Saturday, May 24, 2014

AV Pinot Festival Weekend

Last weekend was the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival -- our busiest weekend of the year. Lucky for us, the weather was perfect; it was in the mid-70s for the main event, with a slight breeze.

This year we hosted the Friday night Casual BBQ in our orchard behind the winery. I admit, we had a lot of prep work to do in a space that hadn't been used since our wedding five years ago. We weed-eated, we trimmed trees, we put the fence back together and drug out construction remnants from several projects -- all to make it look appropriately "country rustic." Well, country rustic enough for a wine event. For anyone who truly grew up on a farm in a rural area, you know what that really looks like. Farmers and ranchers don't throw anything away, which means piles of equipment, parts, fencing, and you name it. But I digress.

The evening kicked off for us on Thursday. As my husband and Foursight winemaker, Joe Webb, is the president of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association, we were invited to the welcome dinner at Champ de Reves (the Edmeades property Kendall-Jackson re-opened for tastings the summer before last).

It was a lovely evening and the first time the president of our association didn't give a welcome speech. It "wasn't necessary," apparently, which Joe was very happy about, but just reminded me of how differently we operate than other wine regions, like Sonoma and Napa, where I have worked. Instead, we were given an introductory speech about the brand and the wine group that it exists in, within the K-J umbrella. I think we all thought that odd because traditions among our vintner community here are paramount. I think it very much has to do with trying to keep that small-town, community feeling, even as our appellation is growing.

Friday night's BBQ turned out exactly as planned. Bones' Roadhouse killed it with their smoked lamb and Dean Titus and all the other talented locals in the band were wonderful. The wine selection wasn't too shabby either: we had everything from Scherrer to Williams-Selyem to Littorai, Foursight of course, and much more. There was even a bottle of Petite Munier from WillaKenzie Estate -- one of my old brands in the Willamette Valley.

Bones Roadhouse, with a smoker full of lamb and veggies
The red wine table

The entire photo album can be found here:

Saturday was the first time that I haven't organized and attended the morning's press tasting. It felt a little odd, but with the BBQ to plan, I was grateful. Joe and I poured for Foursight at the grand tasting at Goldeneye Winery, and, even though our plates of delicious paella, smoked salmon and cheese ended up on the ground due to a wind gust, it seemed like yet another wonderful AV Pinot Festival grand tasting, complete with great food, music, and a silent auction which raised another $25-30,000 for the Anderson Valley Health Center.

Joe and Kristy pour at Saturday's grand tasting

Saturday evening I crashed, and Sunday we were back again for our open house. We had The Oyster Girls again this year, serving petite Miyagis to pair with our 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, plus vegan mushroom bites, hand-carved Jamon de Serrano, St. George cheese from Sonoma County, and more. Thank goodness for our family, who helped us through it all!

Tom and Scott Wilson carve the jamon de serrano while Ozzie waits for scraps

Winemaker Joe Webb pours our Pinots

Aluxa and the delicious oysters

Although it's always a fun weekend, we're also a little happy to see it go as it means we get to collapse for a few days then really start looking forward to the rest of the summer. Thank you to all our wine club members and customers who joined us for the weekend!

For tickets and info about the event:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Vintage 2014

Shame, shame, shame. Yes, it's been since October when I last posted. We've been busy, we've been social media-ing -- I have a lot of excuses, but here we are. I thought an appropriate way to resurrect this would be to address the very interesting vintage we have underway.

New buds in April

As is common knowledge, we are in a drought in California. As I write this we have received approximately half our average rainfall, and thank god for that. In January, before the big storms arrived, we sat down as a family and seriously discussed what we would do it there was no grape harvest this year. For my parents, as growers, it would be disastrous. At the winery we have enough inventory in bottled-but-not-yet-released or library wines to probably eek through. We would have to skew our 2014 harvest toward quick-releasing wines that we could bottle soon and release soon, and our wine club would be the priority. Luckily, we no longer have to make those decisions.

To attempt to maintain a crop under drought conditions, we did many things differently this year. First, we pruned late to postpone frost season as long as we could. We pruned right before the vines went into budbreak, where the new leaves emerge. This gave us a few weeks of rest. We also attempted to facilitate the movement of cold air about the property. Keeping things mowed and eliminating natural air dams helps cold air to (hopefully) move past the vines.

Another big change the valley this year is the addition of wind machines, much to the chagrin of many in the community (and myself, on many occasions). They're loud, although local growers are trying to tweak that by reducing fan speed and turning them on for shorter periods of time. However, in a drought, they're the single best option for frost protecting when you don't have water or don't want to use scarce water resources for frost season. Luckily, most are rented for the season and we hope for ample rainfall next season so they can be returned to their rightful owners!

So far this season, we've had to frost protect for nine nights, meaning that it has been a mild spring for us. And we hope for more of the same into May and early June.

One issue that we've noticed this year was actually caused by extremely cold weather in December 2013. In early December, NorCal experienced a cold snap. Here at the winery we had four nights of lows ranging from 11 degrees to 14 degrees. Our winery walls were frozen solid, and we had to use industrial heaters to thaw the (thankfully plastic) water pipes so we could open the tasting room with a working bathroom. We lost plants all over the property, including a giant cactus, which tends to be pretty cold-hardy.

This cold snap effected the vines too. We're seeing vascular damage in the vineyard, which essentially means that the cells froze inside the plant. We've been trying to beef them up with natural minerals and other "grapevine vitamins," but we're certainly seeing that they're a little behind, growth-wise, where they would normally be. How this will play out throughout the season we'll have to wait and see. Luckily, my parents are in the vineyard so often they noticed the issue early on, so we've had some time to address it.

Overall, we made an early prediction that we hoped to ripen 75-80% of a regular crop. Pruning late does push harvest later, so let's all hope for a dry fall (until November hits, then rain baby rain).