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.