Finally all the lots are finishing up ML (malo-lactic fermentation) and I can evaluate what they’re becoming. The next step will be to start working on blends, which will happen in early June. I’m excited by the quality of the 2010 wines as they develop.
I just completed a road trip to El Paso, TX for two winemaker events. Both went well and I also picked up a resturuant account courtesy of the owner of Zin Valle, Victor Poulis. Continuing with wearing my marketing hat also got Manchester Ridge Chardonnay picked up by Albion River Inn and the Sangiacomo Chardonnay picked up by Madrona Manor for their by-the-glass programs.
ANd, I have almost completely firmed up the fruit that I will be bringing in this year, going to be doing 2 Chardonnay's and 1 Pinot Noir for this vintage. Hope to be in a position to make Zin again next year.
Well, it’s been way to long since I wrote my last blog, leaving me a lot to cover.
This summer has been busy so far – there’s a lot to cover! I have a new wine broker that I’m excited about as they assist in getting Calstar out in the market. Additionally, I’ve been reestablishing contact with some old accounts notably CAV Wine Bar in San Francisco and the Sonoma Wine Shop in Sonoma and Sebastopol, all great old accounts into which we are happy to return.
On the production-side, I bottled and ’09 Gewurztraminer for two clients, Londer Vineyards and Halleck Vineyards. Both are done in a dry style (“Alsatian”) and is probably my favorite white wine after Sauvignon Blanc. Almost all the wines are through M-L (malolactic) fermentation and sulphured. I’ve been finding that several of my ’09 Pinot Noirs have changed dramatically in the last weeks. Most of these are to the “good”, but it still confuses blending plans and what vineyards/blocks to include in next harvest’s plans.
Speaking of blending, I have started the hard but creative process of putting together blends for the ’09 Pinot bottlings, with Chardonnay to follow in 3 weeks. The difficult part is to assess blends and try to maintain perspective over a long day’s tasting. The creative/exciting part is that I have some of the best wines I’ve made to date to start with and now it’s a matter of creating blends that accent the positive characters of each lot. Happy Summer!
Finally, back in Sonoma County for more than a day. March was a whirl-wind of activity, including the San Diego and Pasadena Family Winemakers of California Tastings and Sangiacomo Vineyard Chardonnay Tasting. A lot of travel and not as much time, as I'd like, enjoying my own winemaking!
The Southern California tastings went well with a fair bit of interest from new brokers and distributors. The only real glitch was that with the travel chaos, I forgot to bring any 2008 Sauvignon Blanc...
Since getting back I’ve been juggling catching up on winemaking, wine sales, checking on accounts and lining up next Harvest’s fruit. All went well except for stubborn M-L ferments on 4 lots of juice.
Summer is coming!
I am spending more time back at the winery, rather than keeping in touch via the wonders of modern science. This allows for tracking progress through primary and malo-lactic fermentation and allows me know when to sulphur but doesn't necessarily help either manner of topping or adds. Because those decisions are made based on taste and appearance. What I mean by manner of topping is if the wine is clean (no surface film), I stir and then top it. If there is a surface film then I flush the film onto the ground, and repeat this at least one more time. Adds are also different for me I do all of them after bench trials, and by taste. “Bench trials” are done by pulling a sample of the wine and making additions in the same ratio that they would be in the whole lot of wine. Since I don’t like to alter the environment that the yeast or ML bacteria are working (living) in I almost always wait until the completion of all desired fermentations before making adds.
Okay enough about winemaking, you want to know how the wines are showing (tasting). All the wines are showing well for the stage they’re at in the aging process. For those that like the ’08 Sauvignon Blanc, the ’09 is looking to be very similar. The Pinots are developing nicely, with the components of the Sonoma Coast looking like the better vineyards and the vintage is going to lead to a “bigger” Pinot this year. The Chardonnay’s are a little hard to evaluate because they’re racing through ML and are mostly "buttered popcorn" right now, that will eventually change. The Zins are both doing fine and just need another 6 months to smooth out the rough edges.
Last but not least, we will be pouring at ZAP this weekend (Jan. 30/31), both ‘06s and a preview of the ’07 Alta (down to less than 10 cases of ’06). If you want to say hello to me personally, head to the table before 1:30 PM as I’ll be leaving early to host a winemaker dinner for Londer Estates, but Shea and Adrian will be there to answer your questions.
The holiday season is busy for all and we are no exception. The last three weeks of each year find us traveling to the East Coast. Ten days in Baltimore with family and visiting a few key accounts in Maryland, then onto visit with several friends in Pennsylvannia, New Jersey and the Finger Lakes Region of New York. We are particularly looking forward to the Finger Lakes portion of the trip as we'll have an opportunity to visit a few of the Finger Lakes wineries. The region is becoming well-known for Gewurztraminer and Riesling winegrowing and is a region of which I have not tasted since the late 1980's.
Year-end wine sales introduced a fun, new surprise in our first corporate gift order! This corporate gift order was even more interesting to us because the organization shares our name....Calstar Products. It makes perfect sense for us to work together to send out wine gifts to their customers with a similar name. Note to self: contact companies who share our name!
On the winemaking side, the 2009 Pinots finished up ML (malolactic fermentation) and were sulphured and reinoculations are moving along. Other reinoculations are for two lots of Chardonnay that I’m doing in barrel. It looks like they’ll make it on the first try though one is moving slower than the other. Interestingly enough, ML fermentations, which usually prefer warmer conditions, are taking off and finishing in the 55-60 degree F cellar. Go figure. Also, I have done fining on the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminers in preparation for bottling in the next couple of months. I like to bottle aromatic whites early to preserve their fruit character.
With that, we wish all of you a very happy and healthy New Year!
The last couple of weeks have been a little nutty, monitoring ferments, doing sales calls AND I’ve added two craft fairs in two weeks to the mix (have I mentioned that I’m a leatherworker in a previous life?). This meant that I was dealing with two stuck ferments, evaluating two sets of fining trials, evaluating two sets of bentonite trials (one of which made no sense), helping at two client tasting events all while traveling on back-to–back weekends. Who says harvest is the busiest time of year?
I helped Londer Estate, a winery for whom I consult, pour at the Faralon Pinot Fest, and found it reassuring regarding what I’m trying to do in making Pinot. If you like a fruit-driven style, the Londer wines were as good or better than the “competition”. The Londer release event at the Presidio Club in San Francisco went well with both a good reception for the wines and good sales. I found myself liking the 2007 Ferrington Pinot Noir more than I had in the past and thought the other wines were showing extremely well.
My other passion, craft fairs, have been good; with the exception of a four-hour power loss due to high winds in Nevada City, but are extremely tiring when coupled with winemaking/wine sales duties. While in Nevada City, I tasted two current accounts, New Moon Café and Carrington’s Fine Wines, on current releases and checked out several new possible accounts. More on these in January, after I go back up there for a sales trip. For those of you who get up to Nevada City, I heartily recommend New Moon Café for imaginative food and a truly interesting wine list.
This past weekend we were doing a show in Carmel Valley, which gave us the opportunity to eat at our favorite restaurant in Monterey, Passionfish, which as you might guess has a great seafood menu and a equally good wine list that is generally priced just above retail. Additionally, they are big supporters of sustainable fishing, and have no problematic seafood on the menu.
The holidays are fast approaching and we wish you a healthy and happy holiday!
While crush ended in mid-October, harvest still goes on. And, of course, so does bottling preparation and wine marketing. By "harvest" I mean that all of the wines are not yet through primary and secondary fermentation and have not been sulphured. Therefore, I continue to monitor the progress on a daily basis and make decisions about the best ways in which to achieve our goals for each lot. So far, most of them have been "well behaved children" and I’m very excited by the overall quality of the vintage.
Given the slow-down post-harvest, I've had more time to sell wine, which after all is the point of making it! Sales have been going well, including the addition of a Colorado distributor and several local restaurants. Also having more time allows me to do leatherwork as I'm preparing for two Holiday Shows.
Crush for me and my clients ended this past Monday with the last of the fruit coming in. Harvest goes through the completion of primary fermentation for all my lots, but as of today, this process got a lot easier with the pressing off of the last of the Pinot Noir, Londer Vineyards Valley Foothills lot that makes up part of the Parabol Blend (my largest lot and project). This allows me to focus, in the next month, on monitoring completion of primary fermentation (sugar –alcohol) and secondary (malic acid – lactic acid acid).
The Anderson Valley fruit this year is back to “normal” after the issues with “smoke taint” last year. I’m excited by the quality of fruit from a new vineyard from which Londer Estates sourced fruit, Angel’s Camp.
For my own Calstar Cellars project, I brought in fruit from two new Pinot Noir vineyards, new Sauvignon Blanc and three Chardonnay vineyards, as well as getting fruit off two additional blocks of Sangiacomo Pinot Noir. This gave me Clones 115, 777 and Swan from the Sangiacomo Roberts Road Vineyard and fruit from Marshall and Vining vineyards in Sonoma County. I'm excited that all blocks are showing well. All three Chardonnays are showing well (Sangiacomo Roberts Road, Inspiration Vineyard, and Manchester Ridge Vineyard) and I plan on bottling two vineyard designates and a Sonoma Coast blend from these new acquisitions. For the Zin lovers, this vintage of Zin is looking great!
Futures for the 2009 Vintage will be made available soon and will be available until March 1, 2010. Don't miss out!
All of this and now the Holidays are approaching - time for me to work on my leather work (my hobby) for upcoming craft shows, oh, and, take my wife on a date!
The past couple of weeks have been activity-filled and slowing down or catching up on sleep are all unlikely. Aside from Winemaking, one of my 'other' professions/passions is leatherwork and with two shows back-to-back, it is busy! These shows, in addition to the Family Winemakers event in San Francisco and finalizing bottling for a couple of clients, will lead me into Harvest 2009.
This week (and next) I will be spending a lot of time looking closely at vineyards in prep for harvest. So far, Anderson Valley vineyards are looking good with an “average” crop set and no fires in the area the year. The only remaining worry from these vineyards is residual “smoke taint” in the soil from last year's fires.
The Sonoma County vineyards are generally looking good, although, this year may see us picking Pinot Noir well before the Sauvignon Blanc off comparable sites - a less common occurrence but this is what makes mother nature and science part friend, part foe.
Harvest 2009 is almost upon us - stay tuned for harvest updates.
I spent last Friday afternoon looking at vineyards, from which I am sourcing fruit. The one I was working in, Marshall, looks good with lighter crop load than last year’s. The second vineyard, Devoto, is in 3rd leaf and I will get a max of 1T off of it this year. Stan is doing a good job of vineyard management, on top of growing “vintage” apples and has several interesting clones in the ground. Looking forward to working with his fruit in coming years. The last vineyard suffers from being planted meter by meter and has significant mildew pressure. Fortunately, we caught it early and can probably catch the mildew before it becomes a real problem and I haven’t committed to it yet.
I have an in store tasting to pour at this weekend where I'll be pouring Zin. And, I've finally lined up staff for Family Winemakers of California on August 23rd and 24th at Fort Mason in SF - also busy but good exposure. Also getting ready for ACC Craft Show in San Francisco, where I’ll be selling my leatherwork as well as having Todd and David pour and sell Calstar Cellars wines. Doing the Tiburon Arts Festival the following week.
Personally, I am continuing to make time for bike rides weekly (at least one) and getting a little time for gardening. Looking forward to a couple of meals out at favorite restaurants this weekend and a short vacation the week after Labor Day.
This is wine country living!