Thursday, December 14, 2006
We recently celebrated the end of harvest among other things by eating at a house in Pacific Heights in San Francisco. The meal was excellent and several dishes were nearly perfect. Learn more at http://www.thescdsf.com/
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Great Article on Paul Draper
Paul Draper is a man I admire both for his great wines and his honesty. Who else would be so honest to include the words "reverse osmosis" on his label.
San Francisco Wine Maker of the Year: Paul Draper
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Great blog post on wine additions
I just discovered the blog Wine Terroirs. There are numerous stories, with remarkable photos, of many wineries, vineyards and wine bars mainly in France. Bertrand Celce has also written an excellent post about additives. It is clearly worth a read.
Monday, November 27, 2006
And that’s a wrap!
86 days or 2064 hours after we picked our first cluster of Brosseau Vineyard Chardonnay we conclude our 2006 harvest. I am always astounded when I review the stats and thought they might be fun to share. The colloquial version is that we kicked off our 2006 harvest on September 1st with the Brosseau Chardonnay and we concluded with the pressing of our Broken Leg Syrah on November 25, 2006. How we got from there to here is in large part due to the enormous support we continue to receive from our friends, family and the larger Berkeley/Oakland community. We hope we make this business a big enough success to pay all of those back for their hours and hours of support. In the meantime – here’s looking at 2006:
Monday, November 20, 2006
Bottling Broken Leg
Last Saturday was our second to last major operation for 2006. We bottled over 100 cases of our 2005 Broken Leg Syrah. Bottling is one of the hardest parts of winemaking. There are lots of choices from bottle shapes/weight, corks, labels...
We bottle by hand and it takes time. We think it is worth it.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
13 more barrels done and Gibson is now famous
This past Thursday, we pressed our Vieilles Vignes and Potato Patch Syrah. Since we don't crush our berries outside of pigeage à pied, the pressed juice is often very fruity. I assume some small percentage ferments via carbonic maceration. Tasting the free run wine next to the pressed wine shows how different yet similar they can be. We normally barrel the pressed wine separately in order to give us blending options. It was a long day starting at 7 AM and ending around 8:30 PM.
We woke up the next morning to a wonderful article about the East Bay Vintners. East Bay Rising focuses on Alameda county wineries and features our Chardonnay on the cover of the wine section. Gibson, having been to France with us when we learned our craft, was also featured. He looked great. I was hoping for the photo above. Maybe next time.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Waiting for the last batch
Yesterday, Tracey and our cellar rat du jour, her father, took the last of our 2006 harvest out of the reefer. We crushed it Saturday with the help of friends and co-workers from Kodak. Despite having 3 pressing and a bottling ahead of us, it feels good. The end is in sight and will feel closer as soon as fermentation starts.
More photos coming soon.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Frog is alive and well, wine is in barrel
With the help of several friends and family, we pressed and barreled down our Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre and a bit more Syrah over the weekend. Pressing reds is a great relief. Each full barrel represents being closer to finishing harvest.
As we were pressing, the frog that arrived with the grapes could be heard. He sounds happy.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Only Broken Leg (AKA Broken Ass) Left
We have only one vineyard left - Broken Leg. With the current nearly perfect weather, it should be ready late next week. We hope to pick it Friday and have a last crush party on Saturday.
We processed 1,000 LBS of fruit from Potato Patch last Tuesday. Fruit was nearly perfect and we lucked out - a bear got into the vineyard on Tuesday evening and enjoyed himself too much. Our northern vineyards seem to all attract bears. Last year, we lost nearly a half ton to a bear. I guess they have good taste.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Non interventionist writing
Eric Asimov, of the New York Times, has a great blog entry about "non-interventionist" wine makers. From our perspective, the term has becoming marketing jargon. It reminds me of "Web 2.0" - another term that, at one point, meant something and now means nearly nothing.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Harvest slide show
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Co-Fermentation is going strong
When I dropped Tracey off at the winery this morning, one of our fermentors has started going strong -nearly too strong.
For some reason, the Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah blend wanted to start before each component.
I took a photo since it looked so funny.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Fenaughty, Brosseau and Wylie Syrah are all going into barrels tomorrow
Tracey and Tim are barrelling down our first Syrahs from 06 tomorrow. After a slow start, everything is looking good. Exciting time - our new space is beginning to fill in.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Tracey was interviewed a while back about starting an urban winery. You can listen to her on Grape Radio.
Several of our friends were included in the interview - Sasha of Eno Wines, Andrew of A.P. Vin and Michael of Crushpad.
Fenaughy Harvest Images and Video
Saturday, October 07, 2006
When you make wine, you always hear about what MOG people found in sorting. Today, Tracey and team found both a lizard and a frog. Efforts to save the lizard were not successful but the frog survived and was freed. We expect he will like living in Berkeley.
Broken Leg becomes Broken Ass
Tracey and I haven't been very good about posting this year - just too busy. Over the next couple of days, I plan to make up for it.
Why Broken Ass? Two weeks ago today we were sampling Syrah at the Broken Leg and I got bite by a spider. Monday comes and the bite (yes, on my butt) is swollen. Tuesday - my first doctors visit, start Keflex (antibiotic). Wednesday and Thursday, it gets worse. Infection has started in earnest. Friday - second doctors visit. Switch to Cipro and get referral for a surgeon. (Starting to get bad - very bad.) Monday, told to wait until Wednesday. Wednesday, have surgery, start IV antibotics. Late Friday, out of the hospital and back to my bed.
Tracey has been a sweet heart the whole time. She took on my duties at the winery and kept me in the loop. The nurses kept asking what all of the sample bottles were - probably not often that you see Roussanne 11 brix, Gris pressed, Gris free run on sample bottles in a hospital. (Don't worry, I checked the labels very carefully before smelling/tasting.)
Now, if the wound is in good shape, I will start back at full speed for our old vine harvest on the 14th.
Friday, September 29, 2006
WSJ Review - Nice note in the middle of harvest
Our first 3 vineyards of Syrahs are fermenting away in our winery. Next up Grenache Gris for rose. In the mean time, we got some good news!
The Wall Street Journal has included us in their seven recommended Syrahs out of sixty tasted with some very nice notes. Describing our 2004 Vidmar, Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher write "Blackberries, pepper and earth. Great fruit. Nicely balanced, with a medium weight. More drinkable, less intense than some." If you subscribe, this link should work.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Perfect day in the foothills
We harvested two of our syrah vineyards this morning. Despite sleeping on a couch, waking up at 4:45 and having to drive a truck before my second cup of coffee, it was nearly a perfect morning.
It was cool and overcast - the grapes were wonderful. Everytime I experience such a morning, I remember why I love making wine.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The smell of harvest
Sunday morning we walked into the winery and immediately knew our naturally fermenting Chardonnay was underway! And it smelled fabulous. We do not inoculate our wines. Given this is a new winery space for us we were slightly concerned that we might have trouble getting things going (not knowing how the Brosseau Vineyard yeasts would like our new home). We pressed whole cluster on September 1st and by Thursday the 7th Tracey was pretty sure it was starting. Tim and I could not yet hear it but she is the "Chard Whisperer" and seems to know when those yeasts get going before anyone else. By Sunday morning we were clearly fermenting nice and slow in each of our barrels.
Monday, September 11, 2006
It has been over a month since we posted on our blog – Fall and Harvest are here. Since our last post:
It occurred to me when raising a toast to harvest, it still amazes me how much our friends and family contribute to our wine. Our parents will do everything from palette jack repair to endless hours of babysitting. Our friends will sort grapes, label bottles, stack cases and clean hundreds of yellow bins. We are very lucky to be blessed with such wonderful families and friends.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Hearth Restaurant's list gets a literary nod...
Paul Grieco of Hearth was recently praised for his wine list by Wine and Spirits magazine. I could not agree more. The list is extremely well written and interesting. If you ask how a list can been well written, visit and find out.
What they don't mention is the quality of the list. (I am biased since Hearth has both our Syrahs and our Chardonnay.) On my first visit to the restaurant, I was introduced to a wine that I hadn't had or even read about - Savignon from the Jura. I really enjoyed it though my dinner companions had mixed reactions....
Sunday, July 30, 2006
After struggling for quite some time, we have named our first Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend Three Thirteen. Next year it will also be Three Thirteen though this may change in the future if we are able to find some more of the "approved" varietals from vineyards we are interested in working with. Perhaps it will become Four Thirteen or Five Thirteen. I also liked the name Nouveau Chai de la Chèvre but everyone else thought it was terrible...
We assembled the blend yesterday. It will rest in tank for a few weeks before being bottled. Four vineyards are represented in the wine with four distinct terroirs. We ended up with a little of Mourvèdre left over. We will bottle it alone as an experiment to see how it develops on its own.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
We have been tasting lots of Roussanne to get ready for our experiment this fall. At Hospice-du-Rhone, we tasted Copain's James Berry vineyard Roussanne. It was lovely. We enjoyed it again last night. It is an interesting contrast to the Chignin-Bergeron from Andre et Michel Quegard we tasted tonight. Also lovely. Both have the "fat" that Roussanne. The Chignin-Bergernon has more acid but otherwise quite similar.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Hot weather and vineyard update.
The Bay Area is having another record breaking hot day today. If this were 2004 or 2005, I would be worried but with the late start of the growing season, the hot weather is probably a good thing.
We have visited all of our vineyards over the last three weekends. Some notes and links:
Now off to the pool to cool down with my daughter.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Rose Petal Aromas
One of the most interesting comments on wine I have read recently was about La Tâche, one of the famed monopole wines of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Aubert de Villaine, part owner and wine maker, is quoted in Wine Spectator as saying "One thing I noticed in the evolution of our wines, especially Romanée-Conti, is a vegetal note that later becomes this aroma of rose petal ". I have had only two chances to taste La Tâche and one taste of Romanée-Conti. The Romanée-Conti was young and tasted of oak with many years of development ahead of it.
I do remember rose petal aromas on one of the La Tâches and now wonder if I had tasted the wine in its youth, would there have been vegetal flavors. Do other pinots evolve this way? Are there other pinots that start with a vegetal note and end with rose petals?
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
We have been tasting lots of Mouvedre lately - from barrels produced from the same vineyard as ours to older bottles from our cellar.
Last Saturday we tried a 1998 Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape and a 2001 Domain Tempier from Bandol. The wines are very different - different blends, different terroir and different years. Despite the difference, the similar characteristics of the Mourvèdre was prevalent. Both wines were very enjoyable!
Night One - when poured strait from the bottle (no air time), the earthy characteristic was the focus. The older Beaucastel was much smoother as expected. After a few hours of decanting, there was a detectable strawberry aroma.
Night Two - the earthy characteristic was diminished and the spring fruit aromas were clearer.
It will be interesting to see how our Mourvèdre blend ends up in a few years.
Both bottles were enjoyable.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
We have started to play with potential blends for a southern Rhone style wine. Blending is both fun and nerve racking. There are often options that may improve the short term drinking of the wine at the cost of the age ability. We naturally tend to want to make a wine for the long run. Of course, this has to be balanced with the knowledge that many of our customers will want to drink the wine quickly.
Having sent a sample via my mother to a friend, we heard some great positive feedback. The only down side, he didn't like our name. Perhaps we will pour the wine at our open house to gauge customers on both the blend and the name...
Monday, April 10, 2006
Sicily Fireplace Thoughts
IGNIS - EXARDESCIT - ET - EXSTINGUITUR
CINERES - MANENT
HAEC - VERITAS - VITAE - EST
Tracey and I read this while drinking a glass of wine in the bar at San Domenico Palace Hotel in Sicily. The hotel used to be a monastery and a monk probably carved it in the 1400s.
With Easter and Passover approaching, I am reminded how much wine is like life.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Wine tasting and Fire Engines
This past weekend, we had the pleasure of hanging out with several wine makers here for Joe Dressner's "Real Wine Assult". On Saturday, we were tasting wine at K&L in San Francisco when a fire engine came by. Turns out there is a fire station around the corner. Isabel and I ventured down - what a treat. She climbed up and down a ladder truck and I sipped a glass of Jean Paul Brun's Chardonnay. It was a great afternoon. (K&L carries our wine which you can order online.)
Sunday, March 26, 2006
The highest praise
This weekend we received the highest of praise. Eric Texier, our teacher and mentor is in the midst of a
Friday, March 17, 2006
Rhone Rangers is tomorrow and we have to decide what to pour
One of my favorite parts about making wine is tasting wine from the barrels. Each barrel has its own personality. For events, we always try to make representive blends - our guess as to what the final blend will be. This year we have some challenges. We have a great barrel of Mourvèdre - we haven't decided what to do with it. We might bottle it alone or we might bottle it with Grenache and Syrah. So what do we pour?
If you stop by our table tomorrow, you will find out.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Snow in the Vineyards
As our reds finish malos, the vineyards are getting snow. Here are Chardonnay in the Brosseau Vineyard is just starting to push out buds admist the snow. Talk about icewine!
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
A few thoughts on reviews....
I guess my point (if you’ve lost it by now) is that Tracey and I are very pleased with our winemaking results and truly feel honored to just to be considered at this stage of our business and we could not ask for much better b/c the wines were very well received but with plenty of room to improve (if you get a 100 the only place to go is down!). We are thankful because making wine for a living is our dream and we have been lucky enough to turn our dream into a reality.
Friday, February 17, 2006
You know you’re exhausted when:
-AT 6PM (the height of rush hour) you drive across the Bay Bridge from SF to Berkeley with the intention of picking up your nearly 1 year old daughter and taking her back to the winery where bottling is STILL underway when you realize: THE CAR SEAT IS IN THE VW PASSAT WHICH IS IN SAN FRANCISCO -ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRAFFIC JAMMED BAY BRIDGE!
-At 6:15pm your tired husband decides to finish the bottling without you and at 11:30pm calls with the news: YOU HAVE THE KEYS TO VW PASSAT(WHICH IS THE CAR IN SAN FRANCISCO WITH THE CHILD SEAT– THE KEYS ARE IN BERKELEY)
That adequately summarizes yesterday. We love making wine. We love walking through our vineyards. We definitely love tasting our barrels. Bottling is an operation I could never do again. Aside from being the riskiest part of our winemaking it is also a huge orchestration of details and vendors and something ALWAYS goes wrong. Usually many somethings. The good news is I think the Rosé is lovely and we will definitely enjoy sipping it poolside all summer long. But be warned that your top dot may slide a bit. For those that were bold enough to try our Rosé last year you surely recall the wax closure. After too many near injuries we vowed to never wax again. But being anti-capsule for too many reasons to list we decided to try another finishing touch – a top dot. Quite simply it is a little dot that we printed on that adheres to the very end of the cork (Mondavi has done this for years). It looks great, is easy to apply and better still – is easy to remove. The only problem is it adheres perfectly to the natural cork we use on our Syrah and Chard. We found out yesterday that it does not adhere so well to the synthetic cork we use on the Rosé. Remember we keep the Rosé at a super low price point ($15 bottle) and therefore we can not afford to put a .52/per cork in there (that is what natural costs FYI). So – we will cross our fingers that those top dots stay in place until you remove them to open the bottle. If they slide – just slide them right back!
I wish I could sign off with now we rest. But not quite – now we move…sometime in early March I think we rest again.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
The winery build out is nearly finished
The new winery is coming along. We expect to finish the build out and move the barrels sometime in the next few weeks.
Yesterday, we moved the basket press. With help from four of the guys from Thomas Knight Wines, it went smothly. We will give it a test run in the next few weeks to make sure everything is in tip top shape for harvest.
Photos of the new space and the move coming soon.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Like a kid in a candy store
That was us yesterday at the Unified Symposium in Sacramento. This is the largest winery equipment and gadget tradeshow in the US and we salivated over beautiful wood casks, ovals and a super cool, brand new wood rotary fermentor that would be perfect for our small lots. We even tried to talk the rep into using us as a test site. And then there was the italian/german designed defranceschi sorting table, giraffe and destemmer crusher. The destemmer was particularly interesting with a plastic cage of squares - not circles. Maybe we should consider investors....
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Rose is getting close
I spent the morning at the winery today - we are trying to nudge one of three barrels of Rose to complete malic fermentation. The other two barrels are done.
There are many ways to get malic fermentation. For us, we choose the simplest. The barrel that hadn't moved was stainless steel. I racked it into an older wood barrel hoping that the oxygen and wood will move it through. We should know in a week.
We will be bottling it soon and it is tasting yummy.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Did we start a trend?
Three years ago upon returning from France, we wanted to ferment our reds in wood. In France, we used concrete, stainless steel and wood - wood was the best. We liked it becuase it is natural, moderates temperature changes and breathes.
After much discussion, we decided to try fermenting in barrels. Fetzer's inhouse cooper said it was easy and so I tried. We really liked the results. In 2004, we also experimented with plastic on a single lot but didn't like, The temperature moved more quickly and we were concerned about flavors/chemicals being released from the softner agents in the plastic. (USA Today has an interesting article about the ongoing debate.)
With 2005, we only used wood and moved up to 500 liter puncheons with great results.
While we were clearly not the first but the trend is catching on. We have heard of several Pinot Noir producers who are now fermenting in barrels. Next week we will see a company that has invented a way to ferment in the barrel without popping the top. It should be interesting.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Wine 3 times a day keeps monkey colds away
From the New York Times today: "At a zoo in Lipetsk, south of Moscow, director Alexander Osipov said monkeys would be given wine three times day, ''to protect against colds,'' the RIA-Novosti news agency reported." We would have expected the monkeys to be given Vodka but we are happy to hear it is wine.
if i only had to make the wine this would be easy....
i am continually amazed at the breadth of "projects" that land on my desk as a winemaker/small business owner and operator. this week alone:
-contact post office to figure out why our new address is not a deliverable address
-decide on cork for rose and if we go with a color (synthetic is used on the rose) possibly change the pms color on the label to better match
-pull 8 samples for a tasting tomorrow, stir chard lees and add sulfur to the rose (1st time since harvest) now that ml is complete and we are set to bottle next month
-finish up 3 yr forecast
-add priorities to our master "shopping list" for the new space
-follow up with ttb (it looks like our basic permit for the new space is on its way - ya-hooooo!
-eat lunch - which i'm going to do now
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Wine Making Challenges
As we start to build out our new winery space, we constantly face new challenges and choices. This weekend, we had to decide on our water filtering system (twin filters, one for sediment and one for chlorine), our hot water heater (twin gas powered on demand heaters to lower our energy use and have plently of hot water for cleaning) and single/three phase electrical volt/amp requirements.
None of these have anything to do with making the wine but each one is extremely important.
Friday, January 13, 2006
Steve Tanzer and capsules
For a Friday the 13th, we had a good day. We got our most recent issue of Steve Tanzer's International Wine Cellar. All three of our Syrah's got excellent reviews - 89, 89, and 88 with very nice comments. Mr. Tanzer writes of the Vidmar "Nose shows sassafras, earth, sweet oak and an almost confectionery cherry element..." I don't know much about sassafras so I looked it up. I will try and find some - I want to see if I agree.
Our 2005 rose will be bottled before too long. Bottling is the hardest part about winemaking and we are trying to figure out our capsules. Last year we used wax - consumers didn't like it so we won't do it again. We might use a sticker on the cork or go naked. Many decisions...
Friday, January 06, 2006
A funny review from a while back
I recently was sent a review from this past July which I never saw. A local paper reviewed our rose with a chile verde burrito - sounds like a tasty combination to me.
5. The plato: Juanita’s Combination No. H: A chicken flauta and a chile verde burrito
The wine: A Donkey and Goat Grenache-Gris Rosé 2004, McDowell Valley
Stunning shades of strawberry, medium-bodied, medium-dry. Cherry, berry and toast aromas frolic in the glass like the Munchkins from the Lollipop Guild. Flavors of getting a passionate lip-lock from a giant love-struck strawberry. Oy, mamacita! Drink more rosé!