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. http://www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org/

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 boiled...it 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 www.facebook.com/stefaniawine. 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.