Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Garage

Our goal is still to find a crush facility and winemaker who is willing to let us get dirty, learn a lot, but still step in and help us out. No easy task.

After constant rejection from almost every custom crush facility within a 2-hour drive we are seriously considering moving our operation to Dan's garage. Why not? Aaron is making top notch Syrah at his parents pad in Olympia, WA. It's not just a numbers game, it's about having control. Giving up our parking spot for a few weeks wouldn't be so bad. Neighbors and friends could supply sorting labor. We could build an insulated room that could keep our wine cool during the cold soak and heat up during fermentation. Right?

Here's hoping/praying that a crush facility reads this blog and takes pity on us.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The WineStation

I had my first experience with modern wine pouring apparatus over the weekend, trying out Napa Technology's WineStation at Copia. After a lunch at Taylor's and some tomato plant purchases from the Copia spring plant sale Jenne and I wandered inside to do some window shopping and look around. We had a free $5 pour card that I just HAD to use (I then quickly had to purchase another $10 card to meet my needs) and they had a Pinot on "tap" from Central Otago. Beyond being the southernmost wine growing region in the world Central Otago has also created a reputation for itself as one of (if not the) best places to grow pinot in the southern hemisphere. I've been kind of fascinated by the region of late, perhaps because is so far on the fringes, but this was my first time actually tasting anything from there. I sampled the 2005 Wild Earth Pinot Noir and I was very pleased with it. A nice brambly pinot with a great slightly earthy nose and just the right amount of fruit. I tried a few other Pinots too but I won't go into that.

Per the WineStation, the geek in me liked it, there was something very "adult-amusement park" about wandering around with a little cash card and sampling wines at will. I'm not sure if you've seen or used these before (they are turning up in more and more places) but this one had 3 different pour sizes for each wine (taste, half-glass, full-glass) and you just insert you card and with glass up to the appropriate spout press the pour you want. It seems to work well, maintains freshness by inserting a layer of argon gas after each pour and gives the wine drinker more of a free reign to wander through the selection at their pace. On the downside, you lose the interaction with a human that is a)generally nice and b)a source of more information/education on the wines they are pouring. I also managed to hit two empty bottles, thus regaining the "human interaction" while she had to re-load the machine. I'm guessing from her point of view, in this case, the machine was equal parts assistant in pouring lots of little samples and nuisance in requiring a bit more work than simply opening the next bottle.
napa, fall 2007:

If you ever find yourself wandering in Napa and can stop by Copia I'd recommend checking this out. See Napa Technology for more info on the WineStation on their website.

Also: Thanks to Peter for correcting me on the manufacturer of the wine dispensers at Copia - I'd previously noted Enomatic. Though they look cool too they are not the units used at Copia.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


We hope so.

We've just been hit by the backlash of the same frost that many in the industry have felt first hand, the vineyard in AV we were to be sourcing from has had 75% crop damage. As much as this has pained us it has been an absolute disaster for those who's livelihoods are tied to yields. With yields expected to be way below normal folks won't be able to make per acre nearly what they would have made if our spring had been more, well, spring-like.

In the last week we'd seen this coming and as the proverbial low guys on the grape totem pole had started working on securing grapes from other, equally exciting, sources. What we had not seen coming in all of this was the possibility of losing our crush facility to the doubled output of a much larger competing crush client. Ouch!!

What does this tell one about starting out in winemaking (or perhaps winemaking in general)? That the most important part of the wine plan is the backside of the paper it was written on. Believe you me when dealing w/weather, competing clients, etc, etc... the little guy has to be agile, agile, agile.

So as well as scouring all of the obvious spots for premium coastal CA pinot grapes we've started looking in some not so obvious places. This looking has steered us towards Humboldt County and a small vineyard that has a short history of producing the grapes behind some outstanding wines. Tonight we shared an '06 pinot from the neighboring vineyard and were both blown away by the balance of fruit, acid, funk and bramble that we are both such great fans of. We came to the conclusion that this was one of the better CA Pinots either of us have had in a long time, it was that great burgundy with the perfect addition of CA fruit. This has helped to fuel our excitement in the location and what one can produce from it.

And as such we have to say: "until we meet again Guntly Road."

Do We Have Grapes?

Right now we are nervous. A huge frost swept through Northern CA last weekend and damaged a lot of the wine crop. Early reports are 10-15% of the vines in Sonoma are damaged. Our Pinot supplier sent an email saying "I guess I've got a lot of frost damage!" Not good. Not good at all.

We are scrambling to find out what the damage is and if it means we are SOL with our AV fruit. What's our backup plan? Do we look farther North (Humboldt)? Do we look South (Santa Cruz)? How much are we willing to pay? Does anyone even read this blog? Yes, those are all important questions. Answers are coming...


Monday, April 21, 2008

What's in a Name?

Too much! Aaron and I are bouncing names for our labels and wines back and forth. This is like naming a rock band. The good thing is that only the two of us need to agree.

At some point we'll get it down to about 5 we like and maybe post them and find out what you guys like. We want something that captures our DIY spirit, our punk rock backgrounds, our sarcastic humor and our addiction to good wines. 1-2-Press You!

Why sweat this task? Wellllllllll. You can't start a website without a name/label. Everyone we meet in the business wants to know our wine name. We want a name people will say "cool name" when they hear it.

I used the term "inkling" on my past wines. We don't think this name works with Pinot Noir. We want our wines to be lighter and classic; not dark and inky.

More to come!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mendocino on 4.20.2008

We were up in Anderson Valley on 4.20 for their other highly sought after export (wine, and more specifically Pinot Noir). We were able to meet up with the winery proprietors and taste a little of their released wines as well as a barrel sample from an '07 pinot from our vineyard source. During the visit we were also able to begin the conversation on planning, approach, logistics and our wines target profile. It was great to be able to press palms and get the ball rolling in person.

The other exciting part of this visit for us was to be able to "meet" the vineyard. This meeting was not unlike other first dates in which we drove back and forth nervously in front of the vineyard before finally getting up the nerve to step out of the car and introduce ourselves (take some pictures). More like we came to the realization that nothing in Anderson Valley is clearly marked; this meant we drove back up forth and up and down the same dusty stretch until we finally honed in on what we are certain has to be the vineyard that holds our grapes to be.

As there isn't much that can be told about two dudes driving up and down some dusty roads in Northern California I think I'll let a couple photos speak the story. The one thing I will say is that this is absolutely beautiful country and I am more than appreciative of being able to take part in a project that will require my attendance up here.

And to give you a better idea of what your working with:

Friday, April 18, 2008

Where the grapes are

this weekend we head up to Mendocino to meet w/the winery where we are producing our pinot. this may be the first tangible step in this whole thing (though being told we've got grapes is HUGE!); that is seeing where we'll be making it, discussing approach, sampling some earlier efforts from the same vineyard, touring a couple of the other producers up and down the street and just getting in the car and driving to where the grapes are.

We've discussed approach on both wines - though not nailed the door shut for change in approach brought on by what the weather brings, outsider (and hopefully even sage) advice and/or our own waffling. the great thing about starting off with an abstract of what you want to do is that it can start shaping into something pleasing which you never attended.

Pinot: We've both find ourselves leaning towards a slightly more "classic" approach to pinot. WTF does that mean? Well... you want to see your hand on the other side of the glass, more of a classic brick red than a dark black-red, we want acid, not too much but enough to fill in the gaps with a meal, we want a little more fruit than our fine brothers and sister in France generally pull off (after all we are in California!) but no strawberry jam, more of a tart cranberry, under-ripe raspberry, it'd be great to have some nice herbal quality and a little bit of bramble and hey maybe a little bit of earth. It'd also be great to have some tannins, not too much but just so it can stand up on it's own a little. what else...???

Syrah: No syrup please, and let's not get drunk before we finish our first glass. Syrah is best when it tastes and smells like syrah. Some dark cherry but not too sweet, some white pepper and some green pepper, earth and a little hint of funk. Mild tannins and mild acidity, this should be something you can drink on it's own, with a summer meal (think burgers and fries) and if all is right is reserved enough that you can drink w/grilled salmon. Color - again it's been a trend to make overly inky syrahs, while color is good it's nice to get a little light through it but think 2 steps darker than the pinot.

Note from editor: this is all subject to change, either from Dan, me or an act of god!

And 'cause we all like photos!
Syrah - So good you got to say it twice (doc stewart vineyard, Wahluke - sept 20, 2007):

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pinot Costco

I hate Costco. More like, I love to hate Costco. I can't go there without of giant basket of things that are too cheap not to buy and usually break in a few days. My dad refers to Costco as the "500 Club" because he always drops 5 c-notes there. Ouch.

I hear Costco is a stand up business and not a Walmart type people exploiter. I have no idea; however, I gotta bet things this cheap must come on the backs of someone. If you have no idea what a Costco is, watch Employee of the Month. You'll see.

David Andrews is a pain in my ass! Better yet, he's a pain in my wallet. Mr. Andrews is the wine director for Costco. He constantly fill their shelves with tastey wines that aren't the typical BevMo buy one get one for 5-cents crap. Did you know you can buy Bordeaux futures from Costco?

Tonight they had the following Pinot Noirs: Acacia, J, Chalone, Louis Jadot, Angeline, Coppala, and a few others. All at low low prices. I always buy 4-6 bottles and am usually impressed. Stellar deals go quickly, so buy a cases if they have something you really like.

Support your local wine shop (but load up on deals at Costco).

Monday, April 14, 2008

when skies turn grey again

OK, as soon as Rosé weather sets in it's gone. Showing that we are in the bay area the temperature has dropped a good 25 degrees from the day before. This didn't mean it wasn't taken advantage of or that I didn't sit there pondering making it for ourselves. For now I think we limit ourselves to the reds and get this stuff the old-fashioned way (buy it). But down the road I'm more than eager to try my hand at something that sits so well on a table with everything from oysters to salmon to a chunk of red hawk and no less important sits so easily on the arm of a chair on the porch on a hot summery day.

But now that we’re back to cold and grey were back to the red wines. This reminds me that we’ll be picking up at least three times as many grapes as this:

And in order to see how said grapes are fairing I’ve added the weather for each locale over here on the right --->

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hot Days and Rosé of Pinot

It being 85 degrees in San Francisco today made me realize the importance of keeping liquids in your system when it turns hot. Today Lazy Creek's Rosé of Pinot is the hydrating fluid. Because our 2008 grapes share a Zip Code with these grapes I feel a special need to drink more of it. To me, this one is spot-on. Not too sweet, nice summer fruit and, as Aaron pointed out, great minerality. This reminds me of a warm spring we spent in the south of France where we drank way too much rosé.

So when the weather gets cookin', cool off with cold rosé.

family picnic amongst the pinot grapes.

We got the grapes!!!

After a couple weeks of speculation and "what if?" planning we are now confirmed for grapes for both the Wahluke slope Syrah and the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. At a minimum we will have two barrels of Pinot and one barrel of Syrah, at a maximum we'll get carried away.
Last year Dan led a group at Crushpad making Syrah and I set out with my dad to make a barrel of Wahluke Slope Syrah. With both of those wines still in the barrel and both of us rearing to go for bigger and better things we'll see where this goes.

In the meantime i'm attaching a photo of last year's drive to the Wahluke Slope to tie into the "bad" pun that is the long and winey road.