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.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

2008 Stefania Haut Tubee

The Haut Tubee blend began on September 13th with the harvest of the Home vineyard and the Ottigurr vineyard in San Jose. The grapes were picked in the early morning and transferred to Chaine d’Or for processing. They were destemmed and crushed into a 60 gallon tub and fermentation was on native yeast. The initial picking included about 450 pounds of grapes with 70% Syrah, 14% Grenache, 13% Zinfandel and 3 % Mourvedre. About 10 pounds of mystery pink grapes (likely Pinot Gris) from the Chaine d’Or Estate were added whole cluster on 9/20.

On September 27th 250 pounds of Zinfandel and 50 pounds of Cabernet Sauvignon from the ‘Roxie’ vineyard, a neighbor of the Crimson Clover Vineyard were crushed and started in their own tub.

The initial blend was pressed in a wooded basket press on 9/30 and transferred to tank to wait for the other lots to complete. The Roxie completed on 10/15 and was blended into tank with the first lot.

On October 24th 22 gallons of Elandrich vineyard was added to the tank and the entire blend transferred to a single new Sequin Moreau barrel. In May of 2009 the wine was racked into a used barrel as we felt it had achieved the level of new oak influence we were after.

On May 3rd 2010, the final blend was assembled. One barrel of 2008 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon was selected and blended in tank. In addition ½ barrel of new oak Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah was added as well.

Final breakdown at bottling:

Merlot 15%
Zinfandel 10%
Syrah 36%
Cabernet Sauvignon 37%
Grenache 2%
Mourvedre (trace)
Cabernet Franc (trace)
Petite Verdot (trace)
Pinot Gris (trace)

Final Alcohol 13.8% pH 3.72

Dark red the color of a ripe Bing cherry. Wow nose of cherries, plum, licorice and herbs. Very southern Rhone in the mouth with soft and ripe tannins. The wine seems to show Grenache even though that's a small part this year. Very ripe fruit and spice in the mouth with a long, fresh, juicy finish. Kind of a cross of the 06's juicy fruit and the 07's excellent structure.

Release Price: $60 per 3 pack, $120 per six pack

Friday, September 17, 2010

2008 Stefania Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch

Our 4 rows from the 1989 block of Syrah at Eaglepoint Ranch yielded 2.6 tons in 2006 and 3 .2 tons in 2007. In 2008 severe weather would limit the yield to just 600 pounds, or .3 tons. We pulled grapes from 15 other rows to harvest just less than 1 ton total. The grapes were picked early in the morning of October 1st and transported to Big Basin Vineyards for processing. We sorted the grapes and 100% destemmed but did not crush the berries.

Final Brix was low for the site at 25.5 and pH was 3.84. We added a small amount of tartaric acid to preserve the pH through Malolactic fermentation. Only native yeast was used in the fermentation and we again started Malolactic Fermentation in bin. The wine finished primary fermentation on 10/13 and was pressed and transferred to one new Sequin Moreau barrel and one old French Oak barrel. We did two additional rackings of this wine in 2008 to manage the tannins from the smaller than normal berries this year produced.

In early April the wine was transferred to Chaine d’Or for bottling. On May 3rd 50% of the new barrel was transferred to the Haut Tubee Blend. The remaining wine will have 33% new oak influence. As we sampled we felt that a 50/50 blend of new/old oak was too high for our tastes.

Final Alcohol 14.5% pH 3.71

Very dark and dense crimson color. Sweet floral nose with plums, berries and spice on the nose. More ripe plum, spice and pepper on the palate. With air the wine showed berry pie and pronounced black cherry flavors. The finish is lifted with a pepper note that carries the black cherry. This wine is as floral on the nose as past vintages with more cherry fruit. We've had no metallic notes in this wine and think the choice to wait until after the heavy rains around the 1st of October was key in removing any smoke residue from the vineyard..

Release Price: $99 per 3 pack, $180 per six pack

Thursday, September 16, 2010

2008 Stefania Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains

In 2008 the 30 year old Pinot Noir vineyard we sourced these grapes from was under our management and we took efforts to reduce yields and improve sun exposure to the vineyard. The vineyard is a mix of 'heritage clones' including Swan and Mount Eden. Located just a few miles from the Pacific outside of Corralitos CA this is a very cool site. The vineyard produced a total of just over 5 tons of grapes on 4 ½ acres or about 1 ¼ ton per acre. The thirty year old vines produced tiny clusters and intense small berries.

We harvested just over one ton for ourselves on the morning of October 3rd. The grapes were transferred to Chaine d’ Or and 100% destemmed and crushed for fermentation in two t-bins. We used no whole clusters this year due to the very small cluster size and a desire to limit stem tannin.

Final numbers on the Pinot Noir were Brix 24.5 and pH of 3.39. We gently punched down the must 1-2 times daily and fermented on native yeasts. The fermentation was slow to start again this year, allowing some pre fermentation soak time. We added Malolactic starter on 10/13 while the wine was still in bin and pressed the wine on 10/21 after eighteen day fermentation. The wine was allowed to settle in tank for 3 days then transferred to 1 new Sequin Moreau barrel and one used French oak barrel.

No further rackings were done on the wine and it was allowed to age on its fine lees until racked for bottling after 17 months in barrel. We extend the barrel aging routine on all our 2008's in an effort to manage the large tannins that resulted from small berries and clusters.

Final Alcohol 13.5% pH 3.59

Ruby red color, darker than the 2007. Raspberry, strawberry, rose and spice on the nose. The nose is very exciting on this wine. Soft velvety tannins carry red fruit, ripe berries and a hint of forest to a long finish with blackberry showing as the wine opened in the glass. The wine has ripe and ample tannins promising long life in bottle.

Release Price: $135 per 3 pack, $250 per six pack

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bordentown - U.S.A

I ended up with few pictures from our trip. Most were on my iPhone and came out pretty poorly. I know Stefania took better pictures and I hope she can post those up soon with some more trip details. We also had a few dozen sent to us from people at our party in Bordentown New Jersey.

I took this picture of Stefania in the 'Cool Cricket' in Bordentown. She had just won the Bud Light hat in their drawing at half time of the Sunday football games.

We both wanted to thank the great people of Bordentown again for their amazing hospitality. We had some stops at some pretty well known and high powered spots on our trips. We poured at a D.C. law firm overlooking the Potomac at Washington Harbor (That's one building down from the famous Watergate buildings) on Thursday. Monday we where hosted at Harry's Cafe and Steak House, just one block from the stock exchange on Wall Street in N.Y.C. We loved both of those stops.

Saturday though was in the tiny town of Bordentown, population 3,953. Our event there was set up by Mark and Pam of Jersey Foodies. Not only did they host a fantastic party for us with amazing food, but Mark came and picked us up personally at the train station and drove us to our hotel. We met so many wonderful people Saturday night and everyone was so gracious to Stef and I. Mark drove us back to the hotel again at 1:30 AM. The town doesn't have regular cab service, it's too small.

Saturday the folks in Bordentown were great to us, then on Sunday they one upped themselves. Saturday night I had mentioned to someone at the party that one of the things we don't like about traveling is not having good coffee in bed in the morning. Sunday morning there was a text message offering to bring us coffee at our hotel! We declined, it just seemed like too much, but we did accept Mark's offer of a ride to a local pub to watch the football games Sunday afternoon.

We hung out and ate chicken wings and drank beer for 6 hours. We never paid for a drink the entire time we were there. People we had met the night before insisted that they treat! When it was finally time for us to go back to the hotel a new friend we had met just the night before offered to take us back again to our hotel. Not only did he do that but he stopped us by his home for a visit. It is a 19th century building that he renovated. It used to be the Baptist Church in town, and he's restored it into an amazing living space. As if that wasn't enough he offered to pick us up the next morning and drive us to the train station in Trenton!

America is full of wonderful, amazing, gracious people, in big cities like Washington and New York and small towns like Bordentown. We hope to be back some day and visit again. In the mean time we continue to extend the invitation we gave to so many people in our travels. Come visit us in California. Let us throw a party for you at our winery and in our home!

Funny Quotes from the trip...

I know I'm missing one, but that's what I get for not writing it down...

Here are the three I did capture:

#1 "I am not high strung, I am energetic and enthusiastic with organizational skills"

#2 "Cross and Skull Bones"

#3 "I'm entertaining myself and it's not even physical this time"

The first one was in reference to Paul saying I'm high strung and Liz correcting him. She and I are scary similar ;-) (that was at the backyard party in NJ)

The second one is me screwing up Skull and Crossbones (that being the theme on a garment I was wearing for Tbird as I was explaining it to his wife)

And last but not least, the third quote was overheard on the trip home on the flight from L.A. The gentleman in the seat behind us was "chatty".


Back to the Grind

I am my own worst boss. If I worked for me I'd quit after a week, seriously.

We were barely through the door lastnight and I was already making a mental list of all the things to get done today or before the end of the day Thursday - many are related to basic housekeeping and home maintenance, but all are necessary tasks given the threat of rain for Sunday (bring in the outdoor furniture for one...)

Paul is already tasking me for Friday doing some running around at the vineyards to start taking samples and see how things look.

I too have photos from the East Coast Tour to post up and some commentary to add so please hang in there and be patient while I work through the rest of my list...

It's good to be back and to have something to do besides eating and drinking; yep, the list includes some dietary changes for the upcoming week ;-)

Chat soon...gotta run

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saturday Night's Line Up

Stef took a few pictures and Mark forwarded on a few more. We'll have those up later this week, but I did want to get up the wine list from Saturday. Mark took the count Sunday afternoon....

2005 Stefania Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch
2006 Stefania Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch
2006 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Uvas Creek
2006 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains
......2007 Stefania Haut Tubee
2007 Stefania Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch
2007 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Uvas Creek x 2
2007 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountain x 2
2008 Stefania Haut Tubee
2008 Stefania Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch
2008 Stefania Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains x 2
2009 Stefania Chardonnay Chaine d'Or
2006 Sea Smoke Chardonnay Magnum
2005 Andrew Murray Syrah Oak Savanna Vineyard
2005 Lillian Winery Syrah
2006 Sine Qua Non Syrah Raven Series
2006 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon
2007 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon
2007 Tobin James Lagrein Silver Reserve
2004 Vigna Vecchia Chianti Classico
2005 Duca di Saragnano Chianti Riserva
2007 Domaine de la Buissonne Côtes du Rhône Villages Beaumes-de-Venise
2007 Donna Laura Ali Toscana IGT
2007 Thompson Street Pinot Noir "Posse"
2006 Pure Love Wines Shiraz Layer Cake
2007 Tobin James Primitivo James Gang Reserve
2006 Stags' Leap Winery Petite Sirah
2006 Kongsgaard Chardonnay
2006 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
2007 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon
N.V. Alvear Pedro Ximénez Montilla-Moriles Solera 1927
N.V. LaMarca Prosecco
2007 DuMOL Chardonnay Isobel
2006 Latium Morini Valpolicella Superiore Prognai
2006 Rusina Syrah Monte Rosso
2007 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling
2005 Laetitia Late Harvest Riesling - Arroyo Grande Valley - Block Z
2008 Lafond Pinot Noir Lafond Vineyard
2008 Tolosa Winery Viognier Edna Ranch
2009 Santa Marina Provincia di Pavia IGT White Table Pinot Grigio Magnum
2006 Sanford Pinot Noir
2007 Chappellet Napa Valley Chardonnay

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tourist Day

I just couldn't seem to pull out the camera today. I did take a couple of pictures inside the Capitol Building today. I've been to DC maybe 20 times now and this was my first trip inside.

We've been getting around on the Metro and have spent a lot of time in old town Alexandria.

Last night we had two really fantastic events. One friend set up a tasting for us at his law firm and it was the perfect setting for us to share our wines. I'd really recommend a visit to the Washington Harbor if you're on tour. It was an amazing setting looking out on Roosevelt Island.

After that we met up with old friends at Dino's. I'd also highly recommend this as a dinner night out. It's a kind of place I think we just don't have enough of and I hope we will see a trend towards more places like it. The food was rustic Italian. All very well prepared from fantastic ingredients and at an affordable price. Service was fantastic and there was a deep wine list.

I complain a lot at home that I can get better food, better service and better wine at home than most restaurants and the one's that can out do us at home want $200. Everywhere needs more places like Dino's.

Tonight we're off to downtown DC for a 'dress up' dinner!

Quick Update

We arrived safely in D.C. Had a great tasting and then dinner last night. We'll try and answer emails from both those events later this afternoon or tomorrow when we arrive in Trenton. We're off to visit the Capitol at 11 AM this morning, then the National Art Galleries I think.

We're slow on email right now, but both Stef and I will answer all of them soon.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Allocation Details

Our Fall release letters are going out on and about the 15th this month. We have all the details worked out on allocations. It's going to be tight I think. I'm pretty sure we will run out of wine pretty quickly. We broke the list up into 3 groups. The 'A' group is made up of people who have purchased before. For that group there are 4 different breakdowns on allocation amounts.

Everyone in the 'A' group did get at least a 3 pack allocation of all three wines. The people at the top tier were allocated 6 Syrah, 6 Haut Tubee and 12 Pinot Noir. There were just about 30 of those people. To tell you how tight we are, there are just 32 cases of Syrah left right now. What I'm figuring is that not everyone will take their full amount.

The 'B' group is made up of people who have signed up for our list since the last release. There are just over 130 of those people. They are going to get the option to purchase a combo 3 pack made up of one of each wine. There's also a slot for them to request additional wine if any makes it through the 'A' group.

The 'C' group is made up of people who signed up before last spring but have not purchased wine. That group is going to be given the chance to purchase the three 2007 wines we still have available (Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet, Uvas Creek Cabernet and Eagplepoint Syrah). There won't be enough 2008 to offer them any of that.

It's a little unusual to put newer sign ups in front of older sign ups but I thought it was important to give people a chance to try our wines and the 3 pack cost will be just $98. They will also have the option to purchase the 2007 wines we still have.

Over the next few days I'm going to be putting up notes on the three new wines. I tried to keep the letters brief so their are just basic tasting notes. I asked people to check the blog for more details on the wine so they will be up here shortly.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Guess That Pitcher -Free Wine

I took this picture last night before dinner at a friends. I just thought it was funny. Stefania and our friend Holly hamming it up for the camera over a pitcher of........

So email me your best guess of what's in the pitcher. First correct answer gets a bottle of Holly's favorite wine - our 2008 Haut Tubee. And no Holly, you can't guess.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

I know we still have one more day to go but we've already had a great Labor Day Weekend. For many winemakers around the state it's the start of their harvest, but we still have many weeks ahead before we start. It's a great weekend to spend with friends.

Saturday we had a long 3+ hour lunch at a Brazilian steak house in San Mateo. We had two 750 ml bottles and a magnum with lunch. Everyone started in the bar though with a cocktail. There was a strict limit of one Pisco Sour per person. Two creates dementia :)

We were celebrating a baby shower for our friends and with this group BBQ meat and wine is the best type of baby shower. Below beef ribs come out to the table. After lunch many of us went into a 'meat coma'. The talk the next day was if anyone actually ate again the rest of the day ( 1 1/2 out of 11 of us did!)

Sunday it was time to regather and get the smoker going. I smoked a salmon for Stefania and then when the smoker had cooled to about 180 I put these ribs on. Our friend Gerard had done steaks like that for us on our trip to Nashville. I left the steaks on for just about 70 minutes. They don't really cook at all, they just pick up the spice of the smoke.

Then I transfer them to a hot grill and finish them off there.

I did fall asleep on the coach but we had another great night of food and wine with friends.

One more event tonight with smoked ribs, brats and more wine!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

What Makes a Vintage Great?

I'm not so much concerned with what happens in the vineyard or in the winery in this blog. What I mean is what does it mean when you here someone say a vintage is great? What does it mean when the wine critics call a vintage great?

On almost every front the 2007 vintage in California has been called a great vintage. I think that's right, especially in the context of what people usually mean when they say that.

2007 was an easy year. That made it a great year. The weather, the seasons, everything you need to go right in a year went right. That meant it wasn't particularly hard to bring in great grapes and because the grapes were so good it wasn't hard to make good wine. The praise that often gets used is, "A rising tide raises all boats".

That's exactly what a great vintage does. Everyone succeeds and everyone makes wine above their normal level. It means the great sites and winemakers will make exceptional wine. It also means wines and sites that may usually be average will perform much better. For a consumer it means you can go out and buy just about anything from that year and it will be good.

Those type of years are really a boom for most wine drinkers because every choice they make will be a good one. For serious collectors it can actually be a bit of a draw back. That rising tide also means rising demand and that can mean rising prices. That happens in Bordeaux every time they have a good vintage and often people who would like to buy the wine get priced out of the market.

2008 was a totally different year. It was hard from start to finish. There were issues with almost everything you could image (except mildew) and extra work was required all year long in the vineyard and then again in the winery. On top of that yields were painfully low, often off up to 75% from 2007 at some sites.

So that makes it a bad vintage right?

I actually think 2008 is a better vintage than 2007. But there's a huge qualifier on that. It's not a vintage where all boats rose equally. It was the exact opposite in fact. Those growers and wineries that did the extra work, took the extra care and had the extra focus made fantastic wines. I've heard from many, many winemakers that they think the 2008 wines are the best or some of the best wines they have ever made.

If a winery couldn't, wouldn't or didn't understand how to deal with the year, they struggled to make decent wines. A lot of people picked way too early and made lean tannic wines. Some didn't modify their winemaking enough to deal with the small berries and high solid to liquid ratios at crush and made hard over extracted wines. Many struggled with the low yields and had difficulty handling the smaller lots from individual vineyards. You'll see a lot of wine in 2008 that is going to be AVA labeled instead of vineyard labeled because producers didn't have a plan to deal with the very small quantities they were forced to deal with and had to blend together lots.

Because of those yield issues there was very little quality juice available on the secondary market. Don't expect to see great second label wines in 2008 or great wines from those wineries that buy in juice rather than process grapes. It's going to be a bad year for the bulk blenders as well. 2008 will not be a year you can go to the supermarket and pick out any bottle.

That's why 2008 is never going to be called 'great' by the press or critics. It wasn't great for everyone. I think all the vintage charts you will ever see will rank it below 2007 and 2009. For the fine producers though that's just not true. I think every wine we made in 2008 was better than the same wine we made in 2007. If you think I'm just hyping the vintage I have to sell, I'll tell you I have almost as much 2007 left as I have 2008 still to sell. I also have much more 2009 in barrel still but I think 2008 is better than 2009.

I've heard that same thing from other quality producers I've talked to and in other wines I've tried. My advice is to skip the closeouts, bargains and blenders in 2008 and concentrate on those producers you know make great wine. Their wine is going to be very special.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Upcoming Travel and Events

Next week Stefania and I will hit the road to preview our 2008 wines for friends and customers on the East Coast. We have four events planned starting Thursday the 9th and wrapping up on Monday the 13th.

Thursday the 9th from 5-7 PM we will be pouring 6 different wines at a private location in Georgetown, DC. I'm planning on opening our 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains and Uvas Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons, 2007 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah, 2008 Pinot Noir, 2008 Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch and 2008 Haut Tubee.

Thursday at 8PM we will be attending an off line wine dinner with members from the Wine Spectator on-line forum just north of DC at Dino's. The restaurant is located right on the Red Line of the DC Metro.

Saturday evening the 11th we will be at a private party in New Jersey about 30 minutes from Philadelphia. We will be bringing along a selection of 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 wines.

Monday the 13th we will be at another off line dinner of Wine Spectator forum members in downtown Manhattan near Wall Street. We'll be bringing our 2008 wines to that event for people to try.

If you would like to attend any one of these events please contact me directly via email for directions and a formal invite. We're hoping to get to meet as many of our mailing list members as we can on this trip. Each event is very informal and we hope we'll get the chance to talk with everyone interested in our wines.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Company Retreat

Back in July I wrote about updating our business plan. Well I did finish the update and we have just a few financial reports to add once they've been checked off by our CPA. It looks like it will close out at just about 60 pages.

One thing we knew we needed to do was sit down together with all the shareholders (that's me and Stefania) and review the plan. We wanted to make sure we were in agreement on everything in the plan and that most important we both understood where we're going and what we're going to do in the years ahead.

I suppose we could have just set aside some time on a Sunday afternoon and sat down in the backyard. Everyone knows though how easy it is to get distracted with chores and tasks around the house so we planned on a get away. We couldn't go too far and really just had a couple days to spare so we spent Sunday and Monday in Monterey.

I've always really enjoyed Monterey and it was nice to spend a couple great days there. The weather was cool but sunny. We did spend Sunday afternoon on the balcony of our hotel room going over the business plan page by page. We even managed to do that without a glass of wine or a cocktail. At least until after we were done.

There was enough time left though to take a few long walks. We also ate on the wharf a couple of times and had a great time at the Cannery Row Brewing Company.

We don't really treat ourselves to very many perks as business owners. In the past 5 years the fanciest thing I think we've bought as a business expense is a new computer for me. My old one was a circa 1999 Mac, so it was clearly time for a new one. We decided this retreat was a good idea though and we're likely to make the business plan review an annual get away event.