30 June 2010

Summer has finally arrived.

Sorry for not posting last week.  I was up in Seattle learning how to make better wine and grow better grapes.  There were two two-day conferences back to back and I am definitely in information overload.  On a side note I got to stay with my younger brother and his wife and do a little catching up.  I also took the train instead of driving and used the bus to get around Seattle.  It was very easy and much less stressful than driving if a touch slower though taking the bus into the convention center every morning was a snap! 
One of the two conferences was the International Cool Climate Symposium.  It meets every two or three years and this was the first one I have attended.  It was fascinating and in some ways much better than the other conference for hearing about ideas and new developments that are directly applicable to what I do day to day.  The other conference was the annual meeting of the American Society of Enologists and Viticulturists (ASEV).  This meeting is an opportunity for researchers to present their experiments and studies and subsequently is much more directed at other researchers and students versus grape growers and winemakers.  Thus I find that some information is far too theoretical or it takes a lot more effort on my part to extract usable information.  I have to admit that the presentation on the use of resveratrol, found in grapes, to combat colon cancer was way over my head.  While I could grasp the ideas I certainly couldn't follow the science.  However the one on crop load versus leaf area was much more applicable and I think a similar trial might be worth running in our vineyard.  I also talked to several people about setting up very small experiments to try and learn things about our vineyard and so I think Mary and I will be implementing some of those experiments this summer.
So, after cramming my head for four days I got home on Thursday night in time to finish getting ready for new counter-tops to be installed on Friday!  Yeah, the end of cardboard counter-tops and better yet no more white tile with dark red grout lines.  They didn't get the counter-tops done on Friday and had to come back on Monday to finish but at least we spent to the weekend with solid surfaces to put stuff down on without checking first as to whether or not the cardboard could support it.
Monday morning rolled around and I had to get my head back in the winemaking game.  I was expecting to lose two days this week to judging the amateur winemaking competition at the Oregon State Fair however I got a phone call Monday morning saying there was a law in the OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) books saying that amateur wines can not be tasted outside the home.  Who knew!  This competetion has been going on for years and I have no idea when the law was written or changed, but if you are at all inspired and are an Oregon resident write your local representative and ask that it be changed to allow competitions.  I'll have more information next week and will pass it along.  The way this competition is organized is that there are 5 judges and we taste through about 130 amateur wines, evaluate them, write up our evaluations and award ribbons.  The winemakers get the pleasure of receiving a ribbon but more importantly to most of them they get to read our feedback and hopefully learn how to make better wine.
As I stated in my title summer has finally arrived, both on the calendar, last week, and in the air.  We are having warm sunny days at last.  I am loving it and hopefully plants will start bursting into bloom.  I took a short walk in the vineyard and the foch is at about 50% bloom.  Count out one hundred days and that tentatively is the start of harvest.  The blooms are not very interesting looking are they, but they smell great.  And no, I am not starting a new ad campaign for chapstick I just wanted you to get a feel for how small the cluster starts.  Our demonstration Chardonnay plant pictured at the top is still growing but hasn't started blooming yet, I'll post a picture of it as soon as it does.
Also my husband thought that I didn't explain what suckering is very well in an earlier post so here are before and after shots.  Suckers are the small extraneous vines that grow on the trunk.  Generally they pull nutrients from the top of the vine so unless we need to train one up as a replacement head then they are all stripped off.  This is done by hand, if they are young enough, or cut off with pruners to avoid damaging the trunk if they are mature enough to be stiff.  I also found a foch plant, pictured below, that looks as though it caught a touch of frost back in May when I was talking about that and now you can really see the difference and the damage caused and why we were so concerned.  There are about 25 vines scattered around that look like this.  I am not sure it is frost damage but it sure looks like it.

17 June 2010

A tasting week

Barrel tasting week has come around again and I have worked through all the barrels in the barrel room.  The Chardonnay is shaping up nicely and true to form the BeckenRidge pinot is coming around first.  The tannins are still overtly expressing themselves in the Dunn Forest, after about 25 barrels I have to physically unstick my lips from my teeth, drink some water or milk and eat some starch just to make my mouth start to feel normal.  Of course I have to brush my teeth too, gray teeth and a blue tongue tend to scare innocent bystanders and here you thought tasting wine all day was nothing but fun.   It is fun but it also work and I wouldn't change it for anything.

I also attended a group tasting in Dundee.  A number of women in the industry were interested in starting a women only tasting group.  I must admit that generally I am not a proponent of women only groups.  I feel that both men and women have things to offer, especially when tasting, and that a mixed group is better.  However a good friend and I decided to give it a try and bside I can always learn something new.  If nothing else this group will help me taste wines outside my normal scope of casual drinking.
This first tasting was rosés, something that I admit I don't drink very often.   The first picture is one of the flights.  The range of colors is not very apparent with the brown table as background but I hope you at least get an idea of the variation we saw.  I brought a 2009 Miguel Torres Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé from Chile.  I had no idea what it would taste like but happily it was very nice, one of my two favorites.  I thought that it was a great introductory rosé for people unfamiliar with the type of wine.  My other favorite was a french one; Domaine Collotte 2009 Marsannay Rosé.  This one was made from pinot noir and fermented to almost dry.  It had classic pinot noir rosé flavors with a delicate nose and balanced body.  The flavors were quite complex and I thought it would go well with food.  I did appreciate that the group stayed focused and we were able to get through all 11 wines in a timely manner.  Next month is sparkling wines.  I'll let you know how it goes. 

Bloom has not yet started in the vineyard but it looks close.  Hopefully the rain will hold off for the next few weeks.  To be honest I am just ready for the rain to stop so that I can have some more glorious summer days.  Summer's official start is just around the corner and I am ready for it to begin!

I also forgot to mention last month that our tasting room has had a face life.  New paint, seats and some beautiful copper sheeting.  Come check it out.

Just a picture of the new moon on my drive home after the tasting on Monday. 

10 June 2010

A non-Winemaking Week?

This week has seemed to be less about making wine and more about taking care of other things. I designed a new sign for the tasting room, see if you spot it next time you are in, and we are finally getting a new web site. While this is quite exciting it has taken the viewing of many other sites, deciding what we like or dislike, some writing and lots of discussing. Anything that you would particularly like to see or a website that you think is a great example of something to do or not to do, please let us know. As you know, we love feedback. In fact, we are also redesigning our labels so the next time you are in the tasting room spotting the new sign ask Mary to show you the new ideas so that you can let us know what you think works and what doesn’t. Everyone’s input on the 7 label was invaluable and I think that label came out great.

I have been doing some winery work. This was the week to check SO2 levels in the wine and adjust as necessary. Everything smells good, well almost everything, and flavors are developing nicely. I still have a few problems barrels that have reduction, more delicately known as ‘that barnyard aroma’ which I have been working on fixing, I hope to get them clean in the next week or two. It takes almost a week to run the trial in the lab and then another week to administer the correction in the winery. A slow process especially if I don’t get it all cleaned up the first time and I need to go back and run the trial again.
The weather has been erratic to say the least. Sitting in my windowless office I never know what the sky will be showering down when I step outside and for the last few days if I don’t like it I just go back in the my office and re-exit a few minutes later. Everything will be different. Unfortunately if I do like the weather of the moment it changes a little while later anyway. The vines and the poppies seem to be happy and are growing well; the guys are removing suckers from the vine trunks and will start cleaning the heads shortly. Bloom should happen this month, Sebastian says the foch should start in the next ten days or so.  Just hope for no rain during bloom, if the flowers are damaged they may not set fruit and then we won't have much of a crop.  The picture to the left is a close up of the our friend the chardonnay plant (pictured above).  The green balls will be the flowers and you can see how the grape cluster will develop.  Later when I talk about removing shoulders I'm referring the short branches at the top, well in this picture the bottom, of the cluster.  Shoulders tend to run behind the rest of the cluster in physiological development and it is often best to remove them.  The flowers won't be much to look at but they smell great.

Just for laughs, Phineas and his new box . . . if at first you don’t succeed . . .

03 June 2010

Another Winemaker's Dinner - The Vine, Grant's Pass

Memorial Weekend is over and the winery has been restored to its normal clean and calm state.  Mary is recovering from having a house full of friends who are the secret to why our weekend goes so smoothly, Barry is taking a mountain of glass and cardboard to be recycled and I am off to Grant's Pass in Southern Oregon for a winemaker's dinner.  Even further south this time than the last one!  I am doing my own driving this time so updates can only occur at pit stops.  I also need to drop off a tractor part in Eugene along the way.  I am starting this at home as I don't know how much time I'll have to write today.  It is supposed to rain all day, 2-5" on the coast, fortunately I'm not going that way, so far though it hasn't stopped in Dallas.  That will slow things down a little.

I never took the time to stop and write but I did have a very nice drive and got home last night about midnight.  In the end I drove through almost no rain and the drive was quite pleasant.  The sun was almost out once I got down into the mountains.  The dinner was held in the back room at The Vine in the Allen Creek shopping center on the south west end of Grant's Pass.  The food pairings were excellent and showed different aspects of the same wines that I just poured last month at Steamboat Inn.  The chef, Josh Marten, incorporated the wines into his sauces and dressings and it tied the wine and food together very nicely.  I didn't get to taste the lime cilantro avocado salad that he paired with the 2008 Chardonnay, I was to busy talking, but the guests said the flavors were great.  He paired a smoked trout over wide noodles with the 2007 Willamette Valley Pint noir and I thought that was excellent.  The black pepper in the dish complimented the wine nicely and the acidity in the wine balanced some of the creaminess of the dish.  He then paired with 2007 Maréchal Foch with roasted lamb chops on a bed of mashed potatoes with fresh asparagus on the side.  Unlike the Dustin's dish which I felt brought out the earthiness, smoky notes and spice in the wine this dish brought out the sweetness and fruit.  I enjoyed tasting the two dishes so close to one another and with the same vintage of wine.  It brings home again how much influence what you are eating can have on what you are drinking.  Dessert was baklava paired with the 2008 Seven.  I don't usually see the Seven poured at dessert but with such a sweet dessert the acid in the wine provided a very nice counterpoint.  I thought that the sweetness of the syrup might make the wine sour but instead the wine acted as a palate cleanser which made the next bite of dessert that much more enjoyable.  All in all an excellent evening and well worth the 8 hours of driving that surrounded it.  Ahh . . . a winemaker's life!  Now back to real work, putting the new part I picked up in Eugene on the tractor so Sebastian can do some spraying.