Utah- Set Number Three

We’ve been busy bottling this past weekend and I’m behind on the last set of Utah pictures.  Bottling went well and I’ll have a few updates in the next week or so.  All of our 2012’s are now in bottle and resting safely.  Everyone commented how good I’ve gotten with the forklift and I did finally fell like I knew what I was doing.

We finished up our Utah trip in Moab as a good base for Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.  We did a bunch of short 1-2 mile hikes at Island in the Sky in Canyon lands and one long hike at Devil’s Garden in Arches.  The day in Arches was our only day when it got really hot but we started early enough to avoid the worst heat.

Below is one of the ‘fins’ we hiked across at Devil’s garden.  This particular one ended up in an 8 foot jump down.










There was lots of scrambling over rocks and following very rough trail markers to stay on path as we wound around from arch to arch.











The arch below was at the end of the very crowded paved one mile trail from the parking lot.  To continue on though you had to climb up about 70 feet of rock at a 45 degree angle.  I called it the separator and traffic on the trail dropped 95%+ after that point.









The views in Canyonlands were fantastic and I used the wide angle on the phone camera a lot to get panoramas.





We spent two nights in Moab and the second night we spotted a sitting area above the drive port at the hotel with a couple people drinking beer.  Finding somewhere to drink in Utah is always a challenge.  We told them we were crashing their party and went back to our room for my mobile cocktail case and a couple of bottles of wine.  It turned out that they were a group of neuroscientist working on an article for the National Geographic.  Hopefully there will be a mention of us in the article that comes out next year 🙂  We ended up having dinner with the group of 6 scientist and artist friend they were hiking with and the reporter for the Nation Geographic.  We picked a good group to crash a party with.

I learned a lot about how the brain works over the few hours we hung out.  Did you know there is something called ‘Cultural Stimulation Threshold”?  Basically if you come from a place with a lot of noise and find yourself in somewhere quiet you create enough noise to feel comfortable.  I also learned you should get outside at least once a week and do something different from routine to keep your brain working at its best.










The desert was in bloom for our visit and I took lots of flower pictures.  This was a favorite.











We stopped in Ogden and then Reno on the way home.  The final trip picture:

Utah Pictures Set Two – Bryce to Moab

We arrived at Bryce in the mid morning.  It was cold with temperatures never getting above 40.  We stayed at the lodge on a last minute reservation and enjoyed it a great deal.  The restaurant at the lodge was nice and kept us on our Primal plan.  We took a few pictures at the rim and then went on a hike down into the canyon.  The rim of the canyon was very crowded and noisy with tour buses and the crowds stayed on the trail about 200 feet down in the canyon when it finally thinned out and calmed down.  The hike seemed easy after Angel’s Landing the day before with a lot less climbing.

I think we did about 6 miles in 2 and a half hours.  We took our time climbing out.








It was a beautiful day and it was nice to hike in the cold.  The trail was wide and easy to follow as well.  We took a ton of pictures.



This is a a formation on the trail out of the canyon that gives a good idea of the trail and some of the sites along the way.












We woke up before dawn the next day to try and get some sunrise pictures.  We had been a little late from dinner the night before to get really good sunset pictures.  We packed up and hit the road again.  Our plan was to drive and stop and hike along the way with the thought we might get to Moab, or we might stop at Capitol Reef.









Our first detour was in the Escalante monument to the Grosvenor Arch.  It was about 15 miles of dirt road to get there and we beat any other people out there other than someone who had camped at the arch.









A couple of people had recommended the Lower Calf Creek Falls after we mentioned that we might hike there.  We had a little trouble finding it off the road but once we did we set off on what turned out to be a six mile hike.  My expectations on the falls were actually pretty low.  I figured a desert stream in the late spring would be a little trickle of water.  It was actually very impressive with a good volume of water and over a 100 foot drop.  It was definitely a worthwhile diversion.










The hike put us in a bit of a scheduling difficulty. We wouldn’t really have any time to hike in Capitol Reef or go off road there so we decided to just drive through to Moab. It was a long drive but we arrived in time to find a hotel and get some dinner.

Utah Pictures – Set One Valley of Fire to Zion

We left San Jose on a Thursday afternoon and spent the night between San Jose and Las Vegas.  Our first goal was St George Utah to spend the weekend with family there.  We loaded up the FJ Cruiser and packed in all our Primal food.  We were a little worried about finding non grain food in Southern Utah but it turned out to be pretty easy, especially inside the Parks.

Our first stop was the Valley of Fire out side of Las Vegas.  I really enjoyed it and we hiked for about 4 hours total.  We got lost once and had to use the GPS on Map My Walk to get us back to the car.  I really recommend this if the weather is right, especially if you’re like me and don’t really enjoy Vegas very much.









There were all kinds of great rock formations and tons of rock art in the park.  We were late for cocktail hour in St. George or I could have done 2 more hikes there easy!









After a great weekend with family we headed into Zion on Monday.  That’s Angel Landing below and we climbed that thing.  My day job actually called about 1/2 way up and wanted to know if I could get on a conference call.












A view of the trail and valley about 1/2 way up.









A good part of the hike includes climbing along chains.  My knuckles were banged up for a couple of weeks.









We also hike up the Narrow a bit and did the complete bus tour of the valley.  We spent the night just outside of the park and the next morning headed out towards Bryce Canyon with a stop to take a picture of Checkerboard Mesa along the way.


More Catching Up – What We’re Eating.

One reason we’ve not been blogging has been the number of other things we’re working on and doing this year.  There’s been lots of hiking, including a trip through the National Parks in Utah (I’ll get some pictures from that trip up soon, it was fantastic) and right before that we started the Primal Blueprint and did a 21 Day Challenge.

There really was not a huge change to what we were cooking and eating and I already had a good workout routine going.  There were somethings in the blueprint that were hard to believe, like you’d eventually stop thinking about what you’re eating, or you’d go 10,12,14 hours without feeling hungry, but those things have all happened.  The plate below I call a Primal Treat Tray.  The salami is home made and cured in our wine cellar.












We’re eating lots of meat and grass fed beef when we can find it.  I’ve joked with friends that this is the ‘Rib Eye and Bourbon Diet’.  I’ve had more rib eye steaks in the last 4 months than I can count.  One of the attraction of this plan was that unlike other similar plans drinks are ok, and wine is highly recommended!  Bourbon is actually the top recommended spirit as if I wasn’t in with the wine.










We’re also hitting the farmers market a lot and eating lots of veggies and berries.  I thought I’d miss bread a lot but I’m not missing it at all.  When I did try some a few weeks ago it made me sick for hours.  Scary to think you have to build a tolerance to digest bread and if you loose that it makes you feel terrible.  I’m down 26 pounds and feeling great.  I’m never hungry or feel like I’m giving something up and there’s no counting anything, you just eat when you’re hungry until you’re full and skip the grains and legumes.  Our hikes are averaging 6-8 miles now instead of 4-5 and we’re feeling well prepared for harvest this year.


Yep We’re Still Here.

We definitely go through writing phases and neither one of us has been in one so far this year. We’ve been busy though with a few trips including a great 10 day adventure of hiking in Southern Utah. We’ve been keeping up on the vineyards and all the 2012 and 2013 wine in order. We had a good spring release which we never even put up here. The order page is updated though with current inventory.

If there’s something you’d like though that’s not on the inventory page send us an email. I have about a dozen different wine right now that are showing 1-3 cases in stock. Not enough to put on the web page but we could check for you if there’s something you really like.

We’re heading to Crimson Clover tomorrow to tuck the wines there. The weather so far in 2014 has been great. We thought the drought would effect yields but so far it looks like we’re on track to have about the same amount of fruit as a typical year like 2012. We’ll have a Summer Futures offer out soon and then a fall release around Sept 15th. It will be our first wave of wines from 2012.

We are also doing a new diet and fitness plan, with lots of hiking and we’re averaging 12-18 miles a week. I’ll see if the writing bug picks up again this summer. We’re expecting a little easier harvest this year than last so maybe I’ll even get some writing in at harvest.



In blogs and release letters I’ve often talked about the red volcanic soil that we have in a few of our vineyards.  It really does not happen in the Santa Cruz Mountains very often.  On the west side of the mountains the soils are mainly sandy and sandstone based, that’s part of why I think the wines there can be light in color.  On the east side of the mountains the soils are clay and fractured limestone.  Every now and then though there’s a rare streak of red volcanic soil.

This is actually much more common in the band of foothills to the east of the Santa Cruz Mountains proper.  In the southern part of the range those foothills are called the Santa Teresa Foothills and our Crimson Clover vineyard is in that chain.  There’s some of that red volcanic soil at Crimson Clover and I’ve always thought that was a key to the high quality of the site.

Our Pinot Noir vineyard is on a knoll of red volcanic soil in the northern part of the foothill chain.  So far the wine from that site have been unusually dark and tannic for Pinot Noir.  I think that’s the soil in play.  I love this soil and wish we could find more sites with it.

Just before Christmas Stefania and I went on a seven mile hike in Santa Teresa Park, which surrounds the highest peek in the foothills.  That peak is called Coyote peak and is just over 1100 feet.  Our hike took us from the base of the hills at 90 feet to the peak.  Along the way there’s an old horse ranch and I took this photo of an old barn.










On the way back down we took the trail below and I thought this was a great shot of just how rare and elusive the red soil of the Santa Teresa Hills is.  In the foreground the trail is dark brown.  This is a heavy clay soil we have in the valley floor below.  It turns black when it’s wet and holds a lot of water.  Our Mourvedre in the yard at home loves this soil but Syrah has never really done well in it.

Half way down the trail though you see the color of the trail change.  That’s not the lighting, that’s a band of red volcanic soil.  You can even see the little raise in the hill where the lava once flowed.  The band lasted for about 70 yards on the trail and then was back to black clay.  The photo will enlarge if you want a bigger view of it.  Next time we’re in the park I’ll take a close up of the transition.  It’s pretty dramatic.



We’ve been getting some good hikes in the last few weeks.  It’s great training for harvest, probably the best thing we can do in fact.  Calero County Park has been the destination for most of our hikes.

There are a total of about 40 miles of trails in the park and the connected open space preserve.  Mostly during the wee we’ll do smaller hikes of 3 to 5 miles.  There has been a lot of wildlife we’ve seen on the trail this year.  We’ve seen deer, including a fawn less than a week old, bobcats, turkey, rattlesnakes,wood rats, coyote, rabbits, skunks, skates, and all kinds of lizards and moles.

Birds are a regular site too, with red tail hawks and turkey vultures like the one below the most common.  We’ve seen egrets and lots of different small birds.  No pigs though this year.  We see signs of them but have not seen them live yet.








Last weekend we did a very long hike. 9.5 miles in just over 4 hours. We went through all parts of the park including a climb to Bald Peak, the highestpoint in the park. We’ll be back a few more times before harvest for sure.

Training Camp Opens

Training camp for the NFL opened last week and that signals the start of training camp for us as well.  Each year we pick up the exercise to get ready for the harvest season.

Last year turned out to be very tough on us.  Harvest seson went very long, more than 14 weeks from first pick to last barrel filled.  Most years we count on 8 or 9 weeks from first pick through last barrel and the second longest we’ve had was 11 weeks.  Both of us were really worn out by mid December last year.

This year we’ve actually been training earlier.  Stefania has been treadmilling and running since April.  I’ve been walking 30-40 minutes every day and adding in jogging as well.  We’ve been getting in a hike every week.

We’ve picked up the pace now and have been doing a hike every 3-4 days.   We’re increasing the distance too and amount of climbing.  The running, walking and treadmilling will continue also and I want to add some biking.  Harvest this year looks like it will be early so I’m guesing we only have 5-6 more weeks to get ready.



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.


Tahoe Hiking

Last week Stefania and I were able to get away for four days to Lake Tahoe.  We went on a couple of long bike rides on Sunday and Monday in search of vintage record albums.  Tuesday we headed to Emerald Bay and Eagle lake to hike the trail into the Desolation Wilderness.

It was a really tough hike, about 5 hours total that we spent.  The altitude went from 6200 feet to about 8800 feet and most of the trail was steps.  We got lost a couple times on the trail.  Once around Eagle lake was fine,we spent 45 minutes rock climbing over boulders which we both enjoy.  It did put us about an hour behind schedule.

That hour delay wore us out  and we didn’t reach our original goal of Velma Lake.  We did get to the top of the ‘first saddle’ though which is the highest part of the hike.  We were due to check in at 4 PM an I knew we had to turn around to make that time.  The picture above is of the second saddle.  We thought it would be too long a climb down and up to make that.

We did get a great view of the upper falls from the Velma Lakes into Eagle lake that you can see above.  We rested on the top and took pictures for about 30 minutes.  The trail was crowded lower down by Eagle Lake but by the 1/3 way up we ran into very few people.

This last picture was looking out from the saddle back towards Lake Tahoe.  Stef thought the hike was too hard but I’d like to try it again.  Without losing that hour I think we would have been in better shape at the top.  I also thought it was pretty rewarding once we reached the high elevations.

If we do go again we’d need to count on 8 hours I think and not 6 to check in.  Having a better idea of the trail route would help with a second attempt too.  We spent a fair amount of time trying to find or stay on the trail.

We were both pretty tired after but had a great bottle of wine and a skirt steak with quinoa back at the hotel.