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!