25 March 2010

Quieter times

This week feels a little quieter for which I am appreciative.  Mary is back east in New Hampshire selling our wine and having fun visiting her brother.  I was trapped in the lab, no windows, checking SO2 levels in the wines in barrel and the few left in tank while the sun was shining gloriously outside.  Today I get to work from home, a great luxury, and the weather can't decide if it is really going to stop raining or not.

This week is also the first time I am tasting through all the barrels in an organized manner.  I borrowed the idea for doing this from Jason Lett over at Eyrie Vineyards and it is working out very well.  I fill a small plastic vial with a sample of each barrel and then take them all home and taste them there.  The advantage is that I have a quiet space with no interruptions and more importantly no distracting smells.  While tasting in the barrel rooms sounds romantic and is quick and easy, smelling, in particular, is difficult.  Other aromas in the air mask that of the wine as well as distract me from the task at hand.  Also the lighting is dim so evaluating color and clarity can be difficult.
Yesterday I tasted through all the BeckenRidge pinot barrels, 31 of them, and am pretty happy with what is going on.  A few recalcitrant ones that need some work but all in all I am getting excited.  Today is Dunn Forest pinot, I have 53 of those and that will take me two sessions.  I can only taste about 25 to 30 barrels before I lose both my focus and my palate so I'll start on the first half, take a break, probably post this, and then go back and taste the other half.
Tomorrow I am out making a few sales calls in Salem.  If we are lucky we will be setting up a winemaker's dinner at Bentley's Grill near the Convention Center.  I really enjoy the dinners and love to see what a chef creates as to food and wine pairings.  Some of them have blown me away over the years.  I still remember an apple and onion tart with a touch of blue cheese to go with my 2005 Chardonnay.  It was amazing how both halves got better and showed aspects of each that you didn't taste otherwise.  That is what I am always hoping to experience.  Keep your fingers crossed for the dinner.

19 March 2010

Bottling has arrived!

Bottles, cases, pallets everywhere!  And the noise!  Okay I dramatize but I was feeling that way.  Actually right now everything is cleaned up, put away and looking very tidy.  That is always soothing to my soul.  As far as bottling the 2009 Riesling and 2009 Muller Thurgau are in the bottle and half of the 2009 Seven.  The rest of the Seven, as well as the 2009 Pinot Gris, will be bottled in two weeks when the remainder of the glass arrives.  Overall the process of bottling isn't particularly unique.  We do own our own line, not all small wineries have that luxury, which makes it easier for us to set our own schedule.  Bottling takes a five person crew and we can bottle about 2 cases (24 bottles) a minute if everything is running well, in an average day we can do 14 pallets or 784 cases or 9408 bottles.  Okay, now I wish I hadn't worked that out.  Ugh! 
The glass bottles get blown out using nitrogen gas, are placed on the conveyor belt and filled while going around the carousel.  As the bottles come off the carousel the level of wine in the bottle is checked and set by gas, again nitrogen, and finally the cork is inserted.  After the bottles are returned to the conveyor belt they travel to the end where two people wipe them clean, check them for flaws or problems and put them in the box cork down if you are curious.  The flawed ones get returned to the beginning of the line for fixing.  Finally the boxes are stacked on a pallet and stored until it is time to label the wine for you to purchase!

Outside the winery we had a neat visit from a few elk, they stayed on the neighbor's side of the fence so I don't have a great picture but it was amazing to see them.  Grasping their size is always difficult and part of what makes them so grand. Also outside the winery but inside the fence there is plenty of spring cleaning and planting going on as well.  The dam has been covered in compost and a hundred plus plants have been put in the ground; grasses, shrubs and flowers abound.  Well there will be flowers, they aren't blooming yet.  I look forward to their growth, I think the bank is going to look amazing this summer and next year . . . I can't wait.

13 March 2010

Road Trip to Seattle

Okay my excuse this time for not getting this posted during the week is that I didn't drive to Seattle until early Thursday morning and came back yesterday evening and just wanted to sit and relax with my husband last night. And, of course, watch the kittens enjoy the fire.

The road trip to Seattle was to participate with about 40 other Willamette Valley wineries in a tasting at Herban Feast to promote Oregon wines and to get people more familiar with the styles and wines available.   I was a little concerned going in because there were supposed to be about 700 tasters spread over 6 hours.  Let's just say, not my forte.  First there was the quandary of how much wine to bring.  If you figure we were each bringing about 4 wines that is 160 wines to taste which is more than anyone can get through in 3 hours. I know I said 6 hours but half the group was trade, they had 3 hours and then the other half was consumers and they also had 3 hours.  So, really, how many people are actually going to stop at my table and taste?  50?  100?  Then you have to factor in that Airlie is not particularly famous or well known so that probably lowers my number of tasters.  And what I observed that night is that 30-40 year old tasters are the least adventurous of the lot and unfortunately the majority of attendees, if they don't know your label they aren't interested in tasting.  Younger than that and they were excited to taste and talk and learn and older than that and I think experience had taught them that the lesser know labels might be worth tasting, you could be in for a pleasant surprise.  And lastly, I never talk this much as I spend most of my days alone in the winery.  Promote my own wine?  Really not my forte!  In summary I had a few great conversations, poured less wine than I thought I might and had no voice when the event was over.
The location was great and the building was beautiful inside.  The group I was with was in front of a large set of windows and felt very open and airy.  The staff was fabulous and made the whole evening run very smoothly.  If you are looking for a place to hold a large event in Seattle check out SODO by Herban Feast on 1st Ave, just a few blocks south of Safeco and Qwest fields.  It really was fabulous and had a unique feel about it.  As far as seeing me at another tasting?  Don't hold your breath.  While I know it is good practice for me to go out and be social I do prefer smaller groups and quieter settings.  Maybe a nice winemakers dinner . . .

08 March 2010

Finally Filtering

I am so sorry.  I wrote this last week, needed a picture from home and then didn't get it posted.  I am filtering Muller as I type and fingers crossed it is going well.  I really hope to be done today.  Then I can set up for bottling.  I also wanted to let you know that the tasting room is now open for business on the weekends.  Saturday and Sunday 12-5pm, if you are going to be early or late give Mary a call first and make sure she will be around: 503-838-6013.  As always we are open by appointment or by chance during the week.  Come out and taste what I have been working on!

Well paradise was wonderful and as always the geckos were fun, the snorkeling great and the hiking breathtaking.  The changes in the landscape on the big island of Hawaii are amazing.  On the walk to the green sand beach if you look left it could be the high dessert of eastern Oregon and then you look right and see the crashing blue-green surf of the Pacific with whales spouting in the the distance.  We didn't visit everywhere we had planned, it was my husband's first time to Hawaii, but instead got caught up in the local way and spent a few days doing nothing.  It was great to see my parents and spend some time with them in their almost complete new home.  My mother has taken cooking on a gas grill to a fine art though I think she might be ready for the kitchen to be finished.  Cabinets were in and counter tops on order so the end is in sight.
Being home is good as well and the kittens were very glad to see us, boy did they grow in a week.  I think they were purring the first 24hrs solid and not having to sleep in the garage, heaven!

Being at home means back to work and I have been in the thick of it.  Filtering has at last started and has been going very well.  I have a sneaking suspicion that vacation may be part of it.  Normally the wines don't get to settle for as long as they did this year and so they are quite clear before I even start. 
I use diatomaceous earth (DE) to filter the wine, the same as is used in swimming pool filters.  The DE builds on the screens inside the filter and eventually forms a cake through which the wine passes.  The particles in the wine get caught by the DE and brilliant (the technical term for very clear) wine comes out the other side.  The wine enters the machine, called a pressure leaf filter, on the right and exits on the left in the picture.  I can filter between 1100 and 2200 gallons on wine in a run which takes about 3-5 hours.  Yes, I agree that is a huge variance in the amount of wine but there are so many factors including I am almost chagrined to admit user error.  In my defense there are 12, yes 12, valves on the machine and failing to either open or close one of them at the correct time can cause the filter to break down and I am sad to admit I still mess something up at least twice a season.  On a positive note I haven't fired any wine onto the ceiling since we had it repainted three years ago.  By break down, so you don't think I am breaking the machine, I mean that the pressure changes enough inside the machine that the cake is cracked and stops collecting the particulates in the wine, ergo it stops being brilliant and starts being cloudy.  Arghh!!!!  The end is in sight though, I should be done Monday or Tuesday of next week.