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:
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.
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.
So – It’s been more than a month. We finished harvest on 10/12 at Chaine d’Or. The earliest we’ve ever finished by 16 days. It was the biggest, best, earliest, harvest ever for us and from what we’ve heard and read for everyone in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Santa Clara Valley. We worked hard in the winery from the 12th to the 15th and then spent 6 days in New Orleans. We came back to finishing fermentation’s and completed all the pressing and barrel work by the 27th.
We also got a trip to Nashville in and otherwise have been laying low. We are doing a gluten free diet right now and no cocktails to try and avoid the post harvest 15. I had a bunch of pictures on my phone so thought I’d get them all up. First one is the press running the day before the Chaine d’Or Harvest. The timing was perfect. We had a few lots finish just as we needed the space.
I’m not really sure what I was taking here. It’s a hose in a barrel soaking t up so we can use it. Barrels dry out and won’t seal after a while so they have to be soaked back up before use.
Wine in the collection tray. Stefania loves it at this point.
Our pallet mover – which has been the best piece of equipment we’ve ever bought.
This was the day of the Chaine d’Or harvest. Not too early but cold. The stuffed shark is our driving warning. ‘Don’t move the shark’ is the rule when going up the twisty road to Chaine d’ Or.
More fog pictures and Stefania getting the pruners ready for the crew.
Everything is ready here for the fruit to start coming up.
I always try and pick at least one bin of grapes when we get started. After the bins start to fill I get busy hauling bins and running the crusher so don’t usually get to pick past the first 20 minutes.
At Chaine d Or we keep everything in the 30 pound bins through the entire process.
This is a view I rarely take pictures of. It’s a section of the property I only access on the tractor. This morning I stopped the tractor to take this picture of the vineyard.
Axel looks grumpy but he likes getting all the cash before Christmas. This was the first year he really helped out through the entire process. We’d lose him in past years to playing with the dogs or running around the vineyard but this year he wanted to help with everything.
This is one reason we love the pallet jack so much. We can move the fermentation’s inside where the temperature is easier to control and it’s much easier to keep out bees and leafs.
Final picture was of a full barrel of ‘Roxy’ Cabernet/Zin. The vineyard owner was excited that we might be able to do his wine on its own for the first time without blending with other vineyards.
I know Stefania has a bunch of pictures she wants to get up so hopefully those will come soon. Look for a special sale too for Small Busines Saturday from us and Winter Futures will be out right after Thanksgiving also.
By now this is a really familiar picture. Start of the morning in the FJ Cruiser. I was up at 5:45. Crimson is not far from our home compared to some other sites so leaving at 6:37 we were actually the first ones on site at just after 7AM. Millie had come the day before and removed all the chopsticks from the netting so the first task would be to remove the nets. Normally we’d have Jerry and Gil remove the nets and everyone else would start picking. The weather was drippy and wet though with mist coming down and clouds all around the vineyard. I kept checking the hourly weather update (which showed clear from 8 Am until Noon) and watching the clouds. Everyone pitched in to take the nets off.
There was a little moister on the leafs but the clusters where staying dry. They really looked fantastic. We don’t generally leaf pull. I prefer to get dappled sunlight on to the grapes rather than direct sun.
About 8:45 we got the clearing that we needed in the clouds and I sent the crew out to start picking as fast as they could. Clouds hung around the vineyard all morning but as volunteers arrived on site they all said it was clear to the north of us, the direction any rain would come in from.
The first bin of grapes. I picked about six bins total. Once the bins started to fill up though my job changes to picking up the bins and carrying them to the macro bins for sorting. Stefania calculated that I walked 12 miles in the vineyard, half of that carrying 30 pounds on my shoulder. In all I carried out over 100 bins on Saturday and over 60 on Sunday.
This is Stef’s usual job on picking days. She’s keeping a tally of the bins as they come in and sorting through the grapes removing any bees, spiders, lady bugs, earwigs, leafs, shoots, grass, water bottles or finger tips that come in. We had a good pick this time with no injuries or bee stings.
I thought we might pick heavy this year. Last year we brought in just under three full bins or about 2700 pounds. That’s 1 1/2 tons per acre and pretty normal for this site. I thought we would get 4 bins this year. That’s a little bit of a logistical challenge because the biggest trailer I can rent only hold three bins, and I wouldn’t want to tow much more than the 4000 pounds a fully loaded rig weighs up and down the mountain roads we have to travel. I figured we’d just come back Sunday though and finish up. The third bin though filled up on row 12 of 23. Rows 18-23 are shorter than the rest so we actually came back for 2+ bins on Sunday or just over 5000 pounds.
There was some drama driving back to the winery. The forecast held and at Noon it started raining again. We had covered the bins though and were already on the road when the rain started. When we arrived at the winery we had to weight about 30 minutes for the misting to stop. We then got everything processed and inside in just about 25 minutes, which was perfect because 5 minutes after we finished processing it rained as hard as I’ve ever seen at the winery.
We ended up with three full fermentation bins of must. That’s a thermometer sticking in the must getting a temperature. Brix was 14 and pH 3.80. Reallly perfect for this vineyard.
We were out of the winery in time to get home and take a shower and visit our friend Ingrid’s house for authentic Chinese food. The ‘pearl’ sausage balls were fantastic and there was a pot of ‘blood and guts’ that I really enjoy. We probably drank too much and ate too much and stayed to late given we had to get up Sunday at 5:45 again but it was fun.
Sunday we returned and picked the rest of the vineyard as well as the Cabernet from the Roxy vineyard a block down the road from Crimson Clover. For the first time there looks like enough grapes from Roxy (about 800 pounds so far) to do a barrel on its own. Usually it goes into the Haut Tubee blend. Sunday was one of those really tough days. At 1 PM I had to stop picking and hauling grapes and just sit in the car for about 30 minutes to recover. When we made it to the winery at 4PM with the grapes Millie was not there yet. We’d sent her to pick up some sandwiches so knew we had about 30 minutes before we had to process the grapes. I took my boots off and put them under my head on the cellar floor and fell asleep.
We ended up staying until just about 8PM. The Chardonnay was ready to go into barrel so while Millie and crew cleaned up outside, Stef and I got the barrels ready and all the wine transferred inside. Sunday’s dinner was traditional harvest food – beer and pizza.
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.
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.
After we wrapped up bottling I decided I needed some new boots for the winery. My current ones are really good but they are heavy and after standing for ten hours my legs and feet felt really heavy and tired. I was thinking something lighter would be good for the longer days n the winery. I could wear the heavy ones when I needed heavy water proofing and the extra toe protection and change out into tlighter ones when I didn’t.
This is no easy task. I wear size 14. It really limits what is available. There are also some brands that just don’t fit well. Nike runs small, I need a 15 so I don’t even bother looking at Nike. In this round of buying I found out Merrell doesn’t work either the arch is placed weird. Usually I just go on line and buy shoes. That’s what the picture above was for. I took pictures of everything I liked and then figured I’d check Amazon for size 14’s. The funny side result is that shoes are the only thing I’ve bought from Amazon in the last 10 years so I get shoe sale emails from Amazon daily. They think I have a fetish, the limits of data mining.
We had some time though last Saturday so I thought we’d run around and see if we got lucky. Sports Authority was the first stop. They had two pair of size 14’s. One was the Merrel and it didn’t fit right. The other was more of a fashion shoe and not a real hiker it had poor tread and no ankle support.
Next we went to Mel Cotton’s where I got my current heavy duty boots. No luck, nothing in a 14. REI was stop number three. The sales guy was full of confidence. “Of course we have lots of size 14’s, no problem”, he said.
“Great” I said, “Bring them out.”
“All of them?” He asked.
“Yes, all of them” I replied.
Ten minutes later he came out of the back with one pair of boots. The same pair I had rejected as fashion boots at Sports Authority.
On to stop number four, Big 5. There we had some more sales guy fun: “What are you looking for?” he asked in his best sales guy voice.
“Hiker’s” I said. “Light weight, waterproof would be nice but is not mandatory”.
“Well which style do you like. What are you’re favorite brands?” He queries.
“No. That’s not the way this works.” I say, “The way this works is you go in the back and find all the size 14’s you have and bring them out here.”.
He looked a little puzzled and hurt, not being able to use his best sales technic, but he complied and disappeared to the back for 10-15 minutes. Stefania thought he might be hiding from me. Eventually he came out with three pairs. Score, huge score! I tried on all three and bought two. A pair of Hi Tech and a brand called Itica. Kind of my general rule is if I find shoes that fit and I like I buy them, because you don’t know when that will happen again.
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!
We have a new employee on the Stefania Wine team. Our friend Jaye is going to be working with us through the shipping season and harvest. If she likes the work we’re hoping she will stay on and help out through next year as well. That’s a picture of her in the garage making boxes as part of the shipping process.
When we talked last year about expanding to a location in San Jose and opening a tasting toom we knew we wanted Jaye to run the tasting room operation. We still have that as part of our future plans, but it looks like it would be 2013 at the soonest. So in the mean time she’ll be working in the less glamourous garage and home office with us. That makes 5 employees on payroll. (I’m unpaid help)
That actually got me pretty mad as I though about it. I came up with a simple formula:
Solyndra + $575,000,000 in your tax money = ZERO JOBS
Stefania Wine + $0 in tax money = FIVE JOBS
Forward this to your congress critter 🙂 Anyway I’m not supposed to rant too much. We’re really excited to have Jaye helping out. She’ll learn a little winemaking this weekend and join Millie, Jerry, Stef, Ron, and I at the winery Monday for her first harvest day.
It’s raining in Northern California. You may have read newspaper articles about the rain or even seen the occasional TV report. Those reports usually give an air of panic and desperation as wineries try and rush in grapes before they are ‘ruined’ by the rain. Hooey!
We have a rain event every year. Well almost every year. In 2006 there was no October rain, otherwise it’s an annual thing. We do try and bring in the thinned skinned grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay before the rains come. The thick skinned grapes like Mourvedre (in the picture) and Cabernet Sauvignon though will go just fine through the rain.
The key is to let the grapes dry out after the rain and before you pick them. In the picture you can see Mourvedre in our front yard and there are little drops of water on the grapes. Those little drops add up and can dilute the wine, lowering alcohol by as much as 2-3%. That’s why it’s important to let the grapes get some sun and dry out.
We had been scheduled to pick the Haut Tubee vineyards tomorrow, including Red Hen, the Church, and Home vineyards but I just sent a message to Millie and we are postponing until Tuesday. We’ll still go on with Crimson Clover on Sunday as we have 2 days of sun coming and that will be enough to dry out the grapes.
Then what’s next? Do we panic and bring in all the Cabernet out there before it rains again? No, we go to New Orleans for a week to avoid all the panic going on. The Cabs will be ready after October 20th from our testing. Some vineyards will actually be ready around the 31st. That’s normal for us, the warm September helped get us back to normal, so it’s best to stay calm and wait it out.
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