Sexy Fishnets – NOT

After this year we will have outgrown the space at Chaine d’Or.  We’ve got a few plans we’ve been kicking around and the one we finally choose will largely depend on how sales go over the next 12 months.  We could go back to doing part of our production at another facility.  There are a few options and a few people we like working with.

We’ve could also open our own facility.  We’ve talked about doing this some where in San Jose in either an urban or suburban facility.  That would make our commute easier and let us lay things out the way we’d like to do them.  That’s expensive though since we’d need a lot of new equipment.  If we do that option we know we’ll need to open a tasting room as part of the facility to drive more local sales and offset some of the costs of running the facility.

We’ve talked about what we want from a tasting room and we’re planning this summer on touring in Napa and Sonoma to get ideas on what to do and not to do.  I’m really leaning towards a modern or post modern look.  Glass and chrome.  I like the idea of doing a walk around facility too rather than a bar.  Something more like the Apple Store, with pouring and information stations that you could approach and linger at.  Maybe one for each vineyard with a slide show of the vineyard you could view.  Instead of the pouring staff standing behind a bar looking at you, they’d move around with people in the facility, letting them go to the station they wanted to explore and answer questions in an informal environment.

I’d also like to tie in a lounge area.  When you’ve had your fill of information and tasting, a place to sit comfortably and review the wines.  Maybe that’s a ‘Wine Club Lounge’ that you could plan a longer visit at with light snacks and music.  I’d like really nice professional photos of the vineyards to decorate the walls.  We’ve talked about what else we might sell in the area and we’re pretty sure we’d limit it to just a few things and have those be very high quality and unique. Something you wouldn’t see in another tasting room.  We also want to have space for visiting artists that we enjoy.

We won’t have $5.99 fake fish netting.  I promise, no matter what.  I actually was offered that in email today.  Something to add to our tasting room.  Fake fish netting?  Does this make the wine better?

Urgent Care

I think I’ll start this post as a rant.  I’ve been to Urgent Care twice now in the past 6-7 years.  Once for stitches to close a puncture wound in my hand – oyster incident.  The other time was last week.  I didn’t go there, my doctor sent me there.  I had made a regular appointment and she did not have enough of the drug in her office I needed to inject me with.  In fact they tried every office in the building and no one had enough, so she sent me to Urgent Care.

I’m just gonna say if you are in urgent care you should have one of the following on your person – bandage, barf bucket, visible rash, something swollen so much you look like the kid from Mask.  A runny nose or a cough is not Urgent.  I had two of the four by the way.  Otherwise make an appointment for goodness sake.  Don’t make the guy with his eyes swollen shut wait behind you and your runny nose.

So now the back story.  Last Sunday we got an urgent email from Jerry at Chaine d Or.  Deer were in the vineyard and had eaten about 50 plants.  We went up Sunday night to find the problem in the fence.  Jerry had already gotten the parts to repair the fence, but we were coming from the movies and were not really dressed right for fence repair.

The fence was down over about a 30 foot stretch.  A combination of a wood rat den and a down limb had brought it down.  The wood rat was the danger.  They build their dens with poison oak.  I had to cut out a bunch with snipers and a chain saw to make enough room to repair the fence.

It’s an urgent operation.  You have to stop the deer right away or they will come back every night until the vineyard is stripped of leafs.  Stefania got to work putting up dryer sheets around the fence and vineyard.  Deer hate the smell and will avoid the sheets.

I got the area cleared and with help from Millie and Stef got 5 new posts pounded in and 30 feet of new fence up in about 2 hours.

It didn’t set in until Tuesday about noon.  First on my left arm, then most troubling on my neck.  By Thursday morning both arms were covered from elbow to wrist.  I had it on my right leg, waist and back.  It also was in my left ear, forehead, neck and around both eyes.  My right eye was swollen shut.  Stef had it on her right arm, waist and back.  Mine was worse though, probably from the chainsaw throwing poison around.  I had about 5 times more coverage on my body and eyes and ear were the biggest risk.

The doctor put me on a steroid to ease the swelling and that first shot helped right away.  We’re both still red and itchy but recovering.  Hot water helps the most so Stef’s been in the hot tub a fair amount and I shower or wash down every 6 hours or so.  If you wonder why we say we hate deer so much, here’s another reason.  50 lost plants and 3+ weeks of recovery.

Pink Slime

A few months ago I told Stefania we should start a new blog called “Slow and Hard”. She laughed and thought what you just did.

Every ad, every stir and smile tv cook and every commercial on tv for food seems to use the phrase “Fast and Easy.” They leave out the “Crappy” part. It should be “Fast, Easy and Crappy”. As in: “Show your family how much you care by serving this wonderful soup that is ‘fast, easy and crappy'”. Good food is slow and hard. It means some level of commitment by someone to not cut a corner and make it crappy.

A few years ago we stopped buying ground beef. We knew no one was grinding up chuck in the back of the store anymore and the process to make what was being sold commercially was gross.  I also have been on this kick about respect the animal.  I like to name all our meat.  That freaks some people out but if I call the chicken ‘Max’, it just seems more respectful to the chicken.  Max gave up his life so we could eat.  Respect Max.  Eating Max as a chicken nugget at KFC is disrespectful to Max and chickens in general.

Eating ground beef that has gone through a centrifuge and been mixed up with 100’s of other cows is disrespectful to the cow.  Plus it tastes like crap.  Honestly it’s mostly that it tastes like crap.  We grind everything ourselves.  It’s slow and hard.  Well not really, to grind 3 pounds of meat takes a total of about 10 minutes from set up to clean up.  There is an attachment to the Kitchen Aid mixer that works super well.  The end product is hugely superior to anything we’d bought in a package in years.

Me worry about Pink Slime?  No way!  We’re eating Maribelle right now and she was a good cow.  Happy and active.  We have a picture of her up on our fridge.  She’s really yummy too.

Our Mostly All Girl Crew!

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.



The Tasting Room

Tasting time

We often get asked if we have a tasting room or plan on having one. In fact at the last event we did one woman reacted like we’d lost a loved one when we said: “no”. “Oh, well maybe some day you will, just hang in there” she said.

I have really mixed feelings about the tasting room idea. Well mixed in that I’m 5% for it and 95% against it. It would be nice to have the additional sales outlet and it would probably let us grow sales faster. It would also be nice to have a place to meet friends and host events that wasn’t restricted to the space in our backyard. It would also be great to have a venue where we could feature the art of some of our friends.

The 95%? Well I got this as the lead paragraph in an email this morning from a local winery, I changed some of the names to ‘Blah’ to protect the guilty:

“Why not start the holiday weekend early with us today during our “Time for Wine” Blah Series?! We have “The Chris Blah Band” playing today and “Carlos Blah Music Trio” will be playing on Sunday for “Groovin’ in the Blah.” Don’t forget about scheduling a VIP tour and tasting or playing a game of bocce ball!”

One word, as an after thought about wine. It’s not even directly about wine, it’s about scheduling a VIP tour. That just isn’t our gig. We didn’t start making wine to play bocce ball and groove in the blah. We make wine to make great wine and share it with friends.

That’s a great risk of a tasting room. The venue and the sales from it start to drive what the winery does and the wine you make. The tasting room manager is sure to come to you and say things like: “An $11 Chardonnay would be great, and why don’t we get some of that Almond Champagne.” If someone told me I needed to make an $11 Chardonnay and Almond Champagne I’d kick them in the shin, not go along with the idea.

“Let’s host bridezilla” comes next and then you find yourself avoiding your own facility because you hate everyone hanging out there. So don’t shed a tear when we say “no we don’t have a tasting room”. There’s a reason we don’t. We like our customers, we consider them friends, and we want to keep it that way.