Sunday, October 18, 2009

Book your own f*cking AVA

We've gotten a lot of questions about where we get our grapes from and usually the answer of The Fruitland Ridge in Southern Humboldt ("you know right above the Avenue of the Giants") brings raised eyebrows and jokes about Humboldt's #1 cash crop.

So I thought I'd take a few minutes to list the reasons for our love of the fruit from Elk Prairie Vineyards, Fruitland Ridge, Humboldt County, CA.

1) Alan Estrada - In a lean year that seemed destined for heartache and what could have beens Alan offered to sell us fruit that was already being fought over because he dug our blog and where we were coming from. Bonus for the fact that he refers to us as "the punks" and sends me Devo videos!

2) The fruit - The fruit is absolutely outstanding. There is a lot of talk about the typicity of place and this has it and then some. From the first whiff of the nose you can smell Elk Prairie and the fruit itself has a mix of french bramble and CA fruit that you just don't taste in other pinot growing regions.

3) Humboldt County Pinot Noir - Even we were a little uncertain about the potential of Pinot from Humboldt until we tasted the 2002 Woodenhead Pinot from Elk Prairie. This was an epiphany wine for both of us it signified just how good wine from this fruit could be. There is finite amount of vineyard land on The Fruitland Ridge and it produces some grapes that insiders know stand up to many of the more "prestigious" pinot growing regions in CA and OR.

4) The Vines - Unlike almost everywhere in Europe or North America the vines in Humboldt are on Native Root Stocks. In the 19th century Phylloxera (which was introduced to Europe by Phylloxera resistant American grape vines) almost completely desimated the European wine industry, and then relatively new American wine industry for that matter. The final solution for dealing with Phylloxera was to graft European vines on to American root stocks. To this day, shy of select wine growing regions in the Southern Hemisphere, almost all vines are grafted. The Fruitland ridge vines are not grafted and though possibly academic are very unique in being Pinot from roots to shoots.

5) Making great wine without an AVA - The AVA system, though useful in showing a focus towards and gift for growing certain types of grapes in certain regions, has become to some extent an overused marketing and pricing tool. There is no real "policing" of quality or typicity or even the types of grapes that are grown within an AVA shy of dollars themselves. This creates artificial prestige valuations of wines instead of valuations based on quality. Fortunately you do have a large number of grape growers and wine makers that are interested in producing quality wines that reflect a regional quality. You also have artificial pricing of land and grapes that are solely based on County lines and drawn in barriers (that can be grown or shrunk to suite) to keep this pricing. Producing high quality grapes and wine outside of the AVA process means you need to let your wines stand up for themselves and you need to find customers who see this quality as a good thing and seek out the lesser known and harder to find; wines with their own story to tell. Don't get me wrong - we looooove a good Russian River Pinot and look forward to adding some of that fruit to our 2010 efforts but we also see the value in reaching outside of these areas and seeing what honest sweat equity and great fruit can achieve in some of the lesser known wine producing areas of our state.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Everything's Coming up Rosé

Summer 2010 is a ways off; however, we are preparing now by making a rosé. It will be a Grenache based wine from the Tejeda Vineyards. Check out their Big T if you want a killer Tempranillo. More soon.

Grenache Fruit

Friday, October 16, 2009

2009 Pinot Video

one correction on the video - the lower portion of the vineyard is Martini, the upper, flatter portion is made up of Pommard and Dijon clones.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Catching up while the grapes rest

while the '09 syrah is resting easy (well hopefully slowly kicking off malo) in the barrel up in OLYWA and the roussanne is bubbling away in a cool tank in the garage we set off to pick up this year's pinot grapes from Alan at Elk Prairie.

But before jumping into the bin of cold soaking pinot grapes let's catch up on the previous adventures.

'09 Syrah

This year the syrah came in more than a month earlier than last year's incredibly late end of October pick date. On the 21st of Sept we drove the f150 out to Gilbert Vineyards on the Wahluke Slope to pick up what turned out to be some incredibly clean (and tasty) fruit.

We had a small but highly skilled sorting and crushing crew in Oly this year and managed to sort in a record 2 hours followed by another hour or two on the rickety old manual crusher/destemmer rented from a facility known more for beer making and hydrophonics than winemaking (winemaking is like 5 fiddle out of 3).

After the whirlwind we hustled back down to the bay to wrap up the work week.
And two days later I flew back to press and get this stuff in the barrel.

easy peasy!

'09 Roussanne

Next up is our first dip into the white wine world. If you recall from the bad trannies post a few months back we'd picked up a stainless tank just for this purpose.

Dan stayed in SF for the Roussanne pickup giving our Marketing department (Brian) the chance to jump into the romantic world of waking up really f'in early to drive to some remote CA location and buy grapes only to load up the truck and drive back.
Dark and early in the AM
The drive to plymouth
Charlie Havill and son at BellaGrace Vineyards
Nice looking Roussanne fruit
Two of our bins loaded up and weighed for travel
back to the city

After getting the fruit back into the city we started our virgin run at the white process:

cold soak


ferment cool

age in tank
Currently the roussanne is at about 60f and at around 4 brix. We're looking forward to racking off the lees and letting the relatively short tank aging begin. We'll have pix of the rest of this process shortly.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Great Harvest, Clean Sort and a Quick Crush

The 2311 pounds of 2009 Pinot Noir are sitting cold on dry ice tonight. Everything went great. A detailed post will be here shortly (after we get some sleep).

Special thanks to BT for the truck, Eric for letting us use his space and Alan for the great grapes.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

You are Hired to Work at a Real Napa Winery!

We are sorting our 2009 North Coast Pinot Noir this Sunday (10/11) in the beautiful city of Napa. Please come out and help us. 9am to noon. 918 Enterprise Way Unit G. Email if you can make it.

Max and Calvin thank you!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Syrah 2009 Harvest

2009 wahluke slope syrah harvest.