Thursday, August 21, 2014

Here Comes Harvest 2014!

For the first time ever at Foursight and Charles Vineyard, we'll be picking our first blocks in August! We just called our first two pick dates for this weekend and early next week. The good news is that quality looks great. The bad news is that we now have to turn around from bottling our 2013 Pinot Noirs and harvest and crush the very next day.

Winemaker Joe preps the equipment for another harvest

Why is this year early? A very mild spring and dry conditions caused early budbreak, followed by a warm June & July. August has cooled, but the vines already had a head-start, bringing ripeness earlier than average by at least several weeks. Luckily, we had plenty of water to keep the vines well hydrated through the season (due to those last few spring storms), but they're showing all the indicators that they're ready or will be soon!

We pick earlier than most anyway, with the majority of our portfolio coming in between 13.5-14% natural alcohol (no watering back to a desired sugar level for a target alcohol). These first blocks will come in at approx. 23 brix. Natural acidities look absolutely fantastic this year, which is a relief as regions picking earlier this month reported the opposite. Seeds are brown, and stems aren't sappy (the status of the stems is important as we always include 10-35% whole clusters in our fermentations).

The shocker again this year: a lower crop level on the Sauvignon Blanc has ensured it will come in early this year, alongside the Pinot Noirs. The only other year that we saw this happen was last year, another warm year. We typically have at least a few weeks in between the Pinot Noirs and the Bordeaux whites, which simply need a little more heat and hangtime to ripen here. This gives us a moment to clean up all the Pinot winemaking equipment and move into whites mode. But, if one thing is ever true about harvest, it's that it's never predictable!

So, wish us luck! We look forward to sharing this experience with all our Harvest Experience attendees on September 13. Here we go!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

AV Pinot Festival Weekend

Last weekend was the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival -- our busiest weekend of the year. Lucky for us, the weather was perfect; it was in the mid-70s for the main event, with a slight breeze.

This year we hosted the Friday night Casual BBQ in our orchard behind the winery. I admit, we had a lot of prep work to do in a space that hadn't been used since our wedding five years ago. We weed-eated, we trimmed trees, we put the fence back together and drug out construction remnants from several projects -- all to make it look appropriately "country rustic." Well, country rustic enough for a wine event. For anyone who truly grew up on a farm in a rural area, you know what that really looks like. Farmers and ranchers don't throw anything away, which means piles of equipment, parts, fencing, and you name it. But I digress.

The evening kicked off for us on Thursday. As my husband and Foursight winemaker, Joe Webb, is the president of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association, we were invited to the welcome dinner at Champ de Reves (the Edmeades property Kendall-Jackson re-opened for tastings the summer before last).

It was a lovely evening and the first time the president of our association didn't give a welcome speech. It "wasn't necessary," apparently, which Joe was very happy about, but just reminded me of how differently we operate than other wine regions, like Sonoma and Napa, where I have worked. Instead, we were given an introductory speech about the brand and the wine group that it exists in, within the K-J umbrella. I think we all thought that odd because traditions among our vintner community here are paramount. I think it very much has to do with trying to keep that small-town, community feeling, even as our appellation is growing.

Friday night's BBQ turned out exactly as planned. Bones' Roadhouse killed it with their smoked lamb and Dean Titus and all the other talented locals in the band were wonderful. The wine selection wasn't too shabby either: we had everything from Scherrer to Williams-Selyem to Littorai, Foursight of course, and much more. There was even a bottle of Petite Munier from WillaKenzie Estate -- one of my old brands in the Willamette Valley.

Bones Roadhouse, with a smoker full of lamb and veggies
The red wine table

The entire photo album can be found here:

Saturday was the first time that I haven't organized and attended the morning's press tasting. It felt a little odd, but with the BBQ to plan, I was grateful. Joe and I poured for Foursight at the grand tasting at Goldeneye Winery, and, even though our plates of delicious paella, smoked salmon and cheese ended up on the ground due to a wind gust, it seemed like yet another wonderful AV Pinot Festival grand tasting, complete with great food, music, and a silent auction which raised another $25-30,000 for the Anderson Valley Health Center.

Joe and Kristy pour at Saturday's grand tasting

Saturday evening I crashed, and Sunday we were back again for our open house. We had The Oyster Girls again this year, serving petite Miyagis to pair with our 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, plus vegan mushroom bites, hand-carved Jamon de Serrano, St. George cheese from Sonoma County, and more. Thank goodness for our family, who helped us through it all!

Tom and Scott Wilson carve the jamon de serrano while Ozzie waits for scraps

Winemaker Joe Webb pours our Pinots

Aluxa and the delicious oysters

Although it's always a fun weekend, we're also a little happy to see it go as it means we get to collapse for a few days then really start looking forward to the rest of the summer. Thank you to all our wine club members and customers who joined us for the weekend!

For tickets and info about the event:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Vintage 2014

Shame, shame, shame. Yes, it's been since October when I last posted. We've been busy, we've been social media-ing -- I have a lot of excuses, but here we are. I thought an appropriate way to resurrect this would be to address the very interesting vintage we have underway.

New buds in April

As is common knowledge, we are in a drought in California. As I write this we have received approximately half our average rainfall, and thank god for that. In January, before the big storms arrived, we sat down as a family and seriously discussed what we would do it there was no grape harvest this year. For my parents, as growers, it would be disastrous. At the winery we have enough inventory in bottled-but-not-yet-released or library wines to probably eek through. We would have to skew our 2014 harvest toward quick-releasing wines that we could bottle soon and release soon, and our wine club would be the priority. Luckily, we no longer have to make those decisions.

To attempt to maintain a crop under drought conditions, we did many things differently this year. First, we pruned late to postpone frost season as long as we could. We pruned right before the vines went into budbreak, where the new leaves emerge. This gave us a few weeks of rest. We also attempted to facilitate the movement of cold air about the property. Keeping things mowed and eliminating natural air dams helps cold air to (hopefully) move past the vines.

Another big change the valley this year is the addition of wind machines, much to the chagrin of many in the community (and myself, on many occasions). They're loud, although local growers are trying to tweak that by reducing fan speed and turning them on for shorter periods of time. However, in a drought, they're the single best option for frost protecting when you don't have water or don't want to use scarce water resources for frost season. Luckily, most are rented for the season and we hope for ample rainfall next season so they can be returned to their rightful owners!

So far this season, we've had to frost protect for nine nights, meaning that it has been a mild spring for us. And we hope for more of the same into May and early June.

One issue that we've noticed this year was actually caused by extremely cold weather in December 2013. In early December, NorCal experienced a cold snap. Here at the winery we had four nights of lows ranging from 11 degrees to 14 degrees. Our winery walls were frozen solid, and we had to use industrial heaters to thaw the (thankfully plastic) water pipes so we could open the tasting room with a working bathroom. We lost plants all over the property, including a giant cactus, which tends to be pretty cold-hardy.

This cold snap effected the vines too. We're seeing vascular damage in the vineyard, which essentially means that the cells froze inside the plant. We've been trying to beef them up with natural minerals and other "grapevine vitamins," but we're certainly seeing that they're a little behind, growth-wise, where they would normally be. How this will play out throughout the season we'll have to wait and see. Luckily, my parents are in the vineyard so often they noticed the issue early on, so we've had some time to address it.

Overall, we made an early prediction that we hoped to ripen 75-80% of a regular crop. Pruning late does push harvest later, so let's all hope for a dry fall (until November hits, then rain baby rain).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Recent Press

We've received some fantastic new scores and accolades for our wines this fall, and of course we're thrilled:

Pinot Report
93 points: 2010 Zero New Oak Pinot Noir
94 points: 2010 Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir
91 points: 2010 Clone 05 Pinot Noir

Foursight was also mentioned as an "elite producer" in Anderson Valley by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. The article is called "America's Best Pinot Noirs," and names the top Pinot-producing regions.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

America’s Best Pinot Noirs

We name the top addresses for the variety, region by region.

America’s Best Pinot Noirs
It’s been written so often that it’s become a cliché: Pinot Noir is a fickle grape that needs just the right conditions to thrive. 

Yet, Pinot’s popularity is such that we’re confronted by dozens of bottles from countless regions every time we enter a wine shop or open a wine list.

Here’s a way to cut through the clutter. Zero in on these six American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), hand-selected by our team of West Coast editors.


Anderson Valley, California

Truly gorgeous inside and out, Anderson Valley, a coastal Mendocino ­appellation due north of Sonoma County, is among California’s most chosen spots for cool-climate Pinot Noir, and a viticultural playground for producers from around the state.

Anderson Valley winds its way 15 miles between the roadside town of Boonville (where the locals speak their own language to ward off strangers), continuing northwest along remote stretches of vineyard and homesteads to the tiny town of Philo. It then continues for another 15 miles through Redwood forest toward the Pacific Ocean. 

It’s among the coolest places to grow grapes in the state—the annual average temperature hovers around 55˚F—with ocean fog drifting along the Navarro River, cramming into the valley’s hillsides and ridges. 

Here, grapes hang long and low, retaining their natural acidity. Sunlight arrives late and leaves early.
Temperatures vary by about 10 degrees from the valley’s northwestern end, nicknamed the Deep End, known for its prolonged seasons of cold nights and temperate days, to its warmer south. 
Thus, Pinots carry different characteristics in different pockets. Those grown closest to the ocean exhibit perfumed black cherry and raspberry, while those from the warmer ridges impart richer swirls of spice and darker fruit. 

They also impart hints of lavender and violet, in addition to an herbaceous characteristic sometimes traced to the valley’s proliferation of pennyroyal, a species of mint. 

With pretty red fruit, earth and spice on top of enviable structure, Anderson Valley Pinots pair well with meals. They have an ethereal quality, but also depth and richness, a proper alignment between acidity and weight.

Anderson Valley’s finest are made by estate properties, as well as many respected producers from outside of the area. —Virginie Boone

Vital Statistics

Date Established: September 1983
Size: 2,244 acres
Soil Type: Sandy, gravelly alluvial loam soils with plenty of clay at low elevations, acidic gravelly loam and clay on decomposing sandstone on the hillsides.
Number of Wineries: 35
Best Value Producers: Handley, Husch, Lazy Creek, Navarro
Elite Producers: Baxter, Black Kite Cellars, Breggo, Carpe Diem, Copain, Drew, Foursight, Goldeneye, Littorai, Toulouse, Williams Selyem

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The End of Crush 2013

As of this week, it's official: harvest 2013 is over at Foursight Wines. The last two weeks found us pressing off fermented Pinot Noir, barreling it all down, and reorganizing and cleaning the cellar. Equipment was put away, and we're now 98% buttoned up for the winter!

It was an early harvest, with our first block of Pinot Noir coming off the vine on September 5. The next 10 days were a brutal exercise in endurance and sleeplessness, with 99% of the grapes harvested with in that period. Even our Sauvignon Blanc, which was hit hard this spring with frost, then rain during bloom (thus reducing the crop) came in alongside the Pinot Noirs because of the reduced cropload.

We night picked, day picked, poured at Winesong! on the Mendocino Coast, poured in the tasting room, and planned our annual Fall Harvest Experience party. The last block to come off at Charles Vineyard was our estate Semillon, on September 19 -- right before the first sprinkles of the season.

Quality looks great overall. Mid-summer we were nervous about physiological ripeness (brown seeds and stems, etc.) catching up with rapidly increasing sugar levels due to the heat, but the cool August allowed the vines to get there before we picked. In fact, we had some of the most mature seeds and stems that we've seen in a while on most blocks. The vines knew it was an early season, and they were ready. We had just enough water to keep everything hydrated, and we're very happy with what came off the vine. Flavors are phenomenal this year, albeit with softer acids some past years.

We increased our production slightly this year, and have produced two new wines: an unoaked Pinot Noir, and a "Paraboll" Pinot Noir. The unoaked Pinot Noir was inspired by tasting our topping lots with customers, out of stainless kegs and carboys. So, we're producing a Pinot Noir that won't see any barrel influence. It will be fresh and fruity and easy to drink (and we'll be able to sell it for a great price because of the lack of $1000-a-pop barrels). The integrity of the fruit that comes off our Charles Vineyard shines through no matter the treatment, so we're certain that this will be an incredible wine.

We also produced a "Paraboll" Pinot Noir this year. To give the short version, our winemaker, Joe Webb, also worked with Londer Vineyards here in Anderson Valley. When the owners retired this year and closed the business, we made an agreement to continue to produce just one Pinot Noir -- the Paraboll blend. We are producing our take on Paraboll this vintage, with a specific blend of clones, different picking procedures, and a separate barrel program from our other Pinot Noirs. We're all very excited to see how it turns out!

One thing I'm the most proud of, personally, is that we all worked together (namely myself and my winemaker husband) without killing each other! We produced more wine than we have in several years, all in-house. This means that everything, including the whites, is 100% wild yeast, wild ML, and will be bottled unfined and unfiltered. That's rare anywhere in the world of modern winemaking.

Now we're looking at our first, full days off since bottling on August 27. I have the bubbles ready!