Friday, April 30, 2010
First up we will be filtering our Chardonnay and that involves moving it from tank to tank. Next we'll put together the final blend for the 2008 Haut Tubee and get that into tank. That will mean that the 2008 Eaglepoint Syrah will also have to go into a smaller holding tank and out of barrel. We'll check sulfur levels, and will make any additions we need to.
I will also be hand bottling 12 magnums of the 2008 Eaglepoint Syrah. The logistics of the truck just make it easier to bottle the magnums by hand and cork them with the hand corker. For now the 2008 Pinot Noir will stay in barrel. As we empty out a tank on Tuesday , I'll get the Pinot into an open tank. We'll check sulfur then and I'll also hand bottle 12 magnums of the Pinot Noir.
We're hoping everything will go ok. If we can't finish on Saturday, we'll come back up Sunday to complete the job. If not Sunday will be a hike and then the Sharks game.
Monday we'll be back at the winery. The forklift arrives at 9AM. We'll also bring all the corks and labels with us. The glass will be delivered between 10 and 1 and I'll unload it with the forklift. The bottling truck should arrive about 2 or 3 and we will help get it backed in and level. That process takes about 3 hours. It actually takes longer to get the truck backed in that it does to bottle.
Then we are mostly done for the day. Matt from the bottling company will get the truck all ready to go that night.
Tuesday we will be in the winery about 7AM. We'll have to hook the tanks up to the truck and clean all the hoses. Then we start bottling. It should be done about noon or 1 PM if all goes well. Then we will clean all the tanks and equipment and barrels! I'll help Matt get the truck back out, which only takes about an hour (it's only moving about 60 yards, but it's a few tight turns).
If we are on time and on schedule the truck will show up from the warehouse about 3PM to pick up the bottled wine. If we are behind schedule at all, we'll have to postpone the pick up until Wednesday. I'll get as many pictures and updates in over the next 5 days as I can.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
This bill would devastate wineries, particularly those that rely on direct to consumer shipping, and of course, it is an attack on consumers who merely want to obtain wines by mail that they cannot find locally.
I urge you to help oppose H.R. 5034. You can do so by immediately using "Write Your Congressperson" system to send off a letter to your representative: http://www.capwiz.com/freegrapes/issues/alert/?alertid=14948676&type=CO
In addition, if you are on Facebook I urge you to become a fan of the STOPHR5034 page to get regular updates on the bill: http://www.facebook.com/STOPHR5034
The proponents of H.R. 5034 work for the beer and wine wholesalers and are extremely powerful. They are working very hard to get this bill passed. Without an aggressive effort those that value free trade and the ability for consumers and wineries to interact with each other, many wineries will be hurt and consumer rights lost.
Stefania and I have worked very hard to build our winery from the ground up and this bill would be devastating to ourselves and other small family wineries that count on people like you to buy our wines.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
The day went off pretty well. Just that little bit of traffic that slowed us down but otherwise no issues. Enterprise had TWO trucks for us this time, just in case something was wrong with the first one :) I brought back a couple bottles of wine to thank the staff there. We were even able to return the truck early.
Stefania made us some Chowder to watch with the Sharks game:
4 red potatoes
2 ears white corn separated
1 cup crab
1/4 c whole milk
3 TBSP olive oil
3 C Beef stock
Sauté sliced leek and cubed potatoes in olive oil add half the cob corn and select pieces of crab meat add bring to boil them simmer til soft.
Blend on medium speed add milk to thin as needed.
Return to pot add remaining corn and crab.
Garnish with a squeeze of lime and cilantro leaf.
Looks like everything is coming together for bottling. Keeping our fingers crossed though.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
It took awhile this morning to track down the Common Yellowthroat. I have two bird books here but neither had a photo that matched the little dude I saw with his black mask. Such a little cutie bird. Also looked up a really large orange bee that I've never spotted before. Turns out he's not really native to this locale, more of a southern Cal kind of guy. After reading up on it, I think I've identified this bee as a male carpenter, except there were two of them chasing each other around....I kind of got the impression they were solo adventurers but there were definitely two of them.
This morning while I was peering out at the vineyard, a black headed Phoebe perched on the wire and peered back at me. She's been a constant in our yard for months now. Usually we'll hear her in the backyard about an hour before the sun sets and she gets her fill of bugs.
The photos are all stock pics I pulled off the web - the camera I have now would never be able to capture clear shots in my yard. While I was sitting up front the other day trying to identify the Common Yellowthroat I watched one of the crows that's always hanging around chase off the Coopers Hawk. For a suburban neighborhood I get a lot of great bird traffic!
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
We were out in the vineyard at 8:30 am. The project for the morning was the Sesson Vineyard in the Coyote Valley just south of San Jose. Jerry had already pruned the vineyard but it needed some technical work. It's a young vineyard and many of the plants needed some retraining and repair from some issues last season.
It's the type of work that Stefania and I really need to do ourselves. Each plant needs to be evaluated and a repair plan for it put together based on the plant strength and the position of the new buds. We are training Jerry to help, but it will probably take him a couple years to fully get the concepts down.
Once you 'get it' it goes pretty fast and the three of us were done by 11:30. I really like the potential of this site. The local geography is a lot like the premier and grand crus vineyards of Burgundy. It is on a gentle slope at the base of some very stony hills. There are several layers of soil down to the water table making for a complex mix. The weather is well suited for Cabernet Sauvignon and that's what we've put in.
I've had my eye on this area for many years so we're excited by this project and hope we'll be able to make some wine from the vineyard soon. Below you can see Stef working away.
There is something though in the vineyard that gives my allergies a terrible time. I took several different drugs but finally had to head off to the gym about 3:00 pm. When my allergies get really bad 30-40 minutes on the bike at full speed really seems to help. I'm not sure what it is maybe just pushing all my blood really hard through my system helps.
That night Stefania and I were pouring at a Rotary Club fundraiser with a 1960's theme. It was a good chance to bring out the tie dye. We poured for a few hours and finally headed home about 8:30.
Sunday we got to have a 'Paul and Stef day'. That's what we've started to call the Sunday's we have with no work or obligations. We got up early again and headed to the beach at Pascadero. We walked the beach for about 40 minutes, then headed to Pillar Point harbor. A few years ago the harbormaster there started to allow the fishermen to sell directly off their boats. We bought three Dungeness crabs and a flounder.
We made civiche out of the flounder and Stefania boiled the crabs on the back patio. We lounged in the backyard all afternoon and enjoyed a Chardonnay from Sea Smoke with the fresh seafood. We're still trying to keep Sunday's clear and I hope we can head back to Pillar Point next week!
12 oz very fresh flounder or other white fish
1 cup Jicama
2 green onions
1/4 cup cilantro
1 small serrano pepper (diced very small)
Chop into bite size bits and mix in a glass bowl with:
Juice from 4 lemons and 3 limes
Allow to sit for 2 hours.
Friday, April 16, 2010
$550! That doesn't include the wine we'll pour, and if it's away from home, which they always are, the travel and hotel. I think I'm declaring that we are done with these events. We'll still do charity events to support charities we like, but the 'for pay' wine event just does not make any sense for a winery to attend.
First there's the cost. $550 is outrageous. The winery is the attraction, it's the reason there is an event. No wineries, no event. So why charge so much? One thing these events always try and promote is that they are attracting 'high income buyers'. Bullshit. I'll say it. Bullshit. If you want to attract high income buyers, charge $50 not $10. $10 attracts drunkards.
Many events don't even try and pretend about that aspect anymore. Instead they promote a 'trade session'. The idea is it's closed to the public and only open to 'trade buyers'. Yeah, more bullshit. The big distributors and retailers give out the trade tickets to their employees and customers. They treat it like a free drinking party.
If I'm going to spend $550, 2 cases of wine and travel on a party it's not going to be to get a bunch of people I don't know or care about drunk. I'd much rather spend that money getting out and visiting personally with people who already buy our wine. Better yet I'd rather spend it entertaining them at the winery and our home.
So we are taking that budget money this year, and saying no to the public events. We're hoping to have some travel plans together soon. We'd like to get to the East Coast, DC, Philly, NJ/NY and Boston. We also would like to get to Florida this year. It's always better to pour wines for friends!
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Well no ATF in my driveway this morning, but a highly scheduled day fell apart pretty early. My PTO days are like gold. I only get so many every year from the day job and I try and save as many of those as I can for harvest time. When I do take one I try and jam as much into it as I can.
The plan this morning: Get up at the normal time 6:30 AM, coffee and paper in bed, then out quick by 7:15. First up Enterprise Rental Car. There I'd reserved a pick up truck for the day. Stefania would drive me over to Enterprise then we'd both head over to Skip's Tires. The FJ Cruiser is in need of new tires, and since it's our only car, the rental truck would mean we could leave it for the day with out worry.
Next we'd be off to the San Mateo Department of Agriculture to renew our operator ID number at 10am. For some reason, the Ag department thinks it's easier for me to come in during a workday to spend 4 minutes getting a stamp on a piece of paper than figuring out someway to do it over the phone. So a 45 minute drive each way to a bad neighborhood in Redwood City for a 5 minute meeting.
Next it would be over to a rock supply company, also in Redwood City. We need about 400 pounds of rocks to replace some posts in the vineyard at Chaine d'Or. Normally it would be a good chore for Jerry B. to do, but I know trying to get all the steps to purchasing the rocks into Spanish, given my poor Spanish, would lead to mayhem. So I figured I'd pick up the rocks and then drive them the 20 minutes up to Chaine d'Or.
From there it's a 50 minute drive through the mountains to Big Basin Vineyards. See if I have the pick up truck, I can load in the two barrels of 2008 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah I have at Big Basin and move them to Chaine d'Or for bottling. I had it all set up with Joe at Big Basin, and if everything went right we'd be back unloading the wine at Chaine d'Or about 2:30-3:00 PM. Then just an hour back to Skip's Tires, pick up the FJ, then shoot over to Enterprise and return the truck before 5 PM.
I'm standing at the counter at Enterprise at 8:00 AM hearing about how there are no trucks in San Jose until 10am. I'm trying to send Joe a message at Big Basin on my iPhone when one comes in from Bradley at Big Basin saying Joe can't do it today after all. Plans - done.
Skip's was ready for us though. I'd gone in on Saturday to pre-order the tires I wanted and get everything set up for today and they were ready for us. Stefania and I walked about 3/4 of a mile to a bookstore to wait out the tires. They look great and should hold up better off road than the old ones did.
Everything else, well it's rescheduled now.
Friday, April 09, 2010
Here's where you can currently find our wines locally:
Deer Park Wine
There should be more coming soon and I'll try and keep everyone updated. If you have any leads, send them my way!
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Leaving the office reminded me of a normal Spring routine I have.
To all our C.P.A friends - YES you can send in your allocation form to us after April 15th, it's not too late. Every year I stash away a little bit of wine in the 'CPA corner' for orders that come in after tax season. It's something I've been doing since our very first Spring release.
Monday, April 05, 2010
I racked the carboy below leaving just the lees at the bottom of the bottle. The wine above was clear. This is the stuff that builds up in the bottom of each barrel.
Then it was on to the Chardonnay. Cold stabilization is the process of chilling down a white wine to remove any tartaric crystals in the wine. The crystals will bind to the side of the tank as we chill the wine. That will prevent them from forming in the bottle.
One step we have to do is wrap the tank in additional insulation so that it will get cold enough. We then turn on the chiller and cool the tank down. The wine is racked into the tank and off of the lees. I use an attachment on the hose so that we leave the gunk in the bottom of the barrel and just get clear wine. The wine will now stay in tank for about 3 weeks.
Stefania cleans out the barrels after we are done. Hot water and high pressure will get them clean. We will then let them dry and sulfur them to prevent infection.
Some of the lees and water coming out after a first rinse. The barrels will be rinsed until the water runs out clean.
Everything went very smoothly and we were out of the winery in time to join some friends for Afghan food that night.
Friday, April 02, 2010
There has been some good news lately. Sales in the $25-$40 category, that's 80% of our production, are projected to be up 12% in Q1 2010 from Q1 2009 across the industry. The speculation is that consumers are 'trading up' again. For the past two years the only sector that's seen growth is the $6-$12 range, and experts think those people are now trading up to the $25-$40 range.
Personally I think that's wrong. I think what we're actually seeing is people reentering the market who had left, and they are reentering at a much lower price point. To me it seems that the people who were in the $75+ market simply stopped buying wine in 2009 and waited out the meltdown in that sector, only jumping in for extreme bargains.
Now they are reentering the market, but in the $25-$40 range. Points from a critic and price sticker prestige seem much less important to that group now. It's more about finding wine they can enjoy and cellar that won't break the bank. The practice of 'flipping' - buying rare wine and selling it right away for a profit - has largely disappeared. Now almost every wine can be had at the release price. That takes a lot of the glamour and value out of high priced wines.
I know a lot of people were happy to pay $250 a bottle each for 6 bottles of wine. It was a simple equation for them. Shell out $1500, then flip 3 bottles for $500 each, and walk away with the other three bottles for 'free'. Now that's just not possible and I think that's the group now buying in the $25-$40 range.
Stefania has just closed out the books on our Q1. It was our best quarter ever. Our sales were up 43% over Q4 2009 and 49% over Q1 of 2009. I know there are some people reading this in the wine industry who just spit their coffee on their screen. That is four times better than the average in our sector.
We've been lucky though, we have a great group of loyal customers who we think of foremost as friends. They've held us through. Last year as our wholesale (restaurant and retail) sales fell 52%, they were there to pick up the slack. Direct sales were up 15% which netted us out at a 4% overall gain.
Maybe the most encouraging thing for us is that both direct and wholesale sales in Q1 were the highest we've ever had in a Q1. We are still going to be conservative though. I know that 'tidal wave' is out there and we will be fighting against it over the next few years. We are going to wait until we close out Q2 before we make any commitments on expanding our production in 2010. We're also going to focus on reducing our L.O.C. and equipment loans so we have more liquidity to use against that 'tidal wave'.
This is the unglamorous stuff. Stefania and I sitting at our computers at night pouring over numbers, working on budgets, sorting through invoices and doing all the things to keep a business running. It takes up a lot of our time. We easily spend as much time on this stuff as we do in the winery. We're hopeful though now that we're seeing a breakthrough. We're also so grateful to all our supporters.
Tomorrow we get to go back into the winery and get our Chardonnay ready for bottling. It will be nice to be out of the office and worrying about the wine for a while.
Thursday, April 01, 2010
It's been hard times. Most people in the wine business don't want to talk about it. Everyone has been impacted. For us we've had two really big impacts. The first really had more to do with the low yield harvest in 2008. The low yields meant we had about $30,000 in expenses (mostly barrels) that we had already committed to and ended up not using. It also meant that we came up about $25,000 short in grapes we were selling.
That was a double whammy. One was supposed to pay for the other. All of a sudden we were in the hole $25,000 we were not expecting. That was all happening the very same month the stock market melted down, and yes 10% of our customers are in New York City. But we adjusted our budget, reduced plans for 2009 and cut back on all but the essentials to make wine. It's been a long haul but as we enter Q2 2010, we have no outstanding invoices, just our regular monthly expenses. That's the first time since the Fall of 2008.
The second was we allocated a fair amount of wine to be sold at restaurants and retail in 2008 and 2009. That sector has been hit the hardest. I could probably write a novel about the 'middle tier' in the wine business, but I'll just say I feel let down, and I'm much more cautious now about allocating anything to distributors or brokers. We've managed to kick start those sales, but it's turned out to be 100% our own effort and initiative.
That second item is really what the title of this posting is about. Most of the comments from wine lovers about the crisis have been that they hope their favorite wineries will make it through and offering reasons for hope. In response one winery owner said:
"I think that even if you survive the downturn, you are also going to be swimming against a tidal wave of accumulated inventory being liquidated by those that didn't survive."
Now that's the thing I fear the most. I see it every day, wine being discounted 50% or more, 2 for 1 offers, anything to move inventory. People have a limited amount of money to spend on wine and this 'tidal wave' is going to be the hardest thing for us over the next two years.
This has gotten long, so I'll do a 'part two' tomorrow. In the mean time here's something lighter, a picture of my favorite flower the California Wild Poppy from a hike Stefania and I went on Sunday.