Enjoying a Glass of Wine.

A couple of weeks ago I had a few visitors in from Florida who wanted to barrel taste our 2005 wines. Things where a little crazy at Crushpad and I ended up setting up a little serving area out on the loading dock, on top of a one ton bin. We tasted through each wine and each barrel treatment and did a blend of barrels to get a final assesment.

Stefania couldn’t join me so she asked if I could bring a little wine home for her to try. I ended up with about 1/4 bottle of both the Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah and the Uvas Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon left over.

We sampled a small glass of each when she got home from work, and then put the bottles aside to make dinner. Later that night I poured a glass of each as we went to bed and took them into the bedroom to enjoy as we watched the late hockey game.

It was the first time I’ve actually gotten to drink our wine. Every other occasion has been a ‘tasting’ either a rather stressful technical assesment at the winery, or walking visitors through the wines. In that atmosphere I’m more concerned about what is going on technically with the wine and make choices on what to do. It’s been an intellectual exercise, not a pleasurable one.

So sitting in bed that night I was really amazed. The wines are damn good. I couldn’t get enough of the Cabernet. It was savory, and well balanced with a great texture and nice Cab fruit. I kept going back to it until the glass was drained.

It was a totally different experience. Just getting out of the cramped noisy conditions at Crushpad and having the time to really savor the wine and enjoy it was fantastic. Both just tasted damn good.

Lots and lots of pictures

Finally had a chance to get through all the seasons pictures. It’s been so busy, but I got them organized finally. There are too many to share here, or on the website at http://localhost/wordpress/, so I’ve used bubbleshare.

Pressing “Haut Tubee”


Harvest Party!!!!


Moving Barrels


Chanine D’ Or Cabernet Sauvignon Harvest


Uvas Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Harvest


Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah Harvest


Pictures are on the Way.

We really did take a lot of harvest pictures this year. Maybe too many in fact.

Instead of posting them all here or at www.stefaniawine.com I’m going to put a bubbleshare page together and provide a link. That should be done by tomorrow night.

I’ll be back blogging every 2-3 days as well. We took a few days off this weekend to recover and relax but I’ll be back at it now.

Finishing up in the Fields

Saturday we had a rough day at Chaine D’Or. There were supposed to be 10 pickers, and only four showed up, then two left early to go install a lawn! That left us with just two people to pick. Stefania and her friend Kathy came up and helped finish the last rows and Jerry and slowed crushing down enough to get out and help pick also.

It lead to a very tiring day, probably the most tired I’ve been yet making wine.

We had a nice birthday dinner with friends Saturday night at Alexander’s in Cupertino and enjoyed a few great wines: 1998 Grand Mayne, 1999 Leoville Barton, 1997 Caymus Special Selection and the highlight a 1996 Latour.

Daylight savings on Sunday was a nice break, and extra hour of sleep before heading out to harvest Zinfandel and remove the last of the brid netting. We had had to leave the netting on the Merlot the week before to get to the winery in time, so we took that off as well.

We took the Zin up to Chaine D’Or to make there and cleaned up the equipment from a busy weekend.

Kathy, Millie, Yukari and Bill all came over on Sunday afternoon to watch the Sharks play, and Stef made a traditional dish from Chile. We had a few more nice bottles, a 98 CdP, a VGRoth Cab from the 80’s and some Syrah’s I pulled out before finishing the evening with a little scotch and some noice cigars. Sounds like a late night, but I was asleep by 7:45!

Update on the New Wines

2006 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah – Mendocino County

Went into barrel today. Really good dark color and showing a good nose. I used two different yeasts this year, both that bring out more floral smells, and it looks like it took in bin. It looks like we’ll be about 14% alcohol with good sound acidity again like 2005. I filled 5 full barrels, one new French Oak, two two+ year old French Oak, one once filled American Oak, and one twice filled American Oak. That should work out to about the equal of 25% new oak that worked so well in the 2005. We also have 32 gallons of toping wine or about 1/2 barrel. That should be about 130 cases of finished wine.

2006 Uvas Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – Santa Clara County.

This looks like a rock star so far. I changed up yeasts here too and went for a more open nose. It went into bin at 24.5 BRIX and 3.65 PH. That’s exactly perfect for me and should end up about 13.5% alcohol. The color is very dark this year. I didn’t do a cold soak this year, I thought that lead to color issues last year. It has an amazing fruit nose right now for a wine half way through fermentation. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, this may be the best wine we’ve made so far. I think we’ll be at 5 full barrels and I’m planning on two new French Oak, 1 one year old American Oak, and 2 two year old American Oak. Pretty heavy Oak, but I think this wine will handle it this year.

2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon (with 5% Merlot)

Typical for the Santa Cruz Mountains this year this came in with sound BRIX (25.1) but low acidity (PH 4.0). We’re having to correct the acidity as it ferments, that’s just to low for what we are after. It’s got a SCM nose right now, a mix of fruit and minty flavors. The challenge now is to get the acidty fixed and lock in the color. It was slow to start, almost 24 hours more than the Uvas Creek to start fermenting. We’ll watch this like a hawk. It’s got all the stuff to make a great wine, but we’ll have to stay on top of it. The Eaglepoint and Uvas Creek are making themselves, but this one will require sound winemaking. This will get about 1/3 new wood I think.

We still have Zinfandel to go. I’m hoping we get enough fruit for a full barrel, and will pick that Sunday and make it at Chaine D’ Or.

Adventures in Truck Driving

I really hoped to have more updates as we harvested, but the reality of 12-15 hour days set in quickly. I fell asleep at a friends house Saturday night watching the Sharks game with a glass of Port in my hand.

In all I think we put 700 miles on rental trucks and probably another 500 on our own cars these past two weeks. As I was driving over Highway 17 Friday, I started to think about Stefania’s late father, Lt. Cl. Fred Von Gortler. He was a career Army officer, and I thought about something they teach at the War College. The saying is “Amateurs talk about strategy and tactics, professionals talk about logistics.”

Last year I said the key thing I learned for the season was how important leadership and a chain of command is in a winery. This year my leason was: “It’s all about logistics.”

Basically you make your wine making plans well in advance. I keep my options open though, and make choices based on the fruit as it comes in and we start to work with it. It all comes down to logistics though. You have to have everything in place, and move everything around effectively to make your choices happen. If the fruit is low in BRIX, you need to have the lower BRIX yeast at the winery already. You think the fruit needs destemming after tasting the stems, you better have the destemmer clear. You want the best fruit in the state, you better know how to drive a truck.

These harvest weeks really come down to how effectively you can manage the logistics of moving fruit around. I think that was really clear to me on Saturday as I worked with Bill and Ted at Uvas Creek to load the truck, and a couple of homewinemakers stood by. They wanted to talk about what yeast I would use, if I’d cold soak, what kind of barrels I had, and all the little details. I didn’t have time to shoot the breeze, all those options where already planned for, I just needed to move the fruit and make it happen, I had to get on the scales by noon.

Amateurs talk yeast and cold soaks , professionals talk trucks and bins. That’s the key thing I learned this year.

A Busy Harvest Weekend

Just a fast note on where we are at:

Friday –
7:30 AM pick up a 15 foot truck
9:00 AM arrive at Martin Ranch to pick our 1 1/2 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon
Noon: arrive at the scales for an official weigh in of the truck
12:30 PM drop of the grapes at Hallcrest in Felton
1:00 PM return to the scales for an empty weight
1:30 PM back to Hallcrest to crush the Cabernet
2:30 PM add yeast and start the fermentation
3:00 PM Wash out the bins
3:30 PM load the truck and drive back to Uvas Creek
5:30 PM arrive at Uvas Creek and drop of the bins
7:00 PM arrive home – a twelve hour day


Up at 4:00 AM
4:30 AM load up the FLPB (mine are Purple not Yellow) and drive to Portola Valley
5:30 AM begin removing bird netting
6:30 AM start picking and loading Merlot at Elandrich in Portola Valley
8:00 AM finish pick and drive to Uvas Creek
9:30 AM load up our two tons of Uvas Creek Cabernet Sauvignon
11:30AM arrive at the scales for an official weigh in of the truck
12:00 PM drop of the grapes at Hallcrest in Felton
12:30 PM return to the scales for an empty weight
1:00 PM back to Hallcrest to crush the Cabernet and Merlot
2:30 PM add yeast and start the fermentation
3:00 PM Wash out the bins
3:30 PM press the Eaglepoint Syrah and get it into the settlement bins
6:00 PM head home
7:00 PM arrive home- fifteen hour day

Wish us luck!

A Great Post Party Note

Right in the middle of harvest season, we like to take a little break, and invite all our friends over to celebrate harvest. We make some harvest season treats, and I put some grapes in the backyard for everyone to stomp, and we open 30 or 40 bottles of wine.

This year we had a full house at 40 people. Just about the maximum we figure we can fit. This morning Stefania got a thank you note from one of her friends and co-workers:

“I just wanted to say thank you for the invite…we had a preconceived notion that since we were not ‘Wine People’ we would feel uncomfortable and to put it harshly shunned by the other so called ‘Wine People’…. What we found out the moment we walked through the door was SO the opposite of what our stupid inclinations were (I don’t even know what ‘Wine People’ are anymore). You and Paul are the most gracious hosts and everyone made us feel so welcomed. I can’t even remember the last time I went to a party where I knew virtually no one and felt so comfortable, where people you do not even know come up to you and say ‘Hi I am such and such’ and just start talking to you as if you mattered, not caring that we knew nothing about wine and very willing to share their knowledge or experience. “

That was the best note. One goal we have is to make wine easy and enjoyable for people. We want to put aside all the anxiety and let people just enjoy a bottle with new friends or connect with old friends. “Good wine, good food, good parties and great friends!” as Stefania says. Friends are the key that makes the party, the food, or the wine truly great.

We’re headed out tomorrow to drop off bins and get back to winemaking!

Update on Eaglepoint Ranch and some notes on the 05’s.

Well we made it back!

What an adventure in truck driving. 5+ hours up to Mendocino County, with the last 5 miles (including 1.5 miles of dirt) on a step mountain road. We picked on the morning of 10/11 before the Sun came up. Four full bins of fantastic Syrah. We had planned on just 3 bins, but I took the fourth just in case Casey at Eaglepoint would let us take more and he did.

The picking crew was excellent and they left any problem grapes on the vine. We loaded back up and drove back to Felton. 6+ hours through 7 counties, across the Golden Gate, through San Francisco, all the way to Santa Cruz to get on a public scale. The grapes went into the crusher with just a minor issue (the forklift got stuck in the field and had to be pulled out). Fantastic fruit, even the crew at the crusher said it looked great.

We 100% destemmed but did not crush the berries, and it went into 3 one ton bins to ferment. I’m using two different yeast this year to see what might work best on this fruit.

The 100% destemming was a hot topic at dinner Tuesday night with Casey and Larry Roberts, a winemaker from Paso Robles. Almost everyone making Eaglepoint Syrah follows Sean Thackery who uses 100% stems, or Wells Guthrie (Copain) who uses 60% stems. I guess I’ll just stand out. I love the pure fruit and floral nose our wine developed in 05 without stems, so We’ll be the mavericks who will go total destem with Eaglepoint. I think the fruit has good enough tannin and complexity on its own.

We finally got home at 9:45 PM on the 11th, and returned the truck yesterday. Today I’m off to Bonny Doon and Elandrich to check on the grapes, then Uvas Creek to drop off a Bin for 1000 pounds of Cabernet we’re getting tomorrow.

And oh yeah some tasting notes have been put up on our 2005’s:



Getting Ready to Go

After we’re done lounging with some coffee this morning, we’ll be off to clean our bins and get them ready for harvest tomorrow. Then we swing by the truck rental place and pick up a 14 foot box truck to drive to Mendocino. We should get to Eaglepoint Ranch about 5 PM today.

We’ll unload the bins and settle down for a little wine and food with the folks at Eaglepoint and then get to bed early. We’re staying at the Ranch tonight. We’ll get up before dawn tomorrow as harvest starts. Once our bins are full, we load back into the truck and take the 5+ hour drive back to Felton and Hallcrest.

We should arrive about noon. We’ll crush right away and the must will go into T-bins to start turning into wine. The process should go fast and we’re hoping that by 6 or 7 PM we will be able to call it a day.

Stefania will take lots of pictures and we’ll post them here and to our website as soon as possible.