Monday, December 31, 2012

The Holidays at Foursight

It doesn't matter where we are, but we always spend this time of year doing what we do best: eating, drinking, and making merry!

Whether it's the family tradition of fondue for Xmas Eve, with some bigger style Pinots (Kosta Browne, Loring, and a Londer dry Gewurztraminer to cleanse the palate), or a Christmas day roast with aged Napa Cabs (Heitz, Clos du Val -- yes we drink Cab!), we're very lucky here at the Charles property.

The tasting room closes Christmas Eve, but otherwise it's a steady hum at Foursight, with people stocking up on their own holiday bottles, then off to parties, get-togethers, or a quiet weekend on the Mendocino Coast.

Tonight we'll celebrate New Year's Eve with some local bubbles, probably some Rhys and Dehlinger Pinot Noir, and whatever else everyone brings to add to the mix.

It's also a great time to bring out some yet-to-be-released Foursight Pinots to reflect back on the past few years and appreciate how far we've come. Our first harvest for Foursight was 2006, with our first release in 2008 and the tasting room opening in 2009; tomorrow we'll be entering our seventh year of operations, and it feels like it can't possibly have been that long ago.

We hope you and yours are celebrating, enjoying each other's company, drinking some good wine, and reflecting back on either a good year past or a better one to come.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Fratty Pike Holiday

One of the great things about having four tasting rooms in Boonville is the ability to come together and host fun events. This weekend and next, Foursight, Londer, Philo Ridge and Zina Hyde Cunningham are having a Fratty Pike Holiday Celebration.

Fratty Pike is Boontling for "wine walk," although in this weather most of our Pikers are actually driving! All four tasting rooms are offering food and wine pairings and great holiday deals -- the perfect way to celebrate and stock up for the upcoming round of parties and meals with family and friends.

We're pairing mushroom brie puff pastry bites and fennel seed and sea salt crackers with our Pinots. We're also offering our holiday wine samplers, for 15% off retail price!

So come visit us, get your Fratty Pike card stamped, and enter to win four bottles of wine for four cents!

(Just a note: We will be closed Christmas Eve.)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Winter's Here! Road Closures, Power Outages, and More!

This week the rains returned to Northern California, and with a vengeance that I haven't seen here since 1996/1998. Since mid-week we've had 11 inches of rain at our Boonville property. We have multiple trees down on the property, and this morning awoke to a power line down!

Didn't want to get too close, but you can see the power line drooping down next to the tractor.
Needless to say, we're still without power at the family homes, but, very lucky for us, the winery derives its power from the lines that go into town, so all is open, well and warm at Foursight! In fact, Foursight has served as our teeth-brushing, tidying up station all morning, as our wells don't work without power, so no electricity means no water either!

Mid-morning, Cal Trans also closed Highway 128 to the coast. Now, this is normal once a year, maybe twice during wet years. There are several ways to get around it, but it does make it a longer trip to the Mendocino area. The one annoying thing: they place the giant closure sign right smack dab in front of our winery. Notice the Foursight sign in the photo, below. Yes, it does make it convenient for me to see if the road is open or closed, but it's hard to notice the winery when you're staring at a flashing sign declaring a full highway closure!

I was tipped off this week to a very cool site with more river gage information than I had seen before: it shows not only current flows, but historical data. Being a fourth-generation Boonter, I have heard my father tell tales of floods in years past, but being able to see the data is very interesting. There is a mark on a tree in Navarro that supposedly shows the water level during one of the historic floods. I'm not sure of which year, but 40 feet of water might do it!

(1) 41.13 ft on 01/16/1974
(2) 40.64 ft on 12/22/1964
(3) 40.60 ft on 12/22/1955
(4) 39.81 ft on 12/31/2005
(5) 38.20 ft on 12/15/1937

I imagine our power will be back on by the end of the day, but for now I'm happy to be at the winery, enjoying the electricity!

Friday, October 26, 2012

And Now The Peace And Quiet...

We wrapped up crush 2012 several weeks ago, and with the first rains now under our belt, it's time to relax and enjoy ourselves a little. This year's harvest was busy and compact, but the wines in the cellar are going to be good!

What we have back there now:
- Pinot Noir from our clones 114, 115, 777 and Pommard 05, aging in a variety of French oak barrels
- Semillon, aging in both stainless steel and French oak barrels
- Sauvignon Blanc, aging in both stainless steel and French oak barrels

Because we do wild malolactic fermentation and allow the natural strains present in the environment and our winery to soften the acids in the wines, a few of the lots are still undergoing ML, but it seems to be chugging through. Otherwise, it's pretty quiet around here.

A few events will wrap up our fall season: we just did Pinot on the River 2012, and Artisano is upcoming -- both fantastic events I would recommend for a wine lover.

We took a lot of good harvest footage this year, and during the next few weeks I'll work on some videos of our adventures. Otherwise, we'll be pouring a glass of Pinot, lighting a fire, and getting to all those books we neglected during the past few months.Yay.

Monday, October 8, 2012

2012 Harvest Experience Photos!

Yesterday we hosted our second annual Foursight Harvest Experience. Open only to wine club and list members, this year proved especially popular, and we had to limit attendance so we could all fit in the winery and cellar! The weather was perfect for a vineyard and winery tour and an al fresco lunch, and we thoroughly enjoyed showing everyone the other side of our operation -- where most of the work is done.

The day started with a glass of wine and quick welcome, then on to the vineyard. Bill Charles talked about the "glamorous life of a farmer," and we tasted our Sauvignon Blanc and Clone 05 Pinot Noir in the blocks where the grapes are grown. We then moved to the winery, where Winemaker Joe Webb led a discussion about winemaking and attendees were able to try their hand at punchdowns. We tasted the Semillon and Zero New Oak Pinot Noir and talked about how we produce these unique bottlings. Afterward, everyone gathered for lunch in the 100-year-old orchard and we celebrated another fantastic harvest.

All in all, a fantastic day! Here are a few photos of the event:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Harvest Update

This week was a blur, but we now have almost every block harvested from our Charles Vineyard. We picked nearly every day, with one night pick thrown into the mix. That meant that we picked at 6 a.m., processed fruit, tried to nap, picked that evening, tried to sleep for a few hours, then picked again the next morning. Whew!

Our Semillon is still hanging, and a block of Pinot we're selling to a winery in Sonoma. Otherwise, we're SO close! I imagine that by the week's end we'll be done and moved on to just the winery work.

We have two friends, Amy and David, helping us this week, which has been fantastic. There is less vineyard work to do, but twice daily punchdowns on the fermenting juice, berry samples to determine a pick date for our Semillon, and general tidying up and organizing the cellar after a week of chaos. We're so grateful to have them both!


So the next tasks in harvest land are picking and pressing Semillon into French oak barrels and continuing on with the other work here at the winery. And, of course, our Harvest Experience event on October 6th! Can't wait.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Harvest 2012 Begins!

Tomorrow morning we start picking our first blocks of Pinot Noir! Our clones 115, 777 & Pommard 05 on one rootstock will be coming in. All taste great and are going into the blends that we do sub-14% alcohol. I'll post photos of the pick this weekend!

Leading up to this week, we were doing a lot of cleaning (take everything out of the cellar, clean everything, and put it back in is the norm), and berry sampling and testing. (Thanks to David for his help this harvest!) Below is a photo of clone 777 & 115 berries and a few of our tabletop machines to test pH and acid which as as important when determining ripeness as sugar, flavor and seed and stem maturity.

Because we include whole clusters in our fermentation bins, the condition of the stems and seeds is more important to us than most. We don't want bright green, super tannic seeds or stems, but seeds that are brown and crunchy, with less tannin. The stems should also be lignified (dictionary definition: to convert into wood; cause to become woody).

We're really excited to have soon-to-be fermenting bins in the back!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Changes Underway in the Anderson Valley Wine Biz

Several years back I remember reading an article that stated that 50% of wineries would change hands by 2017. Because so many were owned by baby boomers who would look to retire, their wineries would either be sold or passed down to someone in the family within this time frame, signaling one of the largest shift in our business in a long time.

I've always found our little valley to be a bit insulated from the greater world. When I was growing up here, any trend in America's youth took just a year or so longer to hit the metropolis of Boonville (yes, I pegged my pants and wore many pairs of stirrup pants). Even things on a global scale like the recent recession took longer to hit us here, but we also took longer to recover from it. It's a delayed reaction, but it always hits, and it seems lately that this trend of change in the wine business has finally hit Anderson Valley.

With wineries closing like Standish and Berridge, and those for sale like Claudia Springs & Esterlina, it seems like there is certainly change afoot. However, you can always rest assured that while some go away, some will be opening up. With Roederer's new still wine project and Baxter's new tasting room, there will be new representation on the valley floor. It will certainly be a slightly different landscape in the next few years, and we'll be sad to see some of our friends go. The rest of us? Well, we'll keep chugging along as we always do.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bottling our 2011 Pinot Noirs

Racking Pinot to tank
Wednesday we'll be putting our 2011 Pinots and 2011 Semillon into bottle. If you've read this blog before, you've read my rants and raves about bottling -- how it's every winemaker's nightmare, and how something also goes wrong, always. All that's true, and it's also true that it's one of the most exciting times of the year because you can look back at an entire vintage and know it's now safely aging in bottle.

This year we're bottling a vintage that we're especially proud of. Our entire family (and numerous friends) came together and made it happen, all in a short time frame. The 2011 vintage will be remembered as a difficult vintage at best, due to a long, cool spring and summer and early fall rains. Later years tend to mean compressed harvests, and it seemed all the fruit came in within a few weeks, in one big rush.

Some vintners chose to pick before the rains (and not always at optimal sugars), and some chose to wait it out and risk soggy vineyards and mold issues. There are several stories I've heard about Chardonnay not being picked because it disintegrated in the rain or the vineyard was too wet for tractors.

Foursight Winemaker, Joe Webb, at work
Despite all the challenges, however, our estate delivered again: we had great sugars and flavors well before the rain loomed, and we picked everything without a threat of related issues. During the past two years, being at the southern end of the valley has made all the difference.

During the past few evenings, Joe and I have been racking and putting these 2011's into tank. I truly enjoy being able to work in the cellar with my husband, and my cellar rat skills have improved over the years, although I still sometimes struggle to heave around barrels and equipment (back to the P90X workouts I guess!).

The wines are drinking wonderfully right now, and the new screen printed Pinot bottles will look gorgeous! So far, everything seems to be set for Wednesday, and we'll just have to cross our fingers that nothing else pops up. After all, we already had to deal with our glass delivery never getting scheduled and several other small calamities. Ah, the joys of bottling...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lunch at Morimoto, Napa

Does working on a Saturday count when you have an hour-and-a-half lunch at Morimoto, Napa? Given the fact that it takes us longer to get to Napa than to the Golden Gate Bridge, a break was well-deserved.

Foursight Winemaker, Joe, and I made a round trip to one of our warehouses to drop off and pick up wine, and we decided to have lunch in the revitalized riverfront area of downtown Napa. Having worked in the Napa Valley years ago, I took note of how drastically this part of the city has changed. And in a good way: I almost convinced Joe to have a pre-lunch bite at the Hog Island Oyster restaurant down the way. :)

The Morimoto restaurant in Philly carries our Semillon, so we wanted to stop in and try his Napa location (Philly's just a little too far for a day trip!). Below are images of our meal. It was a fantastic experience with great potion sizes and timing on the courses. We split everything so we could taste it all. Morimoto definitely did a good job with this one!

Joe, tolerating my photo taking (and some bubbles, of course!).

The open kitchen.

Washugyu Beef Carpaccio with yuzu soy, ginger and sweet garlic.

Pork Gyoza with garlic chives, tomato, bacon cream. This one was too cool - like a giant cocoon you opened up to reveal the gyoza.

Sashimi Ceasar with local romaine, Morimoto dressing & seared tuna.

Lobster Wonton soup with shortrib pho broth. Yum.

Morimoto IPA (8% abv!).

Bone Marrow. Saw this at another table and ordered one; delicious!

Sushi/Sashimi Chef's Combination. Real wasabi and decent pickled ginger too!

Love the grapevines on the wall everywhere!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

When Living in the Country Sucks

In the past 24 hours, a leak has ruined half our newly laid hardwood floors (which we now get to rip up and redo), and a burst pipe has put one of our wells on life support and it may not recover this season. The fact that we can't just flip a switch and city water comes out of the tap makes this one of those times that living in the middle of nowhere is more than frustrating. The DIY mentality can be highly overrated, especially when we got about 5-6 hours of sleep last night because we had to keep restarting the well pump so our guest house renter would have water. (BIG sigh) We'll see what the next 24 hours has in store for us.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Food & Wine Pairing Time!

Scallops, check! Strawberries, check! Lots of wine, check! Tomorrow is our first day of Summer Food & Wine Pairings at our Boonville Tasting Room and we're double-checking our list today. Every summer we try and do something fun and different (besides great new wine releases, of course), and this year we had Mendocino Coast Chef Dory Kwan put together a fantastic pairing menu for us to offer in the tasting room.

On Saturday and Sunday, July 14-15 (this weekend!), July 28-29 and August 4-5 we'll be serving up four of our wines with four bites that show how amazing food and wine can be together. There's also a plus that not much is open in the Valley on Sunday after 3 p.m., so if you're looking for a bite before heading out, we've got it!

Join us at the Foursight tasting room, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., for some food and wine fun! Pairings are $20 per person and free for Foursight wine club members.

Foursight Summer 2012 Pairing Menu:

2011 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Charles Vineyard 
Ripe Organic Strawberry with Cream on a Pine Nut Olive Oil Cookie

2010 Charles Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
Grilled Sea Scallop with a Mild Chermoula Sauce, served with a Meyer Lemon Salsa Cruda
2009 Zero New Oak Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir
Pistachio Liverwurst Crostini with Pickled Onions and Sweet Pickles
2009 Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir
A Savory "Cherry Cheesecake" of Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam Cheese with a Fresh Bing Cherry Compote

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Where To Find Our Wines

Several days ago I received a call from a customer who was headed to a birthday party. She wanted to bring a bottle of Foursight but had none in her cellar. Fortunately, this year we've been working to provide easier access to our wines, which were formerly only available at the winery and on the Mendocino Coast. Because of this, I was able to steer our dedicated customer to a retail shop nearby that carried our Pinot. Problem solved! Then it occurred to me that this information may be helpful to all our customers and winery friends. So, below are the places you can taste or buy or wines in NorCal. It's a small, selective list  (expanding all the time), but should you have a birthday emergency, at least you won't have to drive to Boonville!

JV Cellars, Napa: Semillon
K&L Store, San Carlos: Pinot Noir
K&L Store, Redwood City: Pinot Noir
Prima Wine Bar, Santa Cruz: Pinot Noir
Bacchus & Venus, Sausalito: Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc
PlumpJack Cafe, Squaw Valley: Pinot Noir
SIP Mendocino, Hopland: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Pinot Noir
Caprice Restaurant, Tiburon: Sauvignon Blanc
Que Syrah, San Francisco: Pinot Noir
Claremont Hotel, Berkeley: Semillon
Wine on Piedmont, Oakland: Semillon

And in the valley/on the Mendocino Coast:
Lauren's Restaurant, Boonville: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir
Harvest Market, Ft. Bragg: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir
The Mendocino Wine Shop, Mendocino: Semillon, Pinot Noir
Albion River Inn, Albion: Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Noir
Raven's Restaurant, Mendocino: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir
Surf Super, Gualala: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir
The Ledford House, Albion: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir
Glendeven Inn, Little River: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir
Arena Organics, Pt. Arena: Pinot Noir
MacCallum House, Mendocino: Sauvigon Blanc, Pinot Noir

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Wheelin' The Rubicon Trail, Tahoe Side

It had been four years since we let our white trash hang out a little, so it was a lot of fun to get together with the family and do the Rubicon Trail again.

For those who don't know, the Rubicon is an old road that goes from Lake Tahoe to the highway 50 area (there are several ways in). It's now primarily used as an OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) route but winds through some gorgeous high country, with several lakes and great camping and hiking sites along the way. In fact, the Sierra Crest trail passes right over the Rubicon trail.

More info about the trail:

Below are images and video clips of our travels. We have a few mishaps, which are very obvious in the photos, but we got everything fixed and off the trail in three days. Woohoo!

Friday, June 29, 2012

First Nights in the Truckee Condo!

Joe and I have been lusting after our own place in North Lake Tahoe for some time now. We completely lucked out this year and came across a 2 bedroom condo that we could actually afford! So, we put in an offer this spring and just received our keys last week! Needless to say, we're really excited. The place needs major time work (non-functioning heating units, toilets that don't work, etc, etc.) but they're all things we can tackle this summer and fall. Here are a few images of us and the new place:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tasting Room Closure: June 22-25

The Foursight tasting room will be closed June 22-25, during the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival.

My apologies to some of the organizers and all those good folks who will come over for a taste and find a closed door. However, we have a simple shortage of capable bouncers working for us, so we've opted to take a short vacation instead of going through the recruitment process.

We'll be open again for regular hours the next weekend! Fri-Mon, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

When Wine Can Kill You... Literally.

There are a few things in life that make me shudder: sharks (never seen one in person, hope never to), any kind of bug in proximity to my bed (the rest of the house -- no big deal), and Velcorin.

For those who don't know what Velcorin is, it's Dimethyldicarbonate, which is a chemical that's added to some wines and many of the fruit juices out there on the market. It sterilizes wines and you can still label them as unfiltered. Even though it's very dangerous in its original form, it breaks down into Co2 and methanol within about 24 hours.

There have been several articles about this substance in the wine world. After all, it's been approved here since 1988. However, today's announcement that Velcorin can now be deployed at all stages of wine production in all wines in the European Union just reminded me of how creepy I find this product.

1. Velcorin is dosed into wines by men wearing hazmat suits and an array of other safety equipment.
2. It can be very dangerous in its original form and absorbed through skin, eyes AND fumes, causing everything from irritation to collapse, coma and death. Yes, death. (See the MSDS for more info.)
3. It's colorless and "The odor of Velcorin is not strong enough or immediately irritating enough to act as a warning that one is being exposed." Makes you all warm and fuzzy, right?
4. If you drink a wine within 24 hours of when it was dosed with Velcorin, it can kill you. This is the safety warning from one service provider: "Velcorin is a potentially dangerous chemical which can be moderately toxic if ingested within 24 hours after application. Do not ingest wine or juice products during this time

It is expensive, and I'm sure that there are other winemakers like me that find it downright frightening, no matter what it breaks up into, so don't assume every wine is dosed with it. However, the idea that my favorite fruit juice or unfiltered wine had this added to it still gives me the heebie-jeebies. And because of that, you can be sure we'll never use it at Foursight. We just keep a clean cellar with clean wines, then opt not to filter them.

I keep trying to come up with other situations where you can drink a wine (albeit in a limited time frame), and it can kill you, but I can't. If you know of one, please let me know. I'll add it to my heebie-jeebies list. :)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Wine Spectator Magnum Party Fun

This was our second year being invited to the Wine Spectator's illustrious Magnum Party. Being a small Anderson Valley brand, we're always honored to be invited to this event, along with the magazine's New World Wine Experience.

Held at the Hotel Healdsburg's restaurant, Dry Creek Kitchen, the event was fabulous, as always. We enjoyed chatting with the Spectator crew, along with vintners that Joe and I used to know and work with during our time in Sonoma and Napa. The food was amazing, and we even had the chance to meet celebrity chef Charlie Palmer, who actually sliced our meat (how cool is that?).

We were there with a solid group of Anderson Valley vintners, who we are always happy to see at events. They included Toulouse, Goldeneye, Black Kite, Handley, and Breggo.

The whole premise of the event (obvious in the name) is to bring a magnum of your wine to share. They line up magnum after magnum, throughout the entire restaurant and hotel. Searching for our magnum is always a bit like a treasure hunt, but one where you get a taste of wine every time, even if you don't find the prize. In every room, different food items are being served, from fresh oysters, to charcuterie, pizzas and more. And, because Marvin Shanken also publishes Cigar Aficionado magazine, really good cigars are passed around at the end of the evening.

Here are a few photos of us at the event, and a link to the Web site, where we actually made the cut for the photo short list! haha

Foursight Winemaker, Joe Webb, and Breggo Cellar Master, Dan Rivin

Joe Webb & Kristy Charles, enjoying the event
 Here's the link to the official party photos:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ozzie & The Squirrel

Our tasting room lab, Ozzie, got his first squirrel this morning (shudder). The poor thing was already on the edge, hence the fact that he was able to catch it. Now I'm totally and utterly grossed out, probably for the remainder of the day. Good thing I have a hubby who is willing to make it go away after I leave. (Love you babe!)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Realities of Self-Employment

We hear from a number of friends how they would love to have a little business like ours, be self-employed, have no one to answer to but themselves and to be able to do things they way they like. And, I admit, it is nice to make your own schedule and decisions when it comes to your own products. And, working with the family is almost always a pleasure. But I also have to admit that there are days like the last few, where you're so tired it's hard to get out of bed and, even on your days off, you're still working "just a few hours."

Everyone knows what I call "the realities of self-employment." Things like:
- When you make a mistake, it's only your own, and there's no one else to blame it on.
- You work hard. VERY hard.
- You sometimes (or often) go without paychecks.
- The insecurity and risk involved can be stressful.
... and so on.

I admit, they're all true. Every single one of them. Plus, I'd add a few of my own:
- You have to be a jack of all trades, even if you're not really the most qualified person for that particular trade.
- You will make some kind of a mistake that will affect your business in some way.
- You will have days when, even though you love what you do, you won't want to go to work.
- You will begin to lust after a "typical" work week, but forget exactly what that means.

I won't lie and deny that 99% of the time I'm extremely happy with my life. I love our business, which is doing well and growing. But I also have to admit that one of the most important things I've learned is that you need to take a step back and allow yourself some time off and away. When you work so hard every day at something, you don't always realize that you're too close to it, or that your performance/productivity could be better.

My husband and I recently made a decision to try and purchase a little condo in the Lake Tahoe area (looks like we're succeeding, but more on that later). We live on the same property as the vineyard and winery, so we've found that, the only way we truly take time off, is by leaving (we half-jokingly call it the compound for the number of hours we can spend here without ever stepping foot across the driveway). I always worry about the things left undone when we leave, but when we return I feel recharged and ready to tackle everything with renewed energy.

Time away, perseverance, and being genuine about everything you do are the three most important lessons I've learned about running your own business. Hopefully that helps a few hopeful entrepreneurs out there. :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

2012 AV Pinot Festival Open House & Club Party

The Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival is one of our biggest weekends of the year. Besides the fact that I chaired the festival and organized all the press visits and tastings, Foursight hosts a big open house and wine club party on the Sunday of the event each year. It makes for four days of crazy business, but in a great way.

This year we decided to splurge and order fresh oysters and an entire leg of prosciutto to serve everyone at our open house. We poured our new, 2011 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir and 2010 Clone 05 Pinot Noir, alongside our current releases (and a vertical of Pinot Noirs).

Many of our regular club members, friends and family attended; we always love seeing them. Helping us was cousin Becca, uncles Tom & Scott, brothers Tim & Matt, and friends Jimmy, Linda & Erik. A BIG thanks to them for their help.

Ozzie the winery dog spent the entire day trolling for prosciutto scraps, then laying in the sun. He was a very happy dog.

Here are some images from our open house on Sunday. If you missed it this year, then don't next year! And come early. The oysters ran out pretty quickly.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Surprise Birthday Party!

Last night we managed to throw a surprise party for the parents' birthdays. A really fun evening. Happy birthday mom & dad and happy mother's day!

A few pics from the iphone:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Festival Season Begins Again!

Today's the Boonville Beer Fest, next weekend is the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, and in a month we have the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, followed by the Mendocino County Fair. Let's hope I survive them all again this year and we have another summer of vomit-free bathrooms (long story...)! Wish me luck.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spring at Charles Vineyard & Foursight Wines

The last few weeks of warm weather have really kick-started all the vines here at Charles Vineyard. The Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are always behind, but the Pinot Noir has a few inches of soft, green shoots. It's an amazing process to go from brown, dormant vines, to alive, rapidly growing vines with green leaves in a matter of weeks.

New leaves!
We're crossing our fingers for no more frost for the season, and have just done our first sulfur spray  to prevent against mold and other issues (virtually everyone does this in the spring, no matter what the farming philosophy). We're mowing the vineyard as we have permanent cover crops (no-till farming). Mowing also helps with frost as it allows the cold air to settle right down on the ground instead of among tall grasses, closer to the fruiting area of the vine.

On the rest of the property, we're starting to think about summer gardens and weed whacking all the little plants that will soon become sticker bushes. Bill Charles has tilled a patch in a sandy pasture and planted potatoes. This is the first time we've done potatoes, so we're all hoping they thrive! Last year's corn and soybean patch in the vineyard was great, but was stunted at the end due to a faulty garden timer. Oh well.

We're mid-wine club shipments right now, and we've just released all the 2010 Clone 05 Pinot Noir futures we sold last fall via barrels tasting. We also have a roster of new releases: 2010 whites, 2011 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, and soon-to-be 2010 Clone 05 Pinot. (Check out the wines, here).

New 2011 Vin Gris of Pinot!
Our Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival is coming up again May 18-20, so we're prepping for that big event -- probably the largest we have here all year. On Sunday we're inviting all our winery friends, club members and customers to enjoy fresh oysters, hand-carved prosciutto, and a vertical of Pinot Noirs in the cellar. It's going to be an amazing day! My stomach is already looking forward to it. :) From 11-5, just show up!

We have some fun things in the works for summer 2012. We're planning some food & wine pairing weekends, plus some barrel tasting with the winemaker days (we'll send out an e-mail to those on our mailing list with dates). We always try to have something different and fun to do here at the tasting room, so come by and see what we're up to!

We will be closing the weekend of June 22-24, during the local Reggae Festival, due to ongoing issues during the event. If you were planning to come by that weekend, let us know. Hopefully we can schedule a mid-week appointment for you.

Happy (almost) May everyone! Hope to see you soon!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Life at Conception: Could it Be Good for the Wine Business?

So my husband and I were watching the news the past few days, learning about the bill that just passed in Oklahoma declaring that life begins at conception. Putting aside my horror about this as a woman and the hilarious Daily Show skit about the proposed amendment to the bill, my husband astonished me by declaring "Hey, this could be great for the wine business."

His reasoning: if life begins at conception, then 18 can no longer be the legal voting age, and 21 shouldn't be the legal drinking age. It should actually be 20 years and three months to your first legal glass of alcohol. The wine business will gain millions more customers at an earlier age because, after all, if life begins at conception that we might as well consider that the countdown clock to adulthood, right? Right?

I'm just disappointed that this didn't happen in time for an April Fool's Day post. haha

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Wine Yeasts Adapt to Their Environment

In January, Decanter Magazine reported that "Scientists in New Zealand have proved for the first time that wine yeasts vary from region to region.

"The research, conducted by Velimir Gayevskiy and Dr Matthew Goddard of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland, detected distinct differences between indigenous yeast strains in different regions.

"‘It’s widely accepted that the interaction of climatic, geographic and soil conditions with different grape varieties serves to make regionally distinctive wines,’ Goddard said ‘But for the first time, these findings suggest that yeasts could be part of that regional influence and of wine’s terroir.’..."

The study was only conducted on native yeasts fermenting Chardonnay and Syrah in various regions of New Zealand. It was published in the Journal of the International Society for Microbial Ecology. 

The article goes on to state that the scientists assumed there would be regional differences in yeast in other areas of the world, and their next steps are to "discover what was driving these differences; to attempt to identify yeasts responsible for specific aromas and flavours that could contribute to a regional signature, and discover when New Zealand’s genetically distinct yeast population arrived in the country."

This is interesting to us because we use indigenous yeasts in our fermentations here at Foursight. Most of our wines are 100% wild yeast fermented, actually. And it makes perfect sense that yeast, like any other creature, would adapt to its local environment, making it different from region to region.

Knock on wood, we've never had issues with our ferments using only wild yeast. Is it because we have hardier strains here, adapted to the cold environment? Perhaps. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the nutrients available to the yeast in the grape juice must, but it does bring up a good question: Why are some people plagued with issues with their wild yeast strains, and we seem to have none? Could it have even a little to do with regional variations in the yeast themselves? Hmmm...

Can't wait to see their future research.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Alcohol Business and Taxes in the U.S.

The more I read and watch about America's tumultuous past with the alcohol business, the more interesting it gets. Granted, taxes or U.S. history are not typically our favorite subjects to casually discuss, but the facts are so incredibly interesting. Here are just a few tidbits:

The Booze Business Used to Fund Much of Our Government
Did you know that, before prohibition, beer, liquor and wine manufacturers funded up to 75% of the federal government?

"...Before the modern personal income tax in 1913, Uncle Sam relied mainly on customs duties and liquor taxation. From 1870 through 1912 receipts from these two taxes alone accounted for more than two-thirds of federal revenues (and in many years accounted for more than 75 percent). Liquor taxes trailed only customs duties as the largest single source of revenue during the half-century preceding the modern income tax, with liquor taxes accounting for about a third of federal revenues. ..." -- Donald J. Boudreaux, economics professor at George Mason University and author of "Alcohol, Prohibition and the Revenuers"

Many speculate that the end of prohibition was brought about at least in part because of the need for revenue. Right as America was headed into the Great Depression, and federal income tax revenues fell drastically, the repeal movement gained swift political traction.

Mr. Boudreaux also writes: "... And sure enough, Prohibition’s repeal did indeed generate higher liquor-tax revenues. As a percentage of federal government revenues, liquor taxes jumped from 2 percent in 1933 to 9 percent in 1934 to 13 percent in 1936. Repeal did not fully compensate for lost income-tax revenues, nevertheless it promised a sizeable stream of additional revenue. ..."


The 1980's - Taxes, The Price of Alcohol and Its Effect on Consumption
Alcohol consumption decreased in the 1980s, particularly due to additional taxes that made it more expensive to purchase.

Clark Smith wrote in a December 2011 Wines & Vines article: "... When the federal wine tax per gallon soared in 1984 from 17 cents to $1.07, gallon jug prices tripled overnight from $2 to $7. The big bottles immediately disappeared from shelves as consumer shifted en masse to 750ml bottles. .."

He also went on to explain that consumers made up for it by purchasing higher alcohol bottles, thus helping to give traction to the trend of bigger, extracted, high alcohol wines produced widely in the 90s and still produced today.

Although this is only one factor that contributed to the movement toward higher alcohol wines, it was one I hadn't particularly pondered before.

Alcohol taxes were also increased under Clinton, as part of a budget balancing effort, and in the past few years several attempts have been made at increasing tax on alcohol, but were rejected. With the economy as bad as it has been, it was hard to contemplate paying extra while businesses were struggling to survive. "Sin taxes," as they're commonly called, are a popular idea to increase revenue, so I'm sure we'll see additional attempts in the future.

A great documentary was recently made on Prohibition. Highly recommended:

What Wineries Currently Pay to the Government
As it currently stands, a large winery pays a per gallon excise tax to the federal government. If the winery produces under 100,000 gallons per year, it can receive a small producers tax credit of 90 cents per gallon. This is for the "privilege" of being able to be in the alcohol business. The tax rate also increases if you produce wines over 14% alcohol.

$1.07 per gallon for wine 14% alcohol or less,
$1.57 per gallon for wine 14.1% to 21% alcohol,
$3.40 per gallon for sparkling wine.

Sales tax is also paid per bottle of wine sold, to the amount that the local county has set (Mendocino County will be 7.375% in April 2012).

Use Tax is paid to the government for everything we pour in the tasting room, serve at events, or generally use or sample but don't sell. This is the amount we pay for all the packaging used to make that bottle of wine (corks, capsules, glass, labels, etc.). Amounts to a few bucks a bottle.

An annual fee is paid to the ABC to renew our license (or that state's alcohol bureau).

And I'm sure there's something I'm forgetting. It adds up to a lot of paperwork, let me tell you!

When the federal wine tax per gallon soared in 1984 from 17 cents to $1.07, gallon jug prices tripled overnight from $2 to $6. The big bottles i

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Friday, February 24, 2012

The 2009 Reviews Start to Arrive & Wine Dogs Book

We've been very lucky in the review department since our first vintage, which scored 90 points or above in every major wine publication. Within a few months after its release, Wine Spectator invited us to pour at their New World Wine Experience event in NYC, and we took them up on that offer.

Because we're small and our family does everything from growing the grapes to making the wine, getting a positive score or review means a lot. It's outside validation that the wines we're making do measure up, and often very favorably. After all, a lot of us (time, energy, and a lot of hope) went into making each bottle.

Now, scores aren't everything, I do admit. In the tasting room it matters most what people taste and like. Personal preference does reign. However, I do think scores and reviews are a great guide for people looking for some assistance with new releases or delving into an unfamiliar variety of grape. They're also a great way for a small winery to reach new customers. My advice to most wine drinkers: find a wine reviewer who you mostly agree with (it will never be 100%), and follow them, regardless of the publication, whether it's big and well-known, or small and focused.

Today we had a photographer here for the Wine Dogs books (the first to be published; apparently the regional books came later). I was excited because we've always complained about how Mendocino County doesn't have its own winery dogs book. Well, Wine Dogs covers the entire U.S., and, cross my fingers, Ozzie the Foursight tasting room dog will be in the next one! The photographer knew just how to get him to pose: lots of dog treats and a squeaky toy! Too cute.

Here are some recent reviews of our new and upcoming releases:

2010 Charles Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (available soon!):
- 90 point & Editor's Choice, Wine Enthusiast Magazine (May 2012)

2009 Clone 05 Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir:
- 90 points, Wine Enthusiast Magazine (May 2012)
- Pinot Geek Icon/94-98 points, PinotFile (February 22, 2012)
"Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Earthy, savory, and succulent dark fruits on the nose and palate with a complimentary hint of spice, and a lingering subtle note of refreshing citrus on the very long finish. Quite distinct from the Charles Vineyard blend bottling in that it is richer, slightly denser, more assertive on the mid palate, and is structurally more firm, yet the tannins are perfectly proportioned. A beguiling expression of Pommard clone that really shines the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle."

2009 Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir:
- Pinot Geek Icon/94-98 points, PinotFile (February 22, 2012)
"Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Intensely fruity on the nose featuring aromas of dark red berries and black cherries with the slightest spice, leather and oak. Picks up interest over time in the glass. Fills the mouth with broad flavors of red and black stone and berry fruits with complimentary oak-driven notes of toffee and cola in the background. Modest tannins with inviting crispness and a good cut of acidity on the finish. Flat-out great later in the day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. I like this wine for its presence without pronounced weight."

2009 Zero New Oak Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir:
- 90-93 points/Very Good, PinotFile (February 22, 2012)
"Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Very fruity nose featuring black cherries. Crisp and juicy black cherry and cranberry flavors with a hint of spice. Mild, soft tannins and smooth in the mouth. Lacks a little mid palate richness, structure and finishing persistence of a typical oaked Pinot Noir but has its own charm in the purity of its unplugged fruit flavor. ..."

Follow these links to see additional reviews, or articles and other news about Foursight.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The First 2011's Go Into Bottle!

On Tuesday we bottled our 2011 Sauvignon Blanc and 2011 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir. Barely. But they did end up in bottle at the end of the day, and we're really excited to see the first of a new vintage.

Joe supervises.
This is the first year we've made a vin gris, which is a fancy name for rose', more or less. Grey wine, it actually means -- white wine made from red grapes. We whole-cluster pressed Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir grapes and let the juice sit on the skins for just a few hours. The wine tastes like fresh strawberries. We're really excited to have something fun and new in the tasting room for the spring and summer.

Our vin gris is very light in color -- like a blanc de noirs bubbles but without the bubbles. Basically, we didn't add mega red or mega purple to make it that nice, vibrant pink color. Being more of the natural winemaking persuasion, we're anti grape juice concentrate, which is commonly added to deepen the color but makes the wine sweet as well. It just seems wrong to doctor up a perfectly delicious wine for color's sake.

Our 2011 Charles Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc tastes very much like our vineyard and past bottlings of this wine, but will be more delicate due to the very cool vintage. Yum.

However well you think you have it planned, bottling is always ripe with calamities. This year our glass company simply never delivered our glass! Having something to bottle IN and a cork to seal it up are the most important elements. You can always bottle your wine in "shiners" (unlabeled bottles) and run them back through the line later for labels, if need be, but you can't bottle without the vessel to put it in.

Bottling zoom out from the machine.
Knowing this was the last piece of the puzzle, the first thing I did on Tuesday morning was check on the glass. Of course, it wasn't there. Apparently a temp put the wrong delivery date into their system, meaning the glass was actually scheduled to arrive the next week. In fact, it was split between two separate warehouses in two counties! Luckily, we had a few hours to deal with it.

After several phone calls and a good, stressed out hour, the company agreed to send two separate trucks with the glass so we could bottle the same day. We'd be late, but it would get done. So, we waited for the trucks, and, after they arrived and were unloaded, one of the warehouse guys asked me if I wanted to run the green or clear glass first. WHAT??? Green glass? We weren't supposed to have any green glass in the mix. At all. Cue mini heart attack.

I had him double-check the color of the glass, even though the boxes were indeed labeled as antique green. Thank goodness, the glass inside was actually clear. Whew!

After all of those issues, we started bottling, and things ran smoothly after that. The lesson in it all? On a bottling day, always expect something to go wrong. Because it will. Whether it's the label guy who didn't count correctly last year or capsules inexplicably being smooshed and unusable the year before, something always goes awry. You have to have a cool head to be in the bottling business full-time. Of course, it also helps when it's not your wines you're worrying about.

What I also find helpful on bottling days: having the winemaker present. There are always tough questions about very technical things, like dissolved oxygen in the wines or vacuum on the line, that I don't always feel comfortable answering by myself. Theoretically, I know the acceptable ranges of most things, but if there are follow-up questions, forget it! That's where Joe comes in.

Here 's a short video from this week's bottling. This is a pretty big line. The one we typically use at the winery is MUCH smaller (think a horse trailer full of bottling equipment).

Monday, February 13, 2012

Wine Beserkers in Telluride, CO

We were lucky enough to turn around after Hawaii and head to Telluride, CO, for the first annual Wine Beserkers Ski, Wine & Dine Festival. Foursight Winemaker Joe Webb is part of the Beserkers forum, and when he heard ski and wine, we were booked for the weekend.

We drove out this time, lugging five pairs of skis and four cases of wine. It's been a long time since I've driven through Nevada and Utah, and I forgot how long, straight, and high (altitude) those roads are. It does have a certain beauty, though, especially as you drive in and out of little pockets of rain and snow, which disappear as soon as you hit them.

We arrived in Telluride (actually, Mountain Village, next door to Telluride) and it was as ski town as I was expecting. Log chateaus, snowy mountains, and lots of people gimping around in ski boots. Reminded me of Squaw Valley on steroids, actually.

See a few of my photos at the link below.

The Ski, Wine & Dine event kicked off Thursday evening with a welcome dinner. People brought some great bottles of wine, and it was a pleasure to chat with everyone (you know it's a good event when you hold the same plate of food in your hand for an hour).

Friday started the formal tastings at The Peaks Resort, with a small group of distributors and wineries pouring their bottlings for attendees. A winemaker dinner followed at 221 South Oak in Telluride proper. This was a beast of a dinner. I've never seen so many choices for the attendee. Everything was delicious, however -- so much so that I was full way too soon. A great evening altogether with some great table-mates!

Saturday was our final tasting at The Peaks. We took advantage of our morning down time to ski and relax, which was a lot of fun given the scarce snow in Lake Tahoe up until recently. The mountain is impressive, with lots of runs, countless restaurants and wine bars ON the mountain, and even double blue runs -- totally my comfort zone.

We actually paused on our last ski day and went into Alpino Vino -- the highest restaurant in North America, they claim, at 11,966 feet. It's a cute little restaurant where you leave your skis outside and relax in the warmth inside. It's a wine bar and restaurant, and the selections impressed even us (I mean, ON a ski resort? Seriously?). We ordered a Pinot Noir flight and old-world white flight and an antipasto platter with cured meats, cheeses, truffle honey, chianti mustard, etc. Delicious and highly recommended.

Overall, Telluride was gorgeous. Very high -- we were staying at 9,000 feet -- but lots of amenities open seven days a week, which is much appreciated on a vacation schedule. I can understand the allure.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hawaii 2012

We had a wonderful, week-long Hawaiian vacation this past month. The whole family (minus brother Matt, sadly) went. It was warm, and much needed. The only bad thing is that I caught a cold from someone on the plane over (and it lasted for two weeks). However, when you get too few warm vacations because your husband is a ski bum, you take some Dayquil and move on with the trip. We snorkeled, we did a helicopter tour, we shopped, we skied the volcano, and, of course, we ate and drank entirely too much. A lot of beer (gasp!), and some Foursight wines of course.

Photos can be seen on our Facebook page.

Here are a few videos we took:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Skunks & Vacation

Joe and I just returned from two weeks away: one week in Hawaii with the family (heaven, except for the tropical cold I brought back), and one week at the first annual Wine Beserkers tasting event in Telluride, CO. I have plenty of great photos to post from our trips, including us skiing the Big Island's volcano (yes, you can seriously do that). I'll put them up soon. But first, let's talk about our homecoming yesterday.

One of my aims when moving back to Boonville and starting this blog was to share a little of the experience of moving back to the country and back into the house I grew up in. After spending your childhood in a small, rural area like ours, then leaving for college, towns with banks and chain coffee shops (imagine that!), and work in an office, it's definitely an adjustment to come back to a town of 700 people (on a good day). Things that I wouldn't have thought twice about as a kid give me pause now. It's a very different experience. One of these things I'm having a difficult time adjusting to is the resident wildlife, particularly those things that like to harass our dogs and try and live under our house.

We arrived home yesterday, worked a bit, and diligently starting unpacking, doing laundry, and the like. Just as we were relaxing with a nice glass of wine, about 10:30 last night, my nose starts to detect that offensive odor that I know too well: skunk spray. I assumed that one of our dogs, who were outside, were just sprayed by a skunk. It happens several times a year, without fail. Our tasting room Lab, Ozzie, never seems to learn.

I called in the dogs, but oddly enough they didn't smell, nor did the outside of the house much. I shrugged it off, and sat back down. As we watched some TV the next hour, the odor became worse and worse -- to the point where the inside of my nostrils burned. Again, I assumed that a skunk had sprayed outside somewhere, but that it would be fine in a bit. I attempted to go to bed, but the inside of our house reeked with that oily, disgusting smell. That's when I persuaded my husband (one of the many good point of having a guy around) to go investigate. Unfortunately, he only confirmed that it was much worse inside than out. Great!

Around here this situation likely means one thing: in our two-week absence a skunk had crawled underneath our house and was now spraying in fear as we moved around up top, making everything inside reek. I did the sensible thing and moved into the cottage next door for the night. Yes, my back hurts and I woke up with a dog on my pillow, but at least I could breathe.

This morning, when it was light enough to see, we went investigating. That means actually opening up the access to underneath the house, sticking my head through, and shining a flashlight around. Yes, it terrified me that I was going to be sprayed in the face or attacked by some overwrought skunk. It's dark and scary under there (and full of cobwebs and mouse poison). As I'm opening the access, waiting for something to spray or jump out at me, I was wishing I was back in my duplex rental in Santa Rosa, where the worst thing I had to worry about under the house was a stray cat who wandered through every once in a while.

As I stuck my head under there .... AHHHHH!!! Actually, that was only the sound in my head. There was nothing under the house, thankfully. As we finally figured out, a skunk had sprayed right into one corner of our house, where all the vents go underneath the floor. The spray was sucked in under the house while it also leaked through a cracked window which holds our wine cellar air conditioning. It permeated the entire inside of the house instead of just drifting away in to the wind.

Welcome home from vacation!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Things Keep Rolling Along: Moving into 2012

Wowsa. That's pretty much all I can say about the past month. Sometimes running a small winery is unbelievably busy, complicated and exhilarating all at the same time. That's certainly been the case recently. I know that I often find myself bouncing around, doing everything from sales tax reports, to pruning, to janitorial, to marketing all in one day. ... I think I have whiplash, actually. :)

In December our family (brothers, father, mother, hubby and I -- the whole group) sat down to look back on 2011 and make some goals for 2012. I'm really proud of what we accomplished last year and have already starting tackling some of our 2012 to-dos. Then the holidays happened, and we ate entirely too much and had some great wines (an Australian friend brought a lovely Henschke, thanks Liz), plus some other treats. Now it's back to business.

In the past month we've tasted our wines at restaurants and wine bars in Lake Tahoe and Napa Valley. We set out to hire a broker for California (and particularly the Bay Area so our wines are more accessible to our customers there), and it looks like we've succeeded. (More on that to come.) We also have been selling out our small lots of wine and looking forward to some really yummy 2010's, although it looks like we're going to have to start making some more wine!

We pruned the vineyard last week, then dobbed it (separate post on this), so everything looks so neat and tidy. But it's back-breaking labor.

We close the tasting room in January to be able to do things like this, take a break, re-seal the concrete floors (just did it!), and take a vacation. It's amazing how dirty a tasting room can get when it has a resident dog. (Dog hair, yuck!) Our family is also headed off to warm locales soon. We'll reopen the tasting room in early February, for our normal hours: Fri-Mon, 10-4:30.

I certainly hope you come see us this year! We've rearranged the room, added some fun new merchandise and toys, and are mixing up the pouring order of the wines. We're even looking at starting some food & wine pairings, so it should be fun!