Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wine Wars Part 1: "Butters vs. Bailey"
7:06 AM on Oct. 12, 2008
Wineries have long had an association with animals. It's hard to find one that does not have an adoptive mascot or favorite cat or dog that usually lives a charmed life of lounging around and receiving attention, treats and affection from everyone.
Here at the winery, it is no different. For some time, "Butters" has been the winery cat. Butters is an very large striped cat with a meow that sound a bit more like Bull Moose that has been hit by a truck than anything else. Butters would enjoy lounging around in the tasting room, soaking up all the affection and attention, would then meander back into the winery often sleeping on a barrel or on the seat of the forklift. That was about as close as Butters ever got to work... Until now.
This year, our dog "Bailey" a 5 yr old goofball of a golden retriever accompanies me each day to the winery. Bailey has quickly earned his spot as the winery dog, hanging out with the winemaking crew, getting much of the attention that had prior been lavished upon the cat.. This has not gone unnoticed by Butters...
Butters has been very aloof and remained away whenever Bailey is near. They seem to have generally agreed to divide up the winery , with Butters staking claim to the tasting room, office and case goods area, while Bailey has taken over the Barrel room, Tank room and Crushpad as his domain. A grudging truce has existed for about 3 weeks.
This came to and end about a week ago after Baliey had staged an invasion of Butters territory, by going into the tasting room and hanging out as the center of attention as people came by to taste wine. Butters, obviously could not let this pass, and returned the favor by entering the Tank room and taunting Bailey by sitting and staring at Bailey from afar, knowing Bailey could not get to him. Bailey, for his part, was clearly irritated, growling and barking , upset to be restrained from chasing the cat. Butters, was clearly enjoying this situation.
This stakes were escalated last Friday. Upon arriving at the crushpad in the morning , Doug & Bruce made a gruesome discovery.. Butters had apparently caught one of the many rabbits that run thru the hills here. laid out neatly on the crushpad was the remains of the rabbit.. missing it's head.. and with the two ears neatly set on each side of the body.....
We have come to the conclusion that Butters has now stepped up to ritualistic sacrifice in an attempt to rid himself of Bailey.. We all believe that Voodoo is a clear violation of the Winery Geneva convention rules.... If I were Bailey, I would not be turning my back on that cat anytime soon...

"Mr. Weather's Wild Ride"

"Mr. Weather's Wild Ride"
6:38 AM on Oct. 12, 2008
As October has settled in, we have had it all this year... Drought, Heat, Smoke, Fire... I am waiting for Locusts next..... The weather which at the end of September had cooled down, was not a problem, but what did catch everyone a bit was an early storm coming thru last weekend.
Now, most of us enjoy a cool rainy day about this time of year. A perfect day to relax in front of the fire. Not so if you are a winemaker. With fruit on the vine, an early rainstorm can be a disaster. Rain creates all sorts of problems...from mold, to the vines sucking up all the moisture and pumping it back into the grapes, which you have been cutting back water from so as to concentrate the flavors in the fruit. The other problem is getting equipment into the vineyards to harvest the fruit.
When this happens, the winemakers that have been letting their fruit hang a bit longer can get caught and usually have a complete meltdown. Frantic calls to the vineyard managers telling them to do night picks at 3:00am in the morning go out, as they race against the incoming weather fronts. The winemakers will then tell ( not ask) the wineries that fruit is coming in, which means sometimes there is literally too much fruit coming in at once. And don't think about telling the crew not to come in.. they will ignore you and bring it in no matter what. This is a great example of the principal of "Transference" which is the process of which I take MY problem and make it into YOUR problem...
When this happens, all you can do is keep crushing until all the fruit is done. It is no fun to be crushing in the rain and cold at 1:30am when your day began at 6:00am trying to finish off the last fruit that was brought in.
Here in the Livermore Valley. we were lucky this time as we managed to crush 20 tons of Syrah, and 10 tons of Merlot on Friday, and missed he weekend rains. It did not go the same for others in areas such as the Santa Cruz mountains or parts of Sonoma.
Funny how these little moments are not in those dreamy commercials showcasing the romance of winemaking! LOL!! Well, as I had mentioned, these blogs are to give you an inside look into what goes on at harvest.

"What do I know"....

"what do I know"
7:12 AM on Sep. 17, 2008
The last time I wrote, I was stoked because I thought crush was ready to rock... but... "what do I know".... as soon as we are ready for everything to get going, the temps cool off and we now are better served letting the fruit hang. This is pushing back crush, and we now are hung up between a group of fruit that has come in and is fermenting and now, a gap ( growing each day) between fermenting fruit and a entirely different batch of fruit coming in.
What does this mean you ask? well, if you are not doing this, it means little. But if you are producing wine, it creates a logistics and time management headaches. The good news is that letting the fruit hang longer is a good thing. It allows flavors to concentrate.
So right, now, the bulk of the time is spent making sure the fruit that is fermenting is going along well. I've been talking with other winemakers here in Livermore as well as in Napa and Sonoma, and they are going thru the same thing.. Basically we are all a bit bored right now! LOL!!
The break caused by the cooler weather has had a positive impact in that the days are warm but not hot, and the start of fall weather has begun! This is a very wonderful time of the year in Northern California. The best weather, by far. driving to the winery, seeing the vineyards turning color , I always realize why I do this and how lucky I am to be in this wonderful part of the world.
This past weekend was a blast as we had a "winemaker for a day" event at the winery. I try to open this up once a week to people that would like to try their hand at this and get a chance to see a bit of what goes on in making wine. The people that came by were a blast and had a great time! It's cool to see the look on people's faces when they get to try doing punchdowns. If you are interested in giving this a try, give me a shout out and we will schedule it.