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.