Friday, December 23, 2005

Another wonderful review

We just received our December issue of The Wine Advocate. Robert Parker reviewed our Syrahs with scores from 88-90.

These three excellent, heady 2004 Syrahs are made in an up-front, juicy, immediate gratifying style...

Thank you to all of our friends who have already sent notes of congratulation.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

"Neat" Wine

I just finished reading Ancient Wine : The Search for the Origins of Viniculture. The book is fairly dry and a bit hard to read. That being said, I enjoyed it. Some interesting points:
  • King Midas was a drunk who loved wine (well maybe)
  • Wine residue can be found in pottery chards about 7,000 years old
  • The flavor/tannins imparted by Oak are similar to the resin that pine imparts in wine. These resins have antioxidant properties among other things.
  • Greeks drinked well made wine "neat" and added water to other wines - I know many California wine makers who would argue that it has now reversed but I am not sure they are correct.
Our tasting in Rochester went wonderfully well. Craig, a friend from Kodak, did a great job helping me pour wines and explaining the history of donkeys in wine making. The employees at WineSense were very helpful and it made for an enjoyable evening. If you visit the store, wish Kristin a belated Happy Birthday.

Happy Holidays from Gibson, Isabel, Tracey and Jared


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Mourvedre and Grenache

I had a few minutes at the winery today and decided to taste the two varietals that are new to us this year. Of course, new is relative. We made both of these in France in 2002.

The Mourvedre is unreal. It tastes great now - really great. It still has the wild strawberry flavor which it has had from the beginning. Every time I taste it, I think of summer in the mountains picking tiny wild strawberries.

The Grenache also tastes wonderful but it is changing. It has already picked up a bit of weight and the tannins have calmed down a wee bit.

If you happen to be in Rochester, New York this coming Friday I will be pouring several of our 2004s at Wine Sense from 5 to 7 PM. Wine Sense is at 749 Park Avenue i Rochester -


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Tasting oak...

Recently, a customer stated he liked our Chardonnay but we should limit our use of new oak. We don't use any new oak in our Chardonnay (or any wine for that matter) thus the dilemma. Should we tell him that he is tasting something else? Perhaps he is mistaking the impact of limestone on flavors? Or maybe the acid balance is making the oak taste more precise.

If he were local, I might invite him to barrel taste. He could see the 1, 2 and 3 year old barrels impact on Chardonnay plus we could taste new oak on Chardonnay from a friend's barrel. Tasting is the best way to learn.

When we were learning wine making in France, we were given the task of tasting 6 or so barrels of "Noble Rot", a dessert wine, and saying which one was the sweetest and which had the most acid. It was a very hard task and we didn't get it right the first time but we learned.

For now, the customer is always right and Isabel isn't sure about the flavor of Oak...


Monday, November 14, 2005

105 days later

Harvest 2005 stats:
-105 days from ver jus to pressing broken leg (2520 hours)
-420 sleeping hours (give or take)
- >10,000 miles on the used-to-be-new Prius
-175 trips across the bay bridge
-9lbs lost (dave, jared and i are sadly at parity or worse with all the fast food)
-11.2 tons of stellar wine grapes
-24 barrels which should produce ~550 cases or 6600 bottles of wine

As in year's past we could not possibly have pulled this off without the enormously generous help and support of our family and friends. How we got so lucky I just don't know.

Now we sleep for the winter.

Tracey & Jared

# posted by adonkey @ 11:31 AM 1 comments  

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

18 barrels down, 6 more to go

The finish line is in site. Now if we can just keep the engines running for another 4 days we will survive. Mind you it will be a close call. That dreaded harvest cold started making the rounds about 2 weeks ago and is now settled in our house with all three of us suffering. But hey - my parents walked up hill both ways in the snow. Surely we can press another 2.5 tons. Easy.

On the up side - we extended our maceration time across the reds this year and have been rewarded with pressing completely dry wines that are rich in flavor and color and look incredibly promising. Many wiser and more experienced would say it is too soon to judge the vintage but hey - we are new so allow us to be prematurely giddy - 2005 looks fabulous!



Sunday, November 06, 2005

Color Pro

Tracey and I try to make wine as naturally as possible. Our basic rule is only put into wine that which you would place into your mouth.

Another wine maker we know and respect added "Color Pro" to one of his wines. When I asked him about it, he said that he was worried about the color. I pressed him a bit more - why worry about the color. Some of the best wines I have ever had were light in color - a 1971 Burgundy jumps to mind. "Consumers care about color" he said.

One of our wines, our Mourvedre, is nearly dry. The color is intense but not dark. We won't add any Color Pro. It tastes wonderful - like the wild strawberries at my family's cabin near Yellowstone.


Friday, November 04, 2005

Another night of pressing

Tracey and I are going to press two tons of old vine syrah tonight. With an eight month old, it is often easier to press after Isabel is asleep. I can't help but think of the REM song - Gardening at Night:

"I see your money on the floor, I felt the pocket change
Though all the feelings that broke through that door
Just didnít seem to be too real
The yard is nothing but a fence, the sun just hurts my eyes
Somewhere it must be time for penitence. gardening at night is never where
gardening at night gardening at night gardening at night"

Anyway, the wine is a really deep, dark color and very tannic. Our 2004 took the most time to develop in barrel (which is why we are waiting to release it). I expect the 2005 to be similar but we shall see.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Brosseau and Fenaughty in barrel

We pressed the first two Syrahs last night. After nearly a month of skin contact, we decided it was the right time to press them. Since we are new to both vineyards, we were very excited to see how the wines develop. Both the free run and the pressed wine tasted increadible.


Sunday, October 23, 2005


Yesterday morning we crushed 1.8 tons of Broken Leg Syrah and .56 tons of Girard Mourvedre. The Broken Leg nearly broke my heart. You may have read about the bear. Well that was one hungry bear because Steve estimates he ate nearly a barrel's worth (.5 ton) of wine!! (Last year the vineyard produced 3.6 tons.) Anyone need some extra barrels? We certainly have some to spare. On the upside - the flavors are so amazing and I was blown away to see us pick on October 21st at 24 brix. Given this is extreme cool climate Syrah we were preparing ourselves for 22 on the upside. I love being wrong.

So the total tonnage for us this year is just over 11. We were prepared to go up 13 so not too bad but we will hope to see our Syrah lots grow a bit next year (our goal is to have them all be around 3 tons which is still only a minisucle 175 (or so) case production but with our labor intensive yellow bins and open top wood fermenters we have to stay small in order to make it manageable.

With crush behind us we can take a small pause before turning our attention to pressing. Oh - and we now have nearly 7 tons to punch down 2x a day! Maybe we can strong arm Henry into extending his stay yet another week????


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Last Hoo-rah

I can not believe we are already done. It seems like just yesterday it was Labor Day and we were about to pick our Chardonnay. Well that was September 7 and 45 days later, on Saturday October 22, we will bring our 2005 harvest to a close. Our final crushing will feature our our Broken Leg Syrah and Girard Mourvedre. We will have a gaggle of friends, fans and family to help us bid farewell to a most excellent harvest (if you like our 2004 wines just you wait Ė this year looks to be fabulous!) so if you are local and want to join the fun send me an email at


Monday, October 17, 2005

Who's been eating my grapes??

I did the modified Anderson Valley loop today (modified b/c McDowell is picked so I only had to sample Vidmar and Broken Leg). As I was getting back on 101-South to head home I picked up a voicemail from Steve Williams, the grower at Broken Leg and Vidmar. Steve's messages are almost always crackly and require a decoder since I only get about every 3 or 4 words (cell phone towers are not too popular in the Anderson Valley) but this time I hear him nearly screaming loud and clear, "Tracey, I hope you get this message before you get to the vineyard because you need to know THERE IS A BEAR IN THE VINEYARD. MAKE A LOT OF NOISE. WHISTLE A TUNE OR SOMETHING. "

So, I nearly careened off the road as I realized that the noises I heard at the perimeter fence where more likely attributed to the BEAR than Steve's sheep.

Funny thing is once I settled down I was more concerned about loosing precious berries in this light vintage than I was about safety and such!



Grenache is dry

After spending a somewhat normal day with the family (Pumkin Patch photos coming shortly), we ran some tests on the Grenache Noir and Syrah. The Syrahs are close to dry and the Grenache is dry. Instead of pressing the Grenache, we will only use free run juice. The tannins are quite strong in the seeds and we are willing to forgo the extra juice to improve the quality. We will barrel down sometime this week - the first of nearly twenty barrels of red!


Saturday, October 15, 2005

1899 - A long time

We harvested 2.2 tons of old vine Syrah Thursday. Our block was planted in 1899 and those old vines have witnessed a lot of history: World War I, the building of the GoldenGate Bridge, World War II, prohibition, the depression, the coming and going of the industrial age... the list goes on. It is amazing to think about. Of course, its best to think about while enjoying a glass of wine made from those old vines....


Friday, October 14, 2005

8.5 tons crushed

/div>Wow - I can not adequately express how it feels to be sliding down the back side. We are now more than half way compelte (with crushing - we are only about 1/4 of the way done with barreling down but I'm focusing on the positive). Yesterday we brought in 2.2 tons of our Vieilles Vignes Syrah. This year we picked from a new section of the old block which was planted in 1899. Now those are some OLD vines.

The fruit looked perfect. The flavors were perfect. The balance was perfect. Even the numbers were perfect. This wine will truly make itself. We will just watch.

Up next is our Vidmar Syrah and a new Mourvedre vineyard.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

More pictures

A few of you have asked for more photos so for those interested here is the photo album:


Making wine by hand

Despite the early hour, I always enjoy working at the winery alone at 5:00 AM. It gives me a chance to taste the fermentations without any distractions.

This morning, I did an early morning punch down on the Fenaughty Syrah. We like to do everything gently so we are carefully monitoring temperature to make sure it stays at the perfect point. It reminded me of a story I heard in France - great Burgundain Vigerons used to often sleep with their foot in fermenting vats in order to wake up if it got too hot. I wonder what that would be like - asleep with a wet foot...


Monday, October 10, 2005

Fenaughty is close to finishing

Our Fenaughty Syrah is getting close to finishing. Fermentation is strong and should finish in the next few days.

You can see our yellow bins in the tractor - Ron has a great crew. The light wasn't very good - but it was early and cold. I think the wine will be great. Of course, we need another 6 months or so to really know.


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Grenache is going strong

The puncheon of Grenache Noir has formed a chapeau! Now all of our reds have begun a nice strong and natural fermentation! Thursday 10/13 will be another big day with at least 2 tons of Syrah coming in. Email if you want to come by and get your hands (or feet) dirty.


Grenache Gris has started

As of yesterday, all of our barrels of Rose and an experimental puncheon of Grenache Noir have started fermenting. Because we ferment naturally (without innoculating) we worry every year about the start of fermentation - it is an act of faith.

Isabel, who our Rose is named for, spends a fair amount of time at the winery. Above, you can see her first effort at foot stomping.


Saturday, October 08, 2005

Anderson Valley Update

This morning Jared and I did the Anderson Valley loop. This was only our second trip together (this was my 5th loop since August) and such a treat. My parents babysat Isabel and we left the house at 5:20am planning to hit Vidmar, the Boonville Bakery or General Store, Broken Leg and finally McDowell. I do it this way for good reason - the scones in Boonville are simply fantastic and I've not (yet) found a comparable in Hopland. Well if you've not had the pleasure of visiting Boonville you should but be warned - they are on their own time. Saturday morning we roll into town at 8am to find BOTH the bakery and general store closed and not opening until 9am! With our stomaches grumbling and my caffine buzz wearing thin we headed on to Philo and the Broken Leg vineyard...

But I really can't complain because the grapes look perfect. In fact, 2005 may prove to be THE year for us. Across the board we have had an elongated growing season allowing the fruit to develop slowly over a longer period of time but without the sugars spiking and acids dropping. Thus far we have seen more time on the vine with better balance in the berry. And the Anderson and McDowell Valley's are following the same trend. Today we hit Vidmar first. As usual the 877 appears to be slightly behind the Estrella River clone (both Syrah) but only enough to provide complexity - not enough to require separate picks. I love the flavors these vines produce and can simply say, "WOW!" My guess is another 1.5- 2 weeks. Broken Leg has been the source of much anxiety this year. Only 2.5 weeks ago it was difficult to find a berry over 18 brix and none without tough skins and bracing & sour acidity. But with the warm weather these last 2 weeks has made a dramatic difference. Today we saw softening skins, browning seeds and oh man - the flavors in this northern Anderson Valley Syrah Vineyard are promising perfection. I'm still betting early November but I can now say that with confidence rather than with visions of picking after Thanksgiving! McDowell (where we buy our Vieilles Vignes Syrah) is just about ready. There is a marked variance between the front and back of the block so we are going for the back (more balance between sugars and acid) and are going to pick on Thursday. And we've even convinced Bill Crawford to humor us and pick his old vines into our FLYB's. In fact, we picked the Grenache into the 35 lb lugs and it worked quite well. Not only were the berries in pristine condition but the process allowed for a field sort. Anyone who hasn't seen Syrah "au natural" should come check out the critters that arrive at the winery. Spiders, ants, earwigs and an occasional grasshopper. I'm not a huge fan of the bugs and could do without the spiders especially, but it gives me great confidence to see them so alive and well! And the flavorsin these old vines are rich and complex while packing a punch of zippy acidity and structured taninis. I guess in their 85+ years the vines have learned how to dole out components to produce sublime Syrah berries.

That about sums it up. We are just about half way there. For those counting, we have harvested and crushed 6.5 tons between:
  • 2.5 tons of Brosseau Chardonnay
  • 1 ton of Brosseau Syrah - NEW vineyard
  • 1 ton of Fenaughty Syrah - NEW vineyard
  • 2 tons of Grenache Gris Rose
We have 5-8 tons to go (depending on yields and whether we pick up one additional Syrah this year).

Anyone want to come sort??



Tuesday, October 04, 2005

2005 Rose is now in barrel

Well, we had a really big weekend. Thursday night I drove east with my father in-law. Friday morning we picked up a ton of nearly perfect Syrah - the pickers were fastidious. Each cluster was literally placed gently in the bin. (Peach pickers are wonderful!) At the same time, Tracey and Dave drove south and picked up a ton of Brosseau Syrah.

Friday afternoon, we crushed everything into a combination of barrels and puncheons - we like to ferment in wood. Between yesterday and this morning, cold soakes ended and it is now warming up.

Saturday, Dave and I pickeds up 2 tons of old vine grenache gris. With the help of 10+ friends, we processed it Sunday afternoon while celebrating the 2005 harvest. We had homemade peanut butter and jelly cookies from Jen Luan, yummy lentil and goat cheese w/ chive crostini from Heidi Swanson and of course the requisite cheese and bread with A Donkey and Goat wines flowing freely. And best of all - Isabel got a chance to stomp some grapes for her cuvee! This morning (after 36 hours soaking in the cold room) we pressed and barreled down to 3 older oak barrels and one stainless steel barrel. The juice tastes fabulous and we are very excited for the 2005 Rose.

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