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