Friday, August 28, 2009

Puppy Photos

I've been banking puppy photos in my camera, so I thought I'd post a few of the best while I'm blogging for the day.

Last week Joe and I had a day off! We took Ozzie to the beach for the first time. It was sunny and gorgeous in Elk, and he really loved wandering around and sniffing out everything, and I think he actually smelled everything. The first thing he brought back for us was a vertebrae of some animal, which we quickly buried back under the sand. That's typical Oz: the other morning we heard crunching from outside and he's laying in the front yard chewing on a cow skull that he found god-knows-where. A week before that he disappeared for an hour and came back with almost an entire deer carcass - skull, spine, ribs and one leg intact. UCK!

Gross stuff aside, he's pretty darn cute. Labs are growing on me.

Ozzie at the beach in Elk


Above: Ozzie looks like a bullfrog!

Tet

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Harvest 2009 Begins!

Here are some photos of the first 2009 pick, followed by my two cents:

We start as soon as we can see...

Above and Below: Picking!

Above: Nancy Charles taking photos of a hard day's work

Loading up the grapes after weighing

Dexter wants out

***
We harvested our first Pinot Noir grapes on Tuesday, for sparkling wine (Schramsberg Vineyards in Calistoga). After such a terrible growing season in 2008, we were looking forward to seeing how everything picked out this year. Overall, it's looking absolutely fantastic out there.

On Tuesday we assembled shortly after 6:00 a.m. and chatted while we waited for the sun. In another 15 minutes we were able to see enough to start picking. We had two crews, with myself my mother and two others riding on the tractors to sort and do quality control. The QC job consists of picking out leaves, sub-par fruit (hardly any) or any other MOG that gets into the bins. (MOG is material other than grapes.)

It was the crew's first pick of the season, so they were pumped up and picked extremely fast. It was hard to keep up on the bins, but we managed mainly by hardly ever looking up. I have to say, I have less photos from this first pick of the year than in the past, just simply due to a lack of time to stop and take a pause. Oh, and extremely sticky fingers with not enough time to wipe them off before applying them to electronic equipment.

We did have one calamity of the day: Just a few minutes into picking our tractor died in the middle of the row, hooked up to a trailer rapidly filling with grapes. It was on my mother's crew and apparently something happened with the fuel pump (I'm so not a mechanic). Anyway, the tractor was D-E-A-D, much to the chagrin of the crew. It had to be disconnected from the trailer and pulled out of the row, then another tractor was carefully backed down the row (not an easy thing to do) to replace it. All in all, it didn't put the guys back very long, but we do have a dead tractor to deal with before our next pick in a few weeks.

How did everything look for the start of 2009? Fantastic. We sent 18 tons to the winery that day. Crop levels are back to normal and the grapes taste a lot like they did in 2007 - even though they're not ripe enough for still wine yet they already have flavor. There have been a few years when we waited for flavors to come about before picking, but this year they're already there, much like in 2007. I have a funny feeling that this is going to be a fantastic Anderson Valley Pinot Noir vintage.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Welcome to Twitter


Today I joined Twitter. I said I wasn't going to do it, damn it! I don't have much time for Facebook updates and blog posts, let alone tweeting. The last thing I needed was to be on twitter via my cell all day long. ...

Well, I broke down. I was curious. I didn't have any customers... whatever. I joined. I know my age group, in general, loves this kind of stuff. And yes, it's pretty cool, I'll give you that, but it's exhausting! Between the winery 4 days a week and the Winegrowers Association the other three (plus a significant amount of overlap in each direction) I don't do days off. And I don't particularly have a "normal" desk job where I sit for 8 hours a day. So, I find it difficult to be good and disciplined about social networking. I guess that's why everything has a mobile app - my blackberry is one device that's stuck to me 24-7.

I think I'm going to try and teach my dog to twitter for me. Well, not the lab, but maybe Tet the border collie will get the hang of it. ... Here's to hoping.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Zealand Rieslings - Our Favorites

Our biggest wine surprise in New Zealand were the Rieslings - beautiful wines that, given the very high acidities, tasted perfectly balanced with some residual sugar in the wines. Many wineries back-blended late-harvest Riesling into their earlier harvests to balance those acidities, which was a new technique for me.

Our favorite Rieslings came from the Marlborough region - most known for their Sauvignon Blancs.

Here are some tasting notes from our travels, scoring the Rieslings for their nose, mouth and finish. Joe's tasting system, developed many years ago, is quite simple. Each one of those elements (nose, mouth and finish) gets a score. If we like it, it gets a plus; if it's average, it gets a slash and if it's sub-par it gets a minus. Slight adjustments can be made upon second and later tastings (ie as the wine opens up in the glass).

NEW ZEALAND RIESLINGS (BY REGION):

Hawke's Bay (eastern north island - more known for big reds)

Vidal Marlborough Riesling 2008 -- $16/bottle
Score: /+/
This winery isn't in a region that's known for aromatic whites, so they sourced the fruit from Marlborough, in the south island. Beautiful in the mouth, but a little flat in the nose and short finish. Floral, lemon, citrus, etc. Great tasting experience and a fantastic restaurant attached. Great value for the price.

Martinborough (southern north island - known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay)


Martinbourough Vineyard Manu Riesling 2o08 -- $28/bottle
Score: /+/, changed to /++ upon later tasting
The Manu Riesling has approx. 25 g/L of residual sugar, with some botrytis influence, yet not sugary sweet. We wrote: "VERY DIFFERENT." You can taste the honeyed influence from botrytis yet the wine overall is not a late-harvest. Never had anything quite like this. We brought a bottle back to save for later consumption and I've been patiently keeping my hands off it until we feel it's fully rested from the trip.

Te Kairanga East Plain Riesling 2007 -- $21/bottle
Score: /+/
Has 2.6 g/L of sugar, a solid wine but again not as aromatic as we would have liked for a Riesling (maybe we're just spoiled in Anderson Valley).

Marlborough (northern south island -- known for Sauvignon Blanc)

Cloudy Bay 2005 Riesling -- $29.60
Score: Not scored - must have skipped a wine!
RS is very well hidden in this wine at 5.4 g/L - tasted more crisp and dry than expected - nice, delicate aromas and flavors. TA of 9.3 to 12.6 for the various pickings. The winery is separate from their vineyards - a gorgeous cellar door and restaurant attached (sadly the restaurant was closed the day we were there).

Fromm Riesling Spatlese 2007 -- $26
Score: ++/ and +++ upon second taste
The hands-down best Riesling producer alongside Framingham (below). This wine was one we had at the fantastic restaurant Martin Bosely's in Wellington. More Alsace-style than most - slight RS sweetness but very aromatic and gorgeously balanced.

Framingham 2004 Dry Riesling -- $25.90
Score: /++
Fermented 4 months on the lees, with a final pH of 3.0. Little flat in the nose, but definitely dry and crisp with good acidities.

Framingham 2007 Classic Riesling -- $20.90
Score: /++ to +++
Another gorgeous Riesling from this producer, with bracing acidity at 7.9 and a pH of 2.9! This producer doesn't talk RS, so we don't know the exact levels for the finished wines, although the Classic was less than the following Select Riesling. Only 11.5% alcohol.

Framingham 2007 Marlborough Select Riesling -- $30.90
Score: +++
This wine was definitely a step up on the RS chain, but still balanced with a baffling 9.1 TA and 2.75 pH! Two passes of picking are blended together to create this wine - this is one we're very interested in trying here at home. Alcohol of only 8.0%. Listed in the book 1,000 wines to try before you die.

Central Otago (southern south island -- known for Pinot Noir)

Peregrine 2005 Riesling -- $22
Score: /++
Bottle aged about an extra year, this wine had a beautiful mid-palate and finish - the nose didn't jump out of the glass, but not that many wines do in all actuality. Peregrine was one of the only architecturally designed wineries we visited - a gorgeous facility meant to look like the falcon it was named for. We preferred their Pinots, but did really like this Riesling and a few others.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Via Rocks

Of all the press we've gotten since we opened (Wine Spectator scores and Chronicle accolades, gold medals and mentions in area newspapers and magazines), one single, 1/2 page article has trumped them all. Earlier this summer I was in Via Magazine (the AAA travel magazine), speaking about traveling to Anderson Valley. There was a photo of me in the Charles Vineyard and my recommendations when visiting the area, along with a few mention of our winery -- Foursight Wines. Ever since that issue came out, I've had friends, family and strangers alike all saying the same thing: "Hey - I saw you in Via Magazine." That one article has probably brought more people to our tasting room than anything else. It's amazing. I do realize it's widely read and it's a well put together publication, but I never expected the response we've gotten. As I titled the post, Via rocks.

Click here to read the article.

Monday, August 10, 2009

SF Chefs.Food.Wine

Yesterday Joe and I did the first annual SF Chefs.Food.Wine event in the middle of Union Square, San Francisco. We arrived and parked at a parking garage about a block and a half away at 10:15 a.m. (oops - didn't realize there was a garage actually underneath Union Square). Doh! Anyway, we had pre-shipped our wines, so at least we were only lugging some printed materials, wine openers, etc. I had arranged for the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association to have a table split with Foursight and a SF-based AVWA members and local grape grower very nicely volunteered to help come pour at the AVWA table. Other wineries in attendance ranged from a small group of Anderson Valley producers to Napa, Sonoma, Livermore and New Zealand.

They tented most of the square, and had restaurants from the Bay Area lining the entire outside of the tent, with food that ranged from sushi to dessert. There was a demonstration area in the back (where we were), where they did cooking demos and cocktail competitions. They also had cookware, cocktail booths where margaritas and other drinks were being mixed up, and book signings by famous chefs. It was a cool set up, except for one thing: IT WAS 1,000 DEGREES INSIDE!!!

San Francisco was already in the 70's yesterday, and with all the ovens going and people everwhere we sweated behind our booth for a solid 5 hours! It was probably 90+ degrees in the tent, and the same humidity with all the cooking. That was absolutely miserable. I resorted to fanning myself with an Anderson Valley appellation map for most of the afternoon.

It would have been a great event to be a consumer at, albeit pricey at $125-150 a ticket. However, that ticket did include access to some seminars going on all around Union Square (AV producers were doing an Alsace-style white wines seminar at Farallon restaurant that we missed because we were packing up and too late to attend). We poured through an OK amount of wine (we've had more people at other events by far), but we did get to meet some really nice folks and got a chance to chat about our appellation and winery.

Overall, I'm not sure if we'll do it again, but every event is an experience, if nothing else. Due to the heat, we were so exhausted by the end of the day we rushed home to have tri-tip at the Ambulance Fundraiser, where it was cool!