Sunday, May 31, 2009

Catch Up Saturday

We had a few things to catch up on yesterday and hit the road by 8 AM. We started with a visit to Vista Verde to check and see how Rachel is doing with her work. She had also reported seeing a deer so we needed to check for damage and see if we could identify the deer's feeding path.

First up though was to turn off the drip system. We'd had it on for the last couple of weeks to get 25 new replacement vines started off. The new vines need the watering to get going and established. Not a lot of water though, it was just 20 minutes on the dripper, two times per week.

We found the deer damage pretty fast. It looks like one deer, coming in through some hole in the fence and moving down the vineyard to the creek. I'll have Jerry look for the hole and see if we can't patch it. We'll also put up deer repellent on Monday. I'll use fabric softener/dryer sheets again. Rachel will staple them to the end posts of the vineyard and on the upper section of the fence where the deer is getting in.

The soap smell is so intense to deer that they will avoid the area. Basically deer are creatures of habit, they follow the same path and feeding routes. What we'll try and do is make the vineyard smell so unpleasant to him that he modifies his path and moves through another yard. It shouldn't actually be too hard with the number of other feeding possibilities he has in the neighborhood.

Then we were on to Chaine d'Or. I'm planning on turning on the drip system here also. Problem is it hasn't been on in a couple of years so it will need some work to unclog hoses, fix leaks, and repair broken drippers. My plan is to turn it on for a long soak. A single run of 4-5 hours which will mimic a summer rainstorm. Since it's our second year of low rain, I'm figuring the plants will need the extra water. If we need to we will repeat the process again later in the summer.

This was the vineyard as we arrived. It's one reason this vineyard is so great. The sun is already shinning on the vines, but you can see the fog in the background, keeping the area cool and preserving the acidity in the grapes.

We had Rachel cleaning the filters through out the system, which means a lot of time sitting on the ground. Stef and I tended to gopher trapping. It was just a couple of hours of work. Stef will return on Monday to patch broken spots in the system. As we walked the vineyard she made a list of the repair parts we'll need to buy today.

By Noon the vineyard was in bright sun, but the fog still hung around the edges.

This also gives us a super long growing season. Grapes need 100 days from flowering until harvest. Normally after 100 days the sugar gets so high that waiting longer than that will drastically increase the alcohol in the finished wine, and drop the acidity. That can make the wine flabby and 'hot'. Here we'll hit the 100 day mark around September 20th, but we won't actually harvest until the last week of October. That gives us almost 40 additional days. The fog will keep the vineyard cool though and both alcohol and acidity will remain solid as the flavors in the grapes keep developing.

We wrapped up the day topping barrels in the winery and checking on the progress of our 2008's. It was a good chance for Rachel to taste the effect her work will have on the finished wine. We headed home pretty early at 2PM to have some friends over for dinner.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Simple Thursday at Home

I've gotten pretty good at the Ranch 99 routine since I first wrote about it. Stefania asked me last night; "Do they recognize you yet?". I said: 'no', but had to rethink that. True - I'm only in once or twice a week, but generally I've been the only 6'4" white dude holding up a whole fish. Probably at least a little memorable on the staffs part.

Yesterday I selected two really nice Sea Bream's. Stef had a special request "I want my own fish tonight." So I picked up two and had them scaled and cleaned, but left the heads and tails.

It was a really simple preparation. I stuffed the fish with some fresh ginger and herbs de Provence from our garden. We planted the herbs because they grow so well here and go so well with our wines. Then it was just 7-8 minutes on each side on a hot grill.

Stef made the same spinach salad we had served this past weekend, and I rounded things out with some corn on the cob, and a stir fry of zucchini, sweet onion, and some snap peas from my mom's garden.

We opened a 2004 Windy Oaks Chardonnay to start. This was full throttle and oaky, with honey, wax, and nut notes. We then went on to a 2006 Sea Smoke Ten. It had a nice core of red fruit and spicy notes, but wasn't as extracted and 'thick' as past Ten's have been.

We lingered in the backyard for a long time, finally heading in after sun set about 9PM. I really great night at home.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kabobs and Dipping Sauces

A key to making good kabobs is to precook those ingredients that take longer on the grill so that they finish at the same time as any veggies you add. If not, you'll end up with underdone meat or overdone veggies. For the kabobs last weekend I used bison rib eye, about 6 oz per kabob. Yellow and Green Bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, fresh mushrooms and Vidalia sweet onions. I pre-cooked the onions and bison.

I did two dipping sauces.

To pair with our 2006 Uvas Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon:

Cherry Dipping Sauce

1 Cup chopped fresh Bing cherries.
6 oz Cherry preserves
2 Tbsp BBQ sauce
2 cups red wine (I used our 2006 Haut Tubee)
3 pinches salt
1 pinch pepper

Combine all ingredients in a saute pan and heat to a burble, stir and reduce @ 10-15 minutes.

To pair with our 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon

Mint Dipping Sauce:

1/4 Cup chopped fresh mint.
6 oz mint jelly
6 oz basil jelly
2 Tbsp BBQ sauce
2 cups red wine (I used our 2006 Haut Tubee)
3 pinches salt
1 pinch pepper

Combine all ingredients in a saute pan and heat to a burble, stir and reduce @ 10-15 minutes.

A note on the preserves and jelly. I used home made preserves from our friend Wes when possible. Home made are usually lower in pectin and have cane sugar vs corn syrup. I know basil jelly may be hard to find, but any basil based preserve would due, otherwise double the amount of mint jelly.

iPhun in, we're having too much fun with iPhone and iPod. I've never been one to promote anything technological or even care, but Steve Jobs is a genius.

It's quite possible that I use nearly every single function daily. The calendar and alerts, the timer, the notepad, the camera, web browser, email, phone, text, music, calculator (which I love, nice big numerical display!), and a selection of add-ons.

The biggest problem with this new gadget is...nothing. I have no problem ignoring people (phone, email, text), but I'm finding that when it's plugged in and playing music, I'll stop to pick it up when the phone rings -- because I'm alerted to the fact that it's ringing because the music stops. Go figure.

Great tool, great toy, and I'm not stuck indoors at a desk for work. It's perfect for days when I'm mobile at a vineyard or the winery and still need to check in and track the office work.

Ok, off my soapbox and prepping the email list for Paul to send out reminders that we're going to open the winery on the 13th for a few hours to overlap with Santa Cruz Mountains Vintners Festival.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Recipes - Menu for FOW Dinner

Great weekend. The Friends of the Winemakers (FOW) came for dinner Saturday & Sunday night. We had a full house both nights and really had a blast cooking and serving. A HUGE thank you to our helpers, Kathy and Millie, could not have done this without them.

The menu, recipes, and links to the bison sources are below.

Spinach Salad with candied walnuts, feta cheese, raspberries and strawberries. The dressing was a basic Honey Mustard from the market that I thinned (a lot) with fat free milk (A LOT to make it less viscous).

Mushroom Soup:

I omitted the flour and cream and served slices of Manchego Cheese with edible pansy garnishes.

Bison Kabobs:
Bison source: &

For this dinner we used Blackwing, but have also sourced Bison from the other farm.
Paul will have to post his cherry dipping sauce and mint jelly dipping sauce, I don't know how he made those. Rumor is that they paired perfectly with the Uvas Creek Cab and the Santa Cruz Mtns Cab.

The side dish was Truffled Mac and Cheese and the recipe is below along with the link to the source I pulled it from. I've been making this "adult" version for a couple of years now and haven't made any adjustments to it at all.

A Mac ‘n’ Cheese Recipe, by Amanda
Wild Mushroom Macaroni and Three Cheeses with Truffle Oil

1 1/2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups sliced shitake mushrooms
2 tbsp oil or bacon fat (I usually use bacon, but omitted it for our vegetarian guest)
1 1/2 tbsp sherry vinegar
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
3 cup whole milk, warmed
4 oz herb chevre, crumbled
4 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
4 oz parmigiano reggiano, separated in 2 2oz piles
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp fresh sage, minced
2-3 tbsp white truffle oil, depending on how strong you like it (I use ~1Tbsp, otherwise it's too potent)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup panko
10 oz elbow pasta
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a large pot of water over high heat and cover. Place a large saute pan with 2 tbsp oil or lard over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the mushrooms to the pan and saute for 7-10 minutes or until the mushrooms are fully cooked and slightly caramelized. Toss or stir occasionally. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper then deglaze the pan with sherry vinegar. Allow all of the vinegar to cook out, then remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.
Begin the cheese sauce. Add 4 tbsp butter to a medium-sized sauce pan and place the pan on the stove over medium heat. Once all the butter is melted and hot, whisk in 4 tbsp flour. Cook the flour, whisking, for about 30 seconds , just long enough to get rid of the raw flour taste, but not long enough for the flour to start caramelizing. Add the thyme, rosemary, sage, and red pepper flakes. Continue stirring and allow the herbs to saute for about another 30 seconds. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking continuously, so the roux and milk incorporate smoothly and there are no lumps. Allow the bechamel to come to a simmer (it won’t gain it’s full thickness until it does), stirring occasionally.
While waiting for the sauce to come to a simmer start the pasta. Liberally salt the pot of boiling water, almost to the point it tastes like sea water. This may take a few handfuls of salt . Add the pasta to the water and cook the pasta for a minute or two less than the suggested time on the box.
Once the bechamel has reached a simmer, stir in the chevre, cheddar, 2oz of parmigiano, and truffle oil until all the cheese has melted. Turn off the heat and and taste the sauce for seasoning levels. Season with salt and pepper as necessary. In small mixing bowl, mix together the panko and remaining 2oz of parmigiano reggiano.
Strain the pasta immediately once finished cooking. In a mixing bowl, toss the pasta, cheese sauce, and mushrooms together. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a deep glass or ceramic loaf pan and sprinkle the panko/parmigiano mixture evenly across the top. Bake the mac-n-cheese in the upper part of the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the topping is golden and the cheese sauce is bubbly. Serve hot. Enjoy!
*if you’re lucky enough to have a real truffle, feel free to substitute shaved truffle for the truffle oil!

Cheers, Stefania

PS!! Thank you much to our friends from Boston that brought us gifts. Paul got a Bruins hat and I scored a pound bag of Lobster Gummi candies (that I'm taking to Ambers house for our next movie night, she's the queen of all candies Gummi).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

One Down One to Go.

Yesterday we hosted the first night of back to back nights for Friends of the Winemakers. It's a four course dinner paired with our wines.

Stef and I started about 9AM yesterday with trips to a couple markets to get all the ingredients together. We started prepping about noon. It was pretty much 10 hours on our feet non stop. I did the main course of Bison Rib Eye Kabobs with two dipping sauces, and Stefania did a spinach and berry salad and fresh mushroom soup.

I also showed off our mini vineyard and answered questions about it.

This morning we're recovering in bed still, reading the paper and enjoying some coffee. We'll have to head out to the market soon to restock the fresh goods. I had had some vineyard work planned for tomorrow, but there's a good chance we'll be in recovery mode still, including doing dishes.

I'll try and take some pictures tonight as we do round two.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Four Random Photos

Jazzi Gurr, our part time pet while her owners were off on vacation. I called her "Little Mutt" the whole time the day she was in the winery with us.

The dining room in preparation for the Friends of the Winemakers dinner this weekend. As I was setting up I realized how much fun we have doing these dinners at the house. It's really the core reason behind starting the winery; friends, family, food, wine. We'll seat 16 for dinner Saturday and Sunday night and have a blast cooking and serving them.

Each Spring I fill up these containers with herbs and then transplant the survivors to a permanent location. I have plenty of rosemary around the yard and oregano up the wazzoo, so this years selection was more lemon thyme, english thyme, and chives.

And last but not least, the front mini-vineyard. I was going to wait until tomorrow to take the picture, (after I rake up the magnolia leaves), but Paul said to go ahead and do it now. The little vines are cruising and the crimson clover-wildflower mix is taking off and getting ready for a bloom explosion. I've spotted lupine, poppy, and cosmos so far that are either blooming or getting ready to.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Good Quick Meal for our 2006 Syrah

We had one bottle that some how made it through bottling without getting a label and it's been sitting on our cellar floor. We decided to open it up and try a quick meal. I'll call it 'May Pasta'

I used Fettuccine because that's the box that was already open
Artichoke Hearts (about8)
Garbanzo Beans (1/2 cup)
Chopped sun dried tomatoes (about 1/3 cup)
Herbs d' Provence, Salt Pepper
Olive Oil

Boil the noodles, drain and set aside. Add the Artichoke hearts, beans and tomatoes with a little olive oil to a warm pan. stir in the pasta, herbs salt and pepper.

Good, fast (20 minutes) and delicious. The floral lavender and bitey tomatoes went perfect with our 2006 Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Intern v 2.0

Last year on the Wine Spectator Forum and Wine Library Forum a young college student put up several postings looking for an internship in a winery in California. Many posters recommended that he contact me, which he eventually did.

We set him up for several weeks working in the vineyards, helping at events and cleaning in the winery. He left having learned a lot and with a new appreciation for what it takes to make wine.

This Winter an email went out to the local grape growers group about another young college student looking for an internship. I responded and set up 'Intern v 2.0'. We liked having an intern last year, so I thought we'd give it a try again. We are definitely leaning towards candidate who are overqualified to be farm workers.

Rajiv, last years intern, is now a senior at Princeton majoring in Chemical Engineering. Rachel, this years intern just graduated with honors from the University of Georgia with a degree in Micro Biology and she starts Medical School in the Fall.

I've added a link to follow Rachel's blog as she's here in California and will be posting updates at:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Four Seats Left for Sunday

We had posted before about an event this weekend:

We will be pouring our latest wines and pairing them with dishes we cook especially to match the wines.

The evening starts with light snacks, cheeses, caviar and some bubbly.

The first course will be a spring salad with fresh berries, feta cheese and candied walnuts, paired with our 2007 Pinot Noir. Next up will be a soup of fresh mushrooms, Manchego cheese and wild flowers paired with our 2007 Syrah.

The main course will be bison rib eye steaks done kabob style with spring veggies and truffled mac and cheese. There will be two dipping sauces, a cherry reduction and a mint sauce to pair with our two Cabernet's; Uvas Creak Vineyard and Santa Cruz Mountains. We will wrap up with a selection of pies and coffee.

Saturday night is sold out already but there are four seats left for Sunday. Let us know if you'd like to attend.

Weekend Review and Crimson Clover

Both pouring events this weekend went well.

Traffic on Saturday to Santa Cruz wasn't even too bad and we arrived early enough to have a bite to eat and a Margarita.

Sunday we visited the Crimson Clover vineyard. We wanted to check on how the vines are doing and the progress the owners are making.

We're going to ask them to turn on the water for a bit this week to help some vines in the upper part of the vineyard. There are also some active gophers they'll need to deal with. Other than that things looked really good and it looks like there will be a healthy yield this year.

The rows look a little shabby at this time of year. The vines aren't tucked up into the wires until after they flower. When that happens the base of the shoot hardens off and it's ok to move and bend the shoot. If you try to do that now the shoot will break. By the time summer touring season arrives though the vines will be tucked up nice and neat.

Here you can see the tiny clusters and a few just starting to flower. One thing I noted yesterday is that the little valley Crimson Clover is in is much cooler than the surrounding area. The temperature dropped from 89 to 84 as we entered the valley and vineyard site.

That was about all we did outside yesterday. Temperatures peaked at 101 at our house and we mostly hid inside waiting on cooler weather the rest of this week.

Friday, May 15, 2009

VinoCruz Reminder

We will be at VinoCruz tomorrow afternoon pouring 5 wines:

Stop by and visit. It should be a good day to get to Santa Cruz and enjoy the weekend.

We only have one more public event planned for the summer so this is just about the last time we'll be out pouring wine. We won't be doing the Family Winemaker's in San Francisco, and since we only have 7 bottles of Pinot Noir left, we can't pour at Pinot Day's either.

If you come by tells us if you like the new blog layout.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I Passed.

Results were posted yesterday on the CDP website. I passed all four tests I needed to take. The hardest was something called the QAL test which included questions about aircraft spraying of pesticides, requirements of pesticide dealers and about 120 other questions on things I'll never have to deal with.

In fact there was just one question about grapes, and that was about spraying a chemical rated 'Danger' with a re-entry of seven days, from an airplane. I'd never use a 'Danger' chemical, anything with a seven day re-entry, or spray from an airplane, but I think I got that question right anyway.

This is the same license the huge pest control companies have, and after talking with a private instructor and the state office, I actually didn't need that level of license. They both say I got bad advice from the local county office. Still, it's not bad to have I suppose, just in case I would need to use it. I also passed the new test to use SO2 gas in the winery. Something else we don't do, but again good to have just in case I need to at some point.

There are still a few follow up things I need to do and I'll try and get those done today and tomorrow, but one more of government things behind us.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Racking Day.

We got a pretty leisurely start to the day yesterday and didn't leave the house until 10 AM. We made a few stops on the way to the winery and picked up sandwiches for lunch at Robert's Market. We finally arrived at the winery at 11 AM.

We're dog sitting this week so we had a special visitor. Jazzy was a little timid at first in the winery but she got comfortable pretty fast and even spent some time chasing Sophie in the vineyard.

The way we do racking is pretty straight forward. The wine is removed from barrel and transferred into a tank. The barrels are then cleaned and left to dry. Three rinsing is usually enough to get out all the gunk that has settled to the bottom of the barrel, but I do four just to be a little extra clean. Argon is then added to the tank to protect the wine from oxygen.

During this process Stefania takes readings on sulfur present in the wine and we make any additions that are needed. She takes two readings. First Total Sulfur tells us how many parts per million (ppm) are in the wine and then she takes Free Sulfur. Free Sulfur is really the key. Sulfur will bind to oxygen at a molecular level, and once it does that it is no longer 'free'. Free Sulfur is what kills any bacteria, so the Free reading is really key. The amount of Free Sulfur needed to keep the wine free from bacteria is related to the wines pH. The higher the pH, the more Free Sulfur is needed.

Our wines are generally lower in pH 3.4-3.6, so they need less Free Sulfur than many California wines. The tricky part in the entire thing is you can't add Free Sulfur. You can only added total sulfur. The process of mixing the sulfur and adding it to the wine will cause some sulfur to bind with Oxygen and no longer be free. It's a little bit of a crap shoot to get the numbers right. It may take 20ppm of free sulfur to get 10ppm of Free Sulfur or it may take 15ppm. You just don't know until you do it.

The other tricky thing with adding sulfur is that it tends to just sit in one spot. You can't just trickle it in, or it won't get through the entire wine. The way I do it is to do any additions about half way through the racking. That way the process of adding the other half of the wine will mix it, and the sulfur all together.

Free Sulfur and Total Sulfur will reduce over time as the molecules bind with oxygen, so the testing and additions have to be done fairly regularly to maintain a safe and bacteria free wine. Yesterday, all our sulfur reading were in a good range, and we actually did not add any additional sulfur.

I decided to let the wine settle for a few days. Some times we will go directly from the tank, back into the barrels. This time we'll do a long racking. That will let the wine settle for a longer time and more of the gunk / lees can settle out. When we go back into barrel in a few days, the wine will be pretty clear of any cloudiness. This will allow us to do shorter rackings in the future and avoid the need to do any fining or filtering before bottling next year.

This sounds like a lot of work, but really most of the time is spent cleaning up the barrels, floor, tanks, hoses and pump. It's probably 4 minutes of cleaning for every 1 minute of work. The picture below is a little blurry, but this was my view most of the day. Barrels on the cleaning rack.

We were able to take a nice break for a couple of hours and do some tasting for visitors. We finally wrapped up and headed home about 6:30 PM.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Yes It's New

We did get all the wine loaded on the truck ok, and it's now sitting safely in storage at California Wine Transport in San Jose. That's time for a big sigh and finally letting the stress of bottling go.

Stefania spent yesterday cleaning up the garage and trying to recover from bottling. The garage gets pretty mucked up in the spring as we use it for storage of things like labels, corks, new vines coming in and the occasional decommissioned wine barrel. It's all back to normal now.

I finally gave the blog page an update with a new template and matching color scheme. It was time for the green to go! I also added a link to our sign up page for our mailing list. You'll see a networked blog link now from Facebook as well as information on adding us as a friend.

We didn't do a 'fan' page for Stefania Wine. We'd rather think of everyone who buys wine from us as friends, not fans, so the link is to Paul's page, which Stef mostly updates :)

Let us know what you think of the new look. Next on our list of things to update is our website, and that should be coming soon.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Almost Done

We've just finished. Everything except the scary part. Me loading $100,000 in wine on to a truck. That should happen in 30 minutes.

Stefania with a big smile as we finish up.

Jerry prepping the 'red bucket' to clean the hoses. First we run 5 gallons of water through the pump and houses to get all the red out. Then it's cleaned with a citric acid and water mixture.

The last few cases coming off the line

We only needed a crew of three on the truck, this was a very efficient bottling truck.

Empty glass in place and a pallet waits for the final 30 cases or so.

The last bottle off the line. This is actually 'waste'. We keep the first 2 cases on and last two off as unsalable items.

Chaine d'Or Cab Done

The sun breaking through on the vineyard. The fog will hang on the mountains in the back all day while the vineyard is in bright sun and that keeps them temperature on a day like today at 63 degrees.

Red wine rolling through the truck now.

Ingrid cleaning the tank.

And rows of now empty and clean barrels.

My view waiting for a pallet to be finished.


I loved Tetris as a kid, who would of thought it would become a crucial job skill? The area to work in is very small and pallets and boxes have to be stacked everywhere to make everything fit.

A full pallet being wrapped and getting ready for me to find a spot for it.

I've also got to keep the truck supplied with empty glass at the same time.

And manage on slopes and gravel.

Ingrid cleaning barrels. As soon as I'd get things arraigned outside, I'd run inside to move barrels around for Ingrid. More Tetris in a tight space.

Starting Cabernet Sauvignon

Ingrid pumping the Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon into the now clean and empty tank that held the Chardonnay.

The Stefania, Chaine d'Or Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon label.

Alice getting labels on all the boxes

Some misty fog hung over us and the vineyard most of the morning.

More glass being loaded on.

Ingrid had 6 barrels to get empty and then cleaned.

Everyone started to show off for the camera.

Eponymous :) Stefania with Stefania

Chardonnay Complete

The last of the Chaine d'Or Chardonnay rolling off the line (See the capsule?)

Ingrid and Alice came to help today. Ingrid was in the winery most of the time prepping the wine for bottling. Alice made sure all the boxes got stamped with our Bond Number and a label.

The machinery adding capsules.

And more boxes being filled.

One lot done!

Chardonnay 1/2 done

Bottles being filled and headed down the line.

The label for our first white wine.

Bottles rolling down the line, full and corked.

Jerry had the loading job today.

We started off with a good pace.

A view of the end of the line.

This line moves slow so only one person is needed to fill boxes.

And the first boxes hit the pallet.