting featuring our Spring Releases: 2007 Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch and 2007 Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains. If you placed an order from our Spring Release your wine will also be available for pick up.
Directions can be found at: http://www.chainedor.com/directions.html
We will have light snacks available and please feel free to bring a picnic. The vineyard is just starting to bloom and the hill will be open for picnics. We will also be giving away free Thompson Seedless grape vines. I will provide a planting demonstration to get you started.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Basic Permit: BW-CA-5631
Serial Number: 090502
New Status: NEEDS CORRECTION
Previous Status: ASSIGNED
That's the message I got from the TTB.
So what needs correction? Take a quick look at each label:
Monday, April 13, 2009
The day started with the introduction of a new member of the Chaine d'Or family. Anne Anderson brought down 'Ghillie' for us to meet for the first time. She will join Sophie as a new vineyard dog. Sophie was just about this size the first time I worked at Chaine d'Or. Sophie is adjusting well to having a new sister and playmate and was much less interested in hanging out with us in the winery with a new friend upstairs.
We divided up the tasks as usual. My first job was to sweep out the winery. Stefania got the lab ready for the readings we'd need. We wanted to measure free and total sulfur in the Chardonnay so we could make any needed additions now as the wine went into tank.
I then pumped the 4 barrels of Chardonnay into the waiting tank. It's a bit of a tricky process. I always try and not let any air get in the hoses but it's more critical with a white wine to keep oxygen out. I also can't just stick the regular racking wand in the barrel. The bottom of the barrel is full of the fine lees (muck) that the Chardonnay is aged on and you don't want that in tank. I used a small bamboo rod that I taped on the wand as an additional block to keep the wand from hitting bottom and that way only clear juice was put in tank. Controlling the speed is crucial for the pump. Too slow and air will get in the hose. Too fast and the wine will slosh around going into the tank.
Even though the tank has a chilled jacket around it we still add additional insulation to make sure it gets cold enough. This is the tank almost wrapped all the way. We added one more layer of insulation to the bottom after this picture was taken.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Stef did manage to get most of the shipping out last week. All the California, Arizona and Nevada orders went out GSO and have been delivered. About 50% of the UPS orders went out to the rest of the states. More will go out Monday and the final bit should go out Tuesday.
Today we will be in the winery working on the 2008 Chardonnay. We will be transferring it into tank for cold stabilization and a light fining with bentonite. I'll take pictures of the process and get a blog up today or tomorrow.
Monday, April 06, 2009
We did get a nice review from the San Diego event this morning though that I wanted to share:
San Diego Tasting Review
Thursday, April 02, 2009
We are really excited about this event, it's our first in the city of San Jose, and the location is fantastic. The cost is $50 and it runs from 5 PM until 7:30 PM.
I planning on pouring four or five wines, including our 2007 Syrah. Please stop by and say hello.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
We visited Nashville last week. My sister had moved there last August and it was our first trip to see her and family. My Mom joined us for the trip and we left our computers at home. We arrived Wednesday night and had dinner with the family. Thursday Stefania and I went out exploring central Tennessee. We stopped at a winery, which we later found out was owned by one of the Brooks and Dunn country singing pair. I had no idea who the owner was while at the winery although the cheesy picture of the owner on all the handouts should have clued me in.
We also visited the George Dickle distillery. No small feat. One of the hobbies of folks in Tennessee is to steal road signs to the George Dickle distillery. We closed Thursday evening watching the Sharks play the Predators then listening to live music in downtown Nashville.
Friday we explored downtown some more and had dinner at our friend Gerard's house. Really great smoked steaks and lots of good wine. Saturday there was a little tornado scare. Mostly the newscaster was in a complete emotional melt down and scared, but the storm passed through fine and we went to a wonderful wine dinner at Flyte in downtown Nashville. We had aged Hermitage Blanc (interesting), some older Bordeaux (very good) and a host of other great wines. It was a great multi course 5+ hour dinner. I brought along some of our 07 Syrah and 07 Pinot Noir for everyone to try.
We're settled back in now and should have more regular updates on our activities as Spring starts.