Thursday, March 20, 2008

Our Duty to Be Green

Mendocino County recently declared itself "America's Greenest Wine Region." It's a PR campaign, yes, but also an effort to be recognized for the true concern for the environment that people here tend to have. When you move or grow up in a place with such unspoiled beauty, it makes perfect sense that you'd want to keep it that way - for now and for the future. I know we do everything we can to keep our property sustainable and healthy, so we (and future generations of the family) can enjoy it for many years.

Being a new brand, we do have one big advantage because we're starting from scratch. So, to that end, we made the decision this month to go "green" by purchasing only recycled paper, envelopes and wine shippers. Our carrying boxes and tasting room supplies (when the time arrives to purchase these) will also be recyclable and as eco-friendly as possible.

After all, it's not that difficult anymore. It amazed me when I was doing my research and perusing the aisles of the paper goods store that you can now buy paper and other materials that are 100% recycled and look exactly like the products that aren't. The only thing that's different is the sticker on the label that says "recycled." Why wouldn't you spend a few more dollars and do the right thing?

We do understand, however, that being sustainable or green (the two new catch words of the day) extends beyond buying recycled paper. In our vineyard we do implement IPM (integrated pest management), permanent cover crops, organic alternatives to chemicals, and the good common sense to spend enough time in the vineyard to prevent problems before they arise (don't discount it - it's the most important element in this mix).

My personal rant and rave of the day on this topic is about the myriad of articles and comments I've seen about the transformation of the words "green" and "sustainable" into marketing buzz words. I'm not one of those people who immediately gets turned off on these ideas because it's catching on in the industry. If a winery is claiming they're sustainable or green, then they're at least making a few efforts behind the scenes to fulfill that promise. Personally, I think as long as wineries and vineyards are trying, in any way, to be more environmentally responsible, then it's a good thing. We, as consumers, should reward those efforts. After all, buying eco-friendly products off the shelf is a lot easier than giving up your car or banning any and all plastic products from the house.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Frost season

It seems that everyone in Anderson Valley has been checking their vineyard sprinklers the past few weeks. It's really quite beautiful to look out and see field after field, filled with arcs of water. It's beautiful, but practical. March is a notoriously good month for frost here, and the leaves are just beginning to peak out from the buds (see below - photos by my own Joe), so now's the time to make sure all the protectionary measures are working correctly. Luckily for Joe and I, the frost alarm isn't in our house. :)

Here's what the emerging leaves look like:

Monday, March 10, 2008

Barrel Tasting in Russian River

Joe and I spent this past weekend working Barrel Tasting at a friends' winery in Sonoma County's Russian River. It was a lot of fun to reconnect with everyone and get back in the tasting room, talking with customers. We helped pour bottled wines and wines from the barrels, as well as working the sales counter on Saturday and Sunday. There's been a lot of discussion recently about the state of the industry and the economy (which every business is worried about right now), but I have to say, if things have slowed it didn't show that much as far as warm bodies in the tasting room.

Traffic was about the same as last year, but the crowd was significantly YOUNGER. Now, as I've mentioned, I'm a 20-something and I love seeing people my age out and about, tasting wine. Just because we're young doesn't mean we don't know our s*#!. I mean stuff. ;)

Sales seemed to be slightly down at some of the wineries in the area - this could be because they charged $20 a glass this year for an event that used to be free. Or, perhaps Russian River Pinot is just getting a bit pricey amidst its popularity (I'm not saying that a lot of these wines aren't worth it - in fact, I found quite a few that I fell in love with). Or, maybe consumers are having a harder time justifying buying wines that won't be released until 2009 (and will spend another 6 months to a year in barrel, then blended and bottled, rendering them possibly nothing like what was tasted out of the barrel). Whatever it was, the interest in wine was still there and we saw some good sales go through where we were working.

The first weekend of barrel tasting 2008, we actually got to go out and taste as consumers. Our whole family and a few friends got in our cars (yes, cars plural, and yes, I did feel bad about it the entire day) and drove the route. My favorite stop of the day? Copain's new facility - right across the street from the river park on Westside Road where we used to take our dog to swim. The wines were lovely, the facility was gorgeous, and the view - incredible. Five stars, highly recommended. Especially the Kiser En Bas Pinot from Anderson Valley - mmmm... And his Lake County "Madder Lake" Syrah - a very pleasant surprise indeed.

The whole thing spurred some thought on our part. Perhaps we should do a fall barrel tasting as part of a big harvest bash. There's just something so great about tasting a wine in the vessel that contributes so much to the very essence and structure of the wine. Anyone interested??

Friday, March 7, 2008

Me on Internet TV

So here's an interview that has nothing to do with our family project, but with the other half of my life - as executive director of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association. I start off the spot on Discover Wine Country TV - a fun site where a group of young hosts and producers visit all the big wine country events and conduct interviews. Enjoy!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Labeled Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc

On Friday evening we drank bottle #1 of our Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir and celebrated getting that much closer to the end of a long, long road. It was extremely exciting for all of us as starting a new brand was much tougher and more time consuming than we expected. It seems like all of our to-do lists acquire two new things for every one we cross of the list. But, seeing the bottles and tasting the wines made it all seem very worthwhile!

Here's how we got there: Friday afternoon the 185 cases of 2007 Anderson Valley Sauvignon Blanc were bottled and labeled via a mobile truck outside the winemaking facility. We also ran the 2006 Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, back through the bottling line to apply the labels (it was bottled originally in August 2007 but we didn't have government approval on our labels, so it went into blank bottles, or "shiners").

We're all very excited to have the wines finally packaged and ready to go. Besides the obvious asthetic reasons, you can't legally sell a bottle of wine in the United States if it doesn't have an approved label on it.

The Sauvignon Blanc will need a little bit of time to recover from bottle shock - a state newly bottled wines undergo where aromas and flavors can become muted and dull. Given our processing methods, it should bounce back very soon. The Pinot Noir will be ready as soon as our Web site is up and running and we give it the final okay (in the next month or so).

Here are some photos from our exciting day: