Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Cheer and A Little Rest

In January the Foursight crew closes down the tasting room and takes the opportunity to do a little deep cleaning, cellar work, and perhaps take some vacation too! We'll be open for tasting December 31st and January 1st, then closed until February 4th.

We wish everyone out there a happy holiday and a fantastic New Year! Thank you for your support in 2010, and we hope to see your cheerful faces in our Boonville tasting room in 2011.

Now bring on the Christmas cookies and Bing Crosby!

The Foursight Family
Bill, Nancy, Kristy and Joe

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Puppy Photos

I'll be honest: it's the week before Christmas and I'm in the mood for lighthearted, fun things. I came across these photos of our Foursight dogs, Tet and Ozzie, as puppies this morning. Who doesn't love puppies? Cute!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ridiculous Wine Labels

These wine labels are supposed to be either fun or funny, but most of these bottles just make me shake my head and wonder what these wineries were thinking. Seriously, big fat llamas and dead cows?? Seriously?

The Daily Meal slideshow of 15 ridiculous wine labels.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Happy Birthday Joe!

Since we have a few moments in our lives here that aren't focused on grapes, vines or wines, I'd like to take a detour in our blog to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my husband and Foursight winemaker, Joe. He rocks, and so do his wines. And, at only 32 and a co-owner/partner in two wineries, he may conquer the wine world yet. We love you!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bigger Than Your Head Reviews

Let's be honest: wine reviews can be a bit ridiculous. For most of us, even food lovers, there are many flavor descriptors used in wine tasting notes and reviews that we'll never experience on a plate, let alone in our wines. However, there are also those instances where I read a wine review and think: wow, I want to drink that wine. Now. Nevermind that I just brushed my teeth.

Fredric Koeppel, who has won the American Wine Blog Awards Best Wine Reviews category three years in a row for BiggerThanYourHead.net, writes those latter kind of reviews. Below I've copied his recent post about Foursight:

***
AND THE SMALL SHALL LEAD THEM

Nothing wrong with large producers; they often make fine wine indeed, though they can also err in trying to be all things to all consumers and churning out labels at every price-point. What I really love to write about however are the small, family-owned wineries that nestle in the hills and dales of our country’s wine regions, making a few thousand (or few hundred) cases of a small number of wines and selling them or marketing them as best they can, without the benefit of marketing teams and agencies in New York or San Francisco.
Here are reviews of sauvignon blanc and pinot noir wines from two such wineries. These were samples for review:

Foursight Wines produces fewer than 1,000 cases annually of sauvignon blanc and pinot noir from the Charles Vineyard in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley and a Mendocino gewurztraminer. The winery was founded in 2006 by longtime growers Bill and Nancy Charles, with their daughter Kristy Charles and her husband Joseph Webb. That’s it. The wines practically teem with authenticity and integrity and a sense of connection to their cool, coastal region.

The Foursight Charles Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Anderson Valley, is exceptionally clean and fresh and invigorating. It’s like drinking a deconstruction of a grapefruit — without being anything like a snappy, over-eager New Zealand rendition — with the tang of the pulp, the slight bitterness of the pith and the oiliness of the rind, combined with a spicy tangerine-lemon element and a brilliance of limestone-like minerality. The wine is juicy and tasty, yet spare and delicate; made all in stainless steel, it radiates purity and intensity. 216 cases were produced. 14.1 percent alcohol. Now through 2012. Excellent. About $20.

The Foursight “All-In” Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007, Anderson Valley, is an understated beauty. Fermented with wild yeast, unfined and unfiltered, it offers a beguiling limpid ruby color that’s almost transparent at the rim. Scents of lightly spiced red and black cherries hold undertones of red currants and mulberries with touches of smoke and leather. Lovely balance and integration produce an entrancing mouthful of pinot noir that glides across the palate like satin; a few minutes in the glass add notes of moss and briers, while structure and texture remain subtle and supple. The wine aged in French oak, 20 percent new, the rest two-year-old barrels and older. A pinot noir for devotees of the classic elegant fashion. 407 cases were produced. 14.1 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2013 or ’14. Excellent. About $46.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Favorite Things: Anderson Valley

I have always wanted to put up a billboard alongside the freeway, just before the turnoff onto Highway 128, that reads "Anderson Valley: It's not that far, and it's SO worth it," with images of what I see everyday: gorgeous, wooded hills, traffic-free roads, and quiet tasting rooms with the proprietor behind the bar.

I grew up here, and so I have an unabashed love for the area, but I truly believe that Anderson Valley is one of the best wine country getaways in California. And I stress the word getaway, because once you pop out into this small valley, you'll feel like you're truly away from Monday through Friday and life as you know it. It's quiet, it's beautiful, and it's laid-back. Just perfect.


I'll admit, if you get carsick, some of our roads can be tough. However, roads like these exist in every wine region unless you don't stray off of Highway 29 in Napa. In reality, Anderson Valley is only two hours from San Francisco. Just enough to feel like you're on vacation. And just enough to enjoy the scenery through Marin, Sonoma, and up into the wilds of Mendocino County.

Every day in the tasting room I'm asked what my favorite Anderson Valley to-do's are. So, in no particular order (because it all depends upon what you're in the mood for), here are my recommendations:

1) Taste wine, of course! You can find a list of wineries with tasting rooms at http://www.avwines.com./ You can't go wrong with the Pinot Noirs, crisp white wines and sparkling wines that Anderson Valley is known for.
2) Visit the farmer's market on Saturday morning at the Boonville Hotel, followed by a cappucino or dark chocolate mocha and pastry at Mosswood Market & Cafe, across the street. Try the goat cheese and bacon empanada. Yum!
3) Grab some supplies at either the Boonville General Store or Lemon's Market in Philo, pack a backpack, and hike the old-growth redwood grove at Hendy Woods State Park. Wrap up the afternoon with a picnic in the park.
4) After Hendy Woods, stop by the Philo Apple Farm to peruse the self-serve farm stand. Some of my favorite products are the apple cider syrup and balsamic syrup for to-die-for salad dressings with just a little olive oil and vinegar. The apples and ciders are amazing, too!
5) Gowan's Oak Tree, just down Highway 128, has amazing, home-made apple pies to take back to your cottage and have with one of the valley's amazing late-harvest Gewurztraminers or Rieslings. (Psst... Lemon's Philo Market has its own fishing boat. If you want to complete the meal, pick up some fresh crab or salmon there when in season.)
6) On your way to the coast on a hot day, park alongside the road at mile marker 3.66 and walk down to the river. This is one of the best swimming holes on the river -- the site of a former bridge, so it's nice and deep. A myriad of little trails criss-cross this area as visiting the river is a big locals activity.
7) Want to learn a little more about the native flora? Visit the Demonstration Forest in Navarro, next to the Masonite Boy Scout camp. Trees are identified as you walk through the forest. This is a good place to let your dogs run around and jump in the river as they're not allowed on every trail at Hendy Woods State Park.
8) Drive one of the mountain roads. If you don't mind twists and turns, take Mountain View or Greenwood Ridge Road over to the coast and enjoy the scenery. Or, if you have a sturdy car and an adventurous spirit, take Fish Rock Road. Just be prepared for several hours and a good, long patch of dirt road in the middle. More people live out these roads than you'd think, hours from anything, so watch out for fast-driving locals and logging trucks in the summer. It's all part of the experience. You'll see vineyards up here and old apple orchards, on ancient homesteads first settled more than 100 years ago.
9) Make a trek out to Machester State Beach - one of the most amazing and deserted beaches in the area. No dogs allowed, but an amazing place to pull up a driftwood seat and watch miles of crashing waves.
10) Kayak Big River and see otters, birds, and just a few other river travelers as you drift with the current, then paddle your way back out (or visa versa, of course, depending upon the tide). An amazing, peaceful voyage that is especially quiet in the shoulder seasons.
11) My favorite dinner spots for a casual meal? Libby's mexican food in Philo: you have to try the carnitas and a michelada beer. Also, Lauren's is a favorite spot for an amazing  burger with a fresh bun, lots of carmelized onions, and crazy good fries. Try it with a bottle of local sparkling or a Boonville Beer and you'll be in heaven.
12) Oysters and Roederer on the Boonville Hotel patio in the summer. Sunday, 4-7 p.m., but summers only.
13) Walk Boonville. The biggest town in the valley now has quite a few to-do's of its own. Tasting rooms within the town limits include Foursight, Londer and Zina Hyde Cunningham. There's the John Hanes art gallery and several cafes and shops, including the Mercantile for adorable kitchen and other wares. The ice cream shop is now owned by the Boonville Hotel and serves up organic ice cream and treats with just enough space outside to watch the passerbys, and Anderson Valley Brewing Co. is at the outer reaches. You can park downtown, put on your tennis shoes, and walk to and fro all day. If you like disc golf, cap it off with some beer on the course at the brewery.
14) The Mendocino County Fair, mid-September. The school bus here literally drops kids off at the fair after school on Friday. It's a quaint, country fair with lots of rides and games, animals, a wool and fiber show complete with spinning demonstrations, food, drink and a rodeo. A special treat: the sheepdog trials on Sunday morning.

If you want more recommendations for your Anderson Valley trip, I'm always happy to answer questions and give recommendations. kristy @ foursightwines.com.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Money in the Country

One thing that I love about living in a rural area like this is the decreased importance of money. I don't mean that people don't need it. I mean that showing it off isn't a big priority.

I would actually say that people here stress about money more than in larger areas where opportunities are more plentiful. Here a full-time job is often considered three part-time jobs cobbled together in hopes of making a decent salary. Those jobs don't offer benefits, sometimes are only temporary, and most often pay little. Housing is still expensive, and you have to drive everywhere to get supplies, making off time that much more important, which can be hard to get when you work so much. You can get supplies in the valley, but it's going to cost you dearly, so over the hill we all go every week.

One thing that I noticed growing up here is that the people with money don't particularly drive nice cars. An old, diesel Mercedes, Subaru hatchback or pickup truck is considered just fine, thanks. They live on 3-million-dollar properties, but the worth is in land -- in fact, they live in a small, one-bedroom former barn. Clothing is vastly functional and not necessarily attractive. I haven't seen a pair of designer jeans in years.

I've found that, moving here, my need to buy things has decreased as well. I wasn't a huge spender before, nor did I have a label fetish, but I did burn through a decent stack of cash each month, purchasing things and eating out. A lot of it was for work, but here it's different. Not only do jobs where heels or suits are required, well, not exist, but people just don't care as much about your new stuff. Also, if you buy new stuff that's too delicate or nice, it's likely to just be ruined within the month.

I've got a stack of high heels in my closet that I never wear. Why? For one, I'll break my ankle tromping around gravel and the vineyard in them. For another, I'll just ruin them. This same principle applies to cars (mine has tan leather - if I had known I'd move back so soon, I would have gone with another choice) and a myriad of other things.

I'm sure that part of this is a different mentality about money that comes from either years of living places where you simply don't see or have no use for nice things, and an attitude about materials goods stemming from the 70's back-to-the-landers. A big dose of it's practicality, but it still is an interesting study in human behavior and thought patterns.

As for me, I chose jeans and boots today. Between the gravel, putting out and taking in signs, and the wet, muddy Labrador that's my coworker, it just seemed easiest. When these boots become so dirty and scuffed that they no longer serve their purpose, I'll start thinking about buying new ones.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wine Club Party and Open House

Yesterday we had our Fall Wine Club Party & Open House at the Foursight winery and tasting room in Boonville. It was sprinkling, so we cleaned out the cellar, set up a bar and a table, and prepared to pour all our current releases, plus a preview of an upcoming Pinot Noir release and a 2010 Pinot Noir barrel sample.

We ended up with quite a few people throughout the day, including some friends and family who came up for the event or helped us organize and work it (thanks to Linda, Rose and the rest who made some absolutely delicious food and to Sara and everyone else who helped).

Even though the live band was late -- they somehow thought the event was today and not yesterday -- they helped round out the afternoon with music. We ate gourmet soups, tri-tip and polenta with black bean salsa, tiny chocolate cupcakes and raspberry cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake, a giant round of St. George cheese, gouda, and a host of other appetizers. Overall, I think it was a big success.

Every fall we like to throw this party to thank our club members for their support. Our club members are invaluable and truly help sustain our business, and we want them to know we appreciate them.

Here are some photos of the day:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pinot IN the River Photos!

Yesterday my mother, Nancy, and I went to pour at Pinot on the River. This was our first year at the event and it was POURING. Buckets. It was a fun drive to Rodney Strong in Healdsburg, where the event was held, and an even better schlep into the event with foldable handcarts. With all the rain we've had, the tent had accumulated water -- inches of it -- overnight, and only part of the area was even usable. Wineries were literally fighting for tables on high ground, with a river flowing down the middle of the grassy tent area.

We were there early enough to find a half-table mostly out of the water, although as we stood throughout the afternoon small puddles formed around our feet and soaked the bottom of our cardboard wine boxes, etc. Luckily all our paper materials and brochures were packed in a waterproof bag because of the rain.

What began as a river quickly turned into mud as people slogged through it that afternoon. We saw people who had been forewarned in rubber boots (lucky, as our feet were wet and cold), people in their socks because they had already lost their shoes, and even barefoot people who had just given up shoes altogether.
Here are some photos of the fun. I have to admit that I was impressed with the die-hard Pinotphiles who turned out and tasted, and all the wineries who stuck it out. Kudos to you who were there yesterday! My stick-it-out award for the day goes to the lovely ladies in the plastic bags. They're customers of ours - we're so proud!







Friday, October 22, 2010

Fall Happenings

This month is an amazingly busy one for Foursight, without even factoring in harvest. Yes, we are spending quite a bit of time now pressing wines, getting them into barrel and preparing things for a long winter's rest. (Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my father, washing and ozoning barrels, brr.) However, October and early November always seems to be full of events and other to-do's that keep up hoppin'.

This Sunday we'll be participating in Pinot on the River (discount coupon code can be found here) for the first time. It's actually funny that we've never participated in this event as a winery because my first PR agency helped start the event. In its first few years it had some behind-the-scenes kinks that scared me off, but after seeing the esteemed Greg Walter at our Pinot Festival this year, I felt reassured and signed up. I'm looking forward to pouring, albeit in the rain. If you're there at Rodney Strong on Sunday, come say hi! We'll be pouring two current-release Pinot Noirs and one library wine.

On Saturday, October 30 we have our second annual wine club party and open house here at the tasting room and winery and we've been busy prepping the menu and planning the event. We have a rockin' band booked and my mother and family friend Rose have been cooking up course after course for us to sample with the wines (yes, we actually try every food item we serve beforehand to make sure they pair well). We're looking at some tri-tip and polenta, delicious cheeses, warming soups and more paired with the wines. Yum.

Then, on November 7, we have a winemaker dinner with Londer Vineyards at Rendezvous restaurant in Ft. Bragg, during the  Mushroom & Wine Festival. (Diver scallops, mushroom soup, wild boar and more will be on the menu - contact Rendezvous for tickets.) It's going to be an absolutely delicious dinner!

Following shortly after, we're pouring at the Abalone & Wine event at the Mendocino Arts Center (November 12). This is also the first time we've done this event, so I have no idea what it's going to be like, but if I get even a bite of Abalone, I'll be happy.

October and November are also wine club months. I'm in charge of planning, executing and sending off all the wine club packages: a big job but a fun one. See our clubs here.

I'm exhausted and excited just thinking about the next month. As soon as it wraps up, we're off for Thanksgiving and the holidays, and then we close the tasting room in January to clean and finish our office work. Given the drizzle and gray sky today, it certainly feels like winter's approaching. Time to light the wood stove and snuggle up!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Harvesting Semillon - The Final Pick

This week we harvested the last of our grapes - Semillon! It's currently in barrel -- mostly neutral -- and starting to ferment with wild yeast (we love it when we hear that gurgling noise that means fermentation's underway). Our harvest video is below (it's a bit rough, but there's no using a tripod when you're trying to work AND film and change tractors constantly).

I have to admit this harvest was rough, but fun. Every year I try to learn a little more vineyard Spanish. I call it vineyard Spanish because they don't exactly teach you how to say things like botrytis and leaf stripping in school, so you have to learn it on-site. The guys really stepped up and helped me this year, and I enjoyed it. Granted, Joe ended up mistakenly calling someone a pig (a word I had never heard in Spanish for pig), but that's the downside of trying to communicate in another language. Sometimes you mess up. To this day I'm terrified of saying pregnant instead of embarrased and generally avoid talking about being embarrassed to avoid that whole catastrophe (wouldn't be the first time I've stuck my foot in my mouth in another language).

Back to the winery. We're currently doing punchdowns on the Pinot Noir in the cellar. Fermentation on that lot is peaking, meaning that we're doing punchdowns three times a day right now, but soon to go back down to two. I don't mind the punchdowns as the smell of fermenting wine is intoxicating, but I do admit that it's been a bit difficult to do in the middle of the afternoon when the tasting room's open. I've been bringing groups back to watch me do punchdowns just so I don't leave them alone for half an hour. This works well until their glasses are empty or I have to run outside and clean all of the tools. But, c'est la vie I guess. We strive to be family staffed only, and sometimes that means multitasking and giving our customers a unique experience. :)

Watch the Semillon harvest video on our You Tube site, here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Almost Done With Harvest!

We've been harvesting almost every day the past few weeks, right alongside all the other wineries in our area. In fact, last week we couldn't even get a crew from our own vineyard management company and had to call around to see if any other companies had free crews. All this even though we pay a monthly fee just to ensure that we can get help when needed. (Sigh.)
Picking with our regular crew.

We're on the low end of the totem pole with the management company because we do most of our own vineyard work and only use them for the big jobs (pruning, harvest, etc.) We also don't have vast acreage or a famous winemaker (although ours is better!). :) Normally we pick early enough that it doesn't matter. This year our whites seemed to fall smack dab in the middle of the fray.

In order to get our small lot of Sauvignon Blanc off the vine toward the end of last week my father had to call around to his connections to see if there were any other crews free for a morning. We found a crew out of Sonoma County that we had used before. So, the day of the pick we went out shortly after six a.m. and waited for everyone to arrive, per usual. And we waited, and waited, and waited. We started stripping leaves off the shady side of the vine to occupy ourselves and clean things up. My father fielded a phone call saying they'd be late. So we waited. And waited. And stripped leaves. And they never showed. Once it reached 11 a.m. it was too warm to bring fruit in regardless, so we finished pulling leaves and left to go pick up bins and do the rest of our harvest chores. About 12:30 p.m. they finally called and said they were on their way from Ukiah. Obviously, they were told to just forget it.

So, the next day the crew showed up for their second try at our vineyard. They seemed a bit confused, and I speak some Spanish, but all the questions I asked were just received with blank stares. I assumed that I wasn't making sense, so one of tractor drivers from our regular crew (begged from the management company for the day) helped sort them out. Then they started picking. And they were slow. REALLY slow.  Terribly slow. Well, maybe they were just tired, we thought, and continued along until it was time to call it a day due to heat. We didn't understand until the end of the day that this crew wasn't from Sonoma County, or Mendocino, or even Napa. They were called up for harvest from Fresno! They had spent the night in a pear barn in Ukiah before coming over to pick grapes for us (poor guys).

This crew from Fresno had never picked grapes before! It explained a whole lot about the day when we discovered that little tidbit. But, such is life, and we got our regular guys back the next day and have been merrily picking our way toward the end of the vineyard.



After this morning we just have Semillon left (a night pick on Tuesday), and we'll crush it here and be done with harvest. Woohoo!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Big Pick

We picked again today, for several of the wineries that we sell fruit to -- both in Sonoma County. We picked everything but a little Pommard clone Pinot Noir: 115, 777, 114 and Pommard 05. About 15 tons when it was all said and done. Once again, my hands are stained brown and I'm in the tasting room wondering if I'm making any sense to the customers. Hopefully it's not just all jibberish coming out of my mouth.

Either way, another long day. At least I have air conditioning here in the TR! In the low 40's last night (I was shivering for the first few hours of the pick), all the way to the high 90's today. It's not that unusual up here to have a 50-degree temperature swing between night and day. It's what makes us such a great region for Pinot Noir.

Next pick will be Wednesday for the last of our Pommard for Foursight and perhaps another week for Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pinot Noir Pick - This Morning

This morning we picked the majority of our own Pinot Noir grapes for Foursight. We picked 114, 115, 777 and Pommard clones on several rootstocks, the average ripeness between 23 and just over 24 brix. The grapes look great and the flavors are there, so we're very excited about this vintage. We have just a little more Pommard to come in this coming week, then Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and we'll be done! Well, with picking anyway. Winemaking of course follows.

We're all exhausted today; the night before your first pick is always a little like Christmas Eve when you're a child. You spend half the night tossing and turning, waiting for the morning. Then up about 5:30, and out into the vineyard to start picking as soon as it's light enough to see what you're doing. Follow the pick with a full day in the tasting room and we'll be ready for bed early tonight.

Today we had a wealth of family here to help with harvest, to sort and pull leaves out of the bins, plus pull leaves off the vines ahead of the pickers to make their job just that much easier and cleaner. It worked out perfectly -- we almost had too many people, in fact, to fit around the bin. We would always prefer to have too many to too few, so we're not complaining.

The vines seem ready to be done for the season. This year has run about three weeks late for us, so I would imagine they're not used to being asked to hang on to their fruit quite this long. It's funny how you can see signs in the vines and in the way the fruit ripens that indicates they're ready to be picked and would prefer to be preparing themselves for rest, for dormancy and winter. Frankly, I don't blame them one bit -- I think we all feel at least a bit that way during harvest.

As I did some video for our sparkling wine pick, I've opted to just post a few photos of the morning's work:

The moon above the vineyard, just as we start to pick.

The crew picks four rows wide, around the tractor.

Most of the family helps sort and pull leaves from the bins.

These guys are lightning fast.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rain, Or Not

Today our rain gauge registered 0.05" -- a far cry from what was, last week, supposed to be an inch or more. However, this is very good news for the vineyard. The clusters didn't even get wet -- just the outside leaves -- meaning that mold or rot inside the clusters is less likely coming up to harvest. Mold pressure will still be higher just simply due to the moisture present in the vineyard and in the air, but it shouldn't be anything too concerning.

Brix are looking still about mid-22's to 23 in the Pinot Noir, and moving up fractions each day, meaning that harvest is still a bit away (a week to week and a half perhaps). This is, of course, dependent upon the weather, and it looks like the coming weekend will be warm and sunny. The Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are approaching 20, which means that they're not too far behind. And, happily, the seeds are browning rapidly, moving us more toward our goal when harvesting.

So, here's to a crisis averted and an impending harvest!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Waiting Game

If you keep an eye on wine news at all, you've probably been reading all about late harvests and impending rain. Depending on if you speak with a farmer or a marketing person, you'll get a very different slant on what's going on around the state.

Farmers are naturally doomsdayers. If they say it's going to rain 0.25 to 0.5" a farmer will say that we'll surely get at least half an inch, if not more. Then we'll surely have rot, and on top of it, because the harvest's behind, there's going to be half of the appellation's growers who won't even get ripe fruit off the vine this year.

If you talk to a marketing person, in their area they'll surely get a quarter inch or less, and of course the growers all have rot in check -- it shouldn't be an issue -- and, on top of it, yes, the weather's cool and harvest is late, but think of the wonderful hang time the grapes are getting! They're going to be fabulous, best vintage ever!

The truth, of course, is always somewhere in the middle.

What's happening here in Anderson Valley is that they're now predicting less than an inch of rain this weekend. We personally only start to get really, truly worried at an inch or above. That's when berries can start splitting, and rot starts feeding on that released sugar. Given the reduced crop levels we're seeing and the good airflow in the canopy, I'm not sure rot will be too much of a problem because of this rain. Of course, in farming, never say never.

By the way, the improved airflow I referenced above came from pulling leaves earlier in the season to try and expose the fruit to more sunlight, thus speeding up ripening and reducing mold pressure. This backfired on some growers, causing the fruit to become sunburn and raisin up when we had several days in a row of 100-ish degree weather. If you were really on top of your vineyard, you then went out and cut off that sunburned fruit, further reducing your crop level for the year, which is good for future rot and the winemaking process, but bad for a grower's pocketbook. More labor going into less fruit is never a good thing, financially, unless you're going to get paid more for the grapes because you did it.

At least sunburn doesn't seem to be too terrible here in the valley. I've heard rumors of Sonoma County vineyards that were so sunburn they effectively have no crop to harvest this year. Just a bunch of raisins. Yikes.


The real worry about having any moisture this time of the year is that the weather doesn't look like it's going to warm up after the rain this weekend. This means that moisture will hang around on the vines. And then the possible "second trough" of weather coming after -- who knows what that will hold.

The other effect of rain is that it can dilute the sugar in the grapes, pushing your harvest back as the grapes then try and gain back the ground they lost and reach your optimal ripeness.

Let's talk about our vineyard a bit. We've already harvest our sparkling wine, and our Pinot Noir grapes are in the mid-22's for brix (sugar level). For reference, we normally pick by 24 brix. According to our snazzy ripening chart Joe created, at our current rate of accumulation, without factoring in rain, we should be picking still Pinot about September 23-27. Whites are amazingly caught up this year and may come in as little as a week after (we normally wait another 3-4 weeks after the Pinots to harvest our Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon).

Now, using a ripening graph can be helpful for predicting sugar and acid levels into the future, but we also look at physiological ripeness, especially how the seeds and stems look. Seeds and stems tend to brown as grapes ripen, reducing the harsh tannins and greenness that they can impart into a wine if crushed or pressed too hard when they're green. Optimally, when we pick our grapes the seeds are mostly chocolate brown and crunchy (mature) and the stems have lignified (become woody). We include whole clusters in our fermentation, so the state of the stems is more important for us than it might be for a winery that simply destems and tosses those stems. So far, the seeds are browning and moving along, but slowly. We're still seeing a good bit of green out there.

So now it's a waiting game. Wait to see how much rain we get, wait to test and see how that affected the grapes. Wait to see how quickly they recover. The marketing people are right, though. Flavors and colors will be fantastic this year -- we've been able to see that in the grapes for quite some time.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Three Year Blogging Anniversary!!

Today marks my third anniversary as a blogger! Three years. Wow. Three years ago my husband, Joe, and I had just moved back to Boonville. I was finishing up my last few months at Wilson Daniels (doing some commuting from here to St. Helena!), and re-focusing our energies on Foursight and our new lives here, including my new job at the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association and Joe's at Londer Vineyards.

Three years ago to the day we were picking Pinot Noir grapes (we're a few weeks behind this year) and I was doing my first blog post on the harvest. Follow this link to see post #1 of my blog.

It's been an amazing three years. Amazing. We've surpassed many of our goals as a winery, but there are some, admittedly, that we've fallen short on.


In three years, we:
- Are moving into our third release of wines from our vineyard, made exactly the way we want them to be
- Launched our brand with a Web site and a blog, then later a twitter and facebook account, and now our first series of videos (which can be seen here on the blog and on our facebook account)
- Every single one of our wines that have been submitted to the press have either scored 90 points or above in a publication or have gotten a gold medal or, even better, double gold at a competition
- Got Ozzie the lab -- now the most famous member of the family by far!
- Worked our way through the Wine Institute's sustainability program for the vineyard, improving upon our practices each and every year
- Moved into the vegan market with wines made without animal products
- Opened our tasting room four days a week and started outfitting our winery in the back (we're picking up the baby ozone machine this week!)
- Joe and I got married and took our honeymoon in New Zealand for three weeks
- Have poured at probably 25-30 various wine events, as far away as New York and as close as Mendocino
- Launched a wine club -- Eight High -- for our die-hard customers -- and promptly started throwing parties
- Sold wine to the state of Pennsylvania (they came to us!) and expanded our local distribution
- Have been featured in articles in a wide array of publications, from VIA magazine, New York Magazine,  the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat to Destinations -- an Air New Zealand travel magazine
- I quit my job and Joe was promoted big-time
- We got invited back to our second Wine Spectator New World Wine Experience -- one of only five brands in Anderson Valley to receive this honor

Given how busy the past three years have been, I'm sure I've forgotten more of what we've done than the stuff I actually remember.

Lessons I've learned along the way:
- Financial management of a winery is a bitch. haha. No, seriously, filling in sales numbers into spreadsheets is a tedious but necessary task that takes up an amazing amount of time.
- Inventory NEVER matches up. I think bottles of wine end up the same place as those missing socks from the dryer. Narnia or somewhere.
- Don't underestimate the power of either Mother Nature or the destructive force of the U.S. economy. They can both make you want to cry or laugh triumphantly, often all at the same time.
- If you're genuine and nice and you provide people with a good experience, they'll come back again. And again. And again.
- Don't go into the tasting room in a bad mood. Ever. You might as well call in sick.
- As soon as you get out your lunch, people will magically appear at the tasting bar, every time.
- Sometimes you have to give discounts. It's not the end of your brand image, you'll be fine, just don't do it too often or too obviously. I've even given a discount to a lady who was a little tipsy and fell into a cactus next to our parking lot. I still laugh about my cactus discount to this day. But, it made her happy and we didn't get sued.
- In many instances, you'll have a brilliant idea that could create great buzz for your brand, and you'll never have the right insurance to do it safely. Stupid litigation-happy country.

Here's a blogging lesson that I've learned: it's a great way to keep people you know and customers up-to-date on your happenings. However, the vast majority of people who read wine blogs are already in the wine business. Hence, if you blog for consumers, your blog will not be the most popular or widely read blog out there. If you're okay with that, keep doing what you do and keep enjoying it. I know I do.

Thanks to everyone who reads my little rants and raves on the world, whether it's here or via facebook or a few of the other sites that have picked it up. I love hearing from you, so keep commenting and letting me know what you think. I do appreciate it.

And Happy Blogger Anniversary to me!!

Winery Consolidation in AV

Yesterday a customer commented on what a shame it was that some of the local wineries have sold out to larger wineries/wineries from outside the area. I had to agree with her, thinking about the local families that we've lost through the process -- people that we knew and liked. However, I did have to comment that, given some of the financial situations these people were in, with poor sales due to the economy and bank loans called back, that I couldn't blame them. If you had to choose between bankruptcy and selling your business, what would you choose?? It's a tough decision and, as much as we lament the loss, I told her that being able to survive as a family and feed your kids is always the most important thing. That was the end of our discussion on the topic.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Harvest Video 2010

I made a very amateur video of our first day of harvest, 2010. We picked Pommard 05 Pinot Noir grapes for Schramsberg Vineyards in Calistoga (bubbly!). There's no soundtrack to this video -- just the pure, unadulterated sound of tractor. haha. I thought that cutting this up and adding music would make it a better quality video, but it would also dilute the experience of harvest. Tractors idling, people talking and shouting, and grapes dropping into bins is what the day is all about, so enjoy!


A note on the picking crew: they are all employed by Ardzrooni Vineyard Management, which we basically use twice a year: pruning and harvest. They live here in the valley and are permanent residents, which is great because we see many of the same faces over and over again each and every year and get to know them. They also use a lot of women on the crews, which I'm always happy to see.


Throughout the video you'll see family members (myself, my mother and father and my husband, Joe, took all this footage). When we say we're involved, we really mean it.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

First Pick in Anderson Valley!

Per usual, the first grapes in Anderson Valley to come off the vine will be at Charles Vineyard (our estate) here in Boonville! Early this coming week we'll be picking Pommard 05 Pinot Noir for sparkling wine -- more specifically, for Schramsberg's delicious product down in Calistoga.

You've all heard winemakers wax on about how exciting harvest is and how thrilling it is to bring in the first batch of fruit for the new vintage. However, for us, calling that first pick date reminds us that we better get our butts in gear and start prepping for still wine harvest. :) This means berry sampling, arranging the cellar to bring in fruit, and getting ready to wake up REALLY early, again and again.

A DISCLAIMER

I'm sometimes hesitant to exclaim that we're the first pick to other winemakers and winery owners. It's because being the first can sometimes give the wrong impression of our vineyard site, and so please allow me a few moments to explain about the climates of Anderson Valley.

SHE BLOWS HOT AND COLD

Our valley as a whole is mostly a Region 1 climate -- the coolest in California. The Sonoma Coast is also a Region 1. Our average yearly temperature is in the realm of 55 degrees F, with A LOT of rain and moisture in the fall, winter and spring months. The biggest red we can ripen here, without fail, is Pinot Noir, although a few acres of Syrah seem to do fairly well most years. The ripest we can ever get our late harvest Sauvignon Blanc is 30 Brix, and that's stretching it through Thanksgiving and crossing our fingers that it gets there.

But there are two different sides to Anderson Valley -- ours is the one with the extremes.

OUR SITE

Charles Vineyard (our estate, which we farm) is nestled against Anderson Creek, just below the Eastern mountains surrounding Anderson Valley. We're the second-southernmost vineyard in Anderson Valley, yet our particular site is reliably cooler in the winter and early spring than most Boonville vineyards. And believe me, when the temperature is plunging toward freezing, five degrees is a BIG deal!

We're cooler because of several factors: being directly below the Hwy. 253 corridor, we get all the cold air that funnels down off of the Eastern mountains. We also lie alongside the creek, which is a vast corridor for air movement. And, because the valley narrows again where we are, fog does spill over the Western mountains from the ocean and reach us on the other side (some people assume we don't get any fog on our side of Boonville).

We are warmer in the summer than the north-western end of the valley near Philo and Navarro. We get less fog, meaning more sunny days and colder nights. Fog does cool, but it also provides moisture and moderates temperatures. So, without as much fog, in the winter and early spring our temperatures here plunge, and we have more frost. A LOT more. In the summer we have larger diurnal temperature swings, often 40-50 degrees in between the daytime high and the nighttime low -- good for grapes and acidities. And, of course, less moisture means less mold pressure.

The vineyard to the south of us doesn't have any Pinot -- yet, anyway -- so there's no competition for first pick there. In fact, the original vineyard manager told my father it was too cold here to grow Pinot when we planted. This past year they budded over a number of acres to Pinot Noir. haha! Goes to show you what farming one property for 70 years can teach you! Well, I guess it teaches you the limits of your site and a firm knowledge of what you can and can't grow.
I digress, but because of our warmer summers and sunnier days, we are often the first pick for sparkling wine. Add this to the fact that we pick pretty early for our Foursight still wines (22.5-24 brix max), we can often claim the prize of first still Pinot Noir pick too. We sell grapes to several other Pinot producers, and by the time our harvest is in full swing for them, it usually is throughout our end of the valley as a whole.

So I should be proud, not hesitant, to shout from the rooftops that we're the first pick. Each vineyard site is unique, and that's the beauty of the business, as well as the mystique and driving force behind that elusive term terroir. As I often say in the tasting room, it's the differences that make our industry strong. If we all liked the same wines we'd only need one winery and most of us would be out of business. If we all had the same vineyard site and winemaking philosophies, than the wine industry would be a bit of a snoozefest.

If you're curious about the Winkler Scale (all this Region 1, Region 2 talk), you can find an easy explanation here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Our Final Bottling Adventure


Our final bottling of this year was Wednesday, with 70 cases of 2009 Semillon from our estate, Charles Vineyard.

A bit of background about this varietal and wine: There are less than three acres of Semillon in the entire Anderson Valley, and only one other AV winery has ever made a stand-alone Semillon (their grapes are in a very different area than ours). So, this wine is a bit rare and a bit special for us. We originally planted the varietal to blend in with the Sauvignon Blanc on our property, but in 2008, due to spring frosts, we got about 25 cases worth and decided to make a 100% Semillon bottling. We ferment this wine with wild yeast and ML, and then age it in about 25-30% new French oak barrels. What we end up with is a tropical, slightly toasty wine that still has good acidity and structure. Estimate release for the 2009 vintage: winter 2011.

So, on Wednesday -- a blazingly hot day here in the Valley -- we had a very small bottling truck come to the winery. Because it was a small truck and a hot day, we had him back the trailer into the cellar and shut the door on the trailer hitch, blocking the space at the bottom with cardboard, floor mats, and everything else we could rummage up. I have to say, it saved our tushes. Both for the wine, which stayed  nice and cool, and the people working the line.

With a line this small you volunteer labor and help get the wine into bottle. So Joe, Bill, Nancy, myself, and friends Gary and Johnny all received stations to work and, within a few hours, the Semillon was in bottle. Gary and Johnny were loading empty glass and unloading the full cases, plus stacking the taped and properly labeled cases on a pallet; I was sparging the bottles with nitrogen and placing them on the filler; the operator was helping with the filler and putting corks into the bottles; my mother was hand-placing the capsules on the bottles; my father was spinning the capsules down (the machine that makes them all neat and tidy is called a "spinner"); and Joe was labeling the bottles and putting them in case boxes to return to Johnny and Gary.

Most of these jobs are fairly self-explanatory. However, if you're not in the business you may not know that bottles are "sparged" with nitrogen before being filled with wine. Sparging removes the oxygen in the bottle, thus reducing the chance of "oxidated" wine (wine exposed to too much oxygen can turn slightly brown in color and taste a little flat, or even worse, sherry like).

Below are some photos of us at work on Wednesday. Just a note: the rubber gloves are so we don't put a bunch of fingerprints on the bottles, which the tasting room person (me!) has to later wipe off.

The bottling crew.


Sparging.

Filler and corker.
Labeler.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bottling Whoopsies

Bottling time is often the most stressful time of year for winemakers. Yes, sometimes even above harvest. Here's why: people are mistake-prone, and after you've spent a year, two years, sometimes even three nurturing along a lot of wine, making sure it's going to be utterly delicious and, as important, sellable, you suddenly have to give up control of your baby to the bottling line.

Getting ready for bottling is a fairly painstaking process. Estimating numbers of bottles and cases produced, allowing for loss from filtration or racking, then ordering supplies like corks, capsules, glass and labels, all the while remembering to allow for loss from setting up the label height and orientation on the bottle at the line, or in case of bottling line malfunctions. Making sure to order 1 3/4" corks for the whites and 2" for the reds, both at different grades and prices of course, and making sure the facility/cellar can store all the supplies and arranging delivery times that don't clog the cellar when they're trying to prep the wine for bottling are also considerations. And there are more, of course.

I've been doing all of this for our winery for several years now, without a hitch. Until last week.

My father and I were hanging out and supervising the bottling of our 2009 Pinots when the owner of the line announced that we weren't going to have enough labels to finish the lot currently making its way through the truck. WHAT???? I mean, I did the math. And checked. And double-checked. I know I was a journalism major, but that's why I triple-checked!! Sure enough, as it turns out, my math was correct. So what else was wrong? We searched for missing rolls of labels (they come on giant rolls and are peeled off by the machine like little stickers), and none were found. No malfunctions had happened with the line to use extra labels, nor could we find any other cause.

We ran out of labels with 80 cases of wine left to go through the line. Luckily, we had plenty of corks, capsules and glass, so we went ahead and bottled and capsuled the wine so at least it was safely in bottle.

Thus began the search for the little plastic wrappers the label rolls came in, on which were conveniently affixed stickers listing the # of labels on the roll for easy double-checking of your math. This took a bit longer, but we did find them and, indeed, they were marked correctly. Hmmm...

We did some more math with the line and, as it turns out, instead of the rolls having 1,600-something labels in them, they only had 1,250. And we were about one 1,250 roll short. So, the printing company somehow had spun the incorrect amount of labels onto the rolls but labeled them correctly. So, after throwing a tantrum and making some phone calls, we found out the employee in charge of double-checking this was recently fired! Yikes.

This wouldn't be such a big deal except you pay by the case to have wines run through the line. Running them through a second time equals double the cost, and that's not even thinking about scheduling with a line to come back out in a timely manner (some popular bottling lines book up six months in advance). Luckily for us, the printing company felt like providing us with good customer service -- a rarity nowadays -- and tomorrow they'll be sending up a small labeling machine to label, for free, the remaining "shiners" (as we call bottles without their packaging). It will take five hours! But it will be done, finally, and our cases can go to the storage warehouse all properly packaged.

This time of year can be so stressful because of whoopsies like this. When labels come in a roll, you're not going to unwind them and hand count them (not sure the bottling line would like you messing with the tightly wound labels even if you had a mind to). So, you have to rely on other people and your own sanity during the supply ordering time. It's hard to do, and when it goes wrong it can be expensive and perilous to the wine in some instances.

So, five hours of bottling for us tomorrow, then we'll return to the winery to prep our 2009 Semillon for bottling on Wednesday. Then we'll be done with bottling for the year and ready to focus on harvest 2010!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bottling Time!

Late summer in the wine business is bottling season. As a new harvest approaches, it's time to get the previous vintage out of tanks and into bottles, making room to the next, latest and greatest (we always assume, of course).

Foursight has three very distinct bottlings this month: one hand bottling, one small run with a very small bottling line, and our biggest bottling of 800 cases of Pinot Noir.

Last week we did our hand bottling: eight cases of 2008 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc from our estate vineyard. We pick the grapes for this wine on Thanksgiving or the day after, coercing the entire family to go out with lug bins and start clipping clusters (we use the clippers and not the knives so we don't cut off any fingers needed to roast a turkey later!). The day is spent putting the lugs into a small, wooden basket press, extracting the juice (sometimes needing to stomp the grapes down), and then letting the wine start fermenting with wild yeast.

Because of the high sugar content of late-harvest grapes, it's unusual to use wild yeast fermentation as these yeast strains are not known to be very tolerant to the higher alcohols produced by fermenting something so sweet. However, we've discovered that the strains we have here on-site plow through without any issue at all, thank goodness, so we let it go wild, as we do with all our wines when we have half a chance to.

When we bottle our late harvest we prepare the wine, sanitize the half bottles, line them up and then start filling bottles with a tiny little bottling wand. One person fills, one person puts corks into the floor corker (requires some muscle), and one person wipes bottles and inserts them into the cases. We then leave the bottles upright for two weeks so the pressure can equalize (to ensure no wine leaks out of the corks later), and then label by hand and wax dip by hand. It's quite a process and I can't imagine having to do this with thousands of cases before bottling lines were invented.

Our second bottling tomorrow is for our 2009 Pinot Noirs, which are all between 13.5-13.9% alcohol! We're excited about this, although it wasn't necessary a style choice on our end. The wild yeasts in the 2009 vintage simply didn't produce as much alcohol as they did in previous years, so our style and winemaking philosophies stayed the same while the yeast did not. The beauty of natural winemaking! We love our wines, however, and are looking forward to being able to have that one extra glass each night. :)

We have 800 cases of Pinot to get into bottle tomorrow -- a huge lot for us -- so we'll be bringing in a much larger bottling truck for this job. We'll supervise (they have their own workers on lines of this size) and then we'll get to take home the first and last cases pulled off the line for quality control (and for us to drink at home).

The third bottling we'll be doing in another week will be with a very small bottling line that's in a horse trailer! This is fairly common for small wineries like ours, and  this line is adapted to do just up to a few hundred cases per day. We'll be using this line for our Semillon, which we're producing 75 cases of from the 2009 vintage. We do have to supply labor for a line this small, which is also customary, so the entire family will be helping to put in fresh glass, put on capsules, box and tape at the end, plus a few other jobs.

So, by the end of this month, we'll have bottled our last lots from both the 2008 and 2009 vintages and we'll be ready for the 2010 harvest! Whenever that begins ...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I'm A Lazy Blogger

Okay, I admit it: I've been a lazy blogger. As I'm approaching my third anniversary as a blogger next month (!!), I've been reading through old posts -- those chronicling our first months picking grapes, deciding upon our winery name, and working through the process to become a bonded and certified winery. Lately, I've been posting a lot of personal life and "what's happening" stuff: great for my friends, but not so fantastic for our customers and people who may not know us well. Lazy stuff. After all, who needs to know that I just ate goat, really? Well, actually, that one was pretty cool as it was our first goat. ... But you get the drift.

What happened to my posts? They used to be so well written, so timely, so much more interesting, with so many more photos. So I have to apologize to everyone out there. The realities of being a business owner while also working as someone's employee overwhelmed me. I got lazy. And for that I apologize.

So here's my goal for the future: get my ass in gear! Start posting more. Start posting more interesting, relevant stuff that talks not only about what we're doing here at the winery, but WHY, and how it's important. And, please call me out if I get lazy again. Play the worried mother: cut me a tiny bit of slack the first time (after all, harvest's coming up), but jump on it the next time you see it! Now that I've shaved one job off of my life, I think I can do it! And I may need your help. :)

Happy Saturday everyone!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Our Press is Here!

Today a hydraulic basket press that we bought from another local winery arrived. Or, more accurately, my father and a family friend went to the winery, had a crane put it on a truck, brought it slowly back, then unloaded it with a loader (that sounds odd, doesn't it - unload/loader...) using a slightly frightening system of carpet scraps, duct tape, industrial straps and chains. It was quite something to see.

This means that we've even closer to getting set up for every lot of wine we could possibly imagine making here at the winery! Tomorrow Joe and I will pick up a small tank in Sonoma County and add it to the roster of equipment we now own.

Here are images of the move:


video

2010 Mendocino County Fair Wine Competition

On Friday night Joe and I went with some friends to the awards dinner for the 2010 Mendocino Co. Wine Competition. At Goldeneye winery, the dinner is a casual affair with self-serve wines from the brands that entered and lamb sliders, salads, cookies, etc. It was a beautiful evening behind the tasting room, overlooking the vineyard.

We entered three wines in the competition (the first time we've entered as last year we were on our New Zealand honeymoon and forgot!): the 2009 Gewurzt, the 2007 All-In Pinot and the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc.

All three wines are solid, delicious offerings that we're very proud of and we were equally as proud that all three received medals. The star of the night was the 2009 Gewurzt, which not only won a gold medal but also placed as runner-up to the sweepstakes white (second favorite white wine in the entire competition)!! That's pretty good. On top of that, two judges came in to purchase bottles the next day (for their own consumption). I take that as a HUGE compliment given their sharp palates.

I have to admit being slightly disappointed with the Sauvignon Blanc, which only received a silver medal. In our experience that SB rocks every competition that we enter it in -- except this one. Hmmm... We sent them five bottles, so it couldn't have been off or corked I would imagine, but I still wonder. Unusual for this wine, which always places gold or double gold, even among stiffer competition than this. But I guess that's the beauty of competitions - different years, different judges, different medals.

Either way, it was a fun evening. I enjoyed chatting with old friends and judges that I haven't seen in quite some time. Big thanks to all the wine judges who come all the way up to our small valley to cast their vote!

Here are some photos from the event:


Joe watching me, taking photos of him. :)

A wine table and the gathered crowd beyond.

Journalist and Judge Chris Sawyer and MWWC President Dave Batt present awards (on the right).

Monday, August 2, 2010

The End of an Era

July 31 was my final day as executive director of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association! I truly enjoyed my time with the AVWA, organizing events and running the association, but three years of working mostly 7-days a week, 80+ hours each week during festival times, and no time for some of the projects at Foursight that we wanted to accomplish, was enough. I'm happy to now say that I've returned to the land of the living and am (mostly) taking the next few days off. Hooray!

We've decided to go camping up on our ranch for a few days with some friends. Of course, there are always complications, and I'll have to come back to the valley to do a few things each day, but that's the beauty of the ranch: it's only 15 minutes from our house. Otherwise, I plan to do a lot of eating, drinking, and doing nothing except a hike or two.

What's on the menu? Bubbles, of course, a few select bottles of wine, and beer is a given. We'll be eating veggie ceviche, marinated tri-tip, ice cream sandwiches on homemade cookies, cinnamon rolls baked from scratch, burgers, breakfast burritos, and a lot more I'm sure. Yum.

What else is happening here on the Foursight property? Well, Handsome's leg is not healing well, so the vet should be out again and we'll see where that goes. It may be infected -- another twist on a long saga of injured and sick horses. (Will it ever end?) And then on Wednesday I get to take over my new job as president of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers, when we have a board meeting here at Foursight.

Next week I'll spend my days off bottling 2008 late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc (good news to our club members who have been waiting for this - and it's tasting awesome!). The week after we'll be bottling 2009 Pinot Noirs, which will also be killer based on our last tasting. Then, of course, harvest for sparkling wine in late-August, early September this year. We estimate we're about 17 days behind our normal season, so picking will be later for all varietals unless we get some serious heat this month.

Well, after tallying up the above upcoming tasks, I guess I should correct myself and say that, after harvest, I'll be taking some real days off each week. Hopefully. haha. Such is the life of the self-employed.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It's been a tough few months for me here. I have two off-the-racetrack thoroughbreds -- one I've had for almost 13 years now (since high school), when I got her pregnant and neglected. The other also needed a loving home and I couldn't bear to separate them once they'd bonded (horses are herd animals and get very attached to each other), so I brought him home when I moved back from Santa Rosa. So, now I have an almost 27-year-old horse and a 17-year-old horse. Twenty seven is a ripe old age for a horse, given they live 30-35 years. Seventeen is entering the golden years as well.

About five months ago, my old mare developed laminitis -- likely from eating too much unusually green grass this spring. This is where the layers of their feet essentially begin to separate, making them very sore and walking very difficult. Thus began a series of special foot trimmings to prevent further damage, then abscesses that required wrapping, and a very long confinement period in a paddock. This was shocking to me, especially since she's lived on pasture for 13 years, without a single problem. However, this wasn't an average spring, and I hear many people with otherwise bullet-proof horses had issues this year.

So, for a handful of months now I've been getting up early to clean the stall, wrap her feet, feed her a special diet, and generally care for her (including healthy doses of horsey pain killers when necessary). In the evenings after work I simply repeat the process all over again. It's been utterly exhausting, but what else can you do when you have a living animal that needs your help?

Last Tuesday was supposed to be the mare's last day in the paddock, the vet deeming her healthy enough to go back out to pasture with her friend. I was estatic, thinking we could both use a little time off. However, it wasn't meant to be. The night before, the big gelding (who happens to be blind in one eye due to a large cataract that developed in the past year), ran into something while he was out and cut open his leg to the bone, severing two major muscles above his knee. It was bad, and I immediately called the vet to come out, clean the wound up, and stitch it back together. He was a good sport, but wasn't used to being shut up. About 2:30 that morning he was whinnying and carrying on so much that I had to go put a night light up for him, so he could see his buddy out in the pasture (his poor eyesight made him anxious). This has solved our middle-of-the-night problems, thankfully.

Five days later, he's healing well, but has a long way to go. My mare has gone out to pasture, and he's taken her place in the paddock, meaning several more weeks of special diets, antibiotics, wraps and ointments, and stall cleaning.

The thing that shocks me is that all the professionals that have been helping me get them back to health keep saying how lucky they are to have me. Many people, with the current economy, can no longer afford vet bills and all the extras that I've bought for them to help them heal (like $300 shoes for the mare!). So, they simply put them down. My apologies to anyone faint-hearted, but I was appalled to hear that an unusually high number of people are actually shooting their horses rather than dealing with the costs involved or even paying the vet to come put them down. It's a tough time out there, but for me I couldn't do that. I'd max out all my credit cards to make sure we're trying everything we can. And luckily I have a very understanding husband!

So, all the ucky stuff aside, I'm now officially a two-horse convalescent and retirement home. I hope that, once everyone is healed, they'll have a simple, pleasant retirement where nothing else eventful happens! Let's all cross our fingers for that. This morning, as my mare was walking around in her new boots (SO comfy) and the gelding was happily munching his hay, I could almost see it happening.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Boonville Art Walk - July 10

Today we're open until 7 p.m. because it's the Boonville Art Walk! Although not a very widely publicized event, we're happy to be a part of it. We have artist Jaye Alison Moscariello showing her pieces here -- gorgeous watercolors of the Mendocino coast and Anderson Valley, along with some colorful painted tiles.

All around town today, local artists are showing their works at shops, restaurants, a few galleries, and at Foursight! The event runs just today, from 3-7 p.m., and makes me thankful that we live in one of those small communities that inspires so many artists. Also, selfishly, it's fun to have something new to look at in the tasting room! :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

We Got Fourth - That 'Aint Bad!

The results from the San Francisco Bay List competition are in, and Foursight got fourth place for Best Anderson Valley Winery! Now, given that we've had our tasting room up and running for just over a year, I think that's pretty darn good. That's also out of 11 nominees, including some very well established wineries in the area.

Thanks to everyone who voted for us!! We love you! Too see the results (and those who we're going to overtake next year, evil laugh!), click here.

Monday, June 21, 2010

We Survived!

Yesterday was the last day of the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival -- the second of these festivals that we've been open for. This is a weekend-long reggae and world music festival attracting thousands of very colorful people to our small town. The streets are parked up, people with dreadlocks and more colors on together than I have in my entire closet walking around, and the intermittent smell of fried foods and weed wafts through town.

I do enjoy reggae - it's nice to open up the winery windows on a nice weekend and listen to the music. And I don't begrudge anyone the right to come enjoy a 3-day concert and have a good time. However, the presence of several thousand new-age hippes and reggae enthusiasts makes for terrible business, and that's when I begin to feel like the curmudgeonly full-time resident of a tourist town.

They serve great food inside the fairgrounds, along with beer and wine. Therein lies a problem -- our local restaurants do a terrible business during the weekend because festival attendees eat and drink inside and locals don't go out in Boonville because there's no place to park. Wineries here in town sell little wine because who wants to pack a bottle around and have it sit at your campsite in the summer sun? But plenty of people want to taste - only if it's free, of course. And the music's good, but when 1 a.m. comes along and your bed is vibrating with the drums, then it's not so fun anymore.

There are always exceptions to the rule, but it's an interesting study in human behavior and a chance for us to decide if it's worth being open next year or if we should close on Sunday so we can enjoy Father's Day too. Chances are we might. But for right now I'm sighing in relief because, so far, no one's vomited in the bathroom (yes, that happened last year), and I see cars streaming out of town in long lines. That means that tomorrow morning I can actually get a dark chocolate mocha at Mosswood without waiting in line for an hour (vendors shut down last night). Hooray!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Fruit Trees

This morning I did a quick lap around the back of the winery, where the original homesteaders planted their fruit trees. I was curious to see what fruit we might actually get after all the cold and rain this spring.

This property was a sheep ranch, and people planted things that they could eat, plus just a few pretties like rose bushes. We have a fig tree that we relocated when we built the winery, several apple trees (including one that's hollow but still produces!), walnut trees, a loquat, wild plums, a quince bush, a peach tree and blackberries of course, which grow wild here.

The homesteaders made a lot of jam from the quinces and used the skins and seeds to produce pectin to firm up jellies and other items (quinces are very high in pectin, which is why it's fairly easy to make things like quince paste from them). The walnuts and apples are fairly self-explanatory, but I have no idea what they could have done with the loquat.

So, with a little research, here's what I found out about loquats: native to China, also high in pectin, can be eaten raw or cooked into jellies, sauces or desserts. So the pectin thing makes sense, but it still seems an odd choice for this area. I mostly hate the tree for its giant leaves that dry up, fall off, and accumulate right where I have to sweep them up every day - namely right by the front door of the tasting room!

Our winter garden just starting taking off, so I expected to not see much fruit on the trees. I was mostly wrong. Every tree but one apple and the fig has at least a small amount of fruit on it. The loquat has a few fruits, but I never seem to catch them at the right time and so have never done anything with them. The fig is disappointing as I love to roast them and make fig and feta pizza - maybe they'll be later this year? The wild plums always have fruit, but nature gets most of it.

Wild plums are pretty fascinating in themselves. Here's what the Web says about them: " The wild plum is one of nature's rarest and most unique fruits. It grows at the edges of Oregon, California and Nevada's northern high desert at altitudes between 4000 and 7000 feet. Here it tolerates great extremes of heat, cold, alkaline soils, and drought. In its native state, the wild plum grows on a large bush five to six feet tall. The fruit is similar to a cherry in size and has a distinctive tart flavor. The Indian tribes of this area gathered the ripe fruit and dried it for winter to garnish their wild fowl and game."

Well, I can tell you that Boonville is not in any of the areas that these are supposed to grow, but we have three or four trees here that either have red or yellow fruits when ripe. They are tart, yes, and the birds always seem to get most of them the second they ripen (they just know, I swear!). But they are pretty delicious even though the fruit is too small and the pit too big to do anything but dry or eat raw. I would imagine those same birds probably brought these here originally.

I feel lucky to have all these great trees here on the property. They feel like a gift because they just take care of themselves for the most part. They're dry-farmed and organic by neglect, but we get to at least enjoy a small bounty every year from them, and I'm sure 100 years ago the residents felt much the same. We've only owned this property since 1950, so we're relative newcomers. :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Comments in Other Languages

I've been getting a lot of comments on this blog in other languages, especially Asian languages that I definitely have no hope of reading or translating. Now, while I appreciate that people (or spammers, perhaps!) are taking the time to submit a comment, I can't in all honesty post those comments as I don't know what they say. It's the same reason why, when t-shirts with Chinese letters became really popular when I was in high school, I didn't buy them. They could have said "I'm a dumb American and I suck" for all I knew. Just my personal thing. So, I apologize to anyone who has commented and had comments rejected. I hope you understand.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Party at Foursight!



Here are the promised photos of the Foursight Open House at the AV Pinot Festival last month. We hired a band, made a TON of delicious food, and started popping corks! That day we debuted our 2009 Dry Gewurztraminer and previewed the 2008 Zero New Oak Pinot, which had a great reception (several groups begged us to purchase bottles that day, even though we had to tell them no as we won't be releasing the wine for months.)

We estimate that we hosted a few hundred people that day, plus kids and plenty of dogs of all kinds. This party also serves as a pick up event for our 3-Bottle wine club, so it's great that we can both meet new people and visit with our old friends.

The day ended with entertainment by Ozzie the labrador, when he dug up a golpher from the back lawn and flipped it in the air for all to see! We were a bit embarrased, but several customers got out their video cameras. I'll be searching the internet to see if Ozzie's golpher-catching video went viral! You can't say that dog doesn't have a talent...

We're looking forward to the next party in October! We'll announce the date when we have it on the calendar.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Harpin' Boont

Here's a youtube video posted by a very nice travel writer, Jules Older, that features Bill Charles, Nancy Charles and myself talking about Boontling! Of course, the star of the show is long-time valley resident Wes Smoot, who my father helped track down for the story.

Boontling, for those who don't know, is a language invented here in Anderson Valley years and years ago. Only a handful of people still speak it fluently. My father can tell some mean nursery rhymes and speak some full sentences, whereas my brothers and I can only really translate words and small phrases.

There is one side note that I always tell people - this language is chock full of sexist, racist and otherwise non-politically correct words. You have to think about the times that it was invented during. Of course, there are also plenty of words for every day items and tasks, and a lot of ranching and farming lingo as those were the big games back then.

There are a few things in the valley still named in Boontling, but, honestly, it's mostly by brightlighters (outsiders from the city) who come here and think it's cute to name things in Boontling. We did name our wine club Eight High, but I think we have the four-generation history here to do it justice. (See the full meaning of Eight High and wine club details here.)

The morning this was filmed I was dealing with a sick horse, so excuse the lack of make-up and thank goodness he didn't film my nasty clothes! I did say he was nice, right?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Photos!

I found my camera! It was in the bottom of a random bag from Pinot Festival, go figure, so finally here's a slideshow of some Pinot Festival photos from the press tasting and grand tasting. Janis, who works with me, took all the photos of the welcome dinner, tech conference and BBQ, so eventually I'll gather hers too. Oh, and our open house for Foursight will come soon too.

Sorry for the disarray (I would prefer to post all the photos at once), but I find it just simply takes a while to get my life back in order after a festival. The first step is clean-up the Monday after the event. Everything from all the venues gets dropped in the middle of our storage room by helpful volunteers. Then it's counting money and doing banking, revising budgets and working on a wrap-up report while monitoring resulting press. Thank you letters have to go out to sponsors, press and committee members who hosted an event or organized an event. Then it's sorting through the mess in the storage room and returning everything we borrowed, cleaning dump buckets and pour spouts by hand and laundering rags at home. And the list goes on.

In the past year I've added to the list above diving into everything for Foursight that I've pushed to the side for the past few months. There are simply things that cannot wait any longer. I'm now staring at a to-do list that includes everything from financial reports to wholesale accounts and making a tech sheet for our new Gewurztraminer (another post's in order for this one).

Enjoy the photos and I hope everyone's having a great Memorial Day Weekend.





Thursday, May 27, 2010

Coolest Mobile Phone App Yet

Finally got around to reading the latest PinotFile (highly recommended by the way, if you're not familiar with the publication), and I saw what I believe is the most practical phone app yet:

"A free mobile application called TaxiMagic has been introduced by California State officials. All registered users have to do is tap on button on their iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Palm smart phones and the application determines where the caller is, contacts the cap company, and dispatches the cab to the caller’s location automatically. The user can automatically pay by credit card. Users can also book a cab with the mobile application, on the web, or with a text message. For more information visit www.taximagic.com."

They say getting a DUI is as expensive as taking a taxi from New York to LA, and now all people have to do is touch the screen on their phones or text message to have one arrive wherever they are around the state. Pretty cool.

It's not completely flawless though - there's not a single cab in the Anderson Valley area to call, even if you do have reception, which can be tough in itself. It also means they're probably using your phone's GPS to find out where you are. I think we've all adapted to knowing that our phones could be used to track us, wherever we are, but it's still just a bit creepy. Still, I'll take creepy over DUI any day. :)