Friday, February 19, 2010

What the Heck is a Shaker Table?

I've used that term a few times. It's not 19th century furniture. It's a special gizmo that shakes the grapes after they have done through a destemmer. The shaking takes place over a grate and the result is that the whole berries pass through to the fermentation tanks and any other 'gunk' that was too small to pick out in sorting falls through.

I found a picture here:

The option I'm after is not this solid table, but rather one with the grate feature. This would allow us to get even cleaner fermentation bins than we have now and it's similar to a system we've used at Big Basin Vineyards on some of our wines.

In order for the table to work we would also need to upgrade our crusher destemmer to something like this:

This unit has an option to just de-stem the grapes without crushing them, which is what we would need to do for the table to be effective.

The table runs about $12,000 and the destemmer, for the small size we need is about $18,000. We would also need about $4000 in other equipment to mount the entire thing correctly into our space. In addition to the cleaner bins this would also mean we would not have to do the truck balancing destemmer routine at Chardonnay harvest. (See my blog picture). This set up would just roll right over the press.

So $34,000 is a ton of money for our little operation. That's why we've put so many other things on hold. We don't 'need' this, what we have now works very well, but this would allow us to squeeze a little more quality out of each wine.

If you don't see us in your town this year, remember theses pictures and you'll know why.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Our 2010 Travel Schedule

I few people have asked what shows we will be doing this year and what our travel schedule looks like.

The simple answer is; "not many, or much".

We really need a website upgrade and I want to get a shaker table for the crusher destemmer. That means I've cut the travel and marketing budget back to almost nothing. We won't be doing the Family Winemakers shows or the Chronicle show at Fort Mason. Those three alone add up to about $3000 in expenses so that puts us at least part way there to the website work.

We get invited to pour at dozens of events each year and usually would only do a few. This year so far the only things we have scheduled are private events and fundraisers. As those come up we'll let people know about them.

The travel budget is also being sidelined for the shaker table (total cost about $28,000, so we will need to save for awhile for that one). If the Spring release goes well I might add some money back in to the travel budget, but we'll have to see how sales go.

We would like to do an east coast swing and hit DC, Philly, NY and Boston. We've had so many requests to come visit that we really would like to get that done. We'd also like to get to Florida, and back to Chicago and Nashville.

We do know that we'll have visitors coming by the winery more this year than last, and we will be open at least three times this year. When those events come up we'll let people know as well.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Award Arrives

Stefania took this picture this morning of our Gold Medal from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. I didn't notice until posting this, but it's actually taken in front of our hot tub.

We also got the Spring Release letters into the mail this morning. They should start to arrive later this week.

We have a busy week ahead. We'll be getting out about 20 pending shipments starting Thursday and new orders should start to arrive Friday and Saturday. There's also some work to do in the winery this weekend and if the weather stays ok, more work in the vineyard.

I'll have a few more blogs up this week about our travel schedule and plans for this year.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ready for Spring and some Sunshine already

It's great to have so much rain, but I'm officially ready for blue sky and sunshine. The vineyards are muddy and mucky and there is still plenty of work to be done in them.

There are broken posts to replace and wire repair still to do. I don't mind the office work that goes along with owning a small business, but I really want to get back outside and work. We've been hitting the gym fairly often to make up for the lack of outdoor labor we're usually doing this time of year.

The cold winter days are usually my favorite for hiking the local hills. I'm prone to overheating so I like to take advantage of the crisp air. The cloudy skies though make it too cold and everything is so soggy that it's no fun.

Speaking of hiking - we are postponing the Grand Canyon trip. We had thought we would go this April but we missed the deadline to sign up for overnight and some other things came up that we needed to work around. It's still on the list of things to-do one day.

And, I saw the shoe repair guy to see about making my hiking boots fit better. They are a great shoe, but they are too tight on my heel. For $10 I picked up some leather stretching goo that I need to apply next time I put them on. We'll see how that goes. I'll need them one last time this year when we go out and prune Arastradero.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Who Dat Think They Gonna Beat Dem Saints?

My Dad has always had Mondays off. In the summer time he'd take my sister and I to the movies, or fishing in the Uvas Valley. When August came the 49ers would start training camp at San Jose State.

Back then training camp was a low key thing. Not like today with 20,000 people buying tickets to watch. Back then it was 75-100 guys and their kids. They would back their cars and trucks up to the chain link fence around the practice field, flip down the tail gate and open a cooler of beer. Two - a -days were my favorite. We'd go in the morning, and then at the lunch break Dad would take us to the A&W for a 'Teen Burger'. I felt so grown up ordering a teen burger. After lunch we'd go back and watch the second practice.

Those 49er teams were pretty bad. I remember the hope and then disappointment as Jim Plunkett and O.J. Simpson came to town. For my Dad the agony of being a 49er fan went back to the 1950's. His sisters had moved him from rural New Mexico so he could go to high school at Lincoln High in San Francisco. Every Sunday we'd watch the games till the bitter end. It never mattered if the Raider game had started and they were trying to clinch another playoff birth. We'd watch to the final of the 49er game and another 5-9 season.

I remember calling my Dad at work in 1979 to talk about James Owens, the 49ers first pick in that draft. I couldn't remember the name of the Quarterback they'd taken in the 3rd round, but I remember telling my Dad, "He could be ok." He was Joe Montana.

I was in high school in 1982. I watch the Super Bowl game with my Dad that year. Through the entire second half of the game he didn't say a word. I think he was in shock. He couldn't believe it was really happening. Now it's easy to think of the 49ers and five Super Bowl wins and think it was easy being a 49er fan, but for my Dad it had been 30 years of giving your heart to a loosing team. When Dwight Clark picked up the onside kick with 20 second left, Dad still couldn't say a word.

In 2008 Stef and I were headed back from New Orleans. At Louis Armstrong Airport I bought a New Orleans Saints shirt. If the Saints are playing when we are in town, we go to the game, but she wondered why I'd bought it. I told her that I was going to be a Saints fan until the 49ers fired their idiot coach (You Tube him and see if you can find the clip where he can't add to 12 properly). When we got back to San Jose that night I put ESPN on the TV in bed and the headline was "49ers fire Nolan, name Singletary interim coach". I'd been a Saints fan for 9 hours.

The 49ers will always be first in my heart, but 'dem Saints' are a close second. I hope this Sunday, I can't say a word through the whole second half.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Upcoming Release

Stefania and I are starting to put together the letters and order forms for our next release. We hope to have them in the mail by the 15th. Here's a preview of what's coming up:

2007 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Chaine d' Or Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains

As you may remember we took over operations at Chaine d'Or in August of 2007. We harvested early in the morning of October 27th and brought in a large harvest for the estate of just under 3 tons. 2007 was a near perfect growing year and Anne Anderson thought the fruit was the best she had seen since installing the vineyard in 1987. The grapes were harvested and transported to the crusher in 30 pound bins and 100% destemmed.

Fermentation was on the native wild yeasts of the vineyard and winery. We pressed the wine gently after 22 days and separated the press wine from the free run juice. The press wine was not used in the final wine. The wine was aged for 22 months in 60% new French Oak and 40% neutral French Oak. The final numbers are pH 3.39 and alcohol of 14.1%

The wine is dark with a gem-like quality to the color. The nose takes significant aeration at this point to reveal a classic 'Pauillac Nose' of pencil, currant, berries and tobacco. There are huge ripe tannins framing the wine now with notes of spice, campfire smoke, and pure ripe berry fruit. Notes of cigar box and plums linger on the finish. Stefania calls this a serious steak wine.

Those of you familiar with the Estate will find this similar to the 1999 or 2001 vintages. This is a serious Cabernet, and one I think will benefit tremendously from extended aging. The alcohol and pH levels, combined with the ripe tannins and pure fruit offer this wine incredible aging potential. Today the wine will require decanting for at least 30-45 minutes. I don't know if I can predict a lifespan on this wine, I don't doubt that those of you with special occasions to remember in 2007 will enjoy this wine 10, 20 and perhaps 30 and 40 years from now.

Mailing List Price: $30 per bottle. Total Production 169 cases.

Allocations on this wine will be tight. I think I can offer a three pack to everyone who has signed up but I think we'll sell out in a couple weeks.

2007 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains

This is our second offering of a Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was assembled from three vineyards: the Harvest Moon Vineyard, Elandrich Vineyard and Chaine d'Or Vineyard. We feel this combination offered a complete wine. The Harvest Moon contributing black fruit, mint and spice, Elandrich red fruit and richness, and Chaine d'Or a classic structure and Cabernet profile. The final blend is 58% Harvest Moon, 25% Chaine d'Or and 17 % Elandrich. The wine also contains 13% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc from the Chaine d'Or and Elandrich Vineyards.

Each vineyard was harvested and fermented separately in late October and allowed to ferment on native yeast. The lots were kept separate until the spring of 2008 when we selected the final blend and combined the lots for the final wine. We used 67% new French Oak and 33% neutral French Oak on this wine. The wine was bottled after 22 months in barrel. The final numbers are pH 3.62 and alcohol 13.5%.

The Wine has deep red rich colors with hues of blue and purple. The nose is complex with plum, smoked meat, currants, super ripe blackberries and a hint of mint. The wine is plush and ripe on the palate with cigar notes, berry pie fruit, and complex notes of tobacco, black fruit and a long, long finish. Stefania noted this is one of the most complex wines we've made and she picks up hints of the redwood forests that surround Chaine d'Or and Harvest Moon.

This wine too will be long lived, and as we tasted it my comment was: "I'll be happy to stick this wine in my cellar and drink it the next 20 years." Many of you have asked me what my favorite Stefania is and I've always answered "2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon." I think that answer will now be the 2007!

Mailing List Price: $40 per bottle. Total production 142 cases.

We may also do some sort of combo pack and there will be free shipping on case orders.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Selling Wine / Dedication Quality Community

Over the weekend I was running some dialog through my head and wondering how to best approach selling my wine. The first mental roadblock was that I don't think of it as "my" wine, it's Paul's wine. The second problem is that I'm pretty shy and humble about it. I have a really hard time telling people, Hey, I make GREAT wine and this is why... well, I did come up with a few things that are key to making the label great and I'm not the only one to think so.

Dedication: For one, Paul and I are hands-on winemakers and vineyard managers. You've seen the pictures, read the blogs, you know what I'm talking about. Even the tasks that are less than desirable, we have done and continue to do.

Quality: We make a $75 bottle of wine. Easily. By the time you factor in our mentors time and guidance, our time and attention to detail you're halfway there. Add to that; quality fruit, fine barrels, and premium corks and you're there.

Community: Our wines are selling at an affordable price range for most people. One of the reasons we got into this business was because wine is social, it's communal. I don't know many friends that can drink a $75 bottle of wine at every meal. Our goal is to make quality wine that is enjoyable and affordable but that can also hold it's own among the bigger brands.

This morning, I was still pondering my own musings when Paul sent me an IM with a link. Seems like I'm not the only person that believes in my wine and the quality.

A customer recently sent me this email regarding the 2007 Stefania Uvas Creek Cabernet:

"We actually tasted this wine blind alongside some pretty big names and it was consensus #2 of the night (2005 Shafer Hillside Select was #1, but this beat out the '06 Bucella Cab, and the '05 Caymus Special Select to name a couple)!"

Thank you, at least two of my personal fav's were mentioned there!