|Thursday May 8, 2003
It has been a great week; and yes I am still celebrating my birthday of May 3rd. We had mostly relatives over for a Kentucky Derby party and I even won a few bucks by picking the winner. BUT tonight I took a short brake from great food and made myself a salad. As some of you know I am the cook around here, but the family was out so I got to experiment. When I am by myself I always take chances since I am the only one who will pay for it.
Tonight I started with cooking some hard boiled eggs. While I was preparing them I cut up a fresh avocado that Caterino generously had brought. I have thought recently that avocado needs a little vinegar or salt to perk it up. I am not a fan of vinegar since it interferes with wine so I tried to add some garlic salt tonight. I put in way too much, so the rest of the evening I added many things to a dressing in order to tone it down from too much salt. Since I already had prepared some shrimp sautéed in butter, I had even more salt character. I ended up keeping the shrimp separate and used a dipping sauce containing the butter and shrimp juice mixed with some mayonnaise, also including a little nutmeg and saffron. It was wonderful to go along with my egg and avocado salad. Now you are sure wondering what wine I had with these great dishes?
I am a strong believer that we in this wine industry try to encourage, too much, the right wine with the right food. I believe there is no right paring. Wine to me is to enjoy without food and with food and not necessary to balance the dishes. I use wine, to a great deal, to clear my palate and prepare for the next mouthful of great food.
Tonight I had a craving for young Bordeaux so I chose California blends. One was my 2001 Aca Modot (I love young wines and have been pulling this wine up at least once a week); and the other two were petit verdot from Imagery and Murphy Goode. We have just planted a bunch of this neglected Bordeaux varietal and will be making a wine in 2005. It seems to do real well around here. It is dark, extremely tannic and concentrated. I love tannin so, I love these wines.
I know that you are wondering how petit verdot could be pared with shrimp and avocado salad. Don't think, just enjoy.
I have been concerned about the growing conditions for this years winegrapes. One thing I know is that I am very confident I will produce very good wine not matter what the weather will provide. This is my 25th year of producing wine from this vineyard and I have seen most everything. I do know that most everyone thinks that the springtime will contribute to the quality for next year. It is said that a cold rainy Spring this year will point to a low crop next year. I don't necessary agree and thus you can be assured I will report on this next year.
Also some of us believe that this cool rainy weather could effect this years crop. Diseases could develop, but should have little effect at this time. I am wondering if the low temperatures could contribute to a lower crop, but we already have the potential of a large set of fruit. Most all of us think that the most crucial time is during fruit set which will not occur until the weather warms up. Once the fruit set starts, that is the time that rain or cold temperatures will definitely hurt the amount of grapes. Do any of things contribute to the quality of this crop? I have my doubts after growing for 25 years. I have seen no correlation.
Friday May 16, 2003
This will be my last day of celebrating my birthday. We are heading off to the BIG CITY. Yes San Francisco. S.F. is about 75 miles from here and it should be relatively easy to drive back this evening. Gary Danko's is the restaurant I have chosen for the last fling. We have attended once and was extremely impressed.
Take a look at our weather chart and you will see that the highs here have moved into the high 70's to mid 80's. This is perfect weather for bloom which should occur in the next few weeks. Caterino, Steve and I walked around the vineyard yesterday and decided that the Zin will not need thinning this year. So far the crop seems to be just the right balance of fruit and leaves. We have decided to pull some shoots off of our new planting of Petite Sirah and Zin and will also pull some in the Aca Modot area. I was surprised to notice that we have less potential for Sauv Blanc. We may only have one ton and thus it may be necessary to buy a ton or so.
Thursday May 22, 2003
I've got myself in trouble again. Remember I've had no formal training in winemaking except two classes. I also flunked my only Chemistry class at Cal Berkeley. I am sure some of you could explain chemically what happened, but the bottom line is that, we must re-bottle our 2002 Sauv Blanc. I have tartrates showing in all bottles.
Yes this is the wine we bottled 4 weeks ago. I do know tartrates look like flat pieces of crystals and are harmless. This substance in a white wine is unattractive. Tartrates do form by chilling wine, but I did not know that they would form by adding calcium carbonate. We added the carbonate at bottling to lower the acid in our 2002 Sauv Blanc. So what will we have to do?
Steve has been working to set up all week. First we had to fix the top of our stainless fermenter to hold "still" wine (wine that is stable and already fermented). In the past we have just thrown a tarp on the top of the tank. We don't normally use nitrogen to preserve the wine during blending or bottling. During blending we are trying to aerate the wine and we bottle at only 10 months aging on reds and 8 months on whites, so I don't feel it is necessary to use nitrogen (the wine is in the tank only the day of bottling). The tank in question is open top, but does have a lid that has a rubber gasket around the outside. I'll try to have a few pictures posted today. The lid is somewhat smaller than the opening of the tank. The gasket should expand with air to fit tight and thus let no air in. Years ago the gasket failed, so we have bought a new one of better quality. Steve also had to fix the top of the lid to accept nitrogen (long involved story). Here's the repaired tank lid along with a link to our current Gallery with some more cats. Since the Sauv Blanc was just bottled a month ago, I wanted to preserve the freshness of the wine with nitrogen. I might not have used nitrogen if we could have re-bottled in one day, but first we must empty the bottles.
Today, all 4000 bottles have to be uncorked, have the tin removed, emptied and the wine pumped into the tank. Then the bottles have to be rinsed with hot water to remove any residual tartrates, thus we can reuse the bottle and not have to re-label. We will rack out of a valve that is about a foot above the bottom of the tank, so tartrates will stay at the bottom at bottling. After setup, we expect to empty all 4000 bottles in 4 to 5 hours. As the tank is filled we will pump nitrogen into the tank to help preserve the wine overnight. Tomorrow we will rebottle.
Friday May 23, 2003
Here are pictures of yesterday's emptying operation. By the time we set up yesterday, it was 11:30 Am. With only a 10 Min break, we finally finished at 6:00 Pm. This was some the hardest work I have ever done. We had to empty all 4,000 bottles in one day. I did not want to leave the wine in the stainless tank more than overnight. We started with Brendan and I pulling corks with Ah Soo's.(two prong cork pullers) After about 1000 our arms were about to fall off and Brendan started developing blisters. That is when Steve volunteered his Srewpull and I also bought a new one. With two Screwpulls (professional cork pullers that are very fast, but cost as much as $150), we were able to progress at a faster pace. I could go on, but I am exhausted.
Today we had an easy day. We rebottled the 2002 Sauv Blanc. After setup the bottling was accomplished in just over 3 hours. The wine left in the bottom of the tank had some tartrates in it, but most disappeared while rinsing out the bottles from the day before. This extra wine was stored in a new Eastern European barrel and will be bottled in July, just before the reds.
Wednesday we planted 53 vines of Pinot Noir. As far as I know, I will
be the first person in long while to plant Pinot in Dry Creek Valley, let
alone Northern Dry Creek where it is even hotter. Pinot, traditionally
is grown in much cooler areas, but I am not a traditionalist. I am certain,
I will grow and produce a very good wine from these grapes. Everyone thinks
I am nuts, but with only 53 vines, enough for only 15 cases, I am not taking
too much risk.
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