It’s finally here the grand opening of our new tasting room. We will be open this Saturday August 15th from 11-4, and Sunday August 16th from 12-4. The tasting room is located at 1800 Day Road in Gilroy, CA 95020. We had a successful soft opening two weekends ago which we used to test everything we needed to have working and delivered. Thanks to all our friends and neighbors who stopped by to kick the tires!
Now we’re ready to invite everyone over! We will be pouring 5 wines for $10. The tasting price is refunded with any bottle purchased. Wine Club members enjoy free tasting and an additional assortment of wines. This weekend we will be featuring all of our recent medal winning wines including three gold medal winners: 2013 Chardonnay, 2012 Nueva Casa de los Padres and our 2012 Mourvedre (wine club only). Our tasting area includes picnic benches so bring your picnic with you!
Many of our local friends will also be open this weekend so come make a day out of it. There are 15+ wineries within 10 miles of us now and we have lots of good recommendations for everyone. See you this weekend!
We have a new release coming out this week. Letters are in the mail. If you don’t get one let us know. We have three wines we’re releasing.
2012 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon, Crimson Clover Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley
Release Price: $45 per bottle.
Total production: 108 cases
We harvested on 9/22 and sorted it in the field before transport to the winery. The grapes were 100% destemmed and crushed into 2 bins for fermentation on native yeast. The bins were moved inside the winery and punched down twice per day. We followed our normal pressing and settling routine and the wine aged in 2/3 new oak for 21 months.
The wine is typical Crimson Clover Vineyard with expressive black and plum fruit framed with spice and floral notes. There are notes of mocha and blackberry on the finish and round tannins. We expect this wine to age very well. Alcohol 13.7%
2012 Stefania Mourvedre, ‘Restitutor Orbis’, Spur Ranch, San Benito County
Release Price: $32 per bottle
Total production: 101 cases
Our second year of Mourvedre fruit from Spur Ranch. Paul had so much fun with the Latin quote on our first Mourvedre that he had to keep the tradition up. This one is about a 3rd century emperor. We had the chance to use whole berries in the fermentation process in 2012 and combined that with 40% new oak for a very round and flavorful Mourvedre.
The wine has everything someone who could defeat the Alamanni, Goths, Vandals, Juthungi, Sarmatians, and Carpi could want. There’s plenty of dark wild fruit to power you on to crush the Palmyrene Empire and Gallic Empire as well. Alcohol 14.4%
2013 Stefania Chardonnay, Chaine d’Or Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
Release Price: $25 per bottle
Total production: 95 cases
We continued retraining to the Guyot method in the vineyard based on the experiments we had done in 2012. The results were excellent and on 9/14 we harvested 143 bins or 4290 pounds and pressed the must whole cluster in one pressing. The must was transferred to a chilled tank for settling off the gross lees. Brix was 23 with pH 3.36 and TA .82. On 9/15 the wine was transferred off its gross lees into a chilled tank inside and inoculated with QA-23 yeast and yeast food. We maintained temperatures under 65 degrees during tank fermentation but did not super chill the must before transfer.
On 9/22 the wine was transferred to 7 barrels which were filled 2/3 full to finish fermentation. On 10/5 the wine was showing as completed primary fermentation and was reduced down to 5 full barrels + one keg. Lees were stirred at that time. The wine went through Malo with no issues and for the first time since 2008 we did not have to haul the barrels out into the sun in the Spring to finish fermentation.
The wine showed excellent chemistry and we decided to bottle with out fining or filtration. The wine will appear slightly cloudy in glass but is full of ripe fruit and wonderful crispness. Stefania loves this Chardonnay and it’s her favorite we’ve made. There is just 20% new oak and the stone fruit flavors really shine in this wine. Alcohol 13.7%
Anything that does not sell out in from the mailer we will add to the website in mid-April.
It was another busy weekend for us. Saturday we picked the two largest vineyards that make up our Haut Tubee base wine. We did the actual picking of 600 pounds of Cabernet and Syrah at Roxie Vineyard near Crimson Clover. We just had to pick up and sort the 800 pounds of Syrah from the Harrison vineyard in Los Altos Hills. Most of the day seems like it’s driving at 60 MPH towing a trailer, and it is. We were out of our old house on Canton before the grapes were ready for wine but one of our neighbors came down and harvested about 200 pounds of grapes to make jam. No Mourvedre in the Haut Tubee blend yet, but we will have Mourvedre Jam in the new tasting room this Spring.
Sunday we were up early and did what is now a really long 55 mile drive to Chaine d’Or. Our trusted ‘A Team’ picking crew was there and had already removed the nets when we drove in at 7:30. We picked just about 3200 pounds of Chardonnay. The picture below is Jerry walking out the picking bins. In the lower section we bring the bins up on the tractor but in this upper section the three of us who can drive the tractor, Millie, Jerry and I all prefer to carry the bins out rather than mess with getting the tractor all the way up and down the long rows and around the two sharp turns.
Stefania usually avoids the camera when I’m taking pictures but I thought she was exceptionally pretty Sunday morning and got in this shot. That’s her usual place and job at harvest time. As we dump in the 30 pound picking bins she sorts through the grapes and removes, leafs, bugs, twigs, bad grapes, secondaries, water bottles, gloves, twisty tie, clippers and anything else that have found their way into the bins. We do always laugh when someone says they have hand made wine and wonder if they really touched every cluster with their own hands like Stefania does. Probably not.
Back at home we’re getting used to the new routines and sights and sounds. This little guy comes by every day. I think I’ve seen small bumps for antlers but Stef hasn’t so we’re not sure of its sex. It is really small so I think it was likely born this past Spring. I just spent some time on Google and the proper term is ‘Fawn Buck’.
I know everyone is waiting for part four of the news but we did have some actual winemaking to do this week. I’ll have Part 4 up soon I promise.
Harvest 2014 started like it does every year for us with getting the picking bins out of storage and cleaned up after a year of sitting outside. We do cover them but dirt creeps in. Millie is driving the tractor in the picture below with two of our bins on the back. I had the pressure washer set up and clean them as they got to the crush pad. Stefania helped out with a disinfecting scrub and I blasted away all the dirt.
While we were on site Stefania also set up the testing lab for the season. We’ll test pH, TA and Brix on all our vineyards over the next couple of months. Those are Chardonnay samples being tested. The testing is pretty redundant for us 10 years in. I walked through the vineyard before the samples were picked and said: “2 maybe three full weeks until these are ready.” Stefania walked down one row and picked about a dozen berries and said: “These are at 19.5 Brix”. The testing results were Brix 19.6 and pH 3.1 which means we are 2-3 weeks out.
With all that done we loaded up the FJ Cruiser with 3 bins to take down to the vineyard for picking the next morning. It’s a pain to have to deal with the u-haul office on the first weekend of the month but it had to be done. When we get into our new place I’ll have room to store a trailer and our rental days should be behind us.
The first grapes of the year came in on Labor Day. We got 3000 pounds of Viognier from Leal Vineyards in San Benito County. The grapes looked great and we were able to confirm with the assistant winemaker at Leal that we should be able to get Viognier from them every year.
It was a pretty easy drive to our new facility, although we did hit some holiday traffic. Here’s a little bit of a sneak preview of Part 4. It’s the Viognier being loaded into the press at our new facility. The crew there was fantastic and even with hanging around and chatting for a little we were in and out in less than an hour. Stefania was SOOOOOOOO happy to not have to clean a press or a tank and have the crew there to do those tasks. The wine is doing well. We’ll raise it half in neutral French oak and half in stainless steel. It will be bottled early and should be available to our mailing list next Spring.
Last Saturday we picked Chardonnay at Chaine d’Or. I posted most of these pictures real time on Facebook on Saturday in real time. I’ll try to do the same again this Saturday as we pick at Crimson Clover but I know getting a signal there is even harder than Chaine d’Or. The day started at a decent hour for picking. I was up at 5:45 and we were in the car at 6:33 and 60 degrees. We did make a stop for coffee and arrived at the winery at 7:15.
Jerry and the crew had arrived at 7 and were already at work getting the nets off. Stef and I had prepped and cleaned the winery and equipment the day before so there was no additional work that morning other than getting started picking.
The fog hung low around the vineyard well into the early afternoon. I was able to help with a little of the picking before switching to my regular job of driving the tractor and picking up the full bins for processing.
The grapes looked really nice coming in. Some were very golden. The upper section of the vineyard gets more sun and those grapes usually are riper than the grapes from the lower section.
After driving the bins up in the tractor I dump them into the press. I started doing whole cluster pressing last year.
I did take a short break from the bin dumping to run down into the lower section of the vineyard and pick the ‘rouge’ Pinot Noir I wrote about last week.
After pressing the wine is pumped into this large chilled tank to settle for 24 hours. That helps the juice separate from any solids.
The dogs watch the entire process. Sofie on the right was a puppy in 2005 when I first worked at Chaine d’Or so this is her 8th Chardonnay harvest.
On Sunday we went back up to the winery and transferred the settled wine into an inside tank to start fermentation. We’ll let it burble in here until it reaches about 12 Brix. The tank is chilled to keep fermentation between 60 and 70 degrees. Once we reach the 1/2 way point on fermentation and the temperature is not likely to spike up we’ll transfer the wine to barrel to finish fermentation.
Final numbers on the wine looked great. Brix was 23 exactly and pH was 3.36. We expect a smooth fermentation and the wine should turn out like the 2008 version based on the numbers and handling so far.
Saturday Stefania and I logged 112 miles on the FJ Cruiser checking on vineyards and getting samples to do lab testing on. We started at Chaine d Or testing Chardonnay. We tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the vineyard as we went but it’s really too early to do lab tests on those grapes yet.
We walk each row of the vineyard and pull berries from each plant, going back and forth to get each side of the row and each exposure. We also try and mix up the berries from the middle, bottom, and top of the cluster as well as pull from clusters in full sun and those on the interior of the plant. The idea is to get a sample that shows the entire vineyard not just those berries that are in sight. Stef is holding a white bucket that we use to gather the berries as we go.
At Chaine d Or it takes one person about an hour to get samples. Two people takes 30 minutes so we split up. It’s also important to taste as you go. That’s a good way to train your taste to recognize what the grapes are at in terms of lab readings. You sample 20-30 grapes in the vineyard, then go back and test and it’s instant feedback and learning. In this case the Brix was under 21 and the pH was 3.25 so now we both have an excellent idea of what the maturity level tastes like.
We’re also checking on secondary indicators of ripeness like brown seeds and brown stems on the clusters. Since each plant is getting a quick look we can also check for any issues. On Labor day weekend when I went out I noticed small amounts of Botrytis or Grey Mold in the vineyard. Under the wrong conditions this can be a disaster unless you spray right away. With the weather we’ve had though I though we would be ok. It’s been very hot and I know temperatures over 90 degrees will keep the mold from spreading and just shrivel the berries that have been effected making them very sweet and introducing the unique Botrytis flavor profile.
The walk through the vineyard confirmed that the mold was all dead and we’ll have about 60 clusters of Botrytis Chardonnay grapes in the wine, which is normal for the vineyard.
One final oddity that Stefania wanted me to take a picture of is a rouge Pinot Noir plant we have in the Chardonnay. It was probably a mix up at the nursery when then vineyard was originally planted. It was actually 4 years before we noticed the plant. The leafs are very similar between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and the cluster shapes and sizes are also very close.
We kept missing this plant because the Pinot turns red earlier than the Cabernet Sauvignon. We usually don’t net the vineyard until the Cabernet turns color, so the birds were cleaning out this plant every year before we netted and could see the grapes were red and not white. I remember seeing the plant and thinking it odd that the birds would completely clean out one plant and not touch the others around it. That’s not super unusual, it’s how birds attack a plant. They eat one cluster completely before moving to the next and tend to clean out the plants one at a time. Stills it would be odd that they had not eaten any clusters off the neighboring plants.
When we discovered this plant last year it was mostly eaten but there were a few clusters left that helped us identify it. We made an effort this year to get it netted early and will use the grapes in our Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot. Chaine d’Or also has a rouge Zinfandel plant in the Chardonnay and a group of plants we are pretty sure are Pinot Gris in the Merlot section. The birds love Pinot Gris and most of those get eaten early every year.
A quick update on where we are for 2013 harvest. We brought in our first lot of Pinot Noir on 9/1 which was eight days earlier than 2012 and a month earlier than the very late 2011. Weather has been good and the vineyards look excellent with a decent crop load.
One thing we’ve noticed this year is the grapes look to the eye more mature than the chemistry on them is showing once back in the lab with samples. The Chardonnay at Chaine d’ Or was a good example. It looked as I walked through the vineyard like harvest would be 9/8 or 9/9 but in the lab the Brix was 20.0 and pH 3.05. We’re actually likely to pick on 9/14. When we tested the Mourvedre at home it was the same story. The grapes looked like they would be ready in 2-3 weeks, but Brix tested at 18.2. It will be 4-5 weeks before the grapes are ready.
I’ve not really seen this before. Usually I have a good handle on visual, with taste and chemistry but in 2013 the visual is ahead of the taste and chemistry. That’s ok though just likely going to be different from most years where the chemistry is ok and then we wait a few weeks for flavor to be where we want it. This year I think we’ll be getting flavor at the same time the chemistry is right. Normally we just test until we reach 22 Brix and 3.3 pH then go totally off of taste. This year we’ll have to watch that both are on mark at the same time.
It’s been cold for California this January. It is a time we have to be outside a great deal. We probably spend more time in the vineyards in January than any other month of the year including harvest time. As long as it is dry though it’s not bad to work in the cold. We just bring lots of layers and we actually stay pretty warm as we work.
Pruning is the major task in January. We will also do maintenance on the trellis systems though as well. It’s a good time to replace any broken posts and repair any damaged wire. One big task for this January has been changing the pruning at Chaine d’Or. Over the last few years the yields on the Chardonnay plants has gone way down. The plants are 25 years old now and that is the point when yields do drop. The drop though has been dramatic. Some plants had only 4-5 clusters per plant instead of the 20-25 we’d expect.
Last year I spent some time researching the issue and after a lot of reading wondered if we should use the Guyot training method instead of the Cordon and Spur method we were using. In Burgundy on old plants they use Guyot and I thought there must be some reason, although I could not find anything specific about yields.
I selected about a half dozen plants last year and pruned and trained them in the Guyot method as an experiment. The results by the end of the year were dramatic. At best on the Cordon and Spur training we saw 8-10 clusters per plant and the average was about 6. Some plants had less than 4 and many only had 1-2 clusters. All the clusters were very small as well. With Guyot training cluster sizes were 50% larger and we had at least 12 clusters on every plant.
We decided to change over the entire vineyard starting this year. We did about 40% of the lower section. We chose plants there based on the position of the canes and overall health of the vine. If we could make the conversion we did. If we couldn’t we left the plant for next year.
In the upper section though we did a 100% conversion. In the first step Stefania and Millie went through the vineyard and removed all of the canes from the plant except for 2 or 3 closest to the center of the plant. The goal was to end up with two left, but they often left me 3 so I had options on where to cut. Below is an example of what the plant looked like after they went through.
I spent a lot of time with the chain saw. The cordons are too thick to remove with pruners and have to be sawed off. It’s a delicate thing to do. I have to make sure not to cut the canes we want to leave, or too much of the plant off. I also have to avoid hitting the wire with the saw, which is hard because the cordons rest on the wire. I ended up cutting the wire once and bucking the chain of the saw about 5 times.
Once the Cordons are off the plant looks like this. Herrardo followed me around as I cut and removed the wood from the vineyard. He’d also replace the chain when it came off. With the amount to be cut I’d switch chain saws every 30 minutes or so to let one cool while I worked with the other one.
The final step is to pull down the canes and tie them to the wire as you see below. In this case I was able to leave one renewal spur for next year. In the Guyot method you have 4 canes total on the plant. Two are pulled down and two are cut to two nodes to provide canes for the next year. In our situation though we had no plants yet with 4 canes in the right position so we’ll do the step of having renewal spurs next season.
Normally such a dramatic change, and the missing renewal spurs would mean a huge drop in yields. Since yields were already so low though we thing we might actually have more Chardonnay this year than last.
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.
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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