Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mourvedre Vineyard Pics

The temperature this morning was in the upper 40's and we had a light rain overnight. The air is crisp and bright and full sun, so far. We're expecting more wet weather in the next day or so.

After seeing Paul off to work, I grabbed the camera and took some quick shots to show you how the Mourvedre and Syrah vines are doing. We are well into bud break now with just a couple of Syrah plants lagging behind.

For those of you that know me, the burst of color in the front yard is of no surprise. I don't have a bland color palette inside the house either. The lupine is blue, the clover is bright red, the daisies are bursting in yellow, and the lavender just bloomed the other day in deep rich purple. It's festive, cheery, and happy right now. The objective is to have all this color erase the memory of the very ugly brown dirt patch that is the vineyard over winter. As the blooms fade and the wildflowers die off, we'll be left with bright vibrant green growth of the vines to fill in the gaps. In theory.

The wildflower mix actually worked pretty well at keeping the noxious dandelions out. There were a lot that came in but I yanked those out of the soggy ground before too long. I saw a couple this morning that I missed, but they are deep enough in the mix that I can't reach them without trampling the clover, so they live, this time.

The orange tree is in full bloom and the lemon tree is getting ready to go (the last two pics).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Open House this Saturday

Please join us on Saturday March 27th from 11am until 3pm for our Spring Open House and Pick Up Day. This is one of just 3 times per year we will have the winery open for visitors so please stop by!

We will be pouring our latest releases and select wines from our older releases. Paul will also host a vineyard tour at Noon and a Cellar Tour at 1:30. Stefania will be cooking snacks (Paul wants hot dogs) We will also have barrel samples of some of our 2008 and 2009 wines available.

If you placed an order in our Spring Release, you wine will be available for pick up. Directions are at:

As always there is no charge for visiting and sampling wine. An R.S.V.P. would be appreciated so we don't run out of food!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Checking on the Vineyards

With the start of bud break at home it was a good idea to get out this weekend and check on the other vineyards to see how they are doing.

We stopped by the Sesson vineyard and Crimson Clover. Both are still dormant, with no bud break yet. There's some fine tuning we'll need to do on the pruning. Stefania will likely go out this week or next to get that done. Just a few plants with cordons that are too long or too weak and need to be taken back.

The Sesson vineyard will need a mowing before we can work on the pruning there. The Crimson Clover vineyard had just been mowed and looked really great.

The big news for us was a new vineyard resident at Crimson Clover. As I was walking the rows I noticed that there was very little gopher activity. Just a few mounds in one spot. When I got over to the final row we saw why:

You can't really see much except for a little debris hanging out of the box, but someone has moved in to the owl box we installed. Easily a highlight of the weekend in the vineyards for us.

I also got to check on Chaine d'Or. The Cabernet Sauvignon there is still dormant, but the Chardonnay has just started to bud. Jerry mowed the vineyard on Thursday and it looks really great. We will probably have to mow one more time this season, but for now it's in great shape.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bud Break 2010 - Spring is in the Air

Sorry, I got distracted with the bee in the orange picture

There we go, bud break and the first Grenache grapes in the "Driveway Block"

More distractions, the first poppy is in bloom today, the lupine started about two weeks ago.

Syrah in the "Hot Tub Block"

Also Syrah
The temps hit near 80 today and it's been absolutely beautiful out. The little vines are strong, healthy, and pushing green growth like crazy. The mini-mourvedre vineyard is in bloom (the wildflowers I mean, not the vines) and in the beginning stages of bud break. All the plants are pushing leaves and look healthy.
In the back yard I replaced one rose and added two new ones this year. There was a minor mishap with the gardener and some aggressive use of Round Up last year that damaged the roses pretty severely. They survived the overdose and I'm hoping for some showy blooms in the next few weeks.
The rest of the back yard and vineyard is looking vibrant, and green, and healthy!
On tap for this glorious weekend is a couple of Rib Eyes on the BBQ and some red wine...I don't know which one we'll open yet, but I might pull something from my side tonight and surprise Paul.
Cheers everyone, and HELLO SPRING!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Open House

On Saturday March 27th from 11am until 3pm we will have the winery open for our Spring Open House and Pick Up Day. This is one of just 3 times per year we will have the winery open for visitors!

We will be pouring our latest releases and select wines from our older releases. Paul will also host a vineyard tour at Noon and a Cellar Tour at 1:30. Stefania will be cooking snacks (Paul wants hot dogs, Stefania wants dim sum so we will probably have both.) We will also have barrel samples of some of our 2008 and 2009 wines available.

If you placed an order in our Spring Release, your wine will be available for pick up. Directions are at:

As always there is no charge for visiting and sampling wine. If you would like an email invitation and have not yet received one, please drop us a note.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More Racking of the 2009's

On Saturday we were back in the winery to finish up on racking two more 2009 red wines. First stop is usually the bathroom after the long drive and I took this picture walking back to the cellar. It was a beautiful day at Chaine d'Or.

We had two wines in tank that needed to go back into barrel. The first racking is critical for the way we make wine. I like to get a decent sulfur amount into the wine so that we don't have to add more than a little at a time for the rest of the wines stay in barrel. It also gives us a chance to let more of the 'gunk' settle out of the wine.

Here is our assistant winemaker getting her gloves on and getting ready to get started.

We had our 2009 Split Rail Vineyard Syrah and our 2009 Crimson Clover Cabernet Sauvignon to get into barrel. As usual we were very busy during the racking process and I didn't take any pictures. A big part of that is I have to carefully watch the barrels fill up and stop the pump at just the right moment to not over run the barrel.

It's harder than it seems, especially when you reach the bottom of the tank and air starts to get into the hose. That air then burbles out in the barrel and makes judging the last inch or two very difficult.

The last step is clean up. I clean the pump and we both do the hoses. I also get all the equipment away and everything picked up. My shoulders don't fit through the tank opening so Stefania gets the job of cleaning the inside of the tank.

The tank has to be rinsed then she scrubs and disinfects the inside. There's just no way to not get wet so Stef always brings extra shoes.
Then we are done. We leave all the valves and seals open so the tank can't retain water. That might lead to mold. Next up we'll do the 2009 Haut Tubee and then start prepping the 2009 Chardonnay for bottling.

Monday, March 08, 2010

First Look at Our 2009's

This past weekend Stefania and I racked and sulfured four of our 2009 wines. We have to wait until the secondary fermentation is complete before adding sulfur and that usually takes a few months after the wines have gone into barrel.

I think I'm just about to admit defeat when it comes to trying to take pictures on days we rack. I always start off with good intentions, but we end up working non stop and my hands are busy the entire time. I only took only two pictures. This was the first one.

An exciting picture of the top of the tank after I opened it. I was going to take pictures of each step, but we move so fast, and are so busy through everything that it's just not working to try and take photos. But this is the first step. Open the top of the tank. Otherwise when you start to pump the wine back into barrel you will create a terrible vacuum inside the tank.

Then we we are on to all the tasks. We filled barrels, cleaned barrels, sulfured barrels, moved barrels, emptied tanks, cleaned tanks, filled tanks, added Argon, checked pH's, added sulfur, cleaned pumps, cleaned hoses, cleaned bins, stirred Chardonnay, topped Chardonnay, cleaned the floor, emptied toppers, cleaned toppers, filled toppers, and tasted samples. Which is picture #2

I pull about a cup of wine out of each lot and Stefania runs acidity tests on them. Those are the instruments in the back. We also pour a bit of that wine into a glass and try them out. The acidity reading helps us figure out how much sulfur we need to add to protect the wine from bacteria. The higher the acid the less sulfur needs to be added.

In between all the cleaning we did get some notes down I've combined Stefania's notes with mine:

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Crimson Clover Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley

Alcohol : 14.9, pH 3.67

Dark and saturated with color. Heady nose of flowers, berry, and chocolate. Lush, fat and ripe with black fruit, berries, plum, and mocha. Complex, round and bold. Stefania noted the powerful and ripe tannins. We'll probably age this one at least 22 months in barrel. Very promising wine, this site is turning out some great wines.

2009 Syrah, Split Rail Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains

Alcohol 14.4, pH 3.76

Garnet with purple hues, very bright. Soft nose with black olive, spices, cherry and berry notes. Cherry, Raspberry, wild berry and more olive and some smoke flavors. Great balance with a long finish. More serious than the Eaglepoint Syrah.

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains

Alcohol 13.1, pH 3.89

The first blend is 85% Harvest Moon and 15 % Chaine d'Or. We will likely add more Chaine d'Or to get to a final blend, which should lower the pH and raise the alcohol slightly.

Deep ruby red. Wild berry, mint and spice on the nose. Stefania said "Heritage Berries, you know berries before they started breeding them for size." Super ripe tannins make the wine very soft and smooth with plum, and ripe berry fruit. No sharp edges on this wine. Not picking up a lot of wood notes yet, it's in 70% new oak.

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Chaine d'Or Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains

Alcohol 14.2, pH 3.67

Dark with purple hue, very deep color. Open fruity nose, with currants, berry and plum. Ripe round tannins. Getting the tannins ripe on the estate is a challenge, but we did it in 2009! Berry fruit with chocolate notes. Heady notes of spring blossoms, bright fruit and spicy wood notes. Great lift and finish, very fruity.

This is really the vineyard starting to reach it's maximum. Ours hopes for this wine are very high, best of the 09's at this point. Aging now in 75% new oak.

We're pretty hopeful on the 2009's. The pH's had us a bit worried, they seemed high, but the wines all show good balance and lift. The noses are very expressive. This will probably be a vintage I tell people to buy and drink while they age their 2008's. I little like 2007 or maybe 2005 with more concentration in the wines.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Notes on Three Wines

Last week a friend asked on the Wine Spectator forum if we were happy with how our older wines were turning out. It was a really hard question to answer and it took me a couple days to post a reply.

Most of what we drink ends up being the most current release. We're opening bottles at the winery or at events and pouring for people. We usually have a little taste, but it's rarely a good time to take notes, or even gather thoughts. Usually I'm answering a whole lot of questions about the wine. I also like to let people reach their own flavor conclusions so I'm not talking about the wines flavors, just about how it's made.

Even when those bottles make it home, or we open it at home, we rarely get to sit and savor a bottle. Usually we have people over and we're busy cooking or entertaining. I might get a glass and have just enough time to go; 'humm, not bad'.

Over the past week though we made an effort to pull out some older bottles and actually sit down to dinner with them and spend a little time enjoying them.

2006 Haut Tubee - Just Stefania and I over dinner last week. The wine is darker than I remember with a very Rhone like nose. This wine is more than 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, but the Rhone grapes still come through. It's also denser than I remember with ripe fruit and a spicy quality from the stems. Lots of fruit and very fresh finish.

We didn't plan on making this as a commercial wine in 2006, it was a bit of an after thought and even a month before bottling we were not 100% certain we'd put a label on it. I'm glad we did, it's turned out very well, and even at 4 years old passed my expectations.

2005 Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch. - Stef and I again over dinner. Wild wine, with a nose of ripe black fruit, bacon, smoke and spice. This is a 'fool your friends' wine. Throw it in a blind tasting, I bet no one can figure out where it's from. It's got a lot of ripe fruit but also a really wild spicy edge. Reminded me a lot of a Hermitage. In fact the next night we opened a 2001 Yann Chave Crozes Hermitage to compare the nose. I think people would say; 'well it's got the fruit of a California wine, but the nose is very Northern Rhone.' I'm sticking with my recommendation to pair this with lamb.

2007 Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains. It's a fruit slut now. Tons of red fruit really explodes out of the glass. Strawberry, raspberry and bing cherry. There's also forest notes. 'Wet leafs on earth', Stef calls it. The nose is powerful and surprising given the wine is not that dark. We had this over dinner with a small group of friends who cooked for us. I think this wine will be really great with ham this spring.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Open That Bottle Night, 2010

Maybe I've heard of this before and already forgotten about it. Friends of ours came by the winery on Saturday to pick up used barrels to make into planters and one of them asked, "So, what wine are you opening tonight for That Bottle Night? ".

I scratched my head and said, I don't know, what do you mean, "that" bottle. You know, that one special bottle you keep saving for just the "right" moment. A birthday, anniversary, new job, new baby, etc. Huh. Still scratching my head. So I turned to Paul and asked if we had such a bottle in the house that we were saving. He shrugged.

We worked through the rest of the afternoon racking the 2009's and kept pondering "that" bottle to have. Still nothing. I went through a mental checklist of what's on my side and pretty much all I'm stashing are the gift wines (from Paul to me) that we'll open for a future Christmas dinner. So far, I've got nothing.

The reason for that is we celebrate just about anything anytime. Special bottles aren't for saving in my house, neither is champagne. At least once per month we open a bottle of bubbly "just because". When we go out to dinner and order a bottle of sparkles the waitstaff always asks, "oh, is it a special occassion tonight?", and they leave our table perplexed by our reply, "No, we simply enjoy it".

By the time we got home, we were both pretty tired, but Paul headed to the market and picked up a chuck steak that I ground up for burgers. While I ground the beef, he prepped the baked potatoes and an artichoke, and then headed off into the cellar.

He came back out with a 2000 Domaine Tempier Bandol.

My notes are really flat and basic; I liked it. I couldn't tell you anything more beyond that, it was a great quaffing wine with goat cheddar cheese burgers and baked potatoes.

I don't see this "event" catching on at my house, but if you're interested for next year I found this link: