We have 4 wines we’re releasing, two of them brand new. Offer letter will go out to Mailing List Members this week. Anything left will be available for web orders on October 31st. I’m particularly excited about the Mourvedre. It got great reviews in Chicago where we opened two bottles in August. We do have a Chardonnay from 2012 but will be releasing that as well as our 2012 Pinot Noir in the Spring.
I wrote about the visit and testing at Chaine d’Or we did on Saturday. We also visited a small Syrah vineyard in Los Altos Hills that the owners now maintain all on their own and visited a potential new site in the Gilroy-Watsonville Road area. For those out side of the South Bay, Gilroy and Watsonville are two small towns south of San Jose. The irony of the Gilroy-Watsonville Road is it goes to neither Gilroy or Watsonville. We finished up the day at the Crimson Clover vineyard which is in the town of Morgan Hill behind the big hill everyone things is named Morgan Hill but is really named El Toro. Whoever named things in that part of the valley was definitely trying to confuse people.
Sunday we watched the Saints game in the morning. They seem to have their defense figured out this year which was encouraging. Then we headed to the Mineral Hill vineyard to watch the 49er game with the vineyard owners there and check on the grapes. This will be a hard one to figure out when to pick because the vines are just three years old and a vineyard that young tends to have a great deal of variation from plant to plant. Stefania says it’s really year 7 when the vineyard starts acting like a vineyard, and stops acting like a collection of individual plants.
The grapes planted here are Mourvedre and the yield looks to be pretty high. I’m sure some of the clusters won’t make it and will dry up and some will not be ripe and have to get cut off so probably 75% of what is on the vine now will make it into a fermentation bin. The vineyard is over an ancient creek bed and water still flow under ground so the plants are particularly strong for being three years old. I’m thinking we will pick here right around the 1st of October.
One last picture from Crimson Clover on Saturday. The vineyard tested at 22.25 Brix. Flavors are well past the green state and in between red and black fruit. We set the pick date as September 21st, which is in the normal to early range for the site. With the weather pattern we expect to pick right around 24 Brix. Yield here looks average for the site and I think we’ll get just under two tons. We will also pick the ‘Roxy’ Vineyard at the same time. Roxy is a mix of Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon that we put in the Haut Tubee Blend. Yield there looks high this year, close to a 1000 pounds. That would be cool actually if we got that much as we could keep the vineyard on it’s own through fermentation and into barrel.
Saturday morning Stefania and I set out to check on all the vineyards. We like to do this about every six weeks or so. We’ll visit each one more often than that but it is a good idea to see what is going on everywhere at once to really get an accurate gage of how to schedule upcoming work.
This helps me come up with a vineyard plan for each vineyard for the next six weeks and the priorities not just for each vineyard but for all the vineyards as a whole. We set off about 9 AM to start the inspection tour.
One thing you’ll notice as I go through the pictures is they all look the same! This is actually great. They should look the same. Each vineyard is unique but we apply the same level of care to each one. They should have a certain sameness to them. It’s also good if they are all about on the same maturity schedule and we don’t have anything too far behind or ahead.
Crimson Clover was the first stop. Below is a close up of the fruit clusters. The clusters are loose and we expect a lighter than usual yield here because of some pruning decisions in the winter. There’s a bit more fruit though than we thought we might get and it looks healthy.
The rows are in good shape with almost no weeds. The vineyard needs a little water and a little nitrogen which we will put in the work plan.
Next up was the Peacock Vineyard, which I think we will change soon to calling the ‘Sheredy Yard’. The peacocks have been captured and removed by the county and most of the crew never even saw them. The Sheredy’s own the vineyard and it’s in their backyard. I could call it the Sheredy Clos, but Clos is on the list of banned terms for American wines, even though it is exactly a Clos.
The fruit load here is high, we’re expecting about 50% more fruit from this site than we got last year. Not too surprising as we were in a bit of a recovery mode last year after taking on the vineyard from another company. Here the clusters are larger, fuller and tighter than at Crimson Clover.
The Sheredy’s actually do most of the work themselves. Anytime a major task needs to be done we stop by and spend 30-60 minutes giving them instructions and then they complete the work. We’re doing the routine things and the crew comes in to check on things and correct mistakes, but you can see they followed our instructions on raising the wires very well.
Next was the long part of the drive up to Woodside and Chaine d’Or. We decided to hit the other vineyards on the route on the way back from Chaine d’Or, that way we would end up at home.
Here’s a good example of why it’s good to visit everywhere in one day. Jaye has been working on tucking the vineyard up for the last week. She’s about half done and you can see that below. Walking through though I decided I want to spray this Friday and we’ll need to finish tucking by then. We made this the priority for the week and Millie will go help Jaye get it done by Tuesday.
We have the best looking Chardonnay fruit we’ve had in three years. The clusters are larger than normal and everything looked mildew free. This is our coolest site and has the highest risk of mildew. I found a hornets nest in our walk through, but only a single gopher hole. Jaye has been gopher killer supreme this year.
I didn’t take pictures at our last three stops, Harrison (Syrah), Brauns (Pinot) or Red Hen (Merlot). All looked good with only a minor emergency at Red Hen. The way the chicken pen had been laid around the vineyard this year made one spot hard to spray. That spot had some mildew. I quickly topped off all the excess growth to open up the canopy for spraying and returned the next morning to spray Stylet on the offending spot. The owners also reconfigured the chicken pen so that I can get to that spot going forward.
In all we covered 129 miles and we have a full set of plans to get done before netting starts in mid-August.
I’ve just updated the website with the new wines we will be releasing in the fall. Check the ‘Wines’ page for details. We will have three new releases. The last of our 2009 wines, the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Chaine d’Or Vineyard will be released.
We’ll also have the first of our 2010 wines; the 2010 Haut Tubee and a new wine for us the 2010 Nueva Casa de los Padres. Details on the three wines and tasting notes are up. The Library Release will be the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains.
So far reception for the three new wines has been great and we’re very excited by this release. We’re planning on sending out letter in September.
Friday I took the day off from the day job. We had traveled up to Sonoma the day before and I thought there might be more touring around on Friday but there wasn’t. We thought about going hiking but decided to help Jaye out at Crimson Clover instead. We had sent her out to thin the vineyard and it was going much slower than we counted on.
Stefania and I arrived about 9 am. We started by raising the wires on the first nine rows. We stopped on the 10th though and started helping Jaye thin. The growthwas much shorter starting in row 7 or so and we figured out that the crew had made a pruning error this winter.
Many of the spurs were removed and this was what was slowing Jaye down. Instead of removing one or two extra shoots from each spur she was having to pick one shoot out of dozens to reestablish the spur.
It is a set back for the vineyard. We’ll lose somewhere between 1000-2000 pounds of potential fruit this year. That would mean a ‘good’ yield will be about 3000 pounds. We counted on about 5000 this year. It’s bad but not tragic, the vineyard will recover.
I took the picture below of Jaye and Stefania working while I took a water break. We were able to finish thinning by 3 PM or so. We’ll go back in a couple of week and raise the rest of the wires as the shoots get longer. We’ll be busy thinning in all the vineyards over the next few weeks. It’s something we like to finish before flowering starts. We don’t want to do any work on the vines while they flower to avoid shatter.
It is also much harder to thin after flowering because the base of the shoot becomes hard. After flowering you need to use clippers to remove extra shoots. Right now we can just snap the shoots off with out hands.
Another picture of boxes. These are in our cellar at home so you get a little peak inside our collection. The boxes though won’t be going into our cellar we’ll be having a End Bin sale next week. Figuring out allocations is always hard but we usually do pretty well in selling just about everything with just a little left. It’s a hard thing to figure out but we have a few good brokers who are willing to wait for direct sales to end and then step in and take what ever is left over.
I try to leave just two cases of each wine. One for us that will go into our collection and personal cellar and one that will go into our library to replace any problem bottles that might be reported in the future. On a few occasions I’ve been down to just a few bottles we end up keeping but usually I can get us at least a case for our use.
When ordering season is over and we’re down to just a few cases of something I send a note to our storage facility to send everything they have left of that wine. I always say ‘everything’, because it’s a good way to match up inventory. It also cuts down on phone tag with the warehouse: “You said send 3 but there are only two here, what do we do?”. “Send everything.”
On some items we will have more than two cases left and when that happens I have a blow out sale. I’ll do that next week on a few items. I reduce prices 25-50% and we sell them off by the case, shipping included, first come first serve. We’ll have about 5 cases of Sessen to sell as well as two cases of Harvest Moon Special Reserve and two cases of Split Rail Syrah. Not a ton of stuff but great for bargain hunters. I’ll post the sales here and on Facebook. Usually the people on Facebook get the update faster so if you’re not a friend or fan there, do it now!
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.
Stefania had this idea to host a blind tasting of our wines and compare them to others in the area. She narrowed it down to Cabernet and decided to focus on a single vintage (2007). It took some time to pull together but we finally did it on Friday March 16th.
All of the following were served blind in flights of three. The wines were bagged by Jaye and as new wines came in they were mixed in the number rotation so that the ‘new’ wines would not all be the end numbers. Each wine was opened about 45 minutes prior to serving but not decanted. Foils were all removed and wines were served in numbered bags.
Original notes are as I took them down. Thoughts after bags were removed are in parenthesis. I used + when I though a wine’s future score would likely be higher and many of these ended up with a +.
#1 2007 Mount Eden Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains
Rich, chocolate and classic cab nose. Tannic, lighter on the palate. Should be rockin in 10 years 94+ My WOTN
#2 2007 Cooper Garrod George’s Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
Dusty, light fruit, clean but just ok 87 pts (much less impressive than a previous bottle I had)
#3 2007 Chaine d’Or, Santa Cruz Mountains
Big green nose, rich, round and tannic, lots of hidden fruit, berry , needs 10+ years 89+
#4 2007 Kathryn Kennedy ‘Small Lot’, Santa Cruz Mountains
Wood influence, spice, red fruit, lighter texture. From a warmer site? Martin Ranch? 89 (Most of the small lot fruit comes from Martin Ranch)
#5 2007 Ridge Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
American oak on the nose. Very tannic with great balance, light fruit, long finish with berry. 90+
#6 2007 Martin Ranch Thérèse Vineyards Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains
Less wood, I like this one. Cherry pie, little funky on the finish, greenish tannins, guess of a cooler site 89+
# 72007 P•M Staiger, Santa Cruz Mountains
Sour cherry nose, low oak influence, slight volitile, peppery with light fruit 82 (The only wine I really didn’t care for)
#8 2007 La Honda Lonehawk Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
Musty, mushroom, slight volitile on nose but well balanced. Finishes oaky. 88. Might be better in 5 years but VA worries me.
#9 2007 Stefania, Santa Cruz Mountains
Big nose, good balance of wood. Best balanced in this group of three with tannin/acid/fruit. Smooth, round, warm site? 92
# 10 2007 Ahlgren Bates Ranch, Santa Cruz Mountains
Green nose, smooth black fruit and good balance, cool site? 89+
# 11 2007 Stefania Uvas Creek Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley
Round, spicy, mushroom, great balance and plum fruit. Not especially ‘cabby’ but I like this 91
# 12 2007 Woodside Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains
Greenish nose, and pepper flavor, short and tannic 85
# 13 2007 Thomas Fogarty, Santa Cruz Mountains
Slight pepper, roundish, black fruit, bright green tint stays through the wine. 5+ years 90+
# 14 2007 Domaine Eden, Santa Cruz Mountains
Menthol nose, balanced, light oak, black pepper and red fruit 92
# 15 2007 House Family Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains
Dusty and black pepper, grows on you with good balance. A little funk but nice length. Warmer site? 91+
# 16 2007 Ridge Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains
Rich nose with some gren. Sharp red frui, cooler site? Nose of #3 without the ‘balls’. 88
#17 2007 Martin Ranch Thérèse Vineyards Dos Rios Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley
Woody from a great barrel, Pessec Leognan nose. Dusty, balanced and round. A ‘wow now’ wine with tons of fruit. 93
# 18 2007 Creekview Vineyards, Santa Clara Valley
Funky mint nose. CHalky not roundest of the group has mint without pepper, good finish 88
Everyone voted on thier top three with 5 points for 1st, 3 for 2nd and 1 for third. Group winners where:
1st = #17 2007 Martin Ranch Thérèse Vineyards Dos Rios Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley
2nd = #1 2007 Mount Eden Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains
3rd = #5 2007 Ridge Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
4th (tie) = #9 2007 Stefania, Santa Cruz Mountains
#3 2007 Chaine d’Or, Santa Cruz Mountains
We have been shipping out orders from the Spring release for about a week now. We are holding the southeastern U.S. due to the heat wave there but everything else looks open. The release included 2009 Crimson Clover Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon and 2006 Uvas Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
As usual we have to ship in small batches. We are not big enough to get a regular pick up from UPS so we have to be able to fit everything in the back of our car to run to UPS. Since we stage shipping out of the garage, which is also small, we can handle about 30 cases a day maximum. We do expect to have everything out that is not on a weather hold though in 2-3 weeks.
We’re shipping east coast orders on Thursday and Friday now. That holds it over weekend west of the Rockies which is cooler than holding it east of the Rockies. Those shipments have to over weekend somewhere and we feel better about having it in the west which is cool right now. There still is enough wine to fill orders. We’re very low on the Uvas and Crimson but can still take orders on both.
This is a residential location, parking is limited to the street area. This will likely be the only time we will be open this year. If you have an order from the Spring Release it will be available for pick up. We hope you can join us and we look forward to visiting with you again!
For more information about our wines, you can also visit our website, www.stefaniawine.com
Paul & Stefania
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