A Couple of Pics

My schedule has been terribly busy but I made a pledge to set aside two hours a week to blog and keep the website updated.  We’ll see how well I do at that but it’s a start.  It looks like WordPress has finally made some improvement to how photos are uploaded so that should make it a little easier.  Part of being able to keep up on the blog was really derailed by the need to spend 4-5 minutes editing each photo before it went up.  6 photos was 30 minutes before a word was even written and then try to get them set right on the page was another 15 minutes.

Anyway we’ve been pretty busy, me with the day job and Stefania keeping the winery and vineyards humming along.  We did just recently complete a bottling of our first 2012 wines.  We bottled our 2012 Pinot Noir and 2012 Chardonnay.

Below the Chardonnay barrels are drying before being sterilized.  We had already put the wine in tank for cold stabilization.

ready for filtering

After cold stabilization the wine is filtered.  We rarely filter red wines but do filter the Chardonnay.  That makes it a big challenge to remember how to set up and run the filter since we only do it once a year for an hour or so.  Last time we did it though Stefania took pictures of the set up which she taped on the walls for us to view as we set it up this time.  The filtering went very easy.



This is the kind of stuff most wineries don’t want to show but being honest about production is not something we ever shy from.  This is the ‘gunk’ at the bottom of the tank after filtering.  Mostly it’s dead yeast.  For a red wine this isn’t such a big deal.  We rack a few times to get as much of this gone as we can but some will end up as sediment in the bottom of the bottle.  In a white wine though it looks a little sludgy to leave this stuff behind.

the gunk

One final unrelated picture.  This Saturday at 5 PM we will be at the Silicon Valley Roller Girls bout http://svrollergirls.com/  We are the official wine sponsor and they will have our 2009 Chardonnay and 2010 Crimson Clover Cabernet by the glass.  Hope to see you there.


Haut Tubee Bin#2

We lingered over coffee and the newspaper, then just before 8 Paul fetched the little trailer from Uhaul while I took the nets off the “estate” mourvedre vineyard.  We harvested the house and church and met up with Millie in Los Altos.

She went up with 10 bins to get started and was almost done by the time we arrived.

In all we brought in 840 pounds of fruit from the three vineyards.  We were undecided about processing until we finished the pick.  Rather than run everything thru the crusher we decided to leave all the fruit whole and foot treaded instead.  The fruit was sweet and sexy and the skins this year are very richly tannic.  There are always a bunch of clusters of syrah in the back yard vineyard that raisin so I toss them in to off-set some of the green stems you see in the header photo.










This was my first real harvest from home and I was more than a little excited about taking the fruit off.  The yield was still really light, just 120 pounds, but I only have about 1/2 the vineyard fruiting right now.  The rows under the magnolia tree are competing for resources; water and sunshine.   I’ll do another round of fertilizer treatment this fall and next spring.  I have been a water miser but will be a little more generous in 2013 to give them a little boost.









Just take the picture already, this is only the first bucket!  I dropped acid at the winery, thusly such the holes in my Def Leppard shirt – my official cruddy winery/work shirt since the acid  incident.  (Lab chemicals, I don’t actually drop acid recreationally, my imagination needs no help thankyouverymuch).









Syrah grapes from the back yard vineyard next to the Hot Tub.









Bubby is Paul’s official supervisor.  He was very curious to know what we were doing with “his” grapes.









Quickie pic of Paul and the two rows of cabernet at the church.

And below: the syrah at Harrison’s vineyard in Los Altos Hills.


Chaine d’Or Chardonnay Harvest

Harvest Date: Sunday, September 30th.

The Haul: Just under 1500 pounds of fruit this year.

The Nitty Gritty: Brix 23.5,  pH 3.42,  TA 1.05









Paul loading grapes into the press.











In the vineyard spreading the seeds, stems, and skins to compost.











Seeds, skins, and stems











The clean up crew; Paul taking the mark into the vineyard, Millie cleaning the press, I cleaned the pump and lab area.











We missed the 49ers game, but got home in time to see the 2nd half of the Saints game.


2012 Crimson Clover Vineyard Harvest

El Toro at sunrise on Saturday September 22nd at Crimson Clover Vineyard.









Paul harvesting the first row before the sun reaches the far end of the vineyard, it’s 56 degrees outside.










Paul smiling as he brings in the first of the picking bins.









More grapes coming in!









Cows on the hill, oh wait, I’m supposed to be paying attention to the grapes coming in!  The fruit was extra clean this year.  I pulled out one earwig, a handful of white spiders, and not much else.  Dried tendrils were the only ‘debris’ I sorted out of the picking bins.









Three full bins ready for crush!


The Day Job

The number one question we used to get was; “Who takes care of your vineyards”.  We still do get that question from time to time from people just meeting us.  Now though the number one question is, “Are you doing this full time?”

The answer is yes and no.  Since we get that questions so much I thought it was time for a crew review.

Millie has been with us the longest, since 2004.  She works for us about 2 days per week on average.  She does vineyard work and any construction tasks we have.  When we do vineyard installations she’s the lead person on those.

Herrardo has been with us since 2007.  We usually refer to him as Jerry since people have a hard time pronouncing Herrardo.  He’s working about one day per week on average.  He does our heavy labor including construction work, netting and major repairs.  He also puts together our crews for us when we need larger groups.  Mostly the crews are his family.

Ron has been with us since 2010.  He works a few days a month on local sales for us.  Getting our wine into local restaurants in Santa Cruz and San Jose.

Jaye is our newest person.  She’s in the picture above working in the winery.  She joined us last September.  She’s done everything for us, vineyard work, winery work, shipping and she’s starting to do a little bit of sales work.  Our plan is when we open a tasting room she’ll run that.  She’s working about 30 hours a week for us.

Stefania is full time and gets a paycheck now, which she cashes about once every 7 weeks 🙂  She’s really become the General Manager.  She runs everything day to day and handles all the winery and vineyard management including the finance side of the business and dealing with vendors.

So my usual response to the questions is; “I still have a day job, someone has to have health insurance.”  I run a group of about 50 support engineers, managers and account managers in the software part at a very big high tech company.  I’ve been there 8 years and have enough vacation time that I can take off the 15-20 days a year when my presence in the winery is really critical.  These days most of my tasks are planning vineyard maintenance and doing the winemaking.

Bottling Day Recap

Another bottling day down!  I wish I could say it was drama free, but bottling days never are.  Mostly though it went smoothly and a lot of the issues we had were early in the day and I chalked them up to learning a new bottling truck and system.  We arrived at the winery at 6am and the truck was there at the gate.

No issues getting it into place (the last truck we used could take up to 5 hours to get through the gates and down the hill).  The truck was ready to go by 8:15 am.  This is early in the set up process with the forklift in the foreground.  The equipment needs to get set up, hooked inot the tanks in the winery and cleaned before we start.

This was just as we got started.  Millie, Kaleb from the bottling company and Stefania in the truck.  This seemed to be a really good fit for the speed we like to go and care we like to put in.  We had some early drama figuring out the right screen to put in line with the bottle filler.  The first one we used jammed up after 5-6 cases.  We finally went with a wide ‘bug catcher’ screen that lets everything through but big chunks.

Once we got over that problem we ran out of Nitrogen.  The Nitrogen is used to sparge the glass and clean in before filling.  Millie is doing that step below.  I had a back up tank but it was also almost empty.  I must have left it open at some point it as it should have been new.  So we sent Millie down into Redwood City to get another tank.  They would only let her load one at a time into the car so she had to make two trips.

Once past that we were back on our way.  You can see Kaleb, Stefania and Ingrid’s back in the picture below.  Somehow I missed getting Jaye in any pictures but she was there also working on the line.

My job was to tape up the filled cases, put on tags and load them on to pallets.  It’s a good job for me because I can lift the cases and they come off slow enough that if I need to be gone for 5 minutes I can and only a few cases will back up.  That time lets me use the forklift to move pallets around or run into the winery to make adjustments inside.

We wrapped up bottling about 1:30 and clean up by 3:00.  A pretty good day in all and we were really happy with the new truck.  Our 2010,  Haut Tubee and a new blend are safely in storage now!

When we got home we had one last bit of drama.  A bee swarm trying to move into our house.  I called Art the Bee Guy and he arrived after 9:00 pm and safetly got the queen and her hive off to a new home.

Another Bottling Day Upon Us

Bottling is always one of the hardest most stressful things we do.  There are over a dozen different vendors to coordinate with and everything has to be timed just right.  It’s also hard because we do it just twice per year so getting experience for us and the crew has been a process that takes years.

This time we’ve also been fighting the weather and have had to reschedule twice around rain.  We just don’t have enough room inside to stage everything indoors and that means rain is a deal breaker.

Stefania and I came up yesterday to prep the wine and get it ready.  We’re doing a small lot of two wines.  Our 2010 Haut Tubee and a new wine we will release this fall.  There was a small amount of blending to do and Stefania had to check final SO2 on the wines so I could make the right additions.  Other than the drain backing up on us it went smoothly.

The forklift showed up at 8:30 and I got that positioned and ready.  The truck showed up at 12:30 with the empty glass and this is when I knew we’re finally at the point of being veteran bottlers.  The driver had forgotten to load a pallet jack and had no idea how to get the 1000 pounds of glass from the front of the truck to the back where the forklift could pick it up.

“No problem”, I said.  “I’ve had this happen before, I’ll show you what to do.”  So I went in the winery and pulled out my strongest rope that we keep for just this emergancy.  I showed him how to tie up a pallet and pull it out of a truck with the forklift.

Everything was wrapped up by 2:30 and we were able to get a late lunch and some hot tub time in last night.  This morning came really early:

53 degrees and 5:30 am when we hit the road.  We’re waiting now in the winery for the bottling truck to finish setting up.  If all goes well we will start about 8:30.  We’re using a small crew today.  Stefania, Millie, Ingrid, Jaye and I.  Another veteran thing we’ve learned.  It’s actually better to have a small experienced crew than a large one that needs lots of hand holding.

I’ll be busy most of the day so probably won’t have too many pictures, but I’ll try and get some as we bottle and get them up before Friday.

Racking Day(s)

Saturday was a cold and rainy day.  We headed up to the winery for a long day of work inside so at least we’d be mostly dry.  We still had 15 barrels to get through the first racking and sulfuring of the year.  Malolactic fermentation has been slow this year and 5 different lots were just finishing up.

We can’t add sulfur to the wines before Malo has completed or the sulfur will kill the Malo bacteria along with the bad bacteria.  The longer we go though the greater the risk of those bad bacteria showing up so it’s been a tense few months.

Stefania started by setting up her lab and I got the pump, tanks and barrel cleaner ready.  We had lab results back from the lab we have to do our government testing with so we didn’t need to do much in the way of actual measurements, but we would have to prepare SO2 for every wine and Tartaric Acid for a few.

One routine we always have is that a second person must verify that the pump is hooked up right and all the seals on the tanks are closed.  This helps prevent oversight and shooting wine all over the place.

We had five different lots to work with; Crimson Clover Cab ,Harvest Moon Cab, Coastview Syrah, Mourvedre and Haut Tubee.  Everything would get an SO2 treatment of 40-50 ppm depending on the pH of the wine.  The Mourvedre, Harvest Moon and Haut Tubee would also have Tartaric added to lower pH.

We combined some of the Crimson Clover Cabernet, with some Peacock Cab Franc and a little Harvest Moon Cab to start a Santa Clara Valley Cabernet blend.  The rest of the Harvest Moon and the Haut t was kept on its own for now.  We finished up the day about 5PM by filing the tanks with Coastview Syrah in tank #1 and Mourvedre in tank #2 and left them to settle for the night.

We returned the next day to get those wines back in barrel and spent just 3 hours compared to the 8 the day before.  We started our GSM blend by putting some of the Syrah in with some of the Mourvedre, but kept two barrels of each on their own.  In the end we had 14 barrels and topping wine.

Each barrel is rinsed and cleaned as part of the process on the barrel holder below.  The holder allows the barrel to spin and Stefania usually does this job.

I was really happy with the Mourvedre.  Our original plan was to blend all of it into the GSM blend or the Haut Tubee, but we may keep some on its own.  The other wines were all good as well, and I’m excited about the final wines.  After a rough weather year last year it looks like we still ended up with good wine.

Harvest is Finally Done

We’ve had a couple of years where the last task of the year was on Thanksgiving weekend. Usually we had one small lot to get into barrel. This year our last task was yesterday. We had two lots to go into barrel which ended up being 40% of our 2011 production.

I’m actually really happy with the wine we’ve made so far. No problem lots like last years Pinot Noir and the Harvest Moon Cab, Peacock Cab Franc, Crimson Clover and Mourvedre lots I’m really liking so far.

Stefania and I have a lot of blogging and picture to catch up on. Now that we finally have some down time we’ll try and get those up over the next few weeks. Today we have a pig in the Caja China for Millie’s birthday and lots of great wine planned for tonight. It feels like an end of harvest party and I’m enjoying it!

First Harvest of the Year.









Saturday morning we were out for our fist harvest of the year. I took the traditional photo of the time and temperature from the FJ Cruiser.








This next photo is also a traditional stop for us now.  Sam’s Donuts around the corner from our house.  We get a dozen donuts or so for the crew and volunteers.

The vineyard we harvested is new for us this year.  It’s the Brauns or Under a Lucky Star Vineyard.  There are 400 Pinot Noir plants above Los Altos in the Santa Cruz Mountains.








We arrived on site just as the sun was coming up and the crew had already started working.    In 2005 we tried harvesting earlier in a couple vineyards using lights.  This sounds really cool and is trendy, but I figured quickly it’s a complete waste of time.  The crew moves at about 50% of normal speed and you end up having to go back through anyway and get what you missed when the sun comes out.  All we really accomplished was sleep deprivation and a higher risk of injury so we don’t do that anymore.

We used the ‘A Team’ for this pick since it was out first time in the vineyard to harvest.  Jerry, Gil, Estella and Ysidro made up the professional crew and we had Wes, Ingrid, Joan and Ron come as volunteers.  Everyone picking was an experienced picker.









Picking went very quickly and we were done well before 9AM.  Total harvest was just about 900 pounds which is the most ever for this site we were told.  There had been animal and bird issues in the past.  We used a double netting system and sealed the net bottoms with chop sticks as we normally do.  This is different from most vineyards but we’ve learned this method is key for our suburban vineyards.

The fruit looked excellent and I took the picture below of the soil in the vineyard.  Stefania and I love this red volcanic dirt.  There’s a small band through out the Santa Cruz Mountains and grapes do very well on it.  The same band also cuts through Crimson Clover.








It took just about 25 minutes to get to the winery and then only about 10 minutes to process the fruit.  There was a little drama with the pump that I had to tend to and then the winemaking so I didn’t take any pictures of the actual crush.  Stefania took readings and the numbers were Brix 23.9, pH 3.7 and TA .61.  Really great for a first time in this vineyard.

The juice went into a single bin and will ferment on native yeast.  We used 1/3 whole clusters and I’ll only do two punch downs a day to avoid getting to much tannin extracted.  We’re really excited about this vineyard and wine.