Monday, December 29, 2008

Dan's Top Ten Lists of 2008

OK, I am a top 10 list kind of guy. I always make lists of my favorite records, movies, books, concerts and other things each year as December winds down. Here are two wine making lists for you to ponder. Feel free to send us your top 10.

Top 10 Wines I Drank

Year Producer Region Type
2002 Michaud Chalone Pinot Noir
2005 Cos Sicily Frappato Nd'A
2006 Woodenhead Humboldt Pinot Noir
1994 Gunther Heinmetz Germany Riesling
1999 Whitethorn Carneros Pinot Noir
2007 La Clos du Tue-Boeuf Loire Gamay
2000 Château d'Armajan des Ormes Bordeaux Sauternes
1995 Joseph Phelps Napa Cabernet
2006 Baker Lane Sonoma Pinot Noir
2003 Andrake Cellars Washington Syrah

I am sure I am forgetting a lot. But this is a start.

Top 11 Winemaking Moments

4/20 In Anderson Valley
Family vacation in Humboldt (scouting grapes)
Hanging with Josh Chandler of Lazy Creek and getting pearls of wisdom
Seeing Eastern Washington, even if it was god-awfully early, for the first time
10 hours of sorting with a great crew of friends in San Francisco
Too many trips to MoreFlavor
WA vs CA wars with Aaron
Wine2.0 in NYC and the great Jersey experience (Kimmy turns 26)
The Puncheon Uhaul Stuff
Rotten eggs (not just for breakfast)
Meeting Aaron's family and friends in Olympia

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Did Anyone Come Here to Get Malo?

I believe Ted Nugent said something like that in his epic album "double live gonzo." Too bad he's a crazy bow-hunting douche now.

aaron measures out the MLF in a german bimble

We added the malolactic culture on Friday and secondary fermentation is underway. We took a large sample from each barrel and were wowed by what we are tasting so far. Soft soft tannins, cranberry fruit, good acid levels and insane color extraction. So why malolactic fermentation (MLF)? Basically it changes the acids in the wine. Right now you get a green apple acid and we want more of a sour milk/yogurt acid. Think the difference between the acids in a crisp riesling and a buttery chardonay.

Ted Nugent

Saturday, December 13, 2008

country wine you so fine

if "fine" means you stink like a musty old kitchen sponge.

Dan and I worked on our bottling chops a bit this week with the itty-bitty quantity of country wine we had from the loose grapes that didn't make the cut in the sort. As I believe Dan explained earlier this was our chance to play around with a very small amount of grapes - going for something that would end up being much closer to a french country wine then the tart and taught pinot we're shooting for with the rest of the grapes.

All in all we ended up with something that is drinkable, albeit by a specific type of wine lover, and has a nose only a couple proud fathers could love.

demonstrating bottle washing technique
the food grade cleaner being pumped in to the bottle
bottles drying on the bottle tree
filling  ala gravity and a small bottling wand

are you brave enough to drink this
as you can see it has nice color and a bunch of sediment
an admiring glance before a brave swig

Friday, December 12, 2008

Deux Party Punx on FoodNetwork

Make sure you check us out in the party scenes on Food Network's Dear Food Network Holiday Special with Tyler Florence. Dan has the bad plaid shirt and Aaron is swirling the girls.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Quick Trip to Paso Robles

Well the family decided to head south for Turkey Day this year and enjoy the hamlet of Paso Robles. If you haven't been there...GO! It's a true slice of "old california" and the wine scene is epic. There are about a hundred wineries in and around town and I'd say the vast majority are good. There are some dogs and a some stunning standouts. The wines focus on Rhone varietals, but like every other place trends are being followed (biodynamicism,natural wines, and obscure varietals from france, spain and italy).

"zin vines and robles"

I only had time to hit up 3 wineries this trip. First the great standard, Tablas Creek. Simply classic! French winemaking done with CA fruit that is a beautiful marriage. I think some people wet their pants at the "terroir". I know I did. The hay bed drying for the desert wines is a killer idea and yields lots of sugar without picking too late in the season.

Next up was the high scoring Four Vines. Any place that tries to come off punkish captures my attention. Zinfandel Meca? Maybe so. I always doubt Zin and question the legions of devotees to this grape. Four Vines makes great Zin and can impress the most stubborn of haters. The vibe at the tasting room was refreshing. A bit of a biker/punker edge, but not enough to scare away Volvos and Mercedes folks with gold cards.

"terry does anarchy at 4vines"

Last was Lone Madrone. I had heard this winery was owned by the Tablas Creek winemaker Neil Collins. It appears this is his lab for everything non-classic. 16.3% Syrah would never happen at Tablas. NEVER.

"paso robles christmas tree
lighting in city park"

All in all it was a great time. I encourage you to check out Paso.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

So Thankful

So what is this punk thankful for this year?

1. Fun Pinot harvest with friends and family
2. Fun Syrah harvest and meeting Aaron's family and friends
3. Joining forces with Aaron to take wine making to the next level
4. 2005 Rhones in the cellar
5. Meeting tons of winemakers and other people during our adventures
6. Discovering Riesling for brunch
7. To the thought of taking this all to the next step (pro)

Happy Turkey Day!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Racking to The Sabbath

So Dan called me with a real predicament.

Dan: I've got my jumpsuit on and I'm ready to play some Black Sabbath, what should we do??
Me: Dude, we've totally got to rack the wine, it's an excellent excuse to wear a jumpsuit and blast Black Sabbath in the garage.
Dan: Sweet dude!
Me: Totally... I'm on my way.

So we had to rack the pinot off the gross lees today, that and check to see if we'd completely eradicated the h2s issue and we can move on with malo or not.
Though we've still got a minor amount of the egg smell (something that is only really noticeable when doing the h2s bench test) we still had to do another minor copper sulfate treatment to make sure it is completely removed before it turns into something less manageable.

The racking went smoothly and our little italian pump did its job well. Next week there will be one more bench test to determine whether we are done with our little h2s problem. If all goes according to plan it should be completely gone and we'll be ready to start our secondary, malo-lactic, fermentation.

Wahluke Harvest & Olympia Sort (movie)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beaujolais Nouveau n'est pas Arrive!

So we tried to make some DeuxPunx Nouveau for the 3rd Thursday in November. The great day on the wine calendar when you can drink overpriced shitty (merdey) gamay punch and act like a gay Parisian. We thought it would be fun to make a carboy of 100% whole berry punch ourselves. Well, if you read this blog at all, you know that timing is not our forte. The Country Crap is still fermenting away. So we leave you with the tribute to Beaugolais Nouveau...

Monday, November 17, 2008

heavy lifting

so the heavy lifting is mostly done for '08 - shy the previously mentioned egginess - and we're starting to look at how to do more in '09. We've got a few difficult choices ahead of us as the natural next step is going "pro" and the whys, wheres, hows and whats that are involved in that process are enough to consume much of our off-season time and money. But in the meantime with just a few little bows to by tied on 2008's vintage.

as you saw from Dan's post (including the unfortunate attempt at recorded funkiness on my part) we're just around the corner from starting malo-lactic on the humboldt pinot. As for the grapes from 693 miles north-northeast of the Fruitland Ridge the Malo-Lactic has kicked off slowly on it's own thanks to last year's bacterial infection. Where as the Pinot showed us in all of it's pinotie goodness that planning is something good to do in between fixing previously fucked up plans - what with its overly hot fermentation that forced us to press right after we'd rolled into town from the great northwest and the H2S and its subsequent treatment that will get us booted from the natural wine world. Up north we rolled out a schedule, a plan you could say (though one peered at through cracks in between fingers with fear), and got to work. What was amazing about the plan up north is it actually worked!! In the manner of a stuck clock we totally nailed it once and when I rolled up to press the syrah it was ready for me.

We got a lot of help on both sides our efforts and there are many folks that deserve out thanks. The Lubliners for hosting our fermentation in their very well appointed garage, Sherman, Lubby and my dad for keeping an eye on the fermentation and reporting in on a regular basis and all of the sorters and co-pressees. I would like to give a special thanks to Adam for not only being there through the entire sort but also coming back to help (along with Jenne and Paul) run the press from start until clean up -- hats off.

Now with roughly 275 gallons of wine sitting (including last year's still aging wahluke syrah) we start the planning for next year. do we go pro in CA? do we go pro in WA? do we go pro in both? do we truck grapes from Wa to CA? do we truck grapes from CA to WA? do we find our own space, find a winery looking for someone to share their space, go the custom crush route? we'll see but in the meantime I believe we have some rackin to do and malo to start this weekend and Dan is well... excited.

and yes we are dumb enough to do it again next year and even up the ante. Next year you'll be seeing this post and knowing that we're going to be hunting down 4 tons of grapes - just you wait and see:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Of Rotten Eggs and Burnt Toast

So our Pinot smells stinky; and not in that cool natural wine stinky smelling way. We have a bit of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in our wine which smells like "morning breeze" or rotten eggs. Most likely created when the cap in the puncheons got too big and heated up. The 2-foot cap had a higher temp than the must and the yeast in the cap got over stressed. Apparently this happens with Pinot Noir and we now realized we should have gone with 3 puncheons or controlled the cap and temp more during fermentation.
There is no "damage" per se. Just an odor. After some research and soul searching we decided to use a small amount of copper sulfate to convert the H2S into copper sulfide which will percipitate out. I took 3 semesters of chemistry in college and surpisingly I can following what is happening. After some bench testing we agreed that we'd use a 0.1 ppm addition. The plan is to do another test next week to see if we need anything more. There should be no trace of copper in our final wine; however, it is a bit annoying dealing with this issue.

The following is a quick moving of the addition and a small sample of Aaron's dance moves...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Trick or Treat (this wine smells like feet)

Being a stand-up family guy (see previous post) I look forward to Halloween every year. This year our family was all about Speed Racer because or 3-year old son is all about Speed Racer. I got to be the uber cool Racer X, my wife Trixie and Calvin was Speed.

Racer X and Speedie

Our neighborhood is ground zero for trick-or-treating in San Francisco, which makes our life easy. We started out at our friends house with killer ghoulish food and wine. I brought over a few fun bottles to balance out some of the not so good things others might be bringing. Surprisingly the selections were not too bad (lots of Cab Sauv and Zins).

Whigs and wine.

Once full and buzzed we hit the streets. Import to note that a Bugaboo stroller can hold a good amount of wine. But we did run out half way from home. What to do? I asked the first candy giver, "Do you have any booze for Racer X?" At which he replied, "sure, what kind?" Unfortunately I went with the red wine.

I am now going to try to describe this red liquid: It smelled EXACTLY like Crystal Light Lemonaide. It drank so hot that my throat burned. It tasted of bad concentrated fruit and rotten logs. UNDRINKABLE and not worthy of the gutter we all poured it into. I didn't get to see the label, but I am guessing this was a South African Zin purchased at a corner market or Bev-Mo.

Single worst glass of wine I have ever had!

Luckily our friends live a few house away and saved us with 9 ice cold beers.

I still want to know what that wine was. I do know that was a trick and not a treat.

"Give my dad better wine next
year or we'll egg your house!"

Friday, October 31, 2008

Taking 1 for the Team

So Pogo (aka Aaron) is heading out to Olympia again this weekend to press the Syrah. I am too tired and a bit starved of family time and have elected to stay behind. I am sure he is just as pooped and sleep-deprived but he's taking one for the team. At times like this I realized I made the correct choice in who to join forces with to make wine.

Thanks man!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

update from the even thicker of it

We got back from Washington through a driving stint that would make a trucker proud and on our return turned around and pressed the pinot.

The 2008 Wahluke Syrah is currently in the bin at around 13brix and dropping fast. The 2008 Elk Prairie vineyard Pinot Noir has wrapped up primary fermentation. The Warriors are trying to come back against the Hornets. I've got a bit of time and borrowed energy for another update.

After we got the fermentation starting in Glen Park we loaded up the trailblazer with almost everything we were supposed to bring with us to Olympia and started the drive up the hill. In tow we had one neutral barrel, 25 empty cases, a few changes of clothes, 1/2 dozen bottles of wine and a hole where our bag of yeast, immersion heaters, SO2, tartaric acid, yeast nutrients and our winemaking reference book were to go <- Hello Portland wine making supply shops.

After a 2 parter drive up to Olympia we picked up the same trusty ford pickup I used the year before and prepared our selves (by going out for drinks) for a 5AM drive over to Eastern Washington. On Saturday (10/25) we drove out to Wahluke Slope to pick up our second batch of grapes. This being 1200LB from the Gilbert family's Doc Stewart's Vineyard just south of Mattawa, WA. The Gilberts have been farming in Washington since the invention of the phonograph and Doc Stewart's Vineyard is their organic vineyard in Wahluke Slope.

This time we turned around quick getting back to Olympia at 2PM and starting the sort shortly after 3:00. We sorted (and are fermenting) at the Lubliner residents in Mud Bay. With the help of family and friends and some clean grapes we were able to wrap up the sort in roughly 6 hours.

Sunday we started the syrah fermentation and the clean up process.

On Monday Syrah fermentation had started to kick up to a modest pace and as such we started the drive back to the bay area tired but satisfied that we accomplished all we sought to accomplish. We got home to a Pinot that was more than ready to press and was showing the beginning signs of some yeast strain.

We got back just in the nick of time. Tuesday we got the press and got to work pumping and pressing the pinot into our 2 barrels, 3 six gallon carboys and 3 one gallon carboys.

We've left Fairmount St stained purple and littered with grape skins and we've left ourselves running on somewhere close to empty but shy of the syrah press we have successfully wrapped up the 2008 crush.

To be honest with you - we're physically sore, mentally tired and emotionally worn but only just getting started. Saturday it's back up to Olympia to press the Wahluke syrah, after that it's planning and plotting for 2009 with an occasional racking in between.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

update from the thick of it

The tough thing about a blog about wine making is that the most exiting part of winemaking is too exiting to have time to write about how exiting it is.

In the brief time and energy i have between last Saturday's harvest of Fruitland Ridge Pinot Noir and this Saturday's harvest of Wahluke Slope Syrah here's where we are so far.

On Friday we drove up to Willits where we picked up a trailer from U-Hual that is suppose to haul 1600LB and travel down the road no faster than 45mph (both proven wrong). The gentleman at Willits tire center saw the 60 yellow picking bins in and on the car and asked if we were getting mushrooms (i snickered) - no grapes.

Friday we learned that the grapes wouldn't be picked by the 10AM hour as we'd hoped buy later, maybe much later (gulp). So we visited the local wine bar, the local liquor store, the local cajun restaurant and two of the local watering holes. 2 bottles of wine and 4 shots of makers mark later we were ready to settle in for the evening.

Saturday AM (10:00) we made our way up to Elk Prairie and the picking was underway but falling behind as there was a smaller picking crew then originally anticipated. With that news we were handed some clippers and put to work. Lesson learned - we suck at picking grapes but dug having the opportunity to find out.

Saturday PM (3:00) we started weighing the grapes and transferring to our bins for the drive south.

Saturday PM (3:45) we started out climb down the hill trailer of grapes in tow. FWIW, we had originally planned on making it to Glen Park prior to 3PM.

Saturday PM (8:42) we rolled into Glen Park and those still waiting helped unload and start the sorting process.

Sunday AM (1:30) bed time.

Sunday AM (7:30) off to get coffee and pastries and back to sorting.

Sunday PM (5:30) grapes are crushed, bins are being washed and we're about spent. Cold soak begins.

Monday/Tues - continue w/cold soak thanks to dry ice from SF Ice Co.

Wednesday PM (6:30) fermentation starts on pinot.

Tomorrow we drive up to Washington to prepare for the syrah harvest on Saturday. We hope to have this in the tank and fermentation going strong by Monday AM at which point we'll heading back to CA to press the pinot mid-week and fly back to WA to press the syrah on the 1st/2nd of November.

phewww.... we'll have more details and photos, winey geek stats and continue to show you how things are doing after the 2 weeks of craziness subside.

wishful thinking (the movie)