Monday, May 30, 2011

The Vineyard - Now

Tiny clusters already forming.

New growth at Charles Vineyard.
This time of year the vines are starting to need warm, sunny days to really take off. Small clusters, like the ones in the top photo, are already forming, and the tiny yellow flowers will soon emerge. With some luck, those flowers eventually turn into grape berries. Unfortunately, the weather doesn't seem to want to cooperate quite yet this year.

So far, it's actually been a mild spring in Anderson Valley. We've only had a handful of frost nights where we had to turn on frost protection. All the winter weather hit before the vines had emerged from dormancy, so none of the snow, hail, or big rains were an issue.

What we're now worried about is getting enough heat to ripen the grapes before fall weather hits. Last year - 2010 - was one of the latest harvests we've ever had. We picked about three weeks later than an average year. Luckily, we also picked several weeks before fall weather arrived (aka rain). If we have another cool summer, then we could be looking at the same problem. However, with just a bit of sun and warmth, the vines are quick to catch up to their normal time frame.

It's not panic time yet, but with farming it's always time to worry!

Monday, May 23, 2011

AV Pinot Noir Festival Wrap-Up!

We had an amazing, and tiring, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival weekend this year! The events started on Thursday night and culminated yesterday with our annual open house and wine club party. It was a great event, and many thanks to all our friends, family and customers who came to see us and help out.

On Saturday we poured a Pinot Noir vertical at the grand tasting at Goldeneye Winery, which was a hit. That evening we hosted a winemaker dinner with Roederer Estate and Phillips Hill, at Roederer in Philo. The food was amazing - everything from halibut, mussels and clams with our 2009 Sauvignon Blanc to squab with our 2007 All-In Pinot Noir. Yum! Even the strawberry cream puff for dessert was awe-inspiring. On top of the great food, the company was even better.

Our open house on Sunday, May 22 featured a band and foods that ranged from tri-tip sliders with fingerling potatoes and roasted eggplant, to a blue cheese table (great with our 2008 Pinot Noirs), and shrimp ceviche in filo cups for the white wines. Of course that's just naming a few.

Here are a few photos of yesterday's open house (notice the lack of shoes on my father's feet in this first photo - what???):






Monday, May 16, 2011

Ingredients Labeling - Try Number Two!

I had posted earlier about our effort to label our 2010 Charles Vineyard Semillon with ingredients (grapes and sulfur dioxide) and a statement reading "this wine is suitable for vegetarian and vegans." We submitted the label to the TTB for a label approval (a necessary hoop to jump through before bottling any wine), and it was rejected.

Our rejection stated that our ingredients statement was not complete. What?? So I called the TTB and a wonderful lady there told me that they probably assumed we missed something. Like yeast, acid, enzymes, or something, surely. After all, no one makes wine with just grapes and sulfur dioxide!

This prompted me to explain that we fermented this wine with 100% wild yeast, 100% wild ML strains, and then added nothing but some sulfur dioxide for protection and aging potential. The wine will be bottled unfined and unfiltered late in the summer.

Her suggestion was that I amend the application and add this statement for clarification:

OUR INGREDIENT STATEMENT IS COMPLETE - WE USED ONLY WILD YEAST AND WILD MALOLACTIC STRAINS AND ADDED NO OTHER INGREDIENTS IN THE WINEMAKING PROCESS. WE LABELED THIS AS SUITABLE FOR VEGETARIANS AND VEGANS BECAUSE NO INGREDIENTS WERE USED OTHER THAN SULFUR DIOXIDE, THUS NOTHING WAS USED THAT WAS DERIVED FROM AN ANIMAL PRODUCT. 

So, in went the application again. And, hopefully, in about 20 days, we'll get an approval back. Crossing my fingers, because if they tell me again that we can't make wine with just grapes and sulfur, I might go on a tirade!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beer Festival!

Today's the Boonville Beer Festival and, for the last hour, I've been working on my laptop while doing a little people watching. Let me tell you: there are more Hawaiian shirts than I expected. :) And more jackets, since this year's event will barely miss out on some rain coming in tonight. It's cloudy, cold and gray - not good beer drinking weather overall.

It doesn't seem to deter the early drinkers, though. One of the fun things about people watching as the crowd walks by from campground to event venue, is spotting the many arrays of containers used to conceal early morning adult beverages! Plenty of red cups to brown bags to camelbacks not full of water.

Have fun to everyone out there. Hopefully they'll all stay dry.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer Scores & Reviews

Here are a few new scores and reviews for our recently released 2009 Charles Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and our first-ever 2009 Anderson Valley Dry Gewurztraminer:

Wine Spectator awarded our 2009 AV Gewurztraminer 89 points, with Associate Editor Tim Fish rating the wine 90 points!

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat ran several recommendations for our 2009 Charles Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, giving it four out of five stars! The full review read: "A complex sauvignon blanc with aromas and flavors of lemon blossom, grass and mineral. Creamy texture. Lush."

Click here to see more accolades for our wines.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Vegan/Vegetarian Wines - Our first label rejection!

This week I received an e-mail from the TTB, rejecting our 2010 Semillon label that read: "This wine is suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets." (see label, to the right)

Our rejected 2010 Semillon label

We listed this on our label because we don't use any animal-derived products in making our wines (the 2010 Semillon has nothing but some sulfur added - no yeast, ml bacteria, acid, water or anything else). And, to be honest, we expected the rejection. Although, to be totally honest, I'm not exactly sure why wineries are not allowed to claim this.

There's been a lot of discussion about vegan wines lately, especially as consumers become more aware of products used in the winemaking process. If you're ethically opposed to using animal products, this is a huge issue for you. And U.S. consumers are not the only ones having this conversation.

The Canadian government will soon require wineries to list if they use fish, egg or milk products. They'll also have new sulfite regulations and will require wineries to list "contains sulfites" on the bottle if they use more than 10 parts per million (something the U.S. government has required for years; organic wines must have less than 10 ppm sulfites here). Read the full article about the changes in Canadian wine labeling, here.

To be honest, even though we're a winery that voluntarily tried to list that our wines are suitable for vegetarians or vegans, I still believe this should be voluntary for wineries. Here's why:

Winemaking products derived from animal ingredients are most often used for fining, or to clarify wines: they grab big particles then fall to the bottom of the tank. The clarified wine is then "racked" or removed off the top of the particles and other sediment in the bottom of the tank, then most often filtered (let's be honest - not that many producers offer unfiltered wines anymore). Most wineries sterile filter, which, when done right, will remove all living things in the wine (yeast, bacteria, pieces of grape skin, etc.). Not much survives sterile filtering, hence the name.

So, all in all, listing wines as vegan or vegetarian or listing animal-derived products is really more of an ethical question than an allergy question.

Either way, I've been blogging about consumer awareness and the increased level of transparency in the wine business for a while now. This is just another piece of evidence of this shift in the industry.