Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Last Pick

With mixed feelings, I watched the last two bins of Silvaspoons Vineyards Kerry Lane Block Mourvèdre drive off to the winery, signaling the end of our harvest.

I was just getting used to my routine of waking up in the dark at five o’clock, wolfing down a pot of oatmeal and putting on the grubbiest, most hole-filled clothes I could find.

On my way to the vineyards, if I was lucky, I had enough time to hit Starbuck’s on East Kettleman Lane for a venti non-fat, no-foam latte with three packs of Sugar-in-the-Raw to jump-start the brain.

The main job for Nick and I has been to jump onto the bins on the back of a narrow tractor and frantically pull out leaves from the gathered grapes while moving, trying not to fall off. We just don’t want those undesirable “green,” herbal flavors.

At the same time, we would try and snap some photos or video for our Web site, knowing that nowadays marketing is almost as important as high-quality winemaking.

We got into a rhythm of taking a few pictures just before the whole crew began dumping yellow lug bin after bin into our half-ton bin. Seemed that each member of the crew filled their bin about the same time, so they all came back at once like a big dump truck.

No matter than the cameras became sticky with grape sugars, such that the zoom on one camera is jammed. I didn’t mind getting whipped in the face by long vines as the tractor drove through the rows, or having my glasses glaze over like a doughnut, making it hard to see.

I already miss the popping sounds made by hands yanking off grape clusters aching to be made into wine.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Panthos, The Next Generation

I was telling Jon, working with the wines every day is what it's all about. I can't get enough.

Then my son, Jonathon wakes up one morning two weeks ago and asks where I'm going. It's 7:00 in the morning which is pretty early for most 12-year olds. I explain my daily ritual of punch downs, brix readings, etc. and his eyes light up as he jumps from his bed asking, "Can I go? I want to do it too!" I haven't stopped grinning since.
Jonathon really likes to get into his work.

Today we have different lots at every end of the spectrum. Al Bechthold's Cinsault and our two Syrah's are almost dry, reading from 0.4 to -1.5 brix on the hydrometer. On the other end of the spectrum, we have one of Markus Bokisch's Petite Sirah's from Belle Colline that I just removed from a cold chill (52 degrees and 26.5 brix) that will begin its natural fermentation under the watchful eye (or should I say "eye's" now) over the next two days; and with our last crush of 2008, we're planning on harvesting Ron Silva's Mourvedre this Tuesday.

We're thankful the rains last night were light and any moisture is drying from today's breezes. But I'm really thankful for days like these, up to our arms, side-by-side in a beautiful Petite Sirah.
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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Our Bin Runneth Over

Every year we learn something new.

This year one of the tweaks we were getting ready to be proud of was the determination of exactly how much you could fill a one-Ton Macro T-Bin with crushed grapes such that they wouldn’t overflow during fermentation.

We filled a number of bins up to a line five inches from the top, and double-checked to make sure we had clearance.
Once fermentation hit its stride in a couple of days after warming from cold soak, copious amounts of very purple Petite Sirah juice began cascading down the sides of one of our bins.
This created enough of a mess that the cellar master repeated at least six times that he had to clean up everything and, “You are going to remove some of those grapes.”
Nick – who has been kindly doing all the punchdowns this year – went over the records to determine that the most obnoxious bin of Petite hadn’t even received its first helping of yeast nutrient yet.

So we have reset our maximum fill protocol to what should be an ample seven inches from the top. (Let’s hope that works or we're going to be wearing out the mop!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

We're Legal!

For weeks now we’ve been wondering what was going to potentially hold up shipments next month.

In our minds it’s been a neck and neck race between the California State Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) in granting us a permit to sell wine at wholesale and a special ribbon we are having made.

I figured I’d just give our new mailbox a check at the UPS Store on Kettleman Lane in Lodi as I was dropping off a sample for ETS Labs today.

We rarely get anything in the box, since only a couple of government agencies and random junk mail businesses know about it.

I turned the key, peered inside, and noticed one white envelope leaning along the side of the small PO box. I could barely make out “Department of Alc…” on the return address and became immediately excited.

I reached in, saw the familiar pink paper – the color of a final permit – and began hopping around the UPS Store. The owner, Dan, asked how I was doing, and I said, “I’m just happy happy! We just got our ABC permit and now we’re legal!”

So if we can get that ribbon in soon, we’ll be ready to hand-assemble our 1,200 bottles!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Crush Has Started!

Like every year, this year is different but wonderful. The Cinsault was ready before any other varietal this year. In fact, weeks ahead of any of the other varietals including our Syrah, Petite Sirah and of course Mourvedre which we always want to be our last. The Mourvedre benefits from the longer hang-time on the vine.

Since we're specializing in small exceptional lots, this lot of Cinsault is slightly more than one ton. (The video below is the Cinsault being harvested) We allow the newly destemmed fruit to cold soak for 48 hours then move it to a room set at about 75 degrees F. After another 2-3 days, it begins natural fermentation. The picture gives you an idea of what it looks like about 3 days into the fermentation with a nice 5-6 inch cap of skins that have risen. I punch the cap down gently twice a day during the most active period, measuring the sugars (brix) and monitoring the temperature.

We can already tell that the rows and vines we picked this year are the best section the vineyard has to offer. As usual, the vineyard owner, Al Bechthold is right again.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sugars Moving Fast

Today’s visit to the remaining ripening vineyards of Belle Colline, Silvaspoons and Mettler all confirmed the buzz in the wine industry: all the grapes are ripening at once.

We are shifting the source for one of our Syrahs to one of many growing in the Belle Colline Vineyard, so this morning was spent focusing on which to take.

This vineyard-on-a-hill features four clones of Syrah (1, 2, 383 and 470) planted on two different soil compositions, each as a separate block. The block planted lower on the hill benefits from irrigation water running down from the upper blocks. The upper blocks are therefore as much as a week or more further along towards ripening than the lower blocks.

I found nice flavors in the clone 2 Syrah in the upper block, but back at the lab we found sugars to be 27.3˚ B with pH a bit too high at 3.98. So we had to pass on that one.

Markus Niggli, the assistant winemaker at Borra Vineyards, our custom crush winery host, will join me first thing on Monday morning to make a final decision.

Other stats are:

Silvaspoons Mourvèdre – 21.2˚ B, pH 3.43, will need a few more weeks.

Belle Colline Petite Sirah – upper block 25.3˚ B, pH 3.70 with nice flavors could be ready this week, lower block 23.6˚ B, pH 3.55 may need two weeks.

Mettler Petite Sirah – 23.7˚ B, pH 3.78 nice flavors could be ready in a week and a half or sooner.

Belle Colline Syrah – lower block clone 470 24.2˚ B, 3.73 pH, may need a week and a half.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Our 2008 Harvest Has Begun!

We kicked off our 2008 harvest today with 1.25 tons of Cinsault from Al Bechthold's 1889 vineyard near Lucas Road, between Davis and De Vries in Lodi. Flavors in these grapes from 119-year-old vines are very nice, even intense and exciting. And at 26.1 Brix with a pH of 3.59, everything about the grapes are in perfect balance.

Even my son, Alex, chugged down a glass of the juice without coming up for air. I don't know how he can drink that much sugar so quickly!

Being the first crush for the winery, we were ready for some possible hiccups. None of us had used the aging Demoisy crusher-stemmer for almost a year. We turned it on and the grapes just weren't dropping into the destemmer paddles properly.

We thought a drive chain for the rollers was loose, then, eventually, Steve Borra came on over to help diagnose the problem.

He pointed out that the rollers weren't moving in the correct direction and realized that some off-season electrical work had caused the polarity on the main power outlet to be reversed.

Once Steve live-rewired the outlet, we were crushing very quickly.

We are hoping this Cinsault will finally be a good fit for our Panthos blend this year.

Sure is exciting to be sticky all over again!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Spanish Manchego

We have begun our quest for foods that pair beautifully with our Lot 06 Panthos, and with the help of an in-depth cheese feature in the September 30, 2008 Wine Spectator, we hit gold.

Molly was able to find a wheel of Spanish Manchego at Podesto’s Market & Deli in Stockton.

This wonderful cheese highlighted the nice berry flavors of Panthos and smoothed any lingering youthful edges of the wine. All we can say is that you have to try it. We’ll probably be looking for ways to throw Manchego into some recipes to come.

From Wikipedia:

“Manchego is probably Spain's most famous cheese. Produced in La Mancha, this cheese is made only from the whole milk of Manchega sheep. The rich, semi-firm product is aged in natural caves for generally 3 - 6 months, which imparts a zest and exuberant flavor. It is barrel-shaped and weighs about 2 kg (4 lb). It comes in a 25 cm (ten-inch) diameter wheel, 12 cm (five in) thick, with a herringbone design on the inedible rind caused by the surface of the press used in the manufacturing process. (This traditional embossed pattern comes from the time when the cheese was wrapped in sheets of woven esparto grass.)”

“Additionally, the cheese is pressed using small wooden boards that leave imprints of wheat-ear patterns on the top and bottom of the product, rendering a unique and earthy appearance. The color of the paste is white or light yellow and the rind is generally somewhere between light brown and dark grey. The taste depends on the maturity: mild, subtle, and fresh; or strong and full-bodied with a tangy farmhouse flavor.”

“The taste is very distinctive, slightly salty but not too strong. It is creamy with a slight piquancy, and with the characteristic aftertaste of sheep’s milk. Just like wine, Serrano ham and olive oil, Manchego cheese is protected by its Denominación de Origen. This controls its production, ensures the exclusive use of milk only from the Manchega sheep, and dictates an aging period (in natural caves) of a minimum of two months.”

“Manchego is available in three different states of maturity: fresh (fresco), 3-6 months old (curado), or matured for one year (viejo).”

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lot 06 Panthos Tasting Notes

Over the last two days, Molly and I have been carefully tasting - actually just downright enjoying - a couple of bottles of our Lot 06 Panthos to try and develop the perfect tasting notes. Here’s what we came up with:

Top notes of Boysenberry and blackberry jam on toast overlay a “West Coast” garrigue of twisted Pacific Madrone trees roasting in the summer sun on the slope of Mt. Tamalpais. Our marriage of Syrah, Petite Sirah and Mourvèdre is harmoniously elegant, yet naturally full-bodied, with black fruits mingling with Peet’s Coffee beans, toasted almonds, and even a peppery spice over a hint of Grand Marnier. A glorious Morning bun dusted with cinnamon and a reprise of Boysenberry with molasses finishes our first vintage perfectly. 99 cases.
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lodi Harvest off to Fast Start

Looks like the harvest in Lodi is off to a fast start. One of our growers, Bokisch Ranches, is booked solid with requests to harvest Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. Borra will be picking Chardonnay tomorrow morning in Clements at 17-19 Brix for sparkling.

The weather has continued to be optimal for weeks. We’ll only begin to brush a hundred degrees this week as a ridge of high pressure moves up from the southwestern deserts, followed by increased humidity from monsoons to the south.

The early-season frosts, combined with wind during fruit-set have contributed to smaller berries and loose, lighter clusters. All indications point to an overall lighter harvest.

The lighter crop load, combined with optimal ripening conditions and less ground water is bringing harvest sooner than everyone thought.

About a month ago, many believed we’d be one to two weeks behind. Now we’re looking like one to two weeks ahead.

Nick and I will get back into all our vineyards on Friday to see where the sugars are.

This is getting exciting again!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Barrel-Tasting the 2007

One of the fun things about owning your own brand of wine is that you get to taste - er - drink it while it is developing, which is a great excuse for a party.

Today Nick, his wife Sandy (see photo), and son Jonathan (who didn’t drink), along with my wife Molly and I all tasted through samples of our four barrels of 2007 Panthos to make sure they were heading in the right direction.

We were very happy to find that none of them showed off aromas or flavors that would have cut production considerably.

Barrel #886 – 2005 Taransaud Allier forest French oak, medium toast, thin stave – was nice and fruity.

Barrel #756 – 2006 Demptos Limousin forest French oak, medium toast – had more, sweeter oak, and was overall excellent.

Barrel #904 – 2005 Taransaud Allier forest French oak, medium toast, thin stave – was more balanced, but had less fruit.

Barrel #757 – 2006 Demptos Limousin forest French oak, medium toast – was big and chewy with coffee flavors and dusty chocolate tannins on the finish, very interesting.

These differences were definitely the result of different potency and type of oak from the barrels.

The 2005 barrels had less extractable oak remaining and the Allier forest produces tighter-grained staves, which also slows extraction.

The 2006 barrels, on the other hand, had been used a year less and came from Limousin, which has more loosely-grained staves for greater extraction of oak.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gerald Boyd on Petite Sirah

Just came across a very good article by Gerald Boyd that will get everyone up to speed with Petite Sirah.

You'll have to skip over the rant on heavy glass bottles, as ours tips the scales - or rather squashes the scales - at 3.95 lbs per full bottle. Not very environmentally friendly, but we also aren't making many. Heck, Nick and I will be lucky to get a couple of cases for our two families!

By the way, our first release, Lot 06 PANTHOS, includes 35% Petite Sirah in the blend, all from the amazing Belle Colline Vineyard, located on a hill in Clements.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Smoke Gets in Your Skies

We delivered one barrel each of our 2007 Cinsault and Grenache to Peter Marks at Six Hands Winery tonight.

It is crazy how much smoke has filled the skies above Lodi and Clarksburg. In fact most of us have avoided the outdoors all week along with the double-whammy of upper-ninety temps and sneeze-inducing smoke.

Our smoke has been delivered from nearly due west of us, supplied by a fire at the border of Napa and Solano Counties. Elsewhere in California, random lightning strikes touched off more than 800 blazes of varying size.

On the plus side, this last week of spring usually brings temperatures over 100. The smoke has been so thick that it has damped average temps by five to ten degrees, helping our vines avoid shutting down.

Despite all the frosty, smoky drama this year, the growing season is progressing nicely.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A New Addition

Lauren BeckerWe were very happy to learn this morning that Craig Becker, our winemaker, just had a brand new addition to his family. Lauren Margaret Becker arrived on Monday, June 16, 2008, born at home at 2:41 p.m., 21.5 inches long and weighing 8 pounds, 6 ounces.

Winemaker Craig BeckerCraig reports, “Mom and family are doing great; mom is trying to rest as much as anyone can with a full house. The two sisters are very excited about being a big sister and a double big sister as the say. Thank you all for your support during the last few years, we are very grateful. We hope to see all of you soon.”

Congratulations, Craig!

Monday, June 23, 2008

It's Good!

Tonight, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, Molly and I popped the first cork on our Lot 06 PANTHOS, which we bottled just four weeks ago.

We knew it was a bit too early to be past bottle shock, but we couldn’t resist, considering we are about to spend thousands of dollars on new labels and the wine better be good before we go through with that.

So with two perfectly-grilled New York steaks in front of us, we gave it a go…

We were very pleasantly surprised at how the wine evolved over the course of about an hour, developing nice aromas, starting with little more than subtle toasted French oak, then building layers of cherry, bacon, roasted coffee and floral herbs.

The deep burgundy wine is already showing flavors of raspberry/blackberry chocolate ganache – one made with Scharffen Berger rather than Hershey’s. Espresso coffee, most likely from the La Roza Vineyard Syrah, was obvious on the mid-palate.

There is still some bitterness from the tannins and SO2, which should attenuate and integrate as we go further out from bottling.

Overall, we were very pleased with our first effort, which is not an over-the-top fruit bomb, but rather elegantly full-bodied. This will go well with food – and went very well with our steaks!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Robert G. Mondavi

I was very fortunate as a former employee of Woodbridge to attend yesterday’s celebration of the life of Robert G. Mondavi at Woodbridge Winery.

It had been very clear to me the tremendous role Mondavi played in putting Napa Valley on the world wine map, as well as his technical winemaking innovations, such as stainless steel tanks.

What I hadn’t understood was the pivotal role he played in boosting wine quality in Lodi. It is possible that without him, farmers would still be growing thousands of acres of Rubired for insipid, low-end wines.

John LedbetterOne of a handful of speakers at the event, John Ledbetter of vineyard management company Vino Farms, said, “He took generic Bob Red and Bob White and changed over to varietals.”

Brad Alderson, former GM and founding winemaker of Woodbridge, added that Mondavi and his team, working with local growers, took Lodi, “From bankruptcy and table grapes, to an emerging winemaking region. It was his cheerleading and needling phone calls that did it.”

Marcia Mondavi Borger and Tim MondaviMarci Mondavi Borger, with brother Tim at her side, said, “He celebrated life from the tips of his toes to the top of his head. He had this area in his veins and carried it his whole life. He had a favorite fight song from Lodi High that he used to sing to us to get us going. Something about, ‘We are the flaming hoards.’”

“When I think of Robert, I think of passion, which was infectious,” said Alderson. “If you didn’t catch it the first time, he’d keep repeating, ‘It’s all about making great wines. We have the soil, climate and talent.’ If I heard that speech once, I heard it a thousand times. Continuous improvement was in his DNA long before it became a fad with corporate America. ‘Do it once and do it better the next time.’”

“He was always challenging others to do better.” recalled Ledbetter. “He always made you feel you were an integral part of the process by communicating his vision to you. One day in a vineyard at Peltier and Jack Tone Roads, he asked point-blank, ‘What could we do to elevate our wines to their rightful position in the wine world?’”

Rather than an enjoyable vacation, a 24-day trip to France with Robert and Margrit was more like, “a sort of Navy Seals training camp,” according to Alderson.

Brad Alderson"Traveling between stops, when [either Robert or Margrit] was sleeping, the other peppered us with questions about the wineries and Michelin restaurants we’d visited. Questions like, ‘Did they have flowers in the hall?’ Everybody was part of the team. It was a huge collective family.”

Alderson’s favorite time with Mondavi was the annual blessing of the grapes (which is scheduled for August 7 this year). “This wasn’t a PR event. If the press didn’t show up, we didn’t care, because it meant something to us. It took the support of our Creator to make great wine. We needed to acknowledge it once a year. If Robert were here, he’d say, ‘We’ve done well, but we can do better.’”

Speakers also included Woodbridge Visitor Center Manager Larry Pilmaier – excellent as M.C. – Lodi Mayor Joanne Mounce and Richard Sands, Chairman of Constellation. Michael Mondavi was not in attendance.

The celebration concluded with 24-year-old “performance painter” David Garibaldi’s hopping, dancing, and almost bull-fighting 15-minute portraiture of Mondavi set to a few classic songs, including Mondavi’s favorite “Volare” by Dean Martin. The performance was as awesome as Cirque du Soleil:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Search For Treasure

Jon & I have been talking about this since last harvest, 2007...what other vineyards, clones and Rhone varietals should we consider adding to our treasure in the 2008 harvest? After much discussion (which, of course we thoroughly enjoy), we came up with some new vineyards such as Larry Mettler's Petite Sirah.

We did attempt to purchase some last year, but the portion of the field we were looking at had some late season issues. We're also taking some Syrah Noir to compare to the wonderful Syrah 470 we've included in Lot '06 and the 2007 vintage, to see what additional characteristics it might bring to our final 2008 blend. Al Bechthold's ancient vine Cinsault is being thinned more this year than prior years, even though it was only yielding about 2 - 2.5 tons per acre, and this year we're pulling from the northwest corner rather than the southeast section.

Each year we want to find more Lodi fruit from different, but exceptional vineyards to determine what benefits if any they might have in our special program. Even though we've already found some wonderful gold mines for our Panthos blend, there are certainly more undiscovered treasures out there and we don't intend to stop looking.
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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

How to make a cult cabernet

Just saw this on the Parkerboard. Great stuff!

The true believers: A new generation of Napa vintners pursues the holy grail of cult Cabernets.
Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2005
By Corie Brown, Times Staff Writer

How to make a cult cabernet:
1. Build your own high-tech winery, using no pumps, only gravity.
2. Burrow into the side of a hillside to create caves.
3. Hire Heidi Peterson Barrett or Phillip Melka as winemaker.
4. Claim extraordinary characteristics for your soils.
5. Plant vines so close together that they “struggle.”
6. Harvest only perfect grapes and sort twice to make sure.
7. Harvest as late as your nerves will allow.
8. Ferment your wine in micro lots.
9. Sell less than 1,000 cases of wine per vintage.
10. Charge more than $100 a bottle for the first vintage.
11. Offer the wines for sale only through mailing lists and at ritzy restaurants.
12. Pretend you’ve never marketed your wine.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

There were 4 barrels

...and now there are 99 cases...
We've done quite a few bottlings in our time, but pulling out our finest four barrels for our first release felt like escorting our child out of our home for the first time heading to college. We put the final blend together about 3 months ago and back to barrel with 2 of the 4 barrels our new french Damy oak barrels as Craig, our winemaker recommended. We trusted the bottling to Harry, the owner of Mobile Wine Lines. He's bottled for me beginning back in 1999, but this was all the more special...100 cases of our greatest effort (actually 99 cases). Now Jon & I will handle each bottle one more time to put the label, cap and neck ring on each by hand. Yeah, we really do love this!
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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Knowing the Vineyard

Gary Patterson knows every vine and every row of his vineyards as well as our winemaker, Craig Becker knows every drop of wine he's ever made. The first frost hit Lodi and other outlying areas so we were worried about the vineyards we're pulling from. Jon visited Ron Silva's Mourvedre vineyard in the northern appellation, and both Markus Bokisch in Clements Hills' Belle Coline vineyard and Al Bechthold's Cinsault vineyard to the west were spared.
Jon and I like walking the vineyards together, discussing anything & everything about our wines. This is one of those times at the Belle Coline vineyard in Clements Hills. We agree with our winemaker that the Petite Sirah from this hilltop location is an integral component for the Panthos blends. We're getting to know both the sunrises and sunsets pretty well from this hill.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Bottling Preparations

Bottling is nothing new to Jon & I since we've been doing this for years before at my prior winery, and in much larger quantities. This is different, though. The first release of any new wine is always filled with anticipation, but to Jon & I, this is not any wine. From the moment Panthos was conceptually born in our minds over two years ago, we've settled for nothing less than perfection, beggining with the growers to our winemaker, even down to the glass designed to hold our wines. Jon has worked especially close with 6-West Designs on our package design bringing our purpose into focus for everyone lucky enough to try this wine. And in three short weeks, it will be bottled and waiting for the final be uncorked.
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Saturday, May 3, 2008

2005 McPrice Myers Santa Barbara County L’Ange Rouge Grenache

Our favorite California Grenache so far! Deep garnet color; fig, plum, Concord grape juice, cherry, bacon and Eucalyptus aromas with a slight white pepper burn; full bodied and changing from Marionberry syrup from Murphys and strawberry to steely pencil lead tannins, slice of blood orange and bacon, finishing with licorice, cinnamon oil and cherry pie, almost like spicy Big Red Gum on the finish. All this comes into nice balance with fruit holding up to the 15.4% alcohol. This is very complex and changing, unfolding like a movie. Drink it slowly over a couple of hours to see its rapid development. The fruit and spiciness reminds us of a nice 1997 Justin Isosceles. $30; 5 out of 5 stars!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pocket Notes

Some weeks are busier than others, and we wouldn't have it any other way. We spent time with friends in the industry tasting our '06 and '7 wines, topping our barrels after taking laboratory samples, and penciling in my notebook that I keep in my back pocket a drawing of Al's Cinsault vineyard. I didn't want to forget where sections of his ancient vineyard look better than others. Counting the individual vines on this 25 acre lot helped Jon & I determine not only where, but how many vines will be needed for the '08 Panthos harvest. As you can see on the rough drawing, we've marked the spot!
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Saturday, April 26, 2008

2005 Mas de Boislauzon Châteauneuf du Pape

Raisin, oak and date aromas; medium bodied with pencil lead, plum, mineral, steely tannins and a finish of sweet gerkins. A little lacking on the mid-palate, but very pleasing. $30; 3 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cinsault in Spring

The Lodi/Woodbridge Irrigation District just began releasing the water today from the chilly snow melt running down the Mokelumne River. It passes through a concrete canal adjacent to the Cinsault vineyard, but as in past years, this vineyard won't see any of this water.

The soil that's been nurturing these vines for over 119 years (that's right, they were planted in 1889!) is a sandy loam, more common on the south-western section of the Lodi Appellation. This field was dry-farmed in the 1880's and is still dry-farmed today.

A first peek at our 2008 crop. With tight bunches, it tends to rot easily so it does best in drier climates. While Cinsault was officially sanctioned in Chateauneuf du Pape, it has since made a great home with us in Lodi.

Of the 25 acres farmed by Al Bechthold, we were able to stake a section within the northwest corner of the block recommended by Al for its most consistent and intensive characteristics. This field has yielded between 2 to 2 & one-half tons per acre historically. Since Al's backyard sits on this vineyard, he's always keeping a good eye on it for us.
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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Shoot Thinning

The best time for shoot thinning is in the spring when shoots are young. Early shoot thinning's affects are dependant on the varital and its microclimate. This is one of the times Jon & I rely on the generations of experience our growers draw from to yield the best fruit for our wines.

These water shoots are developed from buds at the base of a spur or old wood. They're rarely fruitful and account for 50% of the shoots produced. You can see Manuel's hands work the vines carefully as he's done for over 30 years.

More of these young shoots are left on the ground than remain on the vines. Because of our growers' hard work and care, the vines we pull our fruit from will have fewer cluster numbers, changing the fruit composition and reducing vine vigor. Everything matters, and what our growers do each and every day is as important as any other part of the winemaking process. Today was one of those days.
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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Topping with Style

Jon and I always look forward to topping especially now that we have the two vintages to compare in barrel. I have to admit, the toys are fun too, like these hat light clips. When we walk to the barrel room, we get more than a few odd looks. We're ever so careful while topping every 3 weeks to maintain the perfect level in each barrel. Though we may appear to be Lodi cave dwellers (in Lodi?), these lights eliminate any guess work. We have alot of faith in what we're doing, but in this case, seeing is believing!
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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bud Break Arrives

This morning I decided to take a walk through the Belle Colline vineyard to see how the different varietals were timing this year's bud break. This is the Syrah 470 clone from the lower block, the same block that's in our first release and already made it into our second release.

On the upper block near the top of the hill of Belle Colline is the Petite Sirah vineyard. The buds are smaller than the Syrah 470 - thumb-nail size and smaller.

About 12 miles west of the rolling hills of Belle Colline on the valley floor is Larry Mettler's Petite Sirah vineyard. We plan on working with Larry's Petite Syrah in this 2008 harvest to see if it can be a part of the Panthos program. The difference in this vineyards' earlier bud break is obvious to the eye.
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