Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Full Moon Passed

We've been pretty quiet the last few weeks. Stefania has wrapped up shipping and that kept her busy. Last Saturday we went to the winery to top up barrels. That's been about it.

Thursday though we'll start in with our vineyard work for 2011. Pruning will start and as usual we've waited until after the full moon. We could have started Tuesday but it's been raining and it's really not a task to do in the rain if we can avoid it. I'll try to get some pictures up as we work through all the vineyards. Before and afters especially and maybe a video or two on pruning techniques.

Our next major tasks in the winery won't come until after the 1st of the year when we'll start racking the 2010's as well as any 2009's that need it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Hero

Many of you who have come to visit us over the years have gotten to meet our friend Millie. If not at the winery, then at our home over a bottle of wine.

Millie has been helping us from the very start of Stefania Wine. There is literally not a single vine nor single bottle that she has not personally touched along the way. She's put in vineyard posts for us, planted vines, pruned, sprayed, driven the tractor a hundred times. She's bucketed wine at the press and done punch-downs on every lot. She's put wine into barrel and been there for bottling day.

She's hooked up electricity when we've needed it and built or fixed dozen of things we use in the vineyard and winery. Her usual job at bottling was to lift every single case of glass and start it on the bottling line. She's been covered in dirt, and sweat and wine more than once. There's no one we owe more to than Millie.

So many of you know Millie because she is so easy to talk too, quick to make a friend and generous in her spirit. There's nothing she enjoyed more than hanging out in our backyard and talking wine with people from all over the country.

This month Millie decided to move to Colorado to help her sister with a new house she'd purchased. We had a going away party for her and gathered friends to say good bye. We all hope that she'll decided to come back and that her stay is just temporary. Everyone will miss her a great deal.

Over the past couple of weeks we've gotten together with other friends and of course they've asked about Millie and we've told them about her move. Our friend from Tennessee asked Stefania and I how we'd cope with her being gone in the winery and vineyards. We didn't have an answer for him. It was in fact the first time we'd even thought about it. For us we've just been completely focused on her friendship. Getting her off on her trip safely and encouraging her to come back and visit us. We'd only missed her as a friend and hadn't thought about how it would impact the business.

We know that Stefania Wine will cope and we will figure out a way. For both Stefania and I though the personal relationship is so much more important. We wish Millie the best in Colorado. We do hope she will come back to us some day and we always will value her friendship, her great heart and all she's done for us.

Paul and Millie.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

2008 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains

Final of three in the series on our Winter Futures/Spring Release

Our 2008 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon is again a blend of three unique vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The Elandrich Vineyard performed well during the season and yield was up slightly from 2007 at about 1600 pounds. The break down was 1000 pounds of Merlot, 500 pounds of Cabernet Sauvignon, and 100 pounds of Zinfandel and just about 30 pounds of Syrah. The grapes were harvested on the morning of October 9th and crushed and destemmed at Chaine d’Or. Final Brix was 22.5 and pH was 3.47 Superfood was added to the bin and fermentation was on native yeasts. Fermentation took 12 days and the wine was gently pressed and transferred to a new Sequin Moreau barrel. An additional ½ barrel was added to the Haut Tubee blend.

The Chaine d ‘Or Estate Vineyard was under our first year of management and we took steps to limit yields and open the canopy for more ripeness and sunlight in the Cabernet section. Yields were further limited by natural conditions of the unusual season. The clusters and berries were very small and of intense flavor this season with complete ripeness coming in late October. Harvest took place on the morning of October 25th with a mostly volunteer crew and we finished in just over 2 hours, bringing in 1800 pounds of grapes or under one ton per acre. Brix at harvest was 26.5, a high for the site and pH was 3.42.

The grapes were 100% destemmed and crushed into a single t-bin. The natural, native yeasts of the estate were used and a Malolactic starter was added half way through fermentation. Punch downs were limited to one per day to minimize tannin extraction and in an effort to keep the wine from becoming too dark and intense. Fermentation was very gentle and extended for 23 days. The wine was gently pressed and transferred to tank to settle for 72 hours before being placed in one new sequin Moreau barrel and one used French oak barrel.

The blend included 250 pounds of estate Merlot that was harvested on October 9th. Those grapes were destemmed and crushed and began fermentation on native yeast in a 60 gallon tub. The must was combined with the Cabernet Sauvignon on 10/25. Small amounts of the estates Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc were also added at harvest on October 25th.

The Harvest Moon Vineyard also saw yields down greatly in 2008 and we took just 2 tons from the vineyard vs. 8 tons we had hoped for. Harvest took place on October 26th and the grapes were transferred to Chaine d’Or for processing. Final numbers were Brix, 23.5 and pH 3.62. The grapes were destemmed and crushed into our 3 ½ ton stainless steel tank for fermentation on native yeast. Malolactic starter was added 10 day later. Fermentation was very slow and gentle and we used a combination of pump over’s and punch downs averaging one per day. We used a gentle routine in 2008 on all our Cabernet’s to minimize the huge tannins of the vintage.

The must completed fermentation on 11/17 after 22 days and was pressed into tank for 72 hours to settle. Due to the large solid to juice ratio, we had to climb into the tank and bucket out the large amount of must into the press. The wine was transferred to 3 new Sequin Moreau barrels and two neutral French oak barrels.

In the Spring of 2009 we combined the two barrels of Chaine d'Or with two barrels from Harvest Moon. That May the single barrel of Elandrich was added to the blend and an additional Harvest Moon barrel was chosen to provide topping wine. We racked the blended wine more often than usual in an effort to soften the tannins in the wine. The finished wine was bottled in August of 2010 after 22 months in barrel. The final blend is:

81% Cabernet Sauvignon
17% Merlot
1% Zinfandel
1 % Cab Franc

Tasting Note: The wine is dark hued tending to purple. The nose is classic Cabernet with plum, dark berry fruit and currants with a top note of spicy oak. In the mouth the wine shows more dark berry fruit, mocha, ripe currant and a touch of toast. The wine is very well structured and comes across as fresh even with the huge tannins. The structure, acidity and density reminds me a great deal of a Super Tuscan, being very well rounded. The finish is long with complex black fruits showing. Promises a very long life in bottle.

94 Cases Produced

Release: Spring of 2011

Release Price: $120 per 3 pack, $225 per six pack

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

2008 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Crimson Clover Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley

Second in a series of three on our next releases....

In March of 2007 we received a call from a family looking for help in pruning a one acre vineyard. Usually we don't do single task jobs like that, preferring to manage our vineyards through all parts of maintenance so we have control over final quality. The homeowner though was desperate. The vineyard had been installed in 2005 and had not been pruned at all in 2006. I knew that if it was not properly pruned in 2007, the entire vineyard would have to be started over from scratch and wouldn't yield until 2010.

We went out with a small group of friends and spent two back breaking days of some of the hardest vineyard labor we've ever done. The plants had been left in grow tubes since planting in 2005. The plants were actually very healthy, but the grow tubes had limited the space the young vines could grow in. The result was that each plant had 8-20 stalks tightly wrapped like 5 inch thick rattan furniture.

We had to use large tree pruners to cut through the stalks until there was just one left. They were so thick and hard that our friend Kenneth and I were the only ones strong enough to cut away the stalks. Even then we had to do just 8-10 plants before talking a rest and letting the other person continue. Stefania led every one else on our pruning team. After we'd cut away the stalks and selected a new cordon the other pruners would debud the remaining stalk except for two buds that would become the new cordons. It was step, step lunge and repeat, 900 times.

That time in the vineyard though gave us a glimpse that this might be a very special place. The vineyard is located in a small valley between the Santa Teresa Foothills and the main Santa Cruz Mountains range. This particular vineyard is at the foot of 'El Toro' which is a 1200 foot high volcanic cinder cone. The small area around El Toro is the only place in the world to find Poppy Jasper which is formed when volcanic and seismic rocks are active in the same area.

This little valley has the most complex mix of soils we've ever seen, with the volcanic wash from El Toro combining with the lift thrust soils of the San Andreas fault. The weather also was near perfect. Fog rolled up into the vineyard every night from the Pacific to cool the vineyard, but burned off early in the morning leaving a warm sunny site during the day.

We decided to manage the vineyard through that summer and oversee its restoration. We decided to drop all the fruit in 2007 to allow the vines to build strength and fill out from our pruning efforts. By that Fall we were so confident in the vineyard's potential that we informed Ted and Bill at Uvas Creek that 2007 would be the last vintage we'd be buying fruit from them. In 2008 this would become the source for our Santa Clara Valley offering. We were very excited to see how the complex soil and excellent weather would influence the finished wine.

Our first harvest from these four year old vines was on Sunday September 28th. The vineyard was under our second year of management. We dropped @ 600 pounds of fruit in late August to balance out the plants and insure even ripening and then began a system of reverse deficit irrigation to slow down sugar levels to allow the flavors to mature.

Final numbers came in very ripe but with good acidity. Something we would see all year in 2008. Brix was 27.2 and pH came in at 3.53.

Harvest was with a mix of paid and volunteer crews and we picked just under 3200 pounds. The grapes were small, and intensely flavored. We transported them to Big Basin Vineyards for processing, then sorted and 100% destemmed the grapes, but did not crush the berries, opting for whole berry fermentation. The must was foot treaded several times until fermentation started. We again used native yeast fermentation. Fermentation took 18 days to complete and the wine was gently pressed and transferred to 2 new Sequin Moreau barrels and one old French oak barrel for 67% new wood treatment. Malolactic fermentation was begun in bin and completed in barrel.

As the wine matured at Big Basin the winemaker there began to ask us if he too could get fruit from this vineyard site. His quote was: "This is the best Cabernet I've tasted from the Santa Cruz Mountains." We racked the wine on a regular schedule over 22 months and it was transferred to Chaine d'Or for bottling in the summer of 2010. We bottled the wine in August 2010.

PS: That first day we arrived on site the vineyard was bright red from the Crimson Clover the homeowners had planted as a cover crop between the rows. We started referring to the site as 'Crimson Clover' right away.

Tasting Note: Bright and expressive on the nose with red fruit and spicy oak notes. A very complex wine with tons of red fruit flavors; berry, ripe cherry, raspberry with a coating of chocolaty mocha and spice. Darker fruit flavors come out as the wine opens up with blackberry, boysenberry, currant, and plum notes. There are just loads of fruit flavors in this wine that continue in the long finish. The wine is dense and well structured but the fruit flavors remain lifted and lively. I encourage people to try this wine young with a 60 minute decant. It will age well for 10+ years but I suspect people will have a hard time keeping their hands off this wine.

69 Cases Produced

Release: Spring of 2011

Release Price: $120 per 3 pack, $225 per six pack