Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Snow

Snow has been a big theme in our lives the past week. For Christmas we watched it snow at Joe's parents' house after skiing at the local resort and Joe teaching me how to skin. (Amazingly, you can climb mountains in skis when you put skins on the bottom - giant rubber stickers that have a course "hair" that all goes in one direction: the hairs lie flat when you ski down the mountain but catch into the snow when climbing up.) Our dog loved it - she'll take any chance she can to run. On the way back up, she was trying to hand us sticks as we slowly (and, in her opinion, boringly) returned to the car.

The Christmas holiday was great - spent with both our families, eating, drinking, and visiting. It was exactly as it should have been.

Next we're off to Tahoe for a few ski days - once the tasting room opens and the event season begins in a week or two, our weekends will be spent here, as will the rest of the week. So, in the meantime, we're getting a few days in.

If anyone has suggestions for great Tahoe restaurants that don't require dressing up (not after a long day on the slope, thanks), please let me know. In the meantime, have a Happy New Year!!! We wish the best to you and yours in 2009!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Holidays

We'll soon be leaving for our own holiday trips here at Foursight Wines. After suffering through a week of freezing cold temperatures and constantly stoking fireplaces, it will be a relief to have a break and do nothing more than cook, eat, drink and be merry. We're preparing this weekend by putting the finishing touches on the traditional family Christmas cookies.

Happy Holidays to all our friends, family and customers! We'll see you in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Let it Snow!

Last night, about 11:30, it started snowing in Boonville! Joe and I were just thinking about going to bed and then these large flakes started to fall. We immediately put on our boots and jackets and went outside to try and catch some photos and to watch something that I've only seen 3-4 times during my entire life here. Joe was actually twirling, I believe the technical term is, he was so excited to see snow here. One of the flakes I caught in my hand was as large as my palm. After midnight we rode our bikes out into the vineyard to try and photograph vines covered in snow. It was amazing and rare - global warming is making us more and more like Burgundy every year!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Foursight Pinot Named Top 100 Wine!

Our Foursight 2006 Charles Vineyard Pinot was named a Top 100 Wine of 2008 by the San Francisco Chronicle!!!

This ran in last Friday's edition of the paper:
"Great winemakers seem to give all the credit to their vineyards. But as we closed in on the Top 100 Wines for 2008, the winemaker's craft never seemed more important. ...

"2006 Foursight Wines Charles Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($46) Kristy Charles moved back to Boonville after a successful wine-industry career in part to run a vineyard with her family and fiance. This inaugural effort is earthy and focused, in the traditional Anderson Valley style, with a mix of Bing cherry, blueberry and rhubarb. It's an auspicious debut, with plenty of delicate red fruit and a savory, smoky, nori-like nuance." - Jon Bonné

We were alongside some Kosta Browne, Macphail, Siduri and Domaine Drouhin in the Pinot Noir category - it always makes us happy to be in such good company! We're very excited.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Joe's 30th Birthday

On Saturday we celebrated Joe's 30th birthday in San Francisco! (HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOE!) Joe's parents - Pam and Bob - as well as our friends Ethan and Colleen all met up to go to dinner and the Bubble Lounge.

The day actually started as a bit of a fiasco. We made it almost all the way over the Cloverdale road (20 solid minutes of twisty-turney) before realizing we had forgotten the wine we were supposed to deliver to a Sonoma county-retailer. So, we had to turn back, putting us very behind schedule. To be fair, we had been dealing with a very upset dog missing some toenails due to a nasty spill during the week. We were able to wrangle some dog-sitting and so off we were finally able to go.

We had lunch with our friend Erik on the way down, then met Joe's parents at the hotel. After a magnum of Roederer there, we cabbed it to meet Ethan and Colleen at the restaurant in North Beach. The House was fantastic! My new favorite. Great food, reasonable prices, and a bottle of Sea Smoke for dinner to boot. Now the 2006 Pinot tasted too young, but I think with time it will be fantastic. The food was so gorgeous I took photos and completely embarrassed all of us at the table.

After dinner we went to the Bubble Lounge, where we ordered an assortment of cheeses and Roederer L'Hermitage, plus a selection of grower Champagnes that were delicious. I can now say that we've been to both Bubble Lounges - San Francisco and NYC - within a month.

On the way back to the hotel we popped in for a beer and some pizza for Joe - the bottomless eating machine - and then back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The planets align and turkey!

On Sunday night we shot some photos of the two planets (Jupiter and Venus) aligning with the moon. One big advantage to living in the country is that we can actually see these things simply by walking outside the house. This won't happen again for 50+ years, so I'm glad we got a few snapshots while it lasted.

As for the Thanksgiving holiday, we took it (mostly) off. At least off from our day jobs. We did a few tastings on the weekend, processed orders, updated the Web site and the like. Down at the tasting room we dug and inserted some additional drainage pipe. We couldn't do much else because the sheetrockers didn't show up before the holiday. As soon as they come we'll be moving some of our supplies into the winery to de-clutter the rest of our houses and storage areas.

Both Joe and my mother's side of the family came here, which was great. We drank bubbly, our Foursight wines, ate entirely too much cheese and Thanksgiving fixings, and slept and slept. It was much-needed.

What else have we been up to? Joe got a rotisserie for his Weber bbq for the holidays, so he's been smoking all the on-sale turkeys and whole chickens we got right before Thanksgiving. Our dog, Tet, loves it because her favorite food is chicken. We don't normally cook turkey, so she's been in heaven because these are the biggest chickens she's ever seen. Mmmm....

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Late-Harvest Time

We jumped the gun this year and went ahead and picked the late-harvest before the families arrived. The problem? Birds.

We now have swarms of hundreds (maybe even thousands) of black birds and starlings scouring the valley, looking for anything to eat. Even with our efforts to keep them out (including dogs and four wheeler rides into the vineyard), they ate about 1/3 of our late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc in a matter of a few days. It reminded me of those old videos of locust plagues - they just ate in from the end of the rows until they were chased out. All that's left on those vines are stems hanging sadly from the vine. So, we picked.

Bill, Nancy, Joe and I went out with our bins and took down all the SB and the clusters left on the Gewurztraminer vines. The birds kept flying overhead while we were doing this, hoping for another meal. It only took us about an hour and a half to harvest it ourselves, as so much was eaten.

After picking, we then pressed the grapes in our basket press and put the 10 gallons into better bottles (food-safe plastic carboys) to ferment. (We're trying not to use the glass carboys as much as possible because of all the horror stories surrounding them - winemakers carrying them and they break, cutting their hands, wrists, etc. - yuck.) We're letting the wine go wild yeast, per usual. It's already bubbling away happily, and it looks gorgeous this year - a beautiful amber color in the fermenter.

After picking, the birds came right back. Now we have thousands of them eating whatever we left, plus the second-crop Pinot. Along with the birds came the hawks, and there are several now trying to poach birds from the sky. It's loud, noisy, and really cool-looking. Well, cool now that the grapes are officially all in.

Today both Joe and I's family arrives for the holidays. So, to that end, have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy your days off! I know we all deserve them.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Farallon Pinot tasting

On Saturday Joe and I went to SF to attend the 10th annual Farallon restaurant Pinot Noir tasting - something we've never been able to find time in our schedules to do. First, we met my friend Heidi for some bridesmaid dress shopping (complete bust, although it was nice to see Heidi). We then lunched on Union Square, grabbed a coffee - only green tea for Joe - and went to the tasting.

At $100 a head, the reputation of this tasting is that the brands represented are at the highest end of Pinot Noir. I had assumed that many were allocated or mailing list wines, which was not exactly the case. What has happened over the years is that wineries become grandfathered in to the tasting. Given the space in the restaurant (crowded), unless a brand drops out there isn't room for another to join. So you have a mix of the more established brands (Handley, Greenwood Ridge, Calera, etc.) with newer brands that have managed to score a table.

The wineries represented included: Adelsheim, Argyle, Au Bon Climat, Bonaccorsi, Brewer-Clifton, Byron, Calera, Cambria Estate, Chehalem, Costa de Oro, Domaine Drouhin, Domaine Serene, El Molino, Etude, Fiddlehead, Flowers, Fort Ross, Foxen, Freestone, Gloria Ferrer, Greenwood Ridge, Handley, Hartford Court, Hendry, Hitching Post, Iron Horse, J, Keller Estate, Kosta Browne, Littorai, Londer, Lynmar, Marimar Estate, Melville, Merry Edwards, Michaud, Morgan, Patz & Hall, Paul Hobbs, Peay, Pey-Marin, Ponzi, Radio-Coteau, Rex Hill, Robert Sinskey, Saintsbury, Sea Smoke, Siduri, Skewis, Soter, Talisman, Talley, Testarossa, Thomas Fogarty, Whitcraft and Williams Selyem. (I believe a few may have been missing.)

The tasting only ran 3-6 p.m., so you can see that, being the driver, I didn't have time to make it all the way around. Plus I was spitting like crazy and trying to grab the appetizers that floated around (not enough to have a meal, but delicious - fois gras, smoked sturgeon, duck gizzards, etc.). There could have been better dump bucket placement for spitting, but they did provide little paper cups as the tasting progressed.

Many wineries were pouring multiple vintages, and even some library magnums from '94, '97 and and '99. There were quite a few 2006's, which overall I found to be somewhat light and thin as a group. My favorites of the day (minus the library wines because that isn't a fair comparison) were the Costa de Oro, Talisman, Talley, Whitcraft, and then Lynmar for the best overall lineup. Kosta Browne was only pouring the Russian River and the Sonoma Coast, so it was hard to judge their basic bottlings against other wineries' best wines. The biggest surprise of the day was El Molino, which makes Rutherford Pinot. I've seen some great reviews and scores for them, but was surprised at how restrained and delicate the wine seemed from a climate known for Cab.

Overall, it was educational, which is the whole point of going to these tastings. And I think our 2006 would have showed brilliantly against any of the wines in the room, which is satisfying to know.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The End of the Season, Beer making

After our Vino Moda event last weekend (which I would highly recommend next year to anyone who likes clothes and jewelry and has a little money to spend) we are coming to the end of the event season. This means a slow-down for us from working 7 days a week to hopefully just 6, and considerably less time in the car. We love doing the tastings, but sometimes it's nice just to have an afternoon off.

Yesterday, for example, we did some work at the tasting room and talked with journalist Heidi Cusick Dickerson who will be writing an article about us for the Ukiah Daily Journal (also syndicated via Business Wire). Afterward, we gathered with family friend Andy Berry and had an extended, European lunch outside in the sun. We spent the afternoon making barley wine - one of Joe's favorites.

We try and make a few batches of beer every year but have been putting it off for quite a while. So yesterday we finally got out the carboys and beer kits and found a burner to cook it on (the 5-gallon pot ruins electric burners, trust me on that one), and we started the process. Barley wine yesterday, amber ale today, and oktoberfest tomorrow.

Making beer is about 10,000 times easier than making wine. Especially since we use clone kits - pre-packaged beer kits you can buy at the local home brew store that imitate famous recipes. One of our beers this time is a clone of Sierra Nevada, and we love it because we know this way what the final product will taste like. The hardest part is hand-bottling the beer. We're starting to think about going with kegs, which aren't quite as convenient for giving away to the family, but they eliminate the bottling process, which takes hours of prep and sterilizing, and then hours of filling and capping.

What else is up for us in the next few weeks? Thanksgiving, for one: Joe's family is joining us here on the compound this year, which will be fun. After that, a trip to Tahoe for Joe's birthday (and possibly the city beforehand - we're trying to go to both Bubble Lounges in NYC and SF within a month). We're going to stay open for tastings on Thanksgiving weekend and probably the week of Christmas (minus Christmas Eve and Day), so we'll continue to take appointments. Then - 2009 budget time (yuck).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Free Shipping - Two More Days!

This is a blog - a place for thoughts, reflection and news. So, besides mentioning that we're now offering free shipping on 6 or more bottles of our Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir until this Friday, November 14 (available on our Web site along with our normal 10% discount on 6-11 bottles and 15% discount on 12 or more), I thought I'd offer a few thoughts about this whole concept:

I'm a wine consumer too, and I get all the offers and newsletters. Many wineries have been offering free or discounted shipping this holiday season, most I believe due to concerns about sales with a slumping economy. I understand, but I have one major pet peeve: I've gotten some offers for 1 cent shipping or 99 cent shipping. What is that? Pennies are the things that we dump into change jars, hoping to ever use again sometime in the next 10 years - perhaps to buy a hot dog once we've acquired about 10,000 of them. They're not for shipping. As a winery, I would absolutely loathe having to add a penny to everyone's orders - it's not even worth my time. I get it, they're trying to be different, but just make it free already! Save everybody some time and change.

When it comes to FREE shipping, I love it. Personally, I hate shopping around the holidays. I prefer to order online and have it all come to me, but I always know that if I just make one trip out, I can save myself a lot in shipping charges. That's where the free part comes in. I figure, with free wine shipping, I save myself anywhere between $15 and $25 in shipping charges (okay, I admit I buy pretty much exclusively from CA wineries) and it arrives on my doorstep a week later. And most wineries offer a quantity discount. So, let's take 6 bottles of our Pinot for example - if you combine the savings in shipping, plus a 10% discount for 6 bottles, that's like $50 in total savings. I can definitely get creative and spend that $50 on another member of the family, plus I have the wine to give away. It's a win, win. In fact, I think I hear the FedEx truck pulling up now.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Furniture Lust

Nothing exciting today, for once. Except the arrival of a new IKEA catalog. I think the arrival of an IKEA catalog is for women what a fresh Victoria's Secret catalog is for men. I could spend about $10,000 in the next 2 minutes, then be completely confused when 10,000 Florts and 3 Muddus arrive at my house a week from now. Sigh...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

SF Ski and Wine Festival

This past Saturday Joe and I poured at the San Francisco Ski and Wine Festival (which was followed by the boards and brews event on Sunday). It was our first non-wine event, meaning that the emphasis was placed on the ski gear vendors and resorts selling season passes rather than the wineries. It was at Ft. Mason and there were probably several thousand people that passed through the doors that day. The crowd was the most diverse we've ever poured wine for - from just-21 and freshly tattooed to Baby Boomers to young couples with young kids in tow.

For a first-time event, the wineries roster was pretty impressive (and just as diverse as the crowd). Cakebread, Louis Latour, Schug, EOS, Enkidu, Foppiano, Barefoot ... and the list goes on. We were right next to the NOS energy drink booth, where they had a DJ and, for a solid portion of the day, were playing too loud for us to talk to people across the table without yelling. It was a good thing because it attracted people to our corner (in the back of the venue) and they were giving out free vitamin waters, but our voices were hoarse halfway through the event. They played club music, then for a while in the middle it sounded like we were at someone's wedding, then back to the club. Entertaining, at the very least.

The ultimate verdict was that it was a fun event, but too long for pouring wine. We got there at 9:30 a.m. (having gotten up at 6) and left at 8 p.m. WAY too long to stand on a concrete floor and pour wine. By the time we caught some dinner with our friends (note Erik in the photo below, looking bored), and then drove home, it was an 18-hour day. TIRING.

Joe, Kristy and Erik

Our booth, in front of the NOS energy booth.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tasting Room and eau de beer

I have to say, coming back to 2,000 e-mails in your inbox, well, sucks. So, for the past week, we've been playing catch-up. Sorry for the lack of posts, but we still all have day jobs to compete with our winery duties. Unfortunately, the first to-do's to get scrapped are the fun ones, like blogging.

This past weekend Joe's father, Bob, came up and he painted the handicapped parking spot outside the front door (thanks Bob!). We've got stripes, images, signs - the whole legitimate deal. Then we spent most of the day doing clean-up, which isn't quite as fun - tossing scraps of wood into our old dump truck and hauling them away for a future burn day. We gathered trash, put usable boards back into our old barn, and picked up nails. It's really exciting because the outside is basically finished now, minus landscaping, which will be done by next summer because we're getting married there, so it has to be. On the inside we have to finish up electrical, then insulate, sheet rock, and finish up all the minor stuff. We also still have to stain the concrete floors in the tasting room. Oh yeah, and build a tasting bar. Just a few things...

I also decided to make up a game this week. It's called "what kind of beer is the Anderson Valley Brewing Company making today?" They're probably about 0.5 miles away from us, but the wind blows the smell right over our property, and they brew almost every day of the year (grains don't go bad and don't have a season like grapes). I've gotten good enough to guess dark or light (when it's dark it smells like burning grain), but I want to see if I can decipher the exact beer (or at least medium ale vs. heavy-hopped, vs porter/stout). Yeah, I'm kidding myself, but I can try.

I'll post some images of us working at the tasting room this weekend. I'm sure all the posts about building get a bit old for some, but it's extremely exciting for us. Selfishly, I can't wait to stand behind the tasting bar and pour wine on our opening day, so I'm going to keep everyone informed so you can make a trip up to visit. Anyway, my "add a photo" icon has disappeared again and I just don't have the energy to deal with figuring it out right now, so photos to come soon. (Yes, I'm only 27 but in some regards I'm still a tech idiot because I grew up in the workforce generation where an IT person was on-call at all times.) What mainly gets me is the networking stuff. Anyone out there looking to do some IT work for wine?? ;)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Jet lag - our trip to New York City

We just returned from New York City this weekend, after pouring at the Wine Spectator's CA Wine Experience. It was an amazing trip, with three days spent in Baltimore visiting friends, eating and drinking, and Wednesday through Saturday in Manhattan for the Wine Spectator event. Here are some highlights from the trip:

Our flight out to Baltimore was uneventful, except for losing track of our wine because we didn't realize all cardboard boxes got rerouted to the "oversize baggage" carousel. Then we waited for them to fix the oversized baggage carousel, which was jammed, and we were finally on our way. Once in B-more, we proceeded to eat, drink and walk our way through the city. Joe was determined to get his name memorialized for eating the most blue crabs, ever, so we begged our friends to take us to a crab restaurant while we were in town. Needless to say, they don't do plaques or names on the wall of any kind there, and Joe didn't break the record, but it was fun trying. After enjoying a crab pretzel (yummmm) and crab dip, the server brought a tray of 12 extra large blue crabs, just out of the steamer and coated in Old Bay seasoning, and dumped them on the table. They were delicious and super fresh, but I do have to admit the idea of having to clean them yourself at the table, intestines and crab butter included, grossed me out. The least they could do is give you some rinse water because that stuff gets everywhere. The crabs themselves, however, were delicious. I'm usually a pretty expensive date, but Coors light hit the spot with blue crab.

While in the city we also dined at Charleston restaurant, which I had visited years before for work. We called ahead to ask if we could bring a bottle of our 2006 Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir (the one we were going to show at the Spectator event) and, suprisingly, were told by the person who answered the phone that they didn't know if we could bring in wine. Apparently, they have such a nice wine list that no one brings in bottles. This struck me as odd, but I let her take our info and ask the sommelier. Of course, he said we could bring the bottle and pay $20 in corkage, so we did. We all did the chef's menu and wine pairings. They food was delicious - courses of salad, cheese, fish, lamb, dessert and lobster and crab bisque were spot-on. Most of the wine pairings were French, with a heavy emphasis on Rhone wines. We all had our critiques of the wine pairings - not quite as spot on as the food, but it could also have to do with the fact that Rhone is definitely not our favorite region. Regardless, it was a fun night and the splurge of the trip.

The worst part of our travels was the drive to New York from Baltimore. Not only did it cost us $250 to rent a car for one day for a drive equivalent to Boonville to San Jose, CA (3.5 hours), but we paid about $35 in tolls to get there. And then, on top of it, the Hertz people gave us the wrong address to return the car in Manhattan. It was a nightmare. We drove around the block where we thought we were supposed to go about 6 times, with no luck. Then we decided to find a place to park along the street so we could figure this out and call them, and that took 20 minutes. If you've ever been in NYC you know there are crazy cabbies and pedestrians everywhere - if I lived there I wouldn't even have a driver's license. We got the correct address and, lo and behold, the directions they gave us were wrong, so we ended up just down the block from them, by a police station. We're pretty frustrated at this point, so I called and asked if someone from Hertz could come get the car and drive it back to the garage, to which the receptionist answered that no, they didn't have the staff for that and we'd just have to find the place on our own. We had one more try in us, after which we were going to call a cab to lead us there, so we drove back around the block and finally found the garage. Of course, then we had to flag a cabby and drag our three suitcases and five cases of wine to the curb while he impatiently waited to take us to the hotel.

Once in New York, we checked into the hotel, which was more of a megaplex right on Times Square than a hotel. It had a theater, full dining level, and about12 elevators with an electonic keypad that told you which elevator to take according to where you wanted to go. Insane. The entire 5th and 6th floors were ballrooms, where the Spectator tasting would take place. We checked in, promptly asked the concierge for the nearest vegetarian restaurant (we hadn't had anything green since we arrived I think) and strolled around Times Square. Then we went to bed. The next few days we saw the sights in the morning: Wall St., the 9/11 site, Central Park, Grand Central Station, 5th Avenue and Park Avenue, the Statue of Liberty from the waterfront, and a few others. We found some great, cheap eats in the city, and spend most of the afternoons getting ready for the tastings, as that was our purpose in being there anyway.

The tastings were great. People loved the Pinot, and thought it was a great value as it was one of the few there under $50. It was tasting fantastic - all fruit and spice and toast. We were in between Goldeneye and Kistler, so there were tough times when we were empty and they weren't simply due to name recognition, but everyone who visited seemed impressed with the wine and the fact that it was our debut vintage and we were there pouring. We didn't get a chance to taste many other wines because, being our first year there, we were very all-hands-on-deck the entire time, but I did foray out to the surrounding rows for a few sips. We also got a stack of business cards from brokers, distributors, restaurants and retailers who wanted the Pinot in their portfolios or lists. It's something we'll be looking at in the near future.

After the tastings we went out for a late bite (11:30 p.m. or so) and a glass of wine. The first night was at Otto - Mario Batalli and Lidia Bastianich's pizzeria, and the second at the NYC Bubble Lounge. Both were great. The first night we had some Montefusco and Nebbiolo wines and prosciutto pizza. The second a 1992 Delamotte and some brie, smoked duck and fig jam sandwiches. We're poaching that recipe, by the way, and substituting smoked pheasant. I'll let you know how it turns out...

On Saturday night, we came home. It was a fantastic trip and I sincerely hope we get to do it again. Here's a slide show, with more pictures to come from our friends in Baltimore, I hope.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Away we go!

This weekend Joe and I are headed to NYC for the big Wine Spectator tasting. It's actually been a while since I've flown anywhere. Seems odd, but true. And we're headed to Baltimore first to see some friends and to treat them to dinner at Charleston restaurant. I ate at Charleston during my tour of duty with my first pr firm. I will always remember that they made me eat melon, and like it! I actually mean that they paired cold melon soup with some demi-sec Champagne (Laurent-Perrier, perhaps?) and, even though I despise the entire melon family, I finished my bowl down to the last drop. Now that's what I call an inspired wine pairing. Let's hope we have the same experience next week. And some fried oysters. And Joe claims he's going to eat crabs until he pops. Now I have no idea if Baltimore has a crab season like we do, but if there are crabs, he's going to search every one in the entire city out and eat them. Apparently.

Otherwise, the siding's up on the tasting room and getting finishing touches. We even have functioning doors! Really exciting. The other news is that it's ABSOLUTELY FREEZING. Actually, it's supposed to freeze tonight. But it's been cold, cold, cold. I feel our first fire of the winter coming soon.

Wish us a safe flight and successful tasting. I'll report back when we return.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Free at Last!

Today was the final day of picking - Sauvignon Blanc for Navarro. Thank god, is what I believe we all said. It was a perfect picking day - foggy and cold until about 11:30, when it cleared up into a beautiful afternoon just in time to enjoy our last, post-harvest beer.

An update on the rest of our wines: we now have a lot of Sauvignon Blanc fermenting in stainless steel, one Semillon lot fermenting in a neutral barrel and two lots of Pinot finished and resting in barrel. All our wild fermentations have proceeded without a hitch, and we're even wild yeasting the Semillon. It should be a fun wine since we've never produced the Semillon on its own. And, of course, our late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc comes off the vine at Thanksgiving.

As for our building, here are some images of the latest progress. Coming right along:

Friday, October 3, 2008

Frustration in the blogging world

I don't understand it, but some days my icon that allows me to add images to my posts just completely disappears. It's bizarre, and only happens every once in a while, but of course today's one of those days. So, alas, I'm unable to add the images of the tasting room (with redwood siding going on that we milled from Charles Lumber Company remnants and stained ourselves). I'll save it for this weekend, hopefully. Here's a text-only version of what I had to say today, as it's raining here in Boonville and I can't do much else other than stay in the office and get some things done:

From time to time I almost forget what the other major cash crop in Mendocino County is... that is, until a day like yesterday when I'm driving into Philo with the windows down and the entire area reeks with the smell of - who guessed it - weed! On my return trip I glanced over and, right beside the highway, is a giant garden - barely concealed by a board fence. People definitely aren't very shy about their favorite vegetable here. We can see a garden from our vineyard, in fact, where someone has hollowed out a giant blackberry bush and planted right in the middle. It's all sneaky until the tops grow beyond the height of the blackberries... And we're considered to be in town! This place is too funny for me sometimes...

As for the tasting room, the siding is beginning to go up just as the drizzle starts. The story on the siding is that we had it milled from old logs used in the Charles Lumber Company mill in the 40's. The porch (gorgeous thanks to Bill Charles) was milled from lumber actually saved from a fire that almost destroyed the mill, before my family bought our current property in 1950. Those logs were dragged here and we dug them up and re-used them for our front porch. I think it adds a nice touch to have our new business surrounded by so much family history. Photos to come.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Joe and I were going for a lovely harvest-time bike ride in the vineyard about dusky-dark this weekend. Tet, our dog, was along for the ride, roaming the vineyard, and as we rounded the corner we all saw what we assumed to be another feral cat. Tet, of course, took off after it. Only then did we notice the white stripe up the tail. She, having never seen a skunk, just assumed it was another weird animal that would run from her. Not the case...

Joe and I were both screaming "NO!" at the top of our lungs once we realized it was a skunk, but to no avail. Tet charged right in, then 30 seconds later came screaming back to us, dropped to the ground, and dug a path about 10 feet long with her face. She was literally yellow with skunk spray from the tip of her nose to her ears and the front of her legs. Her eyes were watering, our eyes were watering just because she was so close, and, having had experience with this and childhood dogs, I knew our night was over.

We rode our bikes back to the house, with tet diving into the dirt, gravel, rocks - anything - every few feet all the way. We got her home, phoned the parents for the semi-magic combination of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap that helps break up the molecules, and proceeded to bathe her about seven times. Of couse, having to douse her face made her unhappy and, right in the middle of bath number two she escaped and ran down the road. We had to go retrieve a wet, soapy, skunky dog on a bike, drag her back, and finish the process.

Above is an image of the unhappy pup getting her skunk bath. I have to say, it's been a few days and a few more baths, and her face still stinks. At this point I think we just have to wait until it wears off. Yuck.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Picking the Sauvignon Blanc

Getting the Sauvignon Blanc off the vine is always the longest harvest day as we sell it all to one winery (with the exception of a few tons for ourselves) and most of it comes off all on the same day. This year was no exception - we picked most of the morning on Wednesday and we all felt it the next day in our backs and legs.

It was FREEZING when we started (nights have been hovering in the mid-30s). The ladies we brought in to help us pick leaves had gloves on with latex coating their hands (smart), but of course I had nothing and the effect was like sticking your hands into the ocean and keeping them there until they tingled. My father took pity on me and an hour into it brought me some gloves from the house, which I wore until they became too sticky to grab anything and I had to take them off.

Other than us freezing, the pick went well. We had roped off four rows for Foursight, which we'll take next week, before we get more rain. For once, we took the afternoon off, having a long lunch and a few glasses of wine and visiting with the friends who made the trip up to help.

Here are some photos:

Monday, September 22, 2008

The State of Things

As it turns out, it rained only a fraction of what was forecasted - Friday afternoon mostly. This was a relief, as the weekend was beautiful and helped to dry the grapes out a bit. It's officially fall here, and the nights are beginning to get really cold again, so I'd imagine people will take advantage of the projected warm temperatures this week and get some of the grapes off the vines. I know we're hoping to take our Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon this week. They're hovering in the mid-21's in Brix, so we still have a little bit to go to arrive at that 22-23 Brix sweet spot.

We spent some of this weekend in civilization. Saturday morning we tasted the new Pinot wine as we pressed it. No signs of smoke exposure in any of our lots - our vineyard and V. Sattui's next door were the furthest from any of the fires this summer, so we weren't too worried to begin with. On Sunday we hauled in some firewood as we've now had to turn on the heater in the house twice - burning heating oil is expensive, so we took advantage of some dead, downed trees.

After this week, it's time to start thinking about labeling and packaging f0r our 2008 wines. Hooray! Then I imagine we'll start working on tasting room planning. Never a dull moment.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wines & Vines article

The other news around the Charles complex is that our tasting room and winery was just featured in Wines & Vines! click here to see the article.

Life and Rain

It's a stressful week here on the compound. There's rain in the forecast and the Sauvignon Blanc isn't ready to come off the vine yet. We've sampled every imaginable combination to at least get our 3 tons off, but the sugars just aren't there. The winemaker who purchases the other portion of the fruit has assured us that it will come through the weather just fine, but it's still nerve-wracking to deal with. Our harvest is normally early enough that we miss this early fall weather, like we did last year, but not this time. And rain brings a whole host of what-if's: if we get more rain than called for, we could see bursting berries and rot, if we don't get warm weather after the rain, our sugars will take another month or longer to creep back up to where we want them. This year we just have to let it be and see what happens.

The other bane of my existence right now is inventory and accounting. I was a journalism major for a reason, but the whole foundation of a small, family business is that you have to do things outside your comfort zone often. So I'm doing inventory (let me just say, this last time I was WAY off) and my mother and I are keeping the books in Quickbooks. God help us all. I mean, accounting and statistics for liberal arts majors can't really be classified as math, honestly.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Progress on the tasting room

Our walls are roof are finally beginning to take form. Here are photos on what's happening now at the construction site.The view looking from the crushpad.

The tasting room.

The view of the crushpad from the tasting room.

The roofline takes form.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Harvest, Events, and Lots of Beer

No blog posts this past week because we officially entered harvest hell! Not entirely true, but it's been a busy one. We picked Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and Joe and I poured our wines at the Winesong Barrel Tasting Friday afternoon (where we both got thoroughly sunburned at the coast - go figure). Needless to say, we've been drinking a lot of beer, caffeinated beverages, and eating a lot of junk. On Saturday night Joe took me out for my pre-birthday dinner to the coast, which was a nice breather (and a nice excuse to be clean and pretty instead of covered in grape juice).

Harvest has gone well so far. It's been a tough year for grapes, with acids staying high and flavors lagging as sugars rise. We were the last to pick (for Foursight) from our vineyard as we waited for the flavors to catch up and the acids and green seeds to decrease. It was a risk, but we're out there every day, sampling and tasting and checking the numbers, and it worked. Our almost-7-tons came off the vines Monday morning (will make about 450 cases or so of Pinot) and went to the winery, where they were destemmed and will merrily ferment away on the wild yeasts native to our site.

My one harvest pet peeve? Pinot Noir hands. Many people assume that, when you pick grapes and make wine, your hands get stained this pretty purple color. With Pinot Noir, it lacks several of the pigments present in darker-colored red wines. Picking Pinot gives your hands a dirty-brown stain, both on the fingertips and under the fingernails. Essentially, your hands look dirty and gross, like you've been making mud pies and haven't washed them. It's especially attractive when you're trying to pour wines for the public in the middle of harvest. ...

In other news, our tasting room is progressing amazingly, with walls on their way up. I'll post photos soon. First come the photos of harvest, because the grapes are the most important part of the equation, after all. Even if yields are down 50% due to spring frosts.

From left: Jimmy, Bill Charles and Johnny after harvest

Bill Charles and family friend/right-hand man Johney move bins

Kristy Charles and younger brother Tim Charles picking leaves from bins - the first all-family pick in a while.

Joe Webb, Nancy Charles, and helper Arturo pick leaves.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tasting Room, ho!

Last Friday we finally began to see what our final tasting room will look like. The concrete for the tasting room and winery, plus the outside crush pad was poured. Things went smoothly, the concrete set as it was supposed to, all the winery drains went in well, and at the end some small grooves were cut in the floor to encourage the concrete to crack as it cured along these grooves, and not in jagged cracks that will cause problems when driving a forklift over them, etc. In the end we'll have to fill in these grooves in the winery section with a food-grade coating to ensure no water or grape pieces linger when we're actively crushing there. Here are some photos of Friday:

Above - the giant concrete truck boom

Above - the trucks lined up on the highway

Above - working the hardened concrete

Above, from left: Bob Webb, Kristy Charles, Bill Charles and Nancy Charles, toasting the completion of the day with Foursight 2007 Sauvignon Blanc

Friday, August 22, 2008

Our First Day of Harvest

We started about 6:30, in the vineyard with two crews and myself, Joe, my mother, father, and friends Johnny and Gary. The goal was to pick the Pommard clone for Schramsberg Vineyards' Reserve sparkling program. What we ended up with was about 55% the fruit we've picked in those two blocks in past years.

It was an uneventful day, with the tractors making loops through the vineyard as the crews picked and we (and a few crew members) sorted the fruit and pulled out any MOG from the bins. The tractor would then deliver the fruit to the waiting truck and another would pull in the row it just left, eliminating any waiting around with full lug boxes of grapes.

The workers are worried this year. With no fruit on the vines, there's less harvest work for them. Not only are the growers hurt with the decreased crop, but also the people that work the vines. It's sad, but in years like this all we can say is "such is farming."

Photos of harvest:
Crews picking Pinot

Kristy pulling leaves

Bill weighing grapes

Bins of grapes ready to head to Calistoga

Post-harvest junk food

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Harvest starts! And more reviews

Well, it's official. Schramberg will be harvesting some of our Pinot Noir this Thursday, which means the season has begun for us. It's still early, so I imagine that our still wine harvest (the bulk of the vineyard) won't begin until early September, weather depending. This will mean getting the sparkling wine in, a short break, then back at it. Whew!

In other news, we had a recent review in the San Francisco Chronicle as part of a tasting of Mendocino County Pinot Noir:
"TWO AND A HALF STARS 2006 Foursight Wines Charles Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($46)
Wine marketing pro Kristy Charles moved back home to Boonville last summer not only to become executive director of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association, but also to help with this new vineyard founded by her parents Bill and Nancy Charles, and her fiance, Joseph Webb. Their inaugural effort is earthy and focused, very much in the Anderson Valley style, with a mix of Bing cherry, blueberry and rhubarb. It's a straightforward, promising debut, with plenty of delicate red fruit, and a savory, smoky, seaweed-like tinge for nuance."

A small note to the above - perhaps they meant new winery, not new vineyard?

Also, in Patterson's The Tasting Panel Magazine, written by Chris Sawyer as part of a round-up of the 2008 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival: "Foursight 2006, Estate: The exciting debut release from the Charles family, this marvelous wine features ripe flavors of fresh plum, black cherry, savory herbs, cocoa, and plenty of structure. Complex and elegant!"

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bottling the last 2007's

We bottled the last of our 2007 wines today at Handley Cellars. Other than a box of low-fills (where a malfunction on the line happened and they bottle didn't get the entire 750mls it's supposed to get), which we took home with us for personal consumption along with the "firsts" and "lasts" (the first and last few cases for quality control), everything went smoothly. We got 178 cases of the 2007 Charles Vineyard Pinot. If I do say so myself, it's tasting pretty darn good.

Next year we have three 2007 Pinot, which is up from this year's one Pinot. Here's how they'll differ:
1) Clone 05 Pinot - 100% Pommard Clone, 50% new oak (more than our norm because the Pommard actually likes oak - it complements this clone). Only 100 cases made via selecting the four best barrels of the Pommard lot. Wild yeast, wild ML, unfined, unfiltered.
2) All In - A blend of all our Pinot clones, 777, 114,115, Pommard. 33% new oak. A complex wine made with all the components from our estate vineyard. Mmmm... Wild yeast, wild ML, unfined, unfiltered.
3) Charles Vineyard Pinot - 20-25% total oak (mostly 2nd-year barrels), No new oak. The fruit really can shine through here - tastes like spice and fresh, crushed red berries. Wild yeast, wild ML, unfined, filtered.

These are all going to be spectacular wines. We kept a ripening chart last year when we berry sampled, which we transposed into an excel graph to note how acids and sugars were corresponding. Because of our diligent work, they came in at a perfect 24 brix with great acids and fantastic flavors. We're REALLY looking forward to them. Now we just have to figure out how to price these babies.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pinot Days Report from Vinography

Having worked in PR, I've come to know and respect many wine journalists for their amazing palates, writing skill, news sense and even business prowess. (And when I say journalists, I'm not just talking newspaper and magazine writers and radio and TV personalities. I'm talking bloggers and online publications too.) I mean, it's hard not to respect people like Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV - taking an online video site and turning that into appearances on Conan and his own book is impressive, no doubt. is another one of those sites that always impresses me - from the thorough tasting reports that includes links to the wine's online retailers to the that-makes-complete-sense comments about our industry. Needless to say, I was very pleased to see that he gave our 2006 Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir a 9 out of 10 among all the wines he tasted at the 2008 Pinot Days event.

Click here to see the full story.

More tasting room progress

Today I took some photos of David Pronsolino - a local - who came out with his portable mill to cut up some old logs left over from our lumber days. These were called a "dead man" - buried down into the ground and used as anchor points for Charles Lumber Company, when it existed. The great thing about this is that, not only are we recycling this beautiful redwood lumber without having to purchase or cut down anything, but we're using it as siding for our tasting room. I swear that everything on that building will have a family-related story behind it. Even I think that's neat.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Past Few Days

Joe's father, Bob, has been in town since late Monday, which has been fantastic but means few blog posts until the end of the week. He's in construction and so has been a huge help with the building site, helping my father monitor work and order supplies. Apparently things like trench drains go up in price significantly when you're in the North Bay and say the magic word: WINERY. When you buy them in Fresno (also home to fruit and other ag processing plants), they're a fraction of the price, so he's also helping out with some ordering of supplies and parts. It's been great.

This week we've worked a bit in the vineyard, pulling all the dying and dead leaves out of the canopy for the sparkling wine (open lyre Pinot), and yesterday I actually got to ride my horses (and somehow persuaded Joe to ride with me). So, it's been a great week all around, with some work getting done for the AVWA and Foursight when Bob's off on motorcycle rides. I guess I should specify: Harley rides. We've sent him out to the coast and back around, and today to Hopland and Ukiah and to the Harley store there.

Tomorrow night Joe and I are headed to the Boonville Hotel for dinner with several local wineries and the judges of the Mendocino County Wine Competition. It should be fun and, as always, very interesting, as our lives here always seem to be.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Surprise visit from the neighbor's cows

About 8:30 p.m. last night I received a phone call from my father, Bill, asking if I would phone our friend and neighbor and ask her if her cows had gotten out. Anywhere else in the world that phrase could be the basis of a prank call for 13-year-olds, but here it means exactly what it sounds like: there are mysterious cows on your property which need to be returned home. As cows aren't exactly the swiftest-moving animals, we then assume they must belong to a neighbor. All it takes is a few phone calls and their home is usually found.

We haven't had cows here on the property since I was a kid, so Joe and I had to go down and take a look. Sure enough, two black and white cows and one cream-colored cow (steers, actually) were happily exploring our hay field and tasting room pad. They were pulling bites off our baled hay and competing to see who could stand on the very top of the dirt piles. As my father explained, cows go nuts for fresh dirt. They love to stand on the piles and rub their faces in it - it's a bizarre thing that just seems to give them joy. If anyone has an explanation for this, by all means share it with me.

Anyway, upon finding out the neighbor was in another part of the state, we shut all the gates, parked a few cars in front of the space with no gate, and left them to play until her workers could come the next morning to herd them out, down and across the highway. Not much coercing was needed as they were pretty tame - they just followed the grain bucket home.

Our McNab Shepherd, Dexter, who came from a cattle ranch but has never seen a cow up close, silently followed them up and down the fence. He seemed to think that something should be done with them. I've only seen him stalk the water bowl that slowly and quietly.

For some reason my blog account is acting up, but I have photos of the cute little guys and will add soon...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

We have Veraison

A few of our rows of Pinot vines are just beginning to turn purple. This means the harvest season is approaching and will most likely start in early September for sparkling wine, through October for our Semillon (always the last to come off the vine). This is just an estimate, of course, because who knows what the weather will bring in the next month.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Life Goes On

The hole is now filled back in and passed the compaction tests for the tasting room (new building code), which basically just means we can proceed and don't have to dig it all up again.

Now is the time for working in the vineyard - doing what could possibly be the worst jobs of the year. This includes pulling leaves, removing weak shoots (small tendrils with massive berry clusters that wouldn't ripen even under great conditions - not enough leaves to support that many berries) and working with the whip canes in the Sauvignon Blanc (extra canes left to help the fruit set and ripen as SB is finicky here).

I was working away yesterday, and got about three rows done in about 5 hours (so sad). I was going along, listening to my ipod, enjoying some music and snipping things off here and there when my ipod stopped working suddenly. It was very sudden, so I pulled it out of my jacket pocket and, lo and behold, I cut the earphones wire in half with my clippers. GREAT. There goes my sanity for the next few days.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Breaking New Ground - Our Tasting Room

We broke ground today on the tasting room - VERY exciting news for us. We had the permits in hand last week and are getting to work as soon as we can. We always planned to have a tasting room here, but after exhausting our options of using existing buildings on the property with the county (a complete no-go), we had to go to another option - design and build from scratch. Luckily, Bill ran his own construction company for many years and has the capability of both designing and building (with some help due to the upcoming grape harvest).

The first step is something the county mandated us to do - remove all the dirt under the building pad, turn it over, then compact it back into the ground. Something to do with ground settling, although the site is completely flat and has been stable even with a house on it for decades (no longer in existence because the tenants burned it down - long story).

Here are some photos of us breaking ground just this morning. Wish us luck! The last tasting room to be built in Boonville was picketed by locals who didn't want an "outsider" here, although the guy lived right behind the tasting room site. It's never dull here in Anderson Valley.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Our 2007 Anderson Valley Sauvignon Blanc just got 91 points in Wine & Spirits Magazine! (score and review to run in the October 2008 issue).

We were also just invited to attend the Wine Spectator's 2008 California Wine Experience in New York! This is pretty amazing for our first release and we couldn't turn down the invitation regardless of the cost of attendance and staying in NYC for two nights. I can't believe it's been 4 years since my last business trip there, so it will be a lot of fun to show someone around the city (well, as best as I can).

The event is October 16-18, 2008, so come see us if you're in town that weekend.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bottling Season

What's happening at the winery now? Along with staying inside as much as possible to avoid the 105-degree heat and watching the National Guard move in to the fairgrounds across the street (to help with the fires, thank goodness), we're working on bottling details. Confirming glass, confirming labels, delivering corks and capsules.

This year we'll have branded corks and capsules on all the 2007 reds and 2008 whites (with our name, logo and, for the corks, Web site and phone on them). They're a lot more expensive than the generic, grape logo on the top capsules and blank corks, but we always intended to do this, along with eventually screenprinting the labels on the bottles. We're also looking forward to having three Pinot Noirs this coming year to offer (meaning three separate runs of Pinot Noir labels, all different). Plus a late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc, a "regular" Sauvignon Blanc and possibly a Semillon. Whew!

There are a lot of details to worry about with packaging. The main concern sprouts from the nature of a bottling line. You must always order extra labels, corks and capsules because there WILL be a glitch or some error involved in getting the machine set up for each, individual label, cork and capsule, and you'll lose a few percent through that process. Double-labeled bottles, smooshed capsules, it all can happen.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Pinot Days 2008, Wedding Dress Shopping

I thought I'd give a quick report of our first Pinot Days weekend (this past one), since so much is happening and I just barely got the chance to write about our Santa Cruz Mtns trip.

On Saturday we left Boonville and carpooled down to do some wedding dress shopping. To be honest, I was dreading it a bit that morning as the whole bridal scene isn't really too comfortable for me. I'm looking forward to the wedding, but I'm not one of those girls who fantasized about her wedding as a kid. I'm more of a "I'll think about it when I have to" kind of person. Well, now I have to.

As I plan to donate my dress to charity when I'm done, I decided to do some bargain shopping as, honestly, I'd rather spend the money on food or great bubbly the day of. (Yes, I'm a food and wine snob to the point where I'd scrimp on my wedding dress!)

We went to Bridal Image first - a great, friendly shop where they were super helpful. Didn't find much in the way of vineyard-friendly dresses, but some very gorgeous choices for hundreds of dollars, not thousands. My friend Heidi, Joe's mother Pam and my mother all joined us while the guys went to grab a bite to eat and find a nice drinking establishment. :)

After stripping down to my underwear and being carefully placed in dresses for an hour, I was more than ready for a bottle of Schramsberg Brut Rose and lunch at LuLu's (on the way to our second stop). A little wild mushroom pizza hit the spot.

Next - Glamour Closet, where designer labels are supposed to be cheap. The only problem - they were all samples and that's what you got. Some were pretty dirty and missing beads, etc. I did try on a few gorgeous dresses, but more of the getting married in a church kind. Not for me. I did find this hideous Vera Wang pajama-looking, pink-striped concoction that I'm going to post a photo of when I get them from Joe's mother. Ugh! I do have photos of the good dresses too, but apparently it's not a good thing to post them on the internet, superstition wise.

Then on to Hog Island Oysters (in the Ferry Building, which is probably my favorite spot in all of SF) to meet the guys, sip some Albarino, bid Heidi farewell, and then to the hotel to prep for dinner.

We went to dinner at Masa's, which was fantastic and pricey. We split wine pairings (3 for 6 of us), which they obligingly split up into separate glassware so everyone had their own, plus a few bottles of the Foursight Pinot Noir of course. We didn't agree fully with all the wine pairings, but the food was so delicious that it didn't really matter (lots of truffles, perfectly cooked fish, delicious squab and filet, plus an amuse bouche, canape, palate cleansers, etc.). It was also only a few blocks away from our hotel, so we walked.

Then on to Sunday - Joe and I left our parents early as they looked forward to brunch at the Top Of The Mark (my father used to go there when he was a kid). We headed to Ft. Mason to set up.

The number of wineries there was quite amazing. We were in the absolute back corner, near to Goldeneye, Handley, Elke, and a few other AV wineries. At first we thought it disappointing, but it turned out well as the crowds had a place to linger out in front, with tables to write notes, and we weren't doing the splash and dash all day. We had a great chance to talk to everyone who came by the table. We just poured our 2006 Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir, which is the only Pinot we make, and at 400 cases.

In the beginning I have to admit we were a little slow. Being a new name, it's tough when there are that many brands. People have their top 10 or so must-hits, then they experiment with the unknowns. By the end of the day, though, we were packed. Most people who tasted recommended us to friends, or came back for second pours. We had great interest from the trade in carrying our wines in various places, and a few members of the media who praised the wines very highly.

The computer mailing list sign-up could have worked better. Most people didn't understand that they could order wine or sign up right there (we had a computer hooked up to the internet via our phones). We're trying to transition to it because, honestly, most handwriting is terrible when people have to write on the table at a tasting like that. Half the time you can't read the e-mail addresses and then everything bounces back. I just think the computer thing is something that needs a bit more trying out, although a few people were stoked to see it.

By the end of the day, our voices were hoarse and we were exhausted! Joe and I had been there for 7.5 hours. As soon as 5 p.m. hit, we were instructed to pack it up and get out. It was actually pretty rushed. They had US Park Police patrolling to make sure people were behaving and packing up. Honestly, it felt a bit "thanks for pouring, now LEAVE!" But, we did as told and left promptly, getting us home before dark, which was nice.

All in all, a very successful event for us and one we'll definitely repeat. The next one on our radar is Family Winemakers, again at Ft. Mason. Apparently it's twice the people and wineries, which I can't even imagine, so we'll see how it goes...

Another rave review

And this guy definitely knows his wine!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Consumers Get Involved

I have to admit - I love the internet and what it's done to wine. People always talk about Robert Parker and Wine Spectator as ruling the industry and dominating all other opinions, but I think that's a pretty generous over-exaggeration in the current times.

For example, have you searched the term "wine blog" and seen how many people regularly post tasting notes about even the wines they pick up for dinner at the grocery store? Have you taken a look at cellar tracker and the very-popular forums that surround wine magazines, especially Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate?

Nowadays you can get a variety of opinions about any given wine you may be thinking about drinking, right on your computer, even if it retails for $3. Want a real example? Here are some posts about our 2006 Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir, on these very same sites:

Monday, June 30, 2008

Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir. What can I say that sums it up? On one hand, I had some of my favorite Pinot Noirs to-date there. On the other, some fairly mediocre wines. And one winery in particular that gave me an hour-long headache. :(

I think that, overall, the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation is much like any other winegrowing region, including Anderson Valley. A healthy dose of the good, mixed with some of the bad and a little of the ugly.

Our favorite wines of the entire weekend, hands down, were from Windy Oaks. At least 50% wild yeast, grown on the hillsides above Corralitos. The wines had a surprising amount new French oak, but good barrel selection plus overvintaging must mellow it out because they were damned good if I do say so myself, and I'm very sensitive to high alcohol and too-liberal oaking. Long story short, we're looking forward to popping a cork very soon because, after all, wine is mmmm mmmm good.

The worst wine of the weekend... wasn't made out of grapes, so I'm not sure it actually counts. It was from the tree persuasion, not the vine. Hmmm...

Here's a list of wineries that we visited and a slideshow of some of our weekend pics (unfortunately, we were too busy tasting to take as many as we should). It was the only renown Pinot-growing region in California that I hadn't visited to-date solely for the purpose of tasting one of its signature varietals. On top of it, Joe and I were able to visit our good, albeit formerly long-lost, friends Reina and Keith, eat some awesome meals, and attend the only party in my life where there was a line for the MEN'S restroom and NOT the women's!

Wineries tasted from Friday to Sunday: Sarah's Vineyard, Clos La Chance, Windy Oaks, Testarossa, Hunter Hill, Burrell School, Fortino, Byington, David Bruce and Storrs Winery.

Strange coincidence at Testarossa - the gentleman pouring the first wines asked where we were from. Turns out with further questioning that he had just opened a wonderful Anderson Valley Pinot Noir the night before: the 2006 Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir from Papapietro Perry. It was fantastic of course.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Great Fire Resource

This article, which ran in the Willits newspaper, provides the most up-to-date information about the Mendocino County fires that I can find:

It also runs through the fires in many other parts of California, including the Santa Cruz Mountains, which we just visited a few weekends ago. It mentions a 4,200 acre fire near Corralitos, which burned in May, and where we visited Windy Oaks Winery (fantastic Pinots and Chards). Much luck to everyone caught in these blazes and, as bad as it is here, I'm crossing my fingers that the Santa Cruz Mountains folks we visited just a few short weeks ago were spared from another go-round with Mother Nature.

Northern California Fires

Today there's a thick haze in the air. It's been present since the lightning-strike fires started last weekend, but it's getting scarier and scarier now. There are fires burning in Navarro, on Mountain View Rd. and the mountains above Elk, in Comptche, in Ft. Bragg, and more. The fire crews are working hard, but tens of thousands of acres are now burning in Mendocino County.

The worst thing is that they're predicting a 10% chance of thunderstorms this coming weekend, while we were planning to enjoy a great weekend in San Francisco along with pouring at Pinot Days.

Here's an image of the fires in Northern California - ours are the first red dots up from the Bay Area:

Keep everyone in our area (and all those that are burning) in your thoughts. We'll need all the positive thinking you can muster in the coming week.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ever Seen A Baby Grape?

This time of year is one of the scariest for vineyard owners, because you finally start to see this harvest's crop shaping up, but it's still difficult to judge how much (and of what quality) there will be. Now that the farmer has made it through frost season, there are only new threats to worry about - mold, summer weather, damage from the spring frosts...

Here's what our little guys look like right now: