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: