Settling In

No we haven’t totally dropped of the grid, so it’s time for a quick catch up.  We did get moved in to our new place in September and finished our move out of Chaine d’Or and in to our new place in Salinas in December.  All our production was at the new facility last harvest and we have a bunch of new wines and some old favorites we’re working on from 2014.  We’re very happy with the new facility and it was much easier on us with the additional help to handle set up and clean up.  The drive was also much shorter and easier and we put far less miles on the FJ this Fall.

We’ve been very busy of course with all the moving and settling in to our new home.  The building that will become the tasting room is all cleaned up and ready to go, we’re just waiting on the government now for permits.

I thought the best way to run through an update was with some pictures:

First the little kittens are growing like crazy and loving their new home.












We got the bar set up in the new house right away:












We’re still eating Primal:












And we did go to New Orleans on our annual trip:










Spending way too much time in the care of Fay at Coops:










When we got home there were never ending chores and clean up to do.  We hauled away 8 truck loads of yard debris, cut down treees, repaired things and just general new home stuff like stacking a cord of wood:










We had frequent  wildlife visitors with the turkey’s being the most common:










And they like the backyard too:










Stefania hasn’t shot anything yet but she’s ready just in case:












We put a new cellar in and we’re trying to decide what to plant which means lots of research:












Which means more Primal food lick smoked duck legs:

primal duck









With the New Year I’ve started a garden:










And have more seedlings ready to go in:










All this is enough to tucker out a kitty and keep us from writing regularly.  We may be on a monthly summary now, at least until we get the tasting room going.




Utah Pictures Set Two – Bryce to Moab

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.

Utah Pictures – Set One Valley of Fire to Zion

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.


Vacation Pictures

We’re almost ready to get back to work. Harvest and barrel work ended the earliest ever for us in 2013 and we really enjoyed the extra time off.  In 2011 we finished all the harvest and winemaking related work on December 18th.  In 2013 we finished on October 26th.  That two months really made a difference in feeling rested and having some time away from the vines and winery.

I had two weeks off from the day job over the holidays so we decided to go to the Oregon coast.  We first went in 2007 to visit with Pinot producers who were making Pinot Noir we liked.  On our way home we found the little town of Newport and ended up going back there the next year.  We did the drive from San Jose in one shot, all 670 miles in a single day.  We left at just after 6AM and the weather was clear except for fog in central Oregon.

This was the view from our room.  We got a small place with a kitchen so we could cook and relax.


The town has a beautiful bridge that was built in the 1930’s in an art deco style.  Of all the bridges along the coast this is my favorite.  There’s a small bay with an active fishing fleet and some processing plants and a small assortment of shops and restaurants.  Because the town is small and 2+ hours from Portland it’s managed to stay fairly un touristy for a seaside town.  The big business in town is fishing and then the NOAA boats that are home ported there that you can see in this photo.



The bay has an oyster farm, they were fantastic and up river a bit a lumber mill.  The other big business in town is the Rogue Brewery and we spent a fair amount of time there.  Ok we went every day.  It was about a 3 mile round trip from our place to the Rogue public house so it seemed that going to get a beer was a perfect excuse for a walk.



We came back on the 2nd in one day also.  The weather was clear the entire time back except for morning fog along the coastal mountains.  There was almost no snow on Mt Shasta or Mount Lassen that we passed on our return.  We’ve had a very dry winter.  I went back to the day job on the 6th.  Our office location moved and to avoid a 90 minute commute I changed my schedule to come in at 6:15.  I get good sunrises, but the parking garage is just not the same as the boats!




We’ll be back at work Saturday pruning the Crimson Clover vineyard. We rally enjoyed the time off!


The Picasso image was taken at the Art Institute.  It’s from the “Original Etchings for the Texts of Buffon” display, and dated 1936.  I liked that he captured the grapevine, leaves, clusters, and tendrils so completely.  I also snapped a couple more photos from that particular grouping and a handful of other very colorful paintings of his.  I’m not sure yet how I feel about the folks with iPads snapping photos of all these famous works…I think it’s great we can share art across many mediums, and although it wasn’t really intrusive, I wanted it to be rude and it wasn’t.

Thank you Windy City for blowing my hair all crazy on our walk over to the Art Institute.

That’s Mrs. Oleary’s cow, they blame the cow for knocking over the oil lamp that burned the city down (that’s my quick summary about the cow). It’s actually a horrible story, a lot of people were killed, and miles of the city were destroyed.









Random photo of a perfect ice ball in an Old Fashioned.  I have become obsessed with the perfect ice ball…









Another Picasso etching, I’m a Capricorn and have a thing for goats and goat art…











Paul took me to a Cubs game.  It was cold.  We drank beer and ate hot dogs.  It snowed.  The Giants won.  I’d like to publicly thank our friend Allison for suggesting we take blankets, they saved our frozen butts.  Did I mention it snowed?  At noon, at a baseball game, in late April.  Snow.








We met friends at Caro Mio in Chicago, a lot of friends actually.  I’m not sure I could begin to describe the scene, but for 20 people, there were easily twice that many bottles of wine that we opened.  The food was family style Italian and perfect for the event.  Good Food, Good Friends, Great Wine!

We did get to showcase our latest release and some of our previous vintages for newcomers to try.  Only a handful of new faces this time, we are becoming regulars to Chicago and getting to be very close friends with more folks, this winemaking gig has been a lot of fun, I won’t lie.


Seattle Trip

For New Years we took a 6 day trip to Seattle.  It was a perfect break before pruning started and we were back at work in the vineyards.  It seems like every time we’ve been to Seattle we had fantastic weather.  This was the skyline one day we went out walking.  You can just make out Mount Rainier.  The plan was to get a condo in Belltown and shop the markets every day for dinner.  We also hit the international market and some art galleries.

We planned on walking almost everywhere.  Seattle is a nice town to walk in and even though there are a few hills to climb you can walk to most everything in 30 minutes or less.









It was still chilly but we bundled up and spent a lot of time walking the town









Everyday included a trip to the market to shop for fresh ingredients for the nights dinner.  In all we ate out for dinner once.  Most days we had lunch out and dinner in.  We really loved getting something fresh from the market everyday.









This was the view down 1st street in Belltown from the condo we rented.  The market was about a 15 minute walk.









And this was the view out the front windows of the Olympic Mountains and Elliot Bay.  There were a few nice spots just on the block we stayed including Belltown Pizza where we watched the Seahawks game and Rob Roy where we had some great cocktail.









Some of the food actually had to come home with us.  This is a veal chop and Fois Gras we packed and had when we got home.

Tahoe Hiking

Last week Stefania and I were able to get away for four days to Lake Tahoe.  We went on a couple of long bike rides on Sunday and Monday in search of vintage record albums.  Tuesday we headed to Emerald Bay and Eagle lake to hike the trail into the Desolation Wilderness.

It was a really tough hike, about 5 hours total that we spent.  The altitude went from 6200 feet to about 8800 feet and most of the trail was steps.  We got lost a couple times on the trail.  Once around Eagle lake was fine,we spent 45 minutes rock climbing over boulders which we both enjoy.  It did put us about an hour behind schedule.

That hour delay wore us out  and we didn’t reach our original goal of Velma Lake.  We did get to the top of the ‘first saddle’ though which is the highest part of the hike.  We were due to check in at 4 PM an I knew we had to turn around to make that time.  The picture above is of the second saddle.  We thought it would be too long a climb down and up to make that.

We did get a great view of the upper falls from the Velma Lakes into Eagle lake that you can see above.  We rested on the top and took pictures for about 30 minutes.  The trail was crowded lower down by Eagle Lake but by the 1/3 way up we ran into very few people.

This last picture was looking out from the saddle back towards Lake Tahoe.  Stef thought the hike was too hard but I’d like to try it again.  Without losing that hour I think we would have been in better shape at the top.  I also thought it was pretty rewarding once we reached the high elevations.

If we do go again we’d need to count on 8 hours I think and not 6 to check in.  Having a better idea of the trail route would help with a second attempt too.  We spent a fair amount of time trying to find or stay on the trail.

We were both pretty tired after but had a great bottle of wine and a skirt steak with quinoa back at the hotel.

Wine & Oysters

I promised Paul I would reconcile the bank account today, but since I’m feeling about a zillion times better than I have in days, I decided to get some photos uploaded.

If you haven’t been to the Tomales Bay Oyster Company, I highly recommend it.  We went up on a drizzly Thursday afternoon earlier this month and had the place to ourselves!

Based on reviews and after talking to the guy running the place, it sounds like you can expect to see large crowds of people on weekends – go early, go hungry, have fun.


Low tide…





Drank a lot of wine…

ate a lot of oysters, clams, mussels…










Millie & Jazzi









Ila’s smile says it all…






Ingrid & Amber








BBQ’d oyster with Noelle’s sauce














We opened a lot of wine…

I shucked a bag of 50 small oysters and a handful of the larger ones…

Noelle grilled the rest of the large oysters…

Paul steamed a batch of clams and mussels…

The sourdough baguette, salami and cheeses were mostly un-touched.  (mostly)

Being able to share the day off with friends made it memorable.


Quick Getaway

I was able to take a little time off from the day job last week.  We were also caught up in the vineyards and winery so had a few free days.  We gave Jaye a few days off and she was able to go visit family in southern California.  Millie stayed close to home but we also gave her a few days off as well.

Stefania and I headed down to Monterey for the Easter weekend.  It’s been a favorite getaway for us over the years.  We were lucky in having clear beautiful days.  It was chilly with highs just in the 50’s but the sun was out the entire time.  We brought down our bikes to get around in.  What a great idea.  I’ve been going to Monterey for 25 years and never brought bikes before.  Friday we rode them from downtown to the gates of 17 mile drive.

We stopped for lunch at the Cannery Row Brewing Company, which has become a favorite spot of mine.  There’s a little hidden out door sitting area with fire pits that we love.  One of the great things we about having the bikes is that it’s about a 25 minute walk from the Cannery/Aquarium area to the Downtown/Wharf area.  On bikes it’s 5 minutes and a bike trail connects the two.

Friday night we went back for dinner, beer, bourbon and cigars.  Most of the weekend revolved around beer, bourbon and cigars.  We were joined at the fire pit by two Marine Corp Captains and an army Captain who were studying at the Naval Post Graduate school.  We had a great night exchanging vineyard and winery stories for stories of goats wearing sweaters (Pakistan) and Nissans up on bamboo polls (Liberia).

I only took one picture all weekend.  Here’s the bike on the balcony of our room at the Marriot.  That’s going to be my one piece of advice for anyone visiting Monterey.  Bring your bikes.

The Best Car Ever

Our little Toyota FJ Cruiser is a regular item in our blog postings. Pictures, especially of the time and temperature are featured in all kinds of posts.

We bought the car in February of 2007. It’s very first road trip was that May. We drove up to Oregon to visit a few Pinot Noir producers we liked. 2007 was our first year making Pinot Noir and we wanted to pick the brains of people who made it the way we liked it.

We’ve used the car to move barrels, one fits in the back perfectly. We also use it to move cases of wine. We can get in about 20 cases from the warehouse, or about 15 packages to go to UPS. It also hauls us to vineyard sites and can get up any road we throw at it no matter how rough.

It passed 91000 miles this month and the title showed up. It’s paid for. No major problems. The front end suspension needs a tune up that will run about $400 and we put new tires on it at 50,000 miles. Other than that it’s been regular maintenance. It still gets just about 19-20 miles to the gallon on gas.

The topper is I went to check Blue Book value on the car after a friend mentioned how much he saw used cars FJ’s selling for. I was blown away. With our miles and condition the retail is $19,200. I paid $23,500 for it new. We’re not planning on selling it anytime soon though. It’s been a great car and a key part of making Stefania Wine go.