That’s it, the new tasting room. Doesn’t look like much yet, and it won’t be much as we start out, but it’s in place and in the permit process. Our plan is to roll the doors up and have people come right in to what will be card tables at first. As we get going we’ll make improvements (like interior walls and a ceiling). We’ve applied to have the outdoor area available also so we can set up some picnic benches for people to enjoy the outside.
We’re working on the parking situation this weekend. There is room for about 20 cars right now in the drive through and up to 20 more along Madrid Road. The problem is we’ve had two crashes through the front in the last month and I’ve had to remove and cut down all the trees that created a barrier between the road and the parking area. I’m putting a new ‘Defense in Depth’ in the front with 500+ pound boulders, 6×6 posts, redwoods and a fence.
In the meantime the property is keeping us very busy. Here’s last weeks activity. This is the back of the property along Madrid where I can have overflow parking before 5 hours with the weedwhacker.
This is after I finished. I wish I had taken more before and after photos. I’ve already done a ton of clean up inside the tasting room, but didn’t take a single before picture to share. Oh well
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’.
We’ve been very busy since our last update. There were significant delays in getting everything closed on our new home and we ended up in a hotel for 5 days. We finally got the keys on Tuesday afternoon and are getting things set up there. Stefania and I are really glad to put the process behind us and in getting our home together.
Grapes don’t stop and wait though and we had to carry on with harvest. It’s been warm and sunny this September and the vineyards are pushing ahead early like last year. Last Saturday we harvested the Crimson Clover Vineyard’s Cabernet Sauvignon. I had my regular job of hauling out bins and Stefania sorted everything as I dumped it into the 1/2 ton bins.
We used a small crew of our regulars and a couple of family members, my Mom and cousin Matt. We had everything picked and were mobile to the winery by 11 AM.
Earlier in the week I had picked up 3000 pounds of Malbec. We’ll use some for blending but also likely have a Malbec release in the future. 3000 pounds is my preferred amount to buy. It produces about 4 barrels or 100 cases. It also is the max payload for the U-haul trailers I rent. The FJ Cruiser can actually tow much more but I’d need a trailer rated for more weight. We thought of buying one in the past but we had no where to store it. Now we will have space to store it so a purchase before next year is likely.
The first picture I took from the new house. Wild Turkeys that come visit every day. They come right up to the front and back doors. Can’t wait to see the first time that happens with the cats looking out the door.
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.
Over the past 10 years making wine the very best times have all been at our home and in our backyard. We’ve loved having friends and visitors come visit our little Haut Tubee Vineyard and see the actual hot tub it’s named after. As many of you know our home is in the same neighborhood I grew up in. My elementary school is just a block away and my Mom lives just two blocks from us. The artwork on our label is the view from that neighborhood of the Santa Cruz Mountains, a view I’ve had most of my life.
Stefania and I love our home in San Jose and we’d never thought of moving. We thought we’d live here the rest of our life. People like to say sometimes life throws you curveballs. I like to think sometimes life gives you fastballs right down the middle of the plate. You’ve got to swing at those and swing for the fences.
In June we got one of those fastballs down the middle. Something we were not expecting at all and had not really thought of. It spurred us to action though and we put our Haut Tubee home up for sale. You can see the real estate tour at 564canton.com We got three good offers and went with the best one after a little back and forth. Our last day on Canton should be September 9th if all goes well.
We are converting the wine cellar back to a bedroom right now and removing the front vineyard. There are a few other minor repairs to make and then we will be on our way too…..Part 3 coming up soon!
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.
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.
The sun did not last long enough in the vineyard but it was a warm day and we were actually glad for the shade in the late afternoon. In the summer time we won’t get this shade in the vineyard. With the sun higher in the sky the vineyard stays sunny until just before sunset. By late afternoon it was just Jerry, Millie Stef and I doing the work. We were all slowing down some and even Jerry took a break.
As I said in the last blog you put on a lot of miles carrying out the cuttings from the vineyard. The picture below was of the pile at about 4 PM with 3 rows still to go. At this point it’s about 5 feet tall and 15 feet in diameter. The cuttings have to be carried out in small bundles. If you try to pick up too much they become hard to control and you drop them along the way. We’ve tried tying them up, using a wheelbarrow and lots of other tricks, but in the end just making small piles as you prune seems to work best for everyone. Millie likes to put her’s on a blue tarp and drag them along as she goes. She then drags the entire tarp out of the row to dump. It saves bending over, but is hard on the arms to pull along.
The extra hours on Saturday tough were worth it to take Sunday off. We were able to hang out in the back yard and enjoy a cigar and an Old Fashioned. Our hands were sore for a few days and legs and backs also, but the Old Fashioned helped.
First pruning of 2014 was at our Crimson Clover Vineyard. We didn’t head out too early. There’s no sense in trying to prune when it’s dark, but it was cold that morning. The temperature actually dropped to 34 when we arrived at the vineyard. There would be six of us pruning; Jerry, Millie, Stef, my cousin Susan and her husband Andre and me. Susan and Andre wanted to learn what it was like so we had coordinated with them to come and do a couple rows with us.
There was frost on the ground when we arrived but as soon as we got moving everyone warmed up. The sun game out over the vineyard by 9 AM and we were all warm pretty fast. Most years we count on pruning this site as a two day job. The hardest part is what I call ‘pick up sticks’. That’s picking up the cuttings and carrying them out of the vineyard. It’s bending over 100’s of times and grabbing the small sticks, then carrying the cuttings to a burn pile outside the vineyard. This year I put an App on my phone to chart how much ground I’d cover in the day. It actually drained one battery and I had to switch to my work phone to finish. The grand total was just over 9 miles walked for the day, all in a one acre space.
Below is the happy crew at work. Happy because it was still early and the sun was out. You’ll notice that everyone is on their own row. We learned this pretty early. Pulling the cuttings out of the wire can me dangerous for any bystanders. They can come out like a little whip and draw blood if they hit skin. At very least it stings. You’ll see no one is working the same row and no one is right across from anyone else. I’m the worst person to work near by unanimous vote, because I’m the strongest I’ll pull things out of the wire that everyone else would cut out. No one wants to be close by when I’m pulling on a really stuck cutting.
There where a lot of cuts to make at Crimson Clover this year because we were reestablishing spurs on many plants and that meant instead of the usual 16-25 cuts per plant we were doing 30+ on every plant. Everyone had sore hands the next day. 3 PM is usually our stopping time for vineyard days but when 3 PM came we were down to the last 6 rows and we all decided we’d rather work another couple hours rather than come back the next day for 2 hours work. I have a few other pictures on the second phone I’ll get up soon.
I realized it’s been 14 days since the last update. In general the busier we get the less we write. I know Stefania has a bunch of pictures to get up also but she’s been just as busy.
In the last update I wrote about the Crimson Clover and Roxy harvest. We brought in about twice the yield from those two vineyards that we’ve ever had before. Some was the season and some was new plants at Roxy starting to yield. I was exhausted the Sunday after that. I carried 90% of the 3 tons of grapes we had out of the vineyards on my shoulders. At one point Sunday I just had to go sit in the car for 30 minutes out of the sun.
At some point the following week I took this picture below of an old fashioned. Not sure what day it was or exactly why but it was on my camera. The days do get kind of blurry.
The next weekend we went out again to pick some of the smaller vineyards that were ready. We planned on doing the rest of Roxy as we’d left the Zinfandel there for another week to get riper. We would also do Red Hen and then the Harrison vineyard in Los Altos. The day before we go pick we get the crush pad staged which is the picture below. All the equipment comes out, gets re-cleaned and covered. We also make sure we have any of the supplies we will need for picking and transport.
Then the large bins and picking bins are loaded into the trailer and tied down. Each big bin hold 1000 pounds. I like to keep the smaller vineyards separate at least until we’re done picking, just in case one has enough grapes to do on its own. So we use a large trailer with three bins and do no more than three vineyards in a day.
The first day actually went fine. We picked Roxy fairly fast and loaded a good amount of Zinfandel which we decided we’d add whole cluster to the Cabernet already in vat fermenting. Red Hen was not so great though. Stef took a lot of pictures there but I took none as I was removing the nets. The nets kept the flying birds out but the chickens ate about 50% of the grapes.
At the Harrison Vineyard they had a group of friends picking so I just had to carry the bins out of the vineyard. They had about 750 pounds of Syrah in all that we also decided to do whole cluster as the start of the Haut Tubee fermentation. We were able to get out of the winery, home, showered and to the Roller Derby by 7:30 that night.
The next day did not go as well. We picked Mourvedre at Mineral Hill with the though of making a Rose from it. We knew there was too much fruit and it wasn’t going to get ripe enough to make a red wine. I figured there was about 1000-1200 pounds and 5 of us could pick in about 45 minutes. Turned out there was over 2400 pounds and I carried it all out 30 pounds at a time. By the time we headed for the winery I was pretty beat. As we processed and took lab reading we realized there wasn’t going to be a high enough sugar to even make a rose. The kicker for the day the was I got hit in the head with the large must hose as we were cleaning up and knock down hard. I ended up missing a day from the day job and had mild concussion. I’m ok now and will have more about the next weeks activities tomorrow or Saturday.
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