I know everyone is waiting for part four of the news but we did have some actual winemaking to do this week. I’ll have Part 4 up soon I promise.
Harvest 2014 started like it does every year for us with getting the picking bins out of storage and cleaned up after a year of sitting outside. We do cover them but dirt creeps in. Millie is driving the tractor in the picture below with two of our bins on the back. I had the pressure washer set up and clean them as they got to the crush pad. Stefania helped out with a disinfecting scrub and I blasted away all the dirt.
While we were on site Stefania also set up the testing lab for the season. We’ll test pH, TA and Brix on all our vineyards over the next couple of months. Those are Chardonnay samples being tested. The testing is pretty redundant for us 10 years in. I walked through the vineyard before the samples were picked and said: “2 maybe three full weeks until these are ready.” Stefania walked down one row and picked about a dozen berries and said: “These are at 19.5 Brix”. The testing results were Brix 19.6 and pH 3.1 which means we are 2-3 weeks out.
With all that done we loaded up the FJ Cruiser with 3 bins to take down to the vineyard for picking the next morning. It’s a pain to have to deal with the u-haul office on the first weekend of the month but it had to be done. When we get into our new place I’ll have room to store a trailer and our rental days should be behind us.
The first grapes of the year came in on Labor Day. We got 3000 pounds of Viognier from Leal Vineyards in San Benito County. The grapes looked great and we were able to confirm with the assistant winemaker at Leal that we should be able to get Viognier from them every year.
It was a pretty easy drive to our new facility, although we did hit some holiday traffic. Here’s a little bit of a sneak preview of Part 4. It’s the Viognier being loaded into the press at our new facility. The crew there was fantastic and even with hanging around and chatting for a little we were in and out in less than an hour. Stefania was SOOOOOOOO happy to not have to clean a press or a tank and have the crew there to do those tasks. The wine is doing well. We’ll raise it half in neutral French oak and half in stainless steel. It will be bottled early and should be available to our mailing list next Spring.
The new place. Nope we’re not moving to New Orleans, that was the first guess of a few people. We found this nice ranch house just outside of Gilroy right on the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail.
The ‘fast ball down the middle’ was being offered a property where we currently manage the vineyard. We hadn’t thought about moving, or the South Valley as a location, and we had no idea if we could come close to affording it. We dove right in though and started doing our research and putting together our list of things we needed and wanted in a house. That first vineyard house didn’t work out but we decided after viewing a dozen or so properties to make it happen somewhere.
Stefania actually found it on line and it was in contract but we asked our agent if we could go see it because it looked like it was a benchmark for what we were after. We loved it but houses in contract in Santa Clara County NEVER go to the back up offer so we didn’t get our hopes up. A few weeks later though we got another fastball when the contract fell through. The owners really wanted their next offer to come from ‘country people’ and not ‘city people’ who would understand all the complications of wells, wildlife, propane and country living. Our agent told them “Are you kidding they are farmers and own a winery”.
I’ll put the address in our Fall offer letter for people on our mailing list, but here are some of the highlights:
The hillside, were we will plant the new Haut Tubee vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre. We have just over 2 acres total and will plant about one.
The new back patio where friends and visitors can finish off those bottles of wine and dip into the scotch and cigar collection. If you look closely you’ll see there’s a breezeway. On the left is the main house, on the right is the wine cellar and guest suite. The guest suite has a separate entrance and a full bath, bedroom and kitchen (as soon as we install the appliances). We finally have a place for our out of town visitors. The original owners did canning and built a full cool room that we’ll convert into a temperature controlled wine cellar.
The new kitchen. This should make it much easier to pull together those dinners for 10-20 we seem to have all the time.
My plan is to get in the pool on the first day. I’m going to wear my suit under my moving clothes 🙂
This second garage was used to sell fruits and vegetables grown on the property for many years. I’m going to revive that garden as soon as I can. This building though will become our new tasting room. There’s enough room to park 20-30 cars at a time and have an office as well as tasting room. It’s just a shell right now so we have to clean it up and put some walls in place. Depending on how harvest goes and the permitting process we may try to open as soon as Nov 1 but early next year is more likely.
We are very excited and can’t wait to have our first visitors. Our move date is Friday Sept. 5th.
Over the past 10 years making wine the very best times have all been at our home and in our backyard. We’ve loved having friends and visitors come visit our little Haut Tubee Vineyard and see the actual hot tub it’s named after. As many of you know our home is in the same neighborhood I grew up in. My elementary school is just a block away and my Mom lives just two blocks from us. The artwork on our label is the view from that neighborhood of the Santa Cruz Mountains, a view I’ve had most of my life.
Stefania and I love our home in San Jose and we’d never thought of moving. We thought we’d live here the rest of our life. People like to say sometimes life throws you curveballs. I like to think sometimes life gives you fastballs right down the middle of the plate. You’ve got to swing at those and swing for the fences.
In June we got one of those fastballs down the middle. Something we were not expecting at all and had not really thought of. It spurred us to action though and we put our Haut Tubee home up for sale. You can see the real estate tour at 564canton.com We got three good offers and went with the best one after a little back and forth. Our last day on Canton should be September 9th if all goes well.
We are converting the wine cellar back to a bedroom right now and removing the front vineyard. There are a few other minor repairs to make and then we will be on our way too…..Part 3 coming up soon!
Well the first picture is not 100% Primal it’s a corn finished steak from Joe’s in San Jose, but it was still damn good. It’s weird to go to Joe’s and not have bread and ravioli but I really didn’t miss it too much when I dove into this steak. I put my finger in the picture to give some scale to this monster. We’ve been eating out a bit more than normal lately, look for big news #2 and #3 for why. There was a Manhattan that went with this also that I didn’t get a picture of. Ok, two Manhattan’s since cocktails are best in even not odd numbers.
Stefania does a lot of quick summer salads like the one below for us. Fresh tomato with feta cheese and avocado over some lettuce. There are some olives in there too and she tops it with olive oil and a little vinegar.
Another salad. Spinach with bacon and red bell peppers.
This is grass fed 100% primal beef below. We pick it up from Moon Meadow Ranch. They come to the farmers market every Sunday near our house. Grass fed is one of the things you’re supposed to do for Primal. This really is great beef and worth the extra money to me.
One last picture. It’s not food but the internet can always use more kitten pictures. Bressie and Drew are growing like crazy and doing well.
Stefania and I have a lot of big news to share with everyone about changes we’re making this year and for the future of Stefania Wine. I’ve decided to break the news into four parts. I’m not trying to build suspense but there are so many moving parts that I don’t want to post anything until it’s completely confirmed and locked down.
So, part one of the news. We will be leaving the winery at Chaine d’Or this year. This will be our last year taking care of the vineyard and we will wrap up operations there before Christmas this year. We’re moving our winemaking operations into a facility that will be closer to us. All our 2014 fruit will be processed there and I’ll be moving the existing 2013 wine we have in barrel to that facility over the next few weeks. We’re very excited about the move.
I can’t say where exactly we’re moving yet, that will be part 4 of the big news. We need to get all the government and contractual clearances wrapped up before I do that. I can say that we will be operating in the facility with our own bond and sharing the space with an existing winery and winemaker that we know very well and have worked with for years. We will be able to use the larger crew there to help with a lot of the harder and time consuming work (cleaning equipment, topping barrels, things like that). It should actually make life much easier for Stefania and I and free up a significant amount of time for us.
We enjoyed our time at Chaine d’Or a great deal and we will miss the winery. We moved in in 2007 and it was a huge break for us. We’re grateful for our time there and everything we learned over the years. I know many of you have had enjoyable trips to the winery and we will miss those times up on the mountain. It wasn’t an easy decision but I’m sure as I post the rest of our news for 2014 you’ll be as excited about the changes as we are.
We’re still on track with our ‘Primal’ eating. We’ve added organic corn tortillas back in for extra carbs from time to time and besides there’s really no way to have a taco without them. We end up having tacos a lot now. I cook up a couple shells in coconut oil and we fill them with lots of fresh veggies and pork, bison beef, or fish. The tacos on the left though were from a party at our Crew Chief Jerry’s house this past Saturday. There was lots of food and wine and beer plus dancing. We opened a bunch of the wines we had just bottled and the 2012 Mourvedre and 2012 Nueva Casa de los Padres where both really excellent.
We have a few neighbors who have gardens on our block and there’s an informal food exchange we all do. Our house is a popular drop off point for extras because we give back out bottles of wine. Below are some fresh tomatoes and cucumbers I sliced and drizzled with olive oil.
This is a pretty typical Primal dinner. Lots of protein with organic free range chicken and wild salmon. I herbed both up and grilled them together. There are steamed organic carrots and blackened brussels sprouts cooked in butter. I steam the sprouts then finish them in a cast iron pan with butter.
I’ll try to keep posting regularly. We’ll have some big news to share soon. Good news and lots of it!
We work in a small space, really small. Every move inside the winery has to be planned out and I can only have a few barrels in process at any time. It takes a lot of planning to pull things off especially during bottling. One big problem is what to do with single barrels of a wine. Normally barrels move around two at a time. We have three single barrel racks and that’s the first option.
The second option is to have one full barrel and one empty on the same rack. In our space though there’s usually only enough room to pick up a rack from one direction, so even though you can pick up a rack from either direction, in our space we end up with a front and back of the rack. In that situation the full barrel has to be in the front or the rack will tip over when picked up. I work hard and try to plan things well so that the full barrel is always on the front.
Sometimes though we end up with a full barrel on the back of a rack. When that happens there’s only one option. Someone has to go cowboy on the barrel. We ended up with a few of those situations this past bottling and Stefania had to jump on the empty barrel to give enough counter weight to lift the rack. I snapped this picture that I thought was funny given the ‘No Riding’ warning on Big Joe.
We’ve been busy bottling this past weekend and I’m behind on the last set of Utah pictures. Bottling went well and I’ll have a few updates in the next week or so. All of our 2012’s are now in bottle and resting safely. Everyone commented how good I’ve gotten with the forklift and I did finally fell like I knew what I was doing.
We finished up our Utah trip in Moab as a good base for Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. We did a bunch of short 1-2 mile hikes at Island in the Sky in Canyon lands and one long hike at Devil’s Garden in Arches. The day in Arches was our only day when it got really hot but we started early enough to avoid the worst heat.
Below is one of the ‘fins’ we hiked across at Devil’s garden. This particular one ended up in an 8 foot jump down.
There was lots of scrambling over rocks and following very rough trail markers to stay on path as we wound around from arch to arch.
The arch below was at the end of the very crowded paved one mile trail from the parking lot. To continue on though you had to climb up about 70 feet of rock at a 45 degree angle. I called it the separator and traffic on the trail dropped 95%+ after that point.
The views in Canyonlands were fantastic and I used the wide angle on the phone camera a lot to get panoramas.
We spent two nights in Moab and the second night we spotted a sitting area above the drive port at the hotel with a couple people drinking beer. Finding somewhere to drink in Utah is always a challenge. We told them we were crashing their party and went back to our room for my mobile cocktail case and a couple of bottles of wine. It turned out that they were a group of neuroscientist working on an article for the National Geographic. Hopefully there will be a mention of us in the article that comes out next year 🙂 We ended up having dinner with the group of 6 scientist and artist friend they were hiking with and the reporter for the Nation Geographic. We picked a good group to crash a party with.
I learned a lot about how the brain works over the few hours we hung out. Did you know there is something called ‘Cultural Stimulation Threshold”? Basically if you come from a place with a lot of noise and find yourself in somewhere quiet you create enough noise to feel comfortable. I also learned you should get outside at least once a week and do something different from routine to keep your brain working at its best.
The desert was in bloom for our visit and I took lots of flower pictures. This was a favorite.
We stopped in Ogden and then Reno on the way home. The final trip picture:
We arrived at Bryce in the mid morning. It was cold with temperatures never getting above 40. We stayed at the lodge on a last minute reservation and enjoyed it a great deal. The restaurant at the lodge was nice and kept us on our Primal plan. We took a few pictures at the rim and then went on a hike down into the canyon. The rim of the canyon was very crowded and noisy with tour buses and the crowds stayed on the trail about 200 feet down in the canyon when it finally thinned out and calmed down. The hike seemed easy after Angel’s Landing the day before with a lot less climbing.
I think we did about 6 miles in 2 and a half hours. We took our time climbing out.
It was a beautiful day and it was nice to hike in the cold. The trail was wide and easy to follow as well. We took a ton of pictures.
This is a a formation on the trail out of the canyon that gives a good idea of the trail and some of the sites along the way.
We woke up before dawn the next day to try and get some sunrise pictures. We had been a little late from dinner the night before to get really good sunset pictures. We packed up and hit the road again. Our plan was to drive and stop and hike along the way with the thought we might get to Moab, or we might stop at Capitol Reef.
Our first detour was in the Escalante monument to the Grosvenor Arch. It was about 15 miles of dirt road to get there and we beat any other people out there other than someone who had camped at the arch.
A couple of people had recommended the Lower Calf Creek Falls after we mentioned that we might hike there. We had a little trouble finding it off the road but once we did we set off on what turned out to be a six mile hike. My expectations on the falls were actually pretty low. I figured a desert stream in the late spring would be a little trickle of water. It was actually very impressive with a good volume of water and over a 100 foot drop. It was definitely a worthwhile diversion.
The hike put us in a bit of a scheduling difficulty. We wouldn’t really have any time to hike in Capitol Reef or go off road there so we decided to just drive through to Moab. It was a long drive but we arrived in time to find a hotel and get some dinner.
We left San Jose on a Thursday afternoon and spent the night between San Jose and Las Vegas. Our first goal was St George Utah to spend the weekend with family there. We loaded up the FJ Cruiser and packed in all our Primal food. We were a little worried about finding non grain food in Southern Utah but it turned out to be pretty easy, especially inside the Parks.
Our first stop was the Valley of Fire out side of Las Vegas. I really enjoyed it and we hiked for about 4 hours total. We got lost once and had to use the GPS on Map My Walk to get us back to the car. I really recommend this if the weather is right, especially if you’re like me and don’t really enjoy Vegas very much.
There were all kinds of great rock formations and tons of rock art in the park. We were late for cocktail hour in St. George or I could have done 2 more hikes there easy!
After a great weekend with family we headed into Zion on Monday. That’s Angel Landing below and we climbed that thing. My day job actually called about 1/2 way up and wanted to know if I could get on a conference call.
A view of the trail and valley about 1/2 way up.
A good part of the hike includes climbing along chains. My knuckles were banged up for a couple of weeks.
We also hike up the Narrow a bit and did the complete bus tour of the valley. We spent the night just outside of the park and the next morning headed out towards Bryce Canyon with a stop to take a picture of Checkerboard Mesa along the way.
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