28 April 2010

Spring Fever?

I think I have a case of spring fever.  I have not been at all motivated to sit in front of my computer and type or for that matter even read.  I am behind in all my blogs that I like to follow.  Though checking today I think there is a general dearth of entries so I may not be the only one with spring fever.

The weather has been typical spring, gloriously sunny and then bone chillingly cold.  Saturday Mary spent the night getting up every hour to check the temperature and finally around 3 am went out into the vineyard and fired up the fans and lit the burn piles to save the little vines from freezing.  The joys of being a farmer.  Then Sunday it was short weather and finally Monday night it rained so hard I couldn't sleep!  We got about 1.25 inches in the course of a few hours.  Guess watering is taken care of for a little while longer.  The vines are starting to show their leaves so it was particularly important that they didn't get frost damage.

Last week I did something interesting.  There was a tasting sponsored by a barrel manufacturer where about 40 winemakers had the opportunity to taste the same wine aged in different toast barrels so that we could start to get a feel for what toast we might like.  It was interesting to see the divided opinions on who liked which wines as well as to hear what different people tasted in the wines.  I think depending on the sensitivities of your palate the barrel helped or hindered various components in the wine.  There was a chardonnay and two pinot noirs, one from France and one from Oregon.  The Oregon wine showed the differences better though so of that might be attributed to the fact that is did not need to get shipped part way around the world.

Last week was also the annual LIVE meeting.  LIVE stands for Low Input Viticulture and Enology and started out as a group of like minded individuals who were interested in trying to create a sustainable way of maintaining a vineyard.  The program is now about 15 years old and has grown to include over 200 vineyards as well as certifying 24 wineries and the wines that they produce.  If you are interested in more information here is the link to LIVE.

Finally, yesterday Mary, Barry and I sat down and tasted 8 Pinot gris wines blind.  This means I put them all in bags, taped the neck, pulled the cork and then Mary and Barry poured them so no one had an idea of which wine was where.  It is a good way to evaluate wines without being biased by price or producer and is another way of looking at our own wines without having preconceptions.  Well that wouldn't be quite honest but hopefully I don't know which preconception to link with which wine.  I have to admit that I wasn't sure which two wines were mine but on a positive note I liked both of them even if they both weren't my stand out choices.  As I said, always educational.  One of the things I got from the tasting is that there are two winemakers I will be calling to talk to them about their pinot gris style and how they make it.  While I may not change what I am doing if I can learn a better way I might adopt a new practice.   Interestingly as a group we were pretty much in agreement on what we liked and why which doesn't normally happen with us.  The surprise wine of the tasting was the 2008 Eola Hills.  The wine had a more distinctive fruit driven nose than the other which led me to believe it might be sweet but rather it was crisp and dry with nice complexity of flavors and good fruit core.  I'll be calling Steve to ask him which yeast he is using and maybe I'll run an experiment next year to see if I like the yeast, provided that is the distinguishing factor, and to see how it works with our fruit.

13 April 2010

My apologies . . .

 . . . for not posting last week but somehow I just couldn't get inspired.  I didn't have any nice stories and my husband is gone right now on a 10 day trip and somehow I get more lethargic when he is away.  Plus the Netflix disk came in for our Wii and I got to spend far more time than normal watching movies.  Geez, doesn't that sounds pathetic!  However, just so you don't think I didn't do anything I did get a large patch of dying hebe ripped out in my own yard and replanted with plenty of flowers and a few grasses, now I am impatient for everything to grow.  Which reminds me, I do have a story.

Our property backs a creek and so we have a fair collection of wildlife that wanders through,  in fact, planting is always risky because it might well end up being a deer snack but that's for another time.  So this weekend we had a wild turkey wander through while the cats were outside.  Talk about close encounters of the third kind!  Phineas and Ferb had no idea what to do with this comparatively giant creature and the turkey clearly knew it was in no danger so there was a lot of circling, investigating, quiet observing and maybe even a little posturing, on the part of the turkey of course, but no problems and eventually the turkey strolled on to eat someone else's grass.  It was quite entertaining for me to watch as well.  By the way you can see the afore mentioned hebe in the background.
We did finish bottling the whites last week, that was a great accomplishment.  A full day of Pinot gris and another full one of Seven, and now the bottler gets to rest until fall.  Not however the bottling crew.  The guys are outside replanting a section of bank that the December freeze killed off in a rather strange pattern while trying to dodge the rain and soak up the sun, ahh spring.  The dogs are running around getting gloriously dirty and I need to slink off to the barrel room.  I need to taste all the Chardonnay barrels, only 17 of them so it should go quickly, as well as check the individual pHs.  I also will be pulling samples of all the BeckenRidge Pinot noir barrels to sit down and taste tomorrow morning at home.

As far as the vineyard goes, bud swelling has started and even a few future leaves are starting to distinguish themselves.  So no more FROST!  If we have a frost now we could lose part of this fall's potential crop in a few short hours.  So everyone keep your fingers crossed, especially during the next full moon in about two weeks.

04 April 2010

Racking Barrels

This week was spent racking barrels.  I must be getting more comfortable doing it and I had a very good helper so it all went much smoother than I had feared.  Feared might be too strong of a word but I do feel a certain amount of dread, even that is too strong of a word.  Let's put it this way, it tends to be a job that I put off rather than just get on and do.  So this week I finally got on it, after tasting last week I knew I could procrastinate no longer and with Sebastian's help we whipped through it.

I start the process by racking three barrels to a small tank.  Let me back up, racking is the process of taking the clear wine away from the settled lees in a barrel.  I do this with a pump, a stainless steel pipe hooked to a hose hooked to the pump and a flashlight.  The pipe is a called a racking wand and has a clear tube of glass inline so that I can see the wine as is passes by.  Holding a flashlight up to the glass I slowly lower the wand till I just start to see cloudy wine, then I raise it about 1/4" and set the height.  Using the pump, it takes about 7 minutes to empty the barrel into second barrel.  After the barrel is emptied Sebastian rolls the barrel and collects the lees as it drains out of the bottom.  This is put into a small tank where it settles again and I will be able to rack off the clean wine and throw away the settled lees.  The barrel is then cleaned and returned to the rack to be filled with wine from another barrel and the cycle continues. There aren't too many pictures as we both have to stay pretty focused but hopefully you get the idea. 
On a more personal note my husband and I had dinner last night a new restaurant, well, new for us, called Old Europe Inn across from the Vista Roth's in South Salem.  Our waitress was charming and made us feel very welcome, the food was delicious and the presentation lovely.  We started with a crab crepe that was loaded with fresh crab, spinach and tomatoes.  I could give you a blow by blow but instead I think I'll let that tempt you.  As for wine, we had a bottle of the 2007 Domain Serene Yamhill Cuvee Pinot noir, it was lovely.  Supple and soft with a nice backbone and complemented the food beautifully.  Anyone who tells you to avoid 2007 Oregon Pinots probably doesn't know what he is talking about.  They tend to be delicate, medium alcohol, food friendly delights.  I highly recommend them, generally finding them much more classic in style than the overblown fruit bombs of 2006.  But of course that's just my opinion, go buy a few and decide for yourself.