Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Full Moon Passed

We've been pretty quiet the last few weeks. Stefania has wrapped up shipping and that kept her busy. Last Saturday we went to the winery to top up barrels. That's been about it.

Thursday though we'll start in with our vineyard work for 2011. Pruning will start and as usual we've waited until after the full moon. We could have started Tuesday but it's been raining and it's really not a task to do in the rain if we can avoid it. I'll try to get some pictures up as we work through all the vineyards. Before and afters especially and maybe a video or two on pruning techniques.

Our next major tasks in the winery won't come until after the 1st of the year when we'll start racking the 2010's as well as any 2009's that need it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Hero

Many of you who have come to visit us over the years have gotten to meet our friend Millie. If not at the winery, then at our home over a bottle of wine.

Millie has been helping us from the very start of Stefania Wine. There is literally not a single vine nor single bottle that she has not personally touched along the way. She's put in vineyard posts for us, planted vines, pruned, sprayed, driven the tractor a hundred times. She's bucketed wine at the press and done punch-downs on every lot. She's put wine into barrel and been there for bottling day.

She's hooked up electricity when we've needed it and built or fixed dozen of things we use in the vineyard and winery. Her usual job at bottling was to lift every single case of glass and start it on the bottling line. She's been covered in dirt, and sweat and wine more than once. There's no one we owe more to than Millie.

So many of you know Millie because she is so easy to talk too, quick to make a friend and generous in her spirit. There's nothing she enjoyed more than hanging out in our backyard and talking wine with people from all over the country.

This month Millie decided to move to Colorado to help her sister with a new house she'd purchased. We had a going away party for her and gathered friends to say good bye. We all hope that she'll decided to come back and that her stay is just temporary. Everyone will miss her a great deal.

Over the past couple of weeks we've gotten together with other friends and of course they've asked about Millie and we've told them about her move. Our friend from Tennessee asked Stefania and I how we'd cope with her being gone in the winery and vineyards. We didn't have an answer for him. It was in fact the first time we'd even thought about it. For us we've just been completely focused on her friendship. Getting her off on her trip safely and encouraging her to come back and visit us. We'd only missed her as a friend and hadn't thought about how it would impact the business.

We know that Stefania Wine will cope and we will figure out a way. For both Stefania and I though the personal relationship is so much more important. We wish Millie the best in Colorado. We do hope she will come back to us some day and we always will value her friendship, her great heart and all she's done for us.

Paul and Millie.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

2008 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains

Final of three in the series on our Winter Futures/Spring Release

Our 2008 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon is again a blend of three unique vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The Elandrich Vineyard performed well during the season and yield was up slightly from 2007 at about 1600 pounds. The break down was 1000 pounds of Merlot, 500 pounds of Cabernet Sauvignon, and 100 pounds of Zinfandel and just about 30 pounds of Syrah. The grapes were harvested on the morning of October 9th and crushed and destemmed at Chaine d’Or. Final Brix was 22.5 and pH was 3.47 Superfood was added to the bin and fermentation was on native yeasts. Fermentation took 12 days and the wine was gently pressed and transferred to a new Sequin Moreau barrel. An additional ½ barrel was added to the Haut Tubee blend.

The Chaine d ‘Or Estate Vineyard was under our first year of management and we took steps to limit yields and open the canopy for more ripeness and sunlight in the Cabernet section. Yields were further limited by natural conditions of the unusual season. The clusters and berries were very small and of intense flavor this season with complete ripeness coming in late October. Harvest took place on the morning of October 25th with a mostly volunteer crew and we finished in just over 2 hours, bringing in 1800 pounds of grapes or under one ton per acre. Brix at harvest was 26.5, a high for the site and pH was 3.42.

The grapes were 100% destemmed and crushed into a single t-bin. The natural, native yeasts of the estate were used and a Malolactic starter was added half way through fermentation. Punch downs were limited to one per day to minimize tannin extraction and in an effort to keep the wine from becoming too dark and intense. Fermentation was very gentle and extended for 23 days. The wine was gently pressed and transferred to tank to settle for 72 hours before being placed in one new sequin Moreau barrel and one used French oak barrel.

The blend included 250 pounds of estate Merlot that was harvested on October 9th. Those grapes were destemmed and crushed and began fermentation on native yeast in a 60 gallon tub. The must was combined with the Cabernet Sauvignon on 10/25. Small amounts of the estates Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc were also added at harvest on October 25th.

The Harvest Moon Vineyard also saw yields down greatly in 2008 and we took just 2 tons from the vineyard vs. 8 tons we had hoped for. Harvest took place on October 26th and the grapes were transferred to Chaine d’Or for processing. Final numbers were Brix, 23.5 and pH 3.62. The grapes were destemmed and crushed into our 3 ½ ton stainless steel tank for fermentation on native yeast. Malolactic starter was added 10 day later. Fermentation was very slow and gentle and we used a combination of pump over’s and punch downs averaging one per day. We used a gentle routine in 2008 on all our Cabernet’s to minimize the huge tannins of the vintage.

The must completed fermentation on 11/17 after 22 days and was pressed into tank for 72 hours to settle. Due to the large solid to juice ratio, we had to climb into the tank and bucket out the large amount of must into the press. The wine was transferred to 3 new Sequin Moreau barrels and two neutral French oak barrels.

In the Spring of 2009 we combined the two barrels of Chaine d'Or with two barrels from Harvest Moon. That May the single barrel of Elandrich was added to the blend and an additional Harvest Moon barrel was chosen to provide topping wine. We racked the blended wine more often than usual in an effort to soften the tannins in the wine. The finished wine was bottled in August of 2010 after 22 months in barrel. The final blend is:

81% Cabernet Sauvignon
17% Merlot
1% Zinfandel
1 % Cab Franc

Tasting Note: The wine is dark hued tending to purple. The nose is classic Cabernet with plum, dark berry fruit and currants with a top note of spicy oak. In the mouth the wine shows more dark berry fruit, mocha, ripe currant and a touch of toast. The wine is very well structured and comes across as fresh even with the huge tannins. The structure, acidity and density reminds me a great deal of a Super Tuscan, being very well rounded. The finish is long with complex black fruits showing. Promises a very long life in bottle.

94 Cases Produced

Release: Spring of 2011

Release Price: $120 per 3 pack, $225 per six pack

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

2008 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Crimson Clover Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley

Second in a series of three on our next releases....

In March of 2007 we received a call from a family looking for help in pruning a one acre vineyard. Usually we don't do single task jobs like that, preferring to manage our vineyards through all parts of maintenance so we have control over final quality. The homeowner though was desperate. The vineyard had been installed in 2005 and had not been pruned at all in 2006. I knew that if it was not properly pruned in 2007, the entire vineyard would have to be started over from scratch and wouldn't yield until 2010.

We went out with a small group of friends and spent two back breaking days of some of the hardest vineyard labor we've ever done. The plants had been left in grow tubes since planting in 2005. The plants were actually very healthy, but the grow tubes had limited the space the young vines could grow in. The result was that each plant had 8-20 stalks tightly wrapped like 5 inch thick rattan furniture.

We had to use large tree pruners to cut through the stalks until there was just one left. They were so thick and hard that our friend Kenneth and I were the only ones strong enough to cut away the stalks. Even then we had to do just 8-10 plants before talking a rest and letting the other person continue. Stefania led every one else on our pruning team. After we'd cut away the stalks and selected a new cordon the other pruners would debud the remaining stalk except for two buds that would become the new cordons. It was step, step lunge and repeat, 900 times.

That time in the vineyard though gave us a glimpse that this might be a very special place. The vineyard is located in a small valley between the Santa Teresa Foothills and the main Santa Cruz Mountains range. This particular vineyard is at the foot of 'El Toro' which is a 1200 foot high volcanic cinder cone. The small area around El Toro is the only place in the world to find Poppy Jasper which is formed when volcanic and seismic rocks are active in the same area.

This little valley has the most complex mix of soils we've ever seen, with the volcanic wash from El Toro combining with the lift thrust soils of the San Andreas fault. The weather also was near perfect. Fog rolled up into the vineyard every night from the Pacific to cool the vineyard, but burned off early in the morning leaving a warm sunny site during the day.

We decided to manage the vineyard through that summer and oversee its restoration. We decided to drop all the fruit in 2007 to allow the vines to build strength and fill out from our pruning efforts. By that Fall we were so confident in the vineyard's potential that we informed Ted and Bill at Uvas Creek that 2007 would be the last vintage we'd be buying fruit from them. In 2008 this would become the source for our Santa Clara Valley offering. We were very excited to see how the complex soil and excellent weather would influence the finished wine.

Our first harvest from these four year old vines was on Sunday September 28th. The vineyard was under our second year of management. We dropped @ 600 pounds of fruit in late August to balance out the plants and insure even ripening and then began a system of reverse deficit irrigation to slow down sugar levels to allow the flavors to mature.

Final numbers came in very ripe but with good acidity. Something we would see all year in 2008. Brix was 27.2 and pH came in at 3.53.

Harvest was with a mix of paid and volunteer crews and we picked just under 3200 pounds. The grapes were small, and intensely flavored. We transported them to Big Basin Vineyards for processing, then sorted and 100% destemmed the grapes, but did not crush the berries, opting for whole berry fermentation. The must was foot treaded several times until fermentation started. We again used native yeast fermentation. Fermentation took 18 days to complete and the wine was gently pressed and transferred to 2 new Sequin Moreau barrels and one old French oak barrel for 67% new wood treatment. Malolactic fermentation was begun in bin and completed in barrel.

As the wine matured at Big Basin the winemaker there began to ask us if he too could get fruit from this vineyard site. His quote was: "This is the best Cabernet I've tasted from the Santa Cruz Mountains." We racked the wine on a regular schedule over 22 months and it was transferred to Chaine d'Or for bottling in the summer of 2010. We bottled the wine in August 2010.

PS: That first day we arrived on site the vineyard was bright red from the Crimson Clover the homeowners had planted as a cover crop between the rows. We started referring to the site as 'Crimson Clover' right away.

Tasting Note: Bright and expressive on the nose with red fruit and spicy oak notes. A very complex wine with tons of red fruit flavors; berry, ripe cherry, raspberry with a coating of chocolaty mocha and spice. Darker fruit flavors come out as the wine opens up with blackberry, boysenberry, currant, and plum notes. There are just loads of fruit flavors in this wine that continue in the long finish. The wine is dense and well structured but the fruit flavors remain lifted and lively. I encourage people to try this wine young with a 60 minute decant. It will age well for 10+ years but I suspect people will have a hard time keeping their hands off this wine.

69 Cases Produced

Release: Spring of 2011

Release Price: $120 per 3 pack, $225 per six pack

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2009 Stefania Chardonnay Chaine d'Or Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains

First in a series of three on our next release.............

Compared to the 2008 season, 2009 was an easy year in the vineyard. We continued our efforts in the winter to lower the spurs on the old Chardonnay vines and the effort was 90% complete with almost all the fruit now back in the lower wire fruiting zone. With our third year of drought we decided to give the vineyard three doses of water in 2009. First we had to undertake an extensive check and repair of the drip system after two seasons of non use. The water was run for 4-6 hours on each occasion, in an attempt to simulate a summer storm. A final dose of rain on September 13th also assisted the vines.

Chardonnay harvest at Chaine d’Or was small for the estate, but we think this will be typical for us with our strict pruning and thinning routine. We picked on the morning of September 27th, using a crew of friends and our regular group of Jerry’s friends and family who are quickly gaining a reputation in the area as the best harvest crew available. The crew is paid by the hour, rather than by the bin and thus is meticulous in sorting and selection in the field. Picking bins arrive free of leafs or debris of any kind and substandard grapes are never picked.

It took just 5 hours to bring in 68 bins from the upper section and 81 from the lower section. A total of 149 bins or 4470 pounds was harvested. That is an average yield of 2.2 tons / acre. The fruit was healthy, and showed excellent golden maturity. The grapes were destemmed and pressed at once in our stainless steel bladder press. Final numbers were Brix 26, TA .93 and pH 3.62. The juice was transferred to a stainless steel tank where it was chilled to 54 degrees for 24 hours to encourage the gross lees to fall out.

On 10/5 the Chardonnay was transferred to 4 new barrels and 4 used barrels to continue fermentation. Superfood was again added and the juice was inoculated with Malolactic starter. On 10/12 the Chardonnay was reduced to 7 barrels with one old barrel removed. On 10/23 the Brix had reached -1% in each barrel and it was condensed down to a final 5 barrels (3 new, one 2008, one old) and a Keg and Carboy. Lees were stirred every two weeks to enrich the wine.

On April 4th we began the process to cold stabilize the wine by transferring it to tank and chilling the tank to 35 degrees. Sulfur was added to protect the wine and the wine was racked clean from its lees. On May 1st the wine was filtered and transferred to a second tank for bottling. Bottling was in early May and we decided to hold the wine into 2011 before release to allow it ample time to recover from the bottling process.

Tasting Note: The wine has a pronounced nose of pear, peach and ripe Fuji apple. There is a hint of spice and vanilla from the new oak. We delayed picking on 2009 to bring out more of these mature stone fruit flavors. In the mouth the wine is rich, deep and broad with mouth coating density. The fruit flavors are sweet and long. The wine finishes with sweet pear and apple fruit. The 60% new oak is well blended and lifted by the wines racy acidity. This is a big racy wine that remains fresh and lifted by it's acidity.

123 Cases Produced.

Release: Spring of 2011

Release Price: $75 per 3 pack, $140 per six pack

A special note on our Chardonnay: This past summer Paul's mother lost her partner and companion of over 20 years William 'Bill' Jansen to Pulmonary Fibrosis. Bill came out often to help us work in the vineyards and support our efforts. Bill's favorite wine was our Chardonnay and we will donate $1 from every bottle sold in his name to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Orders, Availability, Futures

Stefania and I stopped at UPS this morning, and GSO is coming by the house tonight. We have now shipped all orders that came in before last Monday. There were a few odds and ends and a group of magnums that needed to go out. They are all in transit now.

We are completely out now of wine from our last release. The 08 Haut Tubee, 08 Syrah and 08 Pinot Noir are all gone. We do still have a small amount of the three 07's left (Eaglepoint Syrah, Uvas Creek Cab and Santa Cruz Mountains Cab). Those will be available for reorders until the first of the year. By then I suspect we'll be at a low enough level to pull them back into the Library.

This week I'll start to put up vineyard and winemaking notes on the three wines in our next release. Our Futures offer will also go out this week on those three wines via email. The general release will be in mid February for everyone not on the Futures List and will feature the same three wines.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pictures I Owe People

I put this one first just so that everyone knows we have been doing some work and not just playing around. We pressed the Split Rail Syrah this week and this is the press in action. Sofie is guarding the press for us.

This one is for Tim from the Wine Berserkers Forum. He had asked about getting a basket press to work more efficiently and I explained these inserts that Millie made for us a few years ago. The one on the left comes with the press and we made the ones on the right. They let you get better pressure on the press and turn the crank harder by being more stable in the basket than the small wood blocks the press comes with.

This picture was in response to a couple of threads on the Wine Spectator Forum. One asked about what type of car you drove. Another was about Fall shipping. I explained that the FJ Cruiser can hold about 20 cases of wine at a time. Here's the car stuffed with boxes and ready to go to UPS.

I just thought this last one was funny. The ultimate low rent RV set up. It's a pick up truck with a BBQ and a toilet tied down in the bed. Everything you need to tailgate at the big game.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Twelve Year Old on a Bicycle

In my first year of college I took a class called "Introduction to Mass Media". It was the first class for people who were going to major in Journalism. For me it was a social science elective and one I thought would be interesting. It turned out to be an excellent class.

It offered an overview of book and magazines, TV, radio and newspapers. It covered production, as well as reporting and outlined journalistic standards and methods. Since the class was aimed at Journalism majors a great deal of time was spent on ethics and proper techniques and verification of facts.

There was also a lot on actual production. The class took an approach that if you were going to work for a newspaper you had to know the technical details of how a paper was put together and got to press. This way you understood deadlines and limitations around the production side of the business and how that shaped what you could write.

One of the quotes I remember from the professor was about TV News; "It's not news if you don't have video." His point was that in TV, no matter what the story, if you didn't have a picture to go with it, it wasn't going to get on the air.

When we got to the section on newspapers he had another rant I remember. It went something like this:

"The newspaper industry is one of the most amazing in the country. Papers are staffed by well educated skilled professionals with years of writing and editing experience. The sales departments have some of the brightest minds in advertising and marketing. Production is done on state of the art high tech equipment costing millions of dollars and run by skilled craftsman who usually have decades of experience. Then the entire product is delivered by a twelve year old on a bicycle."

I always remember that quote during shipping season. We do everything we can to insure that shipping goes well, but it always comes down to a delivery guy in a truck. Our latest drama was a simple keying error. The guy at the UPS office added an 'N' for North on an address that should not have had it. The driver, like a corpulent twelve year old, decided he was not going to deliver the box to 59 Main Street, because the address said 59 N Main Street. Even though there was no N Main Street. 'Undeliverable'.

Frustrating, time consuming and expensive. UPS charged us $11 to take the N off the package, even though they had put the N on the package. Makes me wish we had a twelve year old and a bike.

Dungeness Crab Season OPEN

The ships go out...the crab gets goes in my fridge...I bake some bread. Hungry Yet?

The only thing I didn't have a photo of already was the pound of butter or the Chardonnay bottle(s) on ice.


Monday, November 15, 2010

New Vineyard Layout

Saturday morning Stefania and I headed to a new site where we will help install a vineyard this winter. The site is actually close to our home, just about 1 1/2 miles away. There's a range of hills in the way though so no direct road and we end up driving about 8 miles to get to the site.

This site is in the Santa Teresa Foothills above Almaden Valley. I think this little range of hills is very exciting for grape growing. The Santa Teresa Foothills are the same small chain of volcanic hills that extends down to Morgan Hill where our Crimson clover vineyard is located. All along the chain there are a series of valleys that divide the volcanic soils of the Santa Teresa Foothills from the lift-thrust soils created by the San Andreas fault that forms the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The result is really complex and layered soils with a mix of shattered Franciscan limestone based soils and volcanic based soils often layered in the same location. That's the case at Crimson Clover. This location is more like the Uvas Creek vineyard which is also located on a south-west slope of the Santa Teresa Foothills. The volcanic soils dominate here, and there's a great band of Terra Rosa soil through the site.

If you look closely behind Stef and Joan you can see a volcanic formation of rocks. This hill was once an active vent of a volcanic system.

This picture should look a little like our label. That's Mount Uhmunum in the background with the old radar tower. The site is at about 350 feet with a southern exposure and a slope of about 10 degrees. The homeowner is going to plant Mourvedre, which we think is an exceptional grape in this location. Eventual production should be about 1 to 1 1/2 tons.

This was a very difficult site to lay out. The vineyard area is about a 1/4 acre bounded on all four sides by fencing. The problem was none of the fences run parallel or at right angles to each other. Visually as your in the vineyard this creates an effect of having the vineyard layout look off kilter. It took us a little time to settle on a layout design. Eventually we went with something that will look very nice from the patio above the vineyard. When you're down in the vineyard it will still look a little odd with end posts seemingly scattered about, but from the house it will look like straight rows running across the hill.

The drip system will be installed in a couple weeks, then Jerry will put in the end posts. We will plant in March and run wires later in the spring. I'm sure there will be more pictures to follow.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Late Pumpkin Carving Pictures

This year we decided not to have a harvest grape stomp party. The timing was just bad and we were not sure we'd have grapes to bring in. We did though have Stefania's pumpkin carving party.

I buy a half ton bin of pumpkins from Spina Farms and Jerry and I set them up around the yard. It works out to about $2.50 for a super large pumpkin this way so a pretty good deal. We had a few rain showers pass through just before the party was supposed to start so we had to make a quick change from the backyard to the front yard where there would be more cover.

'Super Size' pumpkins. This one was about 25 pounds I think. IN all we had about 60 to choose from and ended up carving about 40.

This lead to a rare scene of an abandoned bar. Not that anyone was without a drink though. We had about 20 limes ready on one of the trees in the backyard so I made margarita's for everyone.

This picture isn't really related, it was from a few days before as we headed up to the winery. It is our traditional harvest time picture though and from the coldest morning we've had to work outside in this harvest season. (So Far)

Friday, November 12, 2010

2008 Magnums Available

We bottled a tiny number of magnums of our Fall Release wines. The magnums were only offered to Futures List customers this summer, we did not include them in the regular mailer because we had so few to go around. We do have a few left though and I thought I'd put them up here and on Facebook for those of you who follow us daily.

Here's what we have:

2008 Stefania Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains

Bottles available: 2 $108 per bottle.

2008 Stefania Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch Mendocino County

Bottles available: 3 $80 per bottle.

First come first serve. 9.25% Sales Tax on CA deliveries. Shipping on these is $5 in CA/AZ/NV and $10 every where else.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Shipping and Inventory

Stefania is about half way through shipping right now. She sent out about half of the IL and MN orders yesterday as well as some for DC. She still has a few California orders to go and we're waiting on weather in Arizona. There's still a lot of work to do though but Stef says she's on track to get everything out by Thanksgiving.

I did an inventory check yesterday and we're sold out on 2008 Haut Tubee, 2008 Syrah and that means 2008 combo packs are sold out as well. We have 4 cases of 2008 Pinot Noir left. I'll hold those Pinot Noir's for anyone interested in reorders or for any late requests that come in.

I do have some magnums left as well. We offered those to our Futures list but not the general list. There are just a few. I think we have 4 Syrah and 3 Pinot Noir magnums left. I'll likely put those up here and/or on Facebook as a special offer in the next week or so. If you haven't added us as a friend yet it's It's not a fan page, it's my personal page. We don't have a fan or company site, that's just not our style.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Three Day Weekend (Part two)

Saturday morning we got to sleep in for a bit and didn't leave the house until 9 am. First I loaded 20 or so cases into the car then we stopped by the store to pick up some snacks and headed to the winery. It was 'Pick Up Day' at the winery and we were hosting an open house from 11-3. Stefania and I got everything set up by 11 am and the 20 cases unloaded.

Our friend Jaye joined us at 11 to help pour and answer questions from everyone. We had a fairly large group come through for us and were busy until weel after 3:00 PM. Having Jaye was a huge help and it let Stef and I talk with more people and even walk a few people through on tours.

We headed home about 4:30. We had planned on going back to the winery on Sunday and putting the Harvest Moon and Haut Tubee into barrel. We sat in the backyard for a bit and I smoked a cigar and Stef smoked some cherry tobacco in her pipe while we had a glass of wine.

The house was in chaos. We hadn't been able to do laundry in over a week. The office was stacked with mail, the fridge was empty of food except for leftovers and beer botles and there were still dishes out from take out food Friday night. Both of us where full of aches and pains and I made an executive decision: we'd take the next day off.

We slept in and had coffee in bed. Then we headed to the local supermarket and spent $200. It was our first trip to the store in weeks that wasn't to just pick up something we were out of. With the fridge restocked we headed home. I turned on the football game and started laundry going and Stef cleaned up the kitchen and fridge. I made us turkey club sandwiches for lunch and started a fire in the fireplace.

Even though the day was full of chores it felt so relaxing. We finally had the house back in order and fresh laundry hung up. For dinner we handmade cheese raviolis and a sausage sauce. Stef watched the Simpsons and I was asleep by 9:00 PM. When we woke up Monday morning we both agreed it was the first time we'd really felt rested when waking up in months. I headed off to the day job and Stef spent the day loading up shipments to the East Coast. We'll tackle the barreling on Wednesday, it was good to have a down day.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Three Day Weekend (Part one)

Friday I took a PTO day from my day job. I hope it's my last for awhile, I'm down under 60 hours now of time off. There was rain in the forecast though for Friday night so we knew it was time to bring in the last of our grapes for this year.

I left the house at 7:15 to get cash out from the bank and put gas in the car. I'd need the cash to pay the picking crew for the day. I was also down to a quarter tank of gas and knew I'd put a lot of miles on for the day. It turned out to be 156 miles in all. I was back at home at 7:30 and Millie, Jerry and our small picking crew of three were waiting for me. Stefania was already outside and we loaded up in less than two minutes and where on the road to the Split Rail vineyard.

The trip took just about 70 minutes. We were slowed a little by traffic in Santa Cruz and then by a slow moving truck on the one lane road above Corralitos on the way to the vineyard site. When we arrived Ian Brand had picked about 60 pounds of grapes and his two volunteer pickers had just arrived on site.

Things moved pretty quickly. Our experienced pickers made short work of the vineyard and Stefania and I sorted grapes as they brought them in. It gave me a chance to catch up with Ian some. For the past two months we've talked, emailed or texted almost daily, but I don't think we've had a conversation over 5 minutes in length. Both too busy. In all we took about 3/4 of a ton from the vineyard this year. The extra week helped a lot. Ian thought the brix would be 23. I guessed 25. Stef would measure it at 25 later in the day. It was 21.6 just two weeks ago.

It was about a 75 minute drive then to the winery. When we arrived Millie took the picking crew out into the vineyard to start picking the Chaine d'Or Cabernet that could be salvaged. Stefania started doing punchdowns and getting her lab ready to take readings on the incoming fruit. Jerry and I hooked up all the hoses and equipment we'd need to process the fruit, then he and I crushed it all in just under 30 minutes total time.

Stef let me know that the readings on the Harvest Moon showed it was time to press the must. We had wanted to wait to do that and were hoping the brix was still around 4 or 5 so we could wait out through more rain on Sunday. We can't press in the rain, we don't have a cover large enough to cover the press. So after a little discussion we decided we'd just muscle through and press that day.

I headed down into the vineyard next to check on the crew and sort what they had picked so far. Our plan was to pick into 30 lb bins and then dump into a 1/2 ton bin I had loaded on the back of the tractor. That way I could sort each bin after it was picked. The crew was moving slowly. They were cutting out bad grapes on clusters with mixed good and bad as we had done with the Chardonnay. I knew we wouldn't have time for that so I changed them up to just picking good clusters and leaving the rest.

In the end we pulled about 400 pounds of Cabernet out of the vineyard. More than we thought we could save back in August, but still a tiny amount. We processed that fruit and then everyone pitched in to clean up and make the switch over in equipment from crushing to pressing. Bins were cleaned and the pump cleaned and refitted. The hoses were switched out and the used ones cleaned. The crusher was cleaned and the press prepared. It took about 45 minutes to make the change over.

Everyone then pitched in to load the press. We transferred two full bins of Harvest Moon Cabernet. It's a messy operation and Millie splashed the most juice on herself by far. I was able to kick of the auto-program at 3:30 though and get the press going. At that point I paid two of our helpers and Millie took them back to their car in San Jose. Estella, Jerry's wife had made us all sandwiches and Stef and I were able to eat ours as the press ran.

Jerry and Gill finished cleaning up from the picks and then they too got to relax for a bit while we let the press cycle through. After about 30 minutes of break time I decided to take on another chore that needed doing. We had built two compost heeps in the lower vineyard with the stems and pressing from earlier lots. Jerry Anderson asked if we could move those as they were in the line of sight of the neighbors backyard, spoiling their view.

The spent pressing were pretty easy to move. I scooped them up with the tractors bucket and spread them down the rows as fertilizer. The stem piles where a little harder, at least for me. I can now add 'bulldozing' as a winemaking related skill I have. Turns out there is a significant art to bulldozing, especially on a grade. If you go in too high, or don't drop the bucket just right, you skim right over the top of the pile. Go in too low and you dig the bucket in and rear up the tractor on its back wheels. Eventually I got it all pushed out of sight though.

I got back up to the crushpad in time to finish up with the press. We left the dry pressings in the press and loaded in the Haut Tubee to be pressed next. I set that on a slightly shorter cycle. I knew we were loosing sunlight and cleaning the press at night is almost impossible. AS it was we did finish after dark which resulted in my most painful injury of the season. I was spreading out the pressings in the vineyard from the Haut Tubee pressing after we finished and it was dark in the vineyard. Even though I had the headlights on on the tractor I never saw the vine that smacked be just below the eye. I had a red welt for a few days.

We finished cleaning up in the dark by flashlight, but were able to return all the harvest equipment back to storage for the winter. Stefania and I left about 7:30 and were back home by 8:15.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Bluefin Restaurant San Jose

I'm promoting local businesses that I'm fond of and since last night was dinner at Bluefin I thought I'd write them up today.

I didn't think they got a very fair write-up by the Metro or was it the Mercury News...I forget who did the review, but the author basically ranted about serving endangered fish and how it was bad for the environment etc etc.

The two sushi chefs at the counter are very personable, the staff is friendly and knowledgeable and the food is supreme. They take extra care in selecting only the best fish flown in directly from Japan and the quality is noticeable. Last night I had something I wouldn't trust to any other chef no matter what, it was Kobe beef "sushi"; raw beef chopped with sesame oil, soy sauce, over rice and wrapped in nori.

And as a special request, they made me an Uni Shooter (usually with a raw oyster, but I like the sauce with the Uni - sea urchin), very briny and clean.

As an environmentalist, I'm more concerned about the number of plastics that end up in the ocean, not the amount of fishing. Is Bluefin a great restaurant? Yes, I highly recommend it.

Hope to see some of the locals up at the winery on Saturday, we'll have our OpenHouse 11-3.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Open House This Saturday

Please join us Saturday Nov 6th for our bi-annual open house and Fall Pick up day. We will be pouring samples from our Fall release as well as past vintages and preview barrel samples from upcoming releases.

If you selected 'pick up' on your Fall order form your wine will be available for pick up at the winery.

There is a lot going on in the winery right now and we'll demonstrate punchdowns and show you the active fermentations we have going right now. There will be snacks and the famous open house hot dog cooker may come out if weather permits.

Complete directions are at:


This was the official invite that I sent out this past weekend. We will have just crushed the Estate Cabernet and Split Rail Syrah the day before the Open House. We should have 5-6 active fermentation bins going and we will do punchdowns on each one.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Here I Am

Stefania has been doing most of the blogging lately but I'm still around. Every time I think I'm going to write a blog the only thing that comes to mind is what particular part of my body is sore at the moment (shoulders and right hamstring right now) and I know that's just not that interesting to people.

I did take one of our traditional start of day pictures though last week. It was a late start to the day at 8:40 AM, and that was because we knew if we got to the winery before 9:30 it would be in the high 30's there. It was 45 in our driveway in San Jose. Cold and pain, not compelling blogging I'm afraid.

Things are moving along though. We've pressed the Crimson Clover Cabernet and it's in tank settling before going into barrel. I'm really happy with that wine and think it will be the highlight of 2010. The 'Franken-Pinot-Stein' is also in tank, still slowly fermenting. Right now it taste and looks like a Port. We're not sure what we'll do with it but we're hopeful we've fixed all the major issues.

We filled a half barrel with Chardonnay. That's all we have for 2010. We may buy some grapes from the Coastview Vineyard to have more Chardonnay but we're just not sure right now and have to decide in a couple of days. The Haut Tubee is finishing up in tank and we'll likely press that on Sunday. There are also two bins of Harvest Moon Cabernet fermenting away right now.

Next week we'll likely harvest the Split Rail Syrah and salvage what we can of the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Once everything is in from the vineyard we should have another 3 -4 weeks or so of fermenting, pressing and settling. It looks like we should finish up around December 1st. Another long harvest season for us.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Best Artisan Chocolates? Dolce Bella in SJ!!

I met Audrey Vaggione at an event at the Capital Club downtown SJ a couple of years ago...she is awesome!!

The email invitation I received recently was to announce their Grand Opening this Saturday, October 30th at a new location in San Jose.

The link to her website is here:

Go visit and sample her creations, you'll be hooked.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


It's almost Halloween so it's fitting to talk about the FrankensteinWine in tank right now.

Brix came in under 50 (that's a joke), and the initial sulfur tests came back off the charts. Fun.

So I generally don't like what Laurie Daniels writes about for the local newspaper in her wine column. But today she actually got it right when she said this is a year that winemakers will need to put all their skills to work. Sure it's awesome when we don't have to intervene with the process, but there is always something that needs to be monitored.

This year, we are using all our skills with the FrankenWine (that's what we started calling it). We've added plenty of water hoping to get the sugars balanced, tartaric acid to fix the pH, and copper sulfide to fix the sulfur stink. And let me tell you what, this wine stunk like butt the first two days it was fermenting. We fixed that asap and it's no longer detectable, but I kept having to reassure guests that no, I didn't in fact just fart.

As of today, the wine is inside the winery in tank with the heat lamps on to help push it through the last stages of fermentation, we're at 3.8brix, we should have been at zero by now....we're trying not to freak out, but we are.

Everything else is going along as normal, the year wasn't a total loss but it has had some interesting challenges that's for sure.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"It made a loud popping sound and then...."

The day started at 7:30 a.m., it wasn't too bitter cold yet, but it was overcast and the clouds were rolling in for the first real rain of the season.

By noon, Paul and I had transferred 2 tons of pinot, bucket by bucket, into the press. We got one short break and then Gerry showed up with the first of two truckloads of cabernet.

The three of us processed that first ton, manually into the crusher. We were about 3/4 done when the guy we sold used barrels to showed up with his truck. No break before loading up a dozen barrels...but wait! Just as Paul was getting ready to pull down the first rack of empties, Big Joe died.

Paul came out from inside and said, did you hear that loud POP? (we didn't, the press was running) that was Big Joe, it's dead. So, for the rest of the barrel moving, no forklift...Super.

Gerry, Paul, and I ran relays with the hand truck and hoisted barrels and racks, up and over hoses and around various obstacles.

Next day we had the repair guy come out...his van.

The new batteries in Big Joe...

The deceased batteries...

And then, because I think I figured out how to take video and get it uploaded...a shot of the fog rolling in the other night (a couple days back) as we were wrapping up and leaving for the day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Shipping Update

I've gotten a number of calls and emails about shipping. We did include a note about shipping dates on the back of the order form but I think next time I need to put it on the front where it's easier to find.

We're going to start shipping the first week of November. This year we decided to wait until after all the picking was done before shipping. Last year we tried to manage both at the same time and it was too much. Shipping is pretty labor intensive and time consuming but it also takes up a lot of office time. Stef ends up spending a couple hours each day during shipping season answering phone calls and emails and sending out tracking numbers.

We thought it would be better to do that when she's not having to spend all day out in the vineyard so that's why we waited to ship. We expect everything will go out by Thanksgiving. We'll likely start working from East to West so that everyone has wine by the Thanksgiving weekend. If you need yours sooner let us know.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Best Restaurant and Bar in San Jose

I haven't been at home for a birthday since 1995. It's been 15 years of being out of town. Since 2001 Stefania and I have spent the day in New Orleans. It feels a little weird not to be in NOLA right now, but the schedule just didn't work out this year with the day falling on a Tuesday and the mad rush of harvest zooming up on us.

We actually don't go out a great deal any more in San Jose. We do have some great restaurants in town, but now it's maybe twice a month we head out. That's because I think we have the best restaurant and bar in town in our house.

Tonight we're going to start with a cocktail. It will be shaken just right in an ice cold glass just to order. We'll probably have the baseball games on the TVs behind the bar, at least until hockey comes on at 7:30. We may have cigars on the patio next, or maybe we'll save that until after dinner.

Stef already ran out to the store, she's going to make a fresh wedge salad with bacon, and blue cheese dressing. The dressing will be from scratch with Point Reyes blue and a mix of chopped veggies. She's promised some bread made from scratch too and steamed broccoli. She has some rib eyes that I'll do on the grill. For wine we'll pick a bottle or two from our cellar. I''m leaning to our 07 Santa Cruz Mountains Cab, I really like that wine. Or maybe a Cline Mourvedre or a 1998 La Mission Haut Brion. I know our wine list is pretty good!

It's just hard to beat that in a restaurant. We've joked that all we need to do is hire a waitress / dish cleaner and it's the perfect set up. We'd never leave home. Tonight I can't think of a better way to spend by birthday.

Monday, October 18, 2010

New Orleans 2010

The Joint

10 Picnic Tables and some patio seating at The Joint

Pulled Pork, coleslaw and The Joint

This would be all I can afford from Natalie anymore, a bid on her paint stained stereo, or maybe one of her soiled smocks...we did get a good couple of visits in with her though.

I took two other photos on the trip, more outdoor shots of The Joint, by now you should have picked up on the idea that I really liked this place. Next time I'm trying the ribs and brisket, but I have to say, the pulled pork sandwich was awesome.

From low brow to high end in the same day we had dinner at Stella. Amuse Bouche was a play on sushi; watermelon "maguro", cantaloupe "ginger", and honeydew "wasabi" with a drop of balsamic "soy".

I had the egg, lobster, caviar to start and Paul had foie gras. He had a carrot salad that I can't really describe other than "just ok and too esoteric", I ordered the soup, salad, and grilled cheese...all just bites to whet the appetite and very pleasing to taste. For the mains, I had an awesome swordfish steak over a ratatouille garnish that would have been appropriate for a pork chop too (just sayin') and Paul had veal medallions. Dessert was a cheese plate and artisan sweets made in-house (nougat, caramel, ganache, marshmallow).

They offer an extensive vodka and caviar menu if you are so inclined...$425/oz for barrel-broke winemakers didn't fit our budget this year.

Our third new place to dine this trip was Mr. B's Bistro. I was craving BBQ Shrimp (these are not actually grilled or in anyway resembling something off the bbq) and was not disappointed with their sauce. Paul ordered the pasta jambalaya and said it was good. We polished off a housemade pecan pie that was so rich it was the only real sweet treat the whole trip and it made up for not having a single praline or beignet. Ronda swears they make the best GumboYaYa, so I'll try that next trip.

Of course we ate at Coops and popped in several times for drinks and snacks. Fay still makes a mean bloody mary.

Missed dinner at GW Fins on account of the evening getting away from us...we popped in there at 11 not knowing what time it really was, sadly the kitchen was closed. There is a new place on Bourbon St, a tequila bar with simple mexican a hand grenade and lucky dog for dinner. Yep, we got distracted with new friends we met over margaritas and chips/salsa, headed back there for a late quesadilla.

Treated ourselves to an early anniversary dinner at Bayona, still an all time favorite. Susan Spicer inspires me to replicate her creamed soups at home. This time it was potato leek. The pork chop was fantastic and Paul had the rabbit...both were excellent entrees. More cheese for dessert.

Other highlights? Our home away from home, Down on Dauphine (rental from vrbo) and the courtyard there...the little green lizard came to see us in the afternoons when we played cards.

We got a lot of visiting in with Natalie, Michael from Monterey (next door to Natalie), Ronda and Walt at Louisiana LoomWorks, our part time neighbors at DoD, and Fay over at Coops. And there was napping, lots of afternoon zzzz's.

Back to winemaking this week, the message this morning from Millie was that the pinot cap dropped.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fall Release Status

We had a little spat of orders this weekend that mostly came in over the phone and via email. I knew we were running low on some items so Stefania did a count for me Monday afternoon.

We are now out of the 2008 Eaglepoint Syrah. There is just enough left to do combo packs so if your allocation was for a combo pack we can still do those. We're very low on Haut Tubee as well. It looks like just about 6 cases left. There's about the same amount of Pinot Noir left. We should be good for another week or two I think if the current ordering pace continues.

The thing that made me think of doing a count was a note from a customer in Afghanistan who thought he might be too late. As an official company policy it's never too late for anyone serving in Iraq or Afghanistan to order. Stefania and I do keep a couple of cases of each wine for ourselves and we're happy to share those in emergency situations. This was our 5th order I could remember from someone on active duty in the Middle East and that's a big part of why we keep those couple of cases on the side.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Crimson Clover 2010

Sunday morning we gathered friends and our small crew and harvested the Crimson Clover vineyard. This is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard we've been making wine from now since 2008.

Jerry had gotten us all ready to pick on Friday and Saturday. Friday he took down all the picking and harvest bins and Sunday he and a friend removed the bird netting. Saturday morning Stefania and I rented the extra truck we'd need before we headed out to the winery for the day. That left us to just pick grapes Sunday morning.

Here is the first fruit coming in from the picking bins and going into the harvest bins.

The hill in the background is an old cinder cone so the vineyard has a high amount of volcanic soil. The valley though is a fault, thrust valley so there's a complex mix of soils.

The rows here are cleaner than in our steep vineyards. There's not as much need to keep the ground cover in place and prevent erosion. At the end of the rows in this picture you can see people picking grapes. It goes best if there is one person on each side of the row so you don't have to reach through the vine to cut fruit. You still have to stagger though and not work the exact same part off the vine at the same time. That leads to cut fingers.

This is Jerry's wife Estella and his cousin. Both are part of the little group we call 'The A Team', of our best pickers. When we've sorted after 'The A Team' picks we remove on average less than 1lb of bad grapes and debris for every 2000 pounds picked. They know their grapes and know how to keep bins clean.

I wore myself out Sunday. My Mom and Stefania did the sorting at the truck and I ran bins back and forth. I should have let the younger guys do that. It's basically lifting 30lbs on your shoulder and carrying it 50-100 yards and dumping it in the truck. Then repeat that about 140 times. To top it off I lifted all the grapes again in 20 pound buckets at the crusher. My shoulder still hurts.

We have a few days off now though to recover.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Pops Birthday & Sh*t My Husband Says

We watched the Giants game lastnight (that was disappointing), and one of the commercial breaks was for Conan's new show.

At the completion of the 30-second ad, Paul turns to me and says, "I wouldn't watch Conan if he was on fire in my front yard". And so we have our first installation of Sh*t My Husband Says.

This on the eve of his dad's birthday, and where Paul gets some of his crustyness.

Just this morning, I leaned over Paul's shoulder to see what he was posting and he too was channeling pops:

It's my Dad's birthday today. He's 68,69 or 70, depends on what set of paperwork you're looking at. Record keeping in rural New Mexico circa 1940 wasn't so great.

I love it when I hear people now talk about their dogs. What park they like best, what treat is their favorite, what toy is the best. I especially like the discussions about where the dog sleeps. End of the bed, middle of the bed, its own bed, ect.

My Dad's reply to where does the dog sleep would be; "I don't know ask the dog."

That's my reply to the question of where do the yeast come from: "I don't know ask the yeast".

They work, I like how the wine comes out, and they finish my ferments. I have not built my yeast friends into any kind of dogma, and I don't particularly think they need a marketing program. I'm happy they are there, like an old ranch dog, but I don't really care where they sleep at night.


ITB - Tour Guide, Truck Driver, Cleaner of Things, Winemaker


Friday, October 08, 2010

Ten Photos in Random Order

Wine Amplified main stage, our cabana was where the blue orb light is, just left of the stage!
And there is Paul smiling in front of our cabana before the event.

I was at the Crimson Clover Vineyard earlier this week and pulled samples, it's ready for an early Sunday morning harvest. I saved a robin that got caught in the netting.

Closer view of the Crimson grapes, don't look for the robin, he's long gone...

The "estate" Mourvedre grapes were harvested and tossed in with the rest of the Haut Tubee grapes from three other little vineyards.

The Haut Tubee Syrah, and just under that a close-up, not to show how awesome the grapes look, they do, but to show why I don't like to use any tape, twine, or other device to tie the cordons to wire. The green tie is cutting into the vine. We had to tie them that first year of retraining, but after pruning I'll go back and properly wrap the cordon around the wire.

Testing TA on the pinot...sugar came in a little high.

The pinot.

Teaching Jerry how to play gin rummy while we waited for the 2nd bin of pinot.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Recycle Glass Week

Our sales guy Ron is always asking me about recycling wine bottles and how that works, so just for him, I'll copy over some text from a mailer that arrived today.

According to The Wine Mirror, Recycle Glass Week was September 12-18th (just got the mailer today, 10/6).

Glass containers, such as wine bottles, beer bottles, and glass jars, are endlessly recyclable without a loss of quality or purity. The recycled crushed glass, known as cullet, is used to replace or supplement raw materials, including sand, soda ash and limestone. Turning recycled glass into new containers requires an average of 40% less energy than is required for raw materials alone. For every six tons of recycled container glass used, a ton of carbon dioxide is reduced in the process.

Regardless of color, all container glass can be recycled. To produce Flint (clear) glass, cullet needs to be color-sorted in order to avoid putting too much colorant to finished glass. Optical resorting systems allow us to do this but, ideally, glass should be sorted by color as in some countries, such as Switzerland and New Zealand.

SGCI 2010 * Special Issue, A Verallia Publication

I pulled that directly off the mailer - there are a few other tips, like removing metal capsules from the glass before recycling, but that's about it. I looked up and found a link to their recycling info page,

Ok, so they are in France and it's not directly relevant to recycling in the U.S. but mostly I wanted to poke fun at receiving the mailer three weeks past the date of the event. :-p

Monday, October 04, 2010

Busy Days

Here's a recap of the past few days.

Thursday we spent all day at the winery.

Friday we started the day with picking Chardonnay at Chaine d'Or. Most of the Chardonnay had been damaged by sunburn so we knew this would be a difficult process. We set up the shaded table below to cut out sunburned berries one at a time. It was a long slow process and at most we think we'll have enough Chardonnay just for personal use at parties from 2010.

When we were done at the winery we had to drive down to Aptos to drop of bins for the next days pick. We got home after 9PM.

It was a long, slow day of mostly waiting. We finally left the vineyard at 3PM with only half the grapes we were expecting. We couldn't wait any longer. There's not enough outdoor lighting at the winery to work in the dark and it is an hour drive from Aptos to Woodside.

We processed just under one ton of Pinot Noir. The fruit was very ripe and we had to add about 14 gallons of water to lower the sugar to a level that will ferment ok. This will be a hard wine for us to make. Usually we just take initial readings, add yeast food and then check Brix daily. With the high Brix, and water addition on this we'll have to take full readings all along and continue to add yeast food through fermentation.

Saturday we also had to transfer the Chardonnay out of the settling tank and into a tank to ferment. We're going to do a stainless steal fermentation this year. Mostly because the amount is so small.

I know I've talked before about how we wrap all our bins in plastic to keep bees out but I've never posted a picture before. Here's what the bin looks like with the top on and sealed in plastic wrap. There's a ton of Pinot Noir fermenting inside.

Sunday we had another busy morning of punch downs and taking readings at the winery. We also had to be at the truck rental at 7AM to return the truck from Saturday.

Monday the last 3/4 of a ton of Pinot Noir came in and we processed it in the morning. The Brix was not as high but we still added 8 gallons of water. It was just Stefania, Jerry and I working but we still managed to get home at 3PM after cleaning the winery.

Tuesday I'll be back at my day job. Stefania and Jerry are going to harvest and process three of the Haut Tubee vineyard (home, Church and OttiGurr) on their own. I'm not sure yet how I feel about it. It will be the first processing I've ever missed. Stef knows her stuff inside and out though and I know she'll do a great job, it's just weird to miss it. I hope they will make it home before 5PM.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Waiting is the Hardest Part.

We are at the vineyard in Aptos now waiting on the picking crew to finish. We knew this would be a slow pick. The clusters are small and spaced apart. That slows a crew down a lot. Still we hoped to be on the road by 1 PM. Now it looks like 4PM at the soonest. That will crate a bunch of logistical issues for us.

Worst of those issues is we'll be stuck in traffic on hwy 17 heading back towards San Jose. Traffic returning from the beach is at the worst from 4-6 PM. We'll also have to finish processing the fruit in the dark tonight. We're really not set up for that at Chaine d'Or so it will be tough.

We also won't be able to get a weight tag. The public scales all close at 5PM and there is no way we can get an empty weight today. It will be a long night. Suspect we will finish well after 10 PM.

I did take this video though of the vineyard. I'm using the new netbook we got and Verizon's 3G system to try and get the video published.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Prep and Cleaning

Mostly I'm trying out the new camera and netbook. So far just a minor drama or two. We arrived about 8:30 this morning at the winery and started getting ready for picking this weekend.

Below Stefania and Jeryy are cleaning our picking bins. They get muddy and dirty after sitting outside since last year.

I also have to get our tempermental Italian Press going. This morning it was about 45 minutes of fiddling with it. Jerry had to reset the breakers on the power and the final magic technique was a 'Fonzie Hit' on the control panel that got it working.

We've just stopped for lunch and are drying out a little. We still have about 20 picking bins to clean plus the press and crusher. We will also prep an inside tank for the Chardonnay tomorrow and turn on the chiller. The last steps will be to set up everything, crusher, press, tanks, so we can just start picking in the morning.

Here's our first little attempt at video. It's Jerry loading up the bins from the storage area and a little shot of the vineyard. Now that I know we can make it work I'll try for a few more exciting things this weekend.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Phone, New Toys, Back in the Game

We had a great time in Vegas. Unfortunately the frustration with our iPhones meant I didn't feel like taking the thing out and taking many pictures. The show Saturday night was a blast. I though Locksley was the best band of the night. We meet a ton of great people.

Next year we have to make it a party and have people join us. The set up had us inside a cabana on the beach. There was plenty of room for us to have guests in the cabana and just sit back, enjoy the wine and music and take advantage of the great space.

We spent all day Sunday by the pool, swimming and watching football on the tv. We had a nice dinner at Hank's inside the Green Valley Ranch resort.

We flew back Monday morning and then Tuesday we headed over to the Verizon store as soon as they opened. It took a little longer than I though it would but we both left with new Samsung Fascinates which so far have worked out well. It took us a little time to figure out how to get photos off the phone, but we did that today.

The best thing is I have a signal again in San Jose! For a few weeks now I've had nothing from AT&T. One day last week I dropped a call 11 times driving down highway 87. Voicemails were showing up 2-3 days after they had been sent. Verizon has had a good signal at both home and work. We'll try it out in the winery tomorrow.

The camera is also nicer on the Fascinate and includes a flash which means we'll have pictures from inside the winery this year as well as early morning harvest day pictures. Better yet there's video! We'll test that out tomorrow but expect us to have a few harvest related videos on the blog soon.

We also walked out of the store with an HP mini. Our hope is that this will allow us to connect in more spots during harvest and get up pictures, videos and blogs in 'real time'. We've set it up with 3G service and so far it's gotten a good signal in tough spots (like my office). We'll try that at the winery and out in the field this weekend.

Which brings us to the 'Back in the Game', part of the Blog today. Tomorrow we'll be in the winery prepping for our first picks of the season. We'll be cleaning picking bins, and prepping the crusher, tanks and fermentation bins. We'll stage the pump so everything is ready for Friday.

Friday morning we'll harvest three of the Haut Tubee vineyards; Home, the Church and the Ottigurr vineyards. We'll then head up to Chaine d'Or and harvest the Chardonnay there. We're not expecting much Chardonnay, most was damaged by sunburn in the August heat wave, but what is in good shape we'll bring in.

After the Chardonnay has gone through the crusher we'll process the Haut Tubee grapes. Then we'll clean everything up all over again and prep for Saturday. Our last task for Friday will be to drive down to Aptos and drop off picking bins for our Pinot Noir. I expect a 12-14 hour day.

Saturday morning we will be picking our Pinot Noir and getting it back to the winery for processing. We're expecting 2 tons. I think it will be a slow pick. The clusters are small and light with few on each plant. That will slow the picking crew down. If all goes well we'll try and take Sunday off (except for punch downs) and watch some football.

Watch the blog and see how we do with live updates.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Falling out of love with Apple and the iPhone

We've written a lot about our iPhones and used them a great deal. I'm afraid that's all coming to an end though this month.

First there was a terrible experience with Apple, the Apple Store and Apple Support this month in an attempt to purchase an iPad.

I found the iPad totally and completely defective. It is NOT wireless compatible. Unlike other devices it only meets a limited number of wireless standards. I found this out after we purchased one and I was not able to get it to work on our home network. I also tried it at 7 other network points and was only able to get it to connect to 3 of the 7.

When I phoned support (after hours of self help), the friendly but totally unqualified support person's only suggestion was that I buy a new router. When I told him I would not do such a thing and that would not fix the problem with the other networks his response was. "Well I bought a new router and I love my iPhone." I replied that I could not buy a new router every where I need to use this device and he replied "That's to bad it's a really neat toy."

Neat toy.

Useless toy.

I returned it the next day. Apple wanted to know why I didn't like their service and gave them low marks on their survey's. Well no they really didn't give a snot. They called once. I returned the message and said I was traveling but they could call back when I returned. Some low level manager marked it off their tasks to do and I never heard back from anyone at Apple, the Apple Store or Apple Support about their lack of ability to give me a working device.

And then they charged me $50 for a restocking fee.

That's one lost customer for life. Enjoy the $50, I'll never spend another dollar with Apple as long as I live. I'm mean that way.

So that brought our ongoing problems with AT&T to a head. AT&T claims they cover 97% of America.


Among the place I don't get coverage:

The light rail station at 1st and Tasman. That's the main light rail terminal in San Jose.

The airport in San Jose. My signal drops every day when I drive by the airport. That's at 101 and 87 (Google Map it), or just about the busiest place in San Jose.

My office - which is near 1st and Tasman and 1/3 mile from the HQ of a little company called Cisco.

My living room or anywhere else in my house or backyard. We live at Blossom Hill and Snell in San Jose. Next time your in town ask someone where that is. It's one of the busiest intersections in town and 1 mile from the second biggest mall in town. Everyone will know.

Of course coverage is spotty in the vineyards and winery. We expect that, but we can't really run a business with a service that can't get coverage in the 9th largest city in America.

If you have suggestions for alternatives please send us a note. We are out shopping now for new phones and a new provider. Apple and AT&T might be 'Neat Toys', but we need a reliable business tool.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vegas this Weekend.

I put up a brief note earlier that we'd be pouring at an event in Las Vegas this weekend. We are all set to go and booked for the event. It will be Saturday evening at Mandalay Bay starting at 7PM.

Check Wine Amplified for ticket information and discounted hotels. The lead band will be Third Eye Blind and it should be a really great time. We'll be pouring our 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon and a special preview of our 2009 Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains.

Stef and I are arriving Saturday afternoon and staying through Monday. We will be at the Green Valley Ranch Resort. It's a bit out of town, but neither of us are big gamblers and the attraction of a great pool and a nice cabana pulled us there. We'd visited the hotel at our last Rock and Roll Wine event and really liked the set up and hotel.

We have a cabana reserved all day Sunday so if you happen to be in town please let us know!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Vineyard Check Ups

Saturday we went out to check on the Crimson Clover Vineyard and the Chaine d'Or vineyard. At Chaine d'Or the red grapes are finally starting to turn colors. It's too late. They need at very least 45 days after they complete the change before harvest, and we've found 75 is really ideal to get the grapes properly ripe. Right now that will put the harvest date at December 15th. The plants will have shut down and lost all their leafs well before that date.

That means no Cabernet from Chaine d'Or this year. The Chardonnay is in a little better shape but still suffered a great deal of sun burn. It looks like we'll try to pick what we can around the 1st of October. There is probably only enough to make a single barrel. That will make wine making really hard as we won't be able to use any of the chillers in the tanks to get the wine to settle and keep it cool. There just won't be enough volume to reach up to the cooling jackets on the tanks.

Crimson Clover looked much better and we took a few pictures. In 2008 we harvested here on Sept 28th and in 2009 in was Sept 29th. This year it looks like we'll pick around October 20th, or almost 4 weeks later. The crop load looks good and the vineyard is clean. We did a little leaf pulling to help fight mildew and everything is coming along well.

The clusters are larger than they've been the last couple of years. Tasting the grapes we could tell they were not close to ready yet. The flavors are past the green stage (green bean and bell pepper) but just now in the red fruit stage. We will want to wait for plum, black cherry and berry flavors to show up. The tannins also are still very astringent and will need more time to soften.

We did pull samples off and Stefania ran BRIX tests on the juice. She used a refractometer and hydrometer and the readings from both were 20.2 We'd like to pick between 23.5 and 25, although we've usually picked this particular vineyard higher in the 26-27 range. You can see the juice is pink still and not showing ripe color.

All this means we have a lot more time to go. Stefania thinks it will be even later than the 20th. We'll start to taste test now pretty regularly and watch the weather closely. We definitely will not be picking in September this year though.