Monday, May 25, 2009

Twisted Times in Calaveras

Because it was Memorial Day weekend, and because we bought a new car, and because it was 55-degrees in San Francisco, we headed to Calaveras County to check out the wine scene there. Aaron has been a fan of Twisted Oak for some years and we figured there might be some interesting things happening in this gold miner town 2-hours east of the City.

aaron pours for all

The drive was easy and the weather got nice once we got the the vast Central Valley. By the time we pulled up to Twisted Oak in Vallecitos it was a perfect 83-degrees. This is an impressive site for a winery. And not in the gaudy Napa mansion way. The have a rustic main building with a large tasting room and a few other winery buildings and sheds. This place is all about having fun. Their humor is endless. Everywhere you turn is a funny sign or a rubber chicken in a tree. Wacky. At first it seemed geeky; but by the time I left I was a believer. Note: nothing succeeds like excess.
the wackiness infects these two

We enjoyed a perfect picnic lunch and a bottle of their Rueben's Blend. A nice Rhone white that needed a bit more chill. Hand made salumi, stinky cheeses and artisan breads made for a memorable meal amongst the oaks and pines.

Next came the tasting. No fee and they poured about a thousand wines (or 10+). Nothing was too far off the mark. They lean towards Italians and Rhones. They aren't trying to make wines that don't work up there. And they price their wines in that sweet 15-25 buck range. The standouts are the Rhone White Blend, the Spaniard and the Pig Stai. We didn't go away empty handed.

deux twisted shoppers

We next traveled to Murphys. A touristy town that is worth the stop. "Quaint" doesn't say enough. It's well kept and full of wineries, cafes and shops that you actually want to go into. We stopped into Hatcher, Tanner and Newsome-Harlow. The tasting rooms are all nice and comfortable. They cater to the visitors, casual drinkers and old ladies with the tackiest t-shirts you have ever seen. We felt all these wineries are working hard to make solid wines. Nothing is more than $30. Most have a rose or a white in the sub-$15 range. It's much different tasting here than Napa/Sonoma. There isn't that high-end biased and there also isn't much swill either.
murphys - chicken in a barrel

A nice dinner was had and a long sleepy drive back to the wall of fog.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Iron & Wine and wine

i have been listening to Iron & Wine a lot lately. plus who doesn't like early New Order?

we just bought a 300 liter steel tank for our 2009 white wine (or fun red) project.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hot Day in Sonoma

We headed up to Sonoma with our buddy Alan Baker (@cellarrat) to check out some wineries and run some errands. Alan is moving to Healdsburg to get back into winemaking full time. We are on the lookout for a host winery (still).

We first hit up a small collective tasting room with about 5 or 6 wineries. It was a great room but for some reason we could only taste from 2 of the wineries. Not much of a "tasting" room. What we had was nice. Nothing knocked my sox off. The Owl Ridge cab was the standout.

The grabbed some sammies in Hburg and headed to Arista to get a picnic table and a bottle of Gewurtz. Not an original idea; the places was busy and the tables packed. I liked what I tasted. Some classic Russian River pinots, nice location and super nice staff. This is a great place to take out-of-towners.

It was about 95 degrees outside by now, but the windows were down so we could soak in the wine country air. The growth of the vines is coming along nice and there are flowers setting up. The hot weather following a bit a rain a few weeks ago is playing out well.

Neither Aaron or Alan had been to Porter Creek, so off we went. These guys are doing it right! Nothing we tasted was off the mark. The tiny tasting room was packed and Mike made sure everyone was taken care of and explained the Porter Creek wines well. I ended up taking home a 2005 syrah and a 2007 Carignane. Which is odd, because I just about never go for Carignane. My wallet couldn't handle the pinot prices.

Mike @ Porter Creek

Next it was Thomas George which occupies the former Davis Bynum site next to Porter Creek. They sure improved this site. The tasting room has plenty of light and there is a huge cave being excavated into the hills. The standout was an unoaked chardonnay.

The one thing Aaron and I really needed to do was get to Woodenhead to buy some Fruitland Ridge pinot. You just cannot find this stuff around San Francisco these days. We bought 5 bottles and drank one on the deck overlooking the valley. We tasted only one other wine while we were there and it was epic. Again, $60 for this Anderson Valley just wasn't happening for my funds. We were on edge to see what Alan made of the Fruitland Ridge wine. We had built it up all day and a bit affraid we'd over hyped it. Apprently not! Add Alan as a believer in Southern Humboldt.

Aaron takes it all in at Woodenhead

Time to get out of the 95+ temps and back to the perfect weather in San Francisco. Alan tried a barrel sample of our 2008 pinot and we opened a bottle of the 2007 Wahluke syrah. Feedback was quite positive. A large neighborhood BBQ ensued, lots of bottles were tasted, meat eaten, kids going nuts and a rough Sunday morning. Needless to say we didn't make it to play baseball nor run the Bay to Breakers.

Highlights: Getting out of town, tasting great stuff, seeing wineries busy as ever and getting honest feedback on our wines.

Alan starting Bay to Breakers
(12 hours early).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

bottling the '07 Wahluke Syrah

Besides an excuse to pick up our wines at Garagiste we had rented a Dodge Charger to make the drive up to bottle the '07 Syrah, rack the '08 syrah, hang with my dad for his birthday and spend some quality time w/my mom and some of the Oly gang. More than anything the Charger felt like the right car for our Smokey and The Bandit run back to CA with a trunk load of wine.

The Charger - Ready to roll!

For those that haven't set up there own bottling line (prior to last weekend that included us) it involves an assembly like process:

1) Wash bottles and hang on bottle tree to dry
2) fill bottles with gravity fed bottle filler
3) cork wine with floor corker
4) dip tip of wine bottle in wax and set aside to dry
5) put back in case and move on to next

One half of the bottling "line".

My mom's excellent work on the Wax.

Knowing that we were going to have to do a little learning on our feet we stayed away from the Whiskey (unlike a previous Garberville run) instead spending the night before bottling hanging with friends, seeing a great new band (Western Hymn, and drinking a large quantity of one standout WA beer - Snoqualmie's Spring Fever Grand Cru.

Dan, contemplating a piss.

Deux Punx apres douze Bieres.

Bottling was largely carried out By Dan, my mom and myself. We had a number of part time helpers throughout the day but between the three of us spent the entire day down in the basement washing, filling, corking and waxing. This was followed by some racking of the '08 and a little enjoying of the fruits of our labors.

Ed, visiting to "supervise" and get as much of the '08 out of the barrel as he could get away with.

My dad cracking open the first of the '07's way ahead of its time (what, were we going to let this crowd drink all of our Garagiste loot?!?!).

The wine report:

'07 Wahluke Syrah - this is a wild wine that at its young age is still in need of some balance. It shows some nice blackberry and plum with a nice acid backbone. The fruit really jumps out right now but we expect it to settle down with some patience.

'08 Wahluke Syrah - We knew this was going to be really good and weren't disappointed. This a great WA syrah showing some familial similarities to the '07 but coming together with the black pepper and earth background and a much more balanced fruit to acid. With the way this is coming along we may pull the trigger on bottling earlier than next spring. This feels like it's going to be ready to drink alot younger than the '07 (probably before the '07) but with a nice acid backbone should age a bit - if we can hold off!

We've got more grapes coming in from Wahluke this fall and are looking forward to where this next year shapes up compared to the first two vintages.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Our Trip to (Wine) Mecca

deux punx at garagiste

While up in the Pacific Northwest (Olympia), bottling Aaron's 2007 Wahluke Syrah, we made a day trip to Seattle. After a brief ferry ride to Baimbridge and lunch at Ivars, we went to one of the great wine spots on the Left (West) Coast. GARAGISTE.
cool as shit!

Aaron and I have been addicted to this email based wine retailer for about 4 months and find it very difficult to not say yes to every email they send. Be it a Loire for $10 or a 1940's Bordeaux for $500. We finally had a chance to pick up the fruits of our emailing/credit card labor. I had about 14 bottles ready to go and Aaron twice that. The staff was out back of this shanty looking building having a great smelling Friday BBQ. When we walked inside the warehouse I just about pissed myself. This chilly building was so big my vision went blurry. Calling us kids in a candy store would be an understatement.
don't be fooled by this shack

We rushed our wines back to Olympia to get them in a cool place and just stared at the bottles and geeked out way too much. We have opened just about one of each of the wines and each of them has been stellar.

I would recommend Garagiste to you, but I don't need the competition on the deals. So save your hard earned credit and let us spend ours.
aaron just about to explode with joy