Our first harvest was in 2005 and we took our grapes to Crushpad which was then in San Francisco. I worked there too as a volunteer a few days a week in addition to doing our own winemaking. Probably my biggest contribution was spending an entire Saturday cleaning and organizing the loading dock. I also volunteered that year at Chaine d’ Or. Crushpad was just too chaotic for us so the next year we moved our production to a facility in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I volunteered again at Chaine d’Or.
That 2006 harvest was ok but Stefania and I were still interested in finding a better fit for us and our winemaking. By pure chance I got a call from Bradley Brown at Big Basin Vineyards. He was checking to see if I had any Grenache or Mourvedre to sell. As we talked I told him I was looking for a new space in 2007 and he said he was looking for a new tenant. We met and decided we’d move into Big Basin that year. We were all set to move in September when we got the call that August to take over operations at Chaine d’Or. I still kept the deal with Bradley and we made about 1/2 our 2007 and 2008 wines at Big Basin.
That’s where we met Ian Brand. Ian was the assistant winemaker then at Big Basin. He’s started at Bonny Doon and he had glamorous tasks at Big Basin like sorting grapes, cleaning bins and all the other things assistant winemakers do. Ian and I spent a lot of time together on the sorting line and while cleaning things around the winery. In 2009 Ian went out on his own to start Ian Brand Family Wines. We stayed in close contact, talking at least once a month. Ian asked for advice on getting started and he shared some grape sources with us (Split Rail and Coastview). We sold Ian our old barrels we were no longer using and spare equipment when we had it.
Sometimes we’d have logistical nightmares of having to pick two vineyards on the same day that where 100 miles apart and Ian would step in and pick up the grapes from one of those vineyards and do the initial crush and fermentation for us. We’d then go down with out barrels and press the wine into our barrels and haul them home. He’s been a great friend and a great help to us over the years.
When we knew we would need a new home this year I didn’t think of asking anyone else but Ian. I think he said “well I know you’re not an asshole, so no problem”, or something like that. Ian built up a fantastic facility in Salinas. It will be shorter for us to get to from our new home than the old drive was to Chaine d’Or. We’re excited by that of course, but mostly we are really excited to be in the same facility with Ian again. We will work under our own bond in what is called an ‘Alternating Proprietorship’ or AP. That means we’re making the wine and using the equipment. We can hire his crew to do tasks like clean up and maintenance though and that will free up lots of time for us.
Ian makes great wine and if you haven’t tried it, search it out. We’re so excited to be sharing space with him and so grateful for his generosity.
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!
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.
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