Posts Tagged ‘Saralee’s Vineyard’
The Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Association “Wine Market – Holiday Edition” proved to be a great opportunity to taste from 27 wineries in one place, including small producers not open to the public. Here you could taste, then purchase unique wines at fantastic savings. Excellent food tastings, and food-wine pairing advice was available from local Sommeliers – in Santa hats no less. Last not least, you could speak with the winemakers … and see what characters they can be!
Santa in Floods? Bart Hansen, winemaker at Dane Cellars, says he spends most of the year in Bermuda shorts. When Sonoma temps hit 75’ F on December 2, he rolled out to the event in his special Santa Floods. The Dane Cellars Clarksburg 2009 Chenin Blanc he poured is richer bodied than a Sauvignon Blanc, making it a was a good wine for a sunny winter day and a perfect match for the Truffle Mac ‘n Cheese served up by the girl and the fig.
Santa Sommeliers. What is a sommelier (so-mel-yay)? A “Somm,” or wine steward, is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional specializing in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food matching. Three certified Somms in Santa hats roamed the floor at the “Wine Market – Holiday Edition” event, helping guests with wine advice, pairing, and directing them to wine specials.
Cocky Wine: Eric Ross 2010 Struttin’ Red
Eric Luce, winemaker at label Eric Ross, invites you to taste his red blend of the year. 2010 is a unique blend of Tempranillo, Old Vine Zin and Petite Sirah. It screams out for a really good Cheeseburger. Failing to find any cheeseburgers, this wine was great with the Truffle Gateau chocolates featured at the Market.
Consumers have many benefits to gain from a single-location event like this. To name a few:
- Access unique fine wines and local cuisine
- Lower prices on quality wines
- Remove the driving around from a wine-tasting outing – all the wines and food, all in one place
- Access to *Santa Sommeliers* to advise on matching foods with the wines you like
- Buy where you taste and take your wine home with you!
I had a conversation with Christopher Sawyer, Somm at Carneros Bistro in Sonoma. I asked Chris how one should go about pairing up wines with a meal. “First of all, the method should be reversed. Decide your menu, then match the wine to it.” OK, I said, then to break the rules a bit, let’s say I’ve got a Zinfandel from Haywood Winery, which is pouring here today. Chris suggests, “This is a supple, medium body Zinfandel that gives you a lot of flexibility with the food pairing. Game. Duck. Spicy pork with compote on the side. Strip steak. And of course Ribs will go well with Zin.”
Wines of note:
Eric Ross 2010 Marsanne-Roussane. Your guests will appreciate when you serve this unique white. Winemaker
Eric Luce blends two grapes from the famed SaraLee’s Vineyard in Russian River Valley to make a wine in the Rhone style that everyone’s talking about. Full-bodied, food-ready, and a great under-$30 wine to diversify your palate. It paired with the Truffle Mac ‘n Cheese and I would recommend it with any cheese.
Dane Cellars 2007 Jackknife Cabernet Sauvignon. When you are looking for full-flavored, medium-bodied Cab, the Jackknife is a great choice. From a vineyard high above Sonoma Valley, with volcanic soils and generous late afternoon sun, this wine explodes with fruit and complex flavors. Sommelier Sawyer says: “With a medium-bodied cab like Dane Cellars’ Jackknife you have more flexibility in your menu – you can pair with red meat or you can go with a bigger fish such as sturgeon or tuna prepared with a soy sauce.”
Pip 2010 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. Undecided between oaked and unoaked? You can’t go wrong with this under $20 wine from Dunstan, from famed Durrell Vineyards blended with nearby grapes, then aged in 1/3 neutral oak and 2/3 stainless steel. The resulting Chardonnay will please both the oaked and unoaked taste, as the neutral oak imparts lovely vanilla aromas and softness while the stainless steel defines the varietal character and imparts a crisp finish. Another great match for the Truffle Mac ‘n Cheese.
Best new wine find:
Annadel Estate 2008 Anni’s Blend is an instantly memorable red wine that’s also easy to pair with food. I got rich fruit medleys and a velvety mouth feel from this blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Cab Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. For a Cab-Merlot blend like this, you could even serve it with a Mac & Cheese dish with toasted walnuts and mushrooms, according to Sommelier Sawyer. The adjacent “Coppa & Apple Mostarda on Foccacia” from Estate went well. Annadel Estate Winery is the effort of a family who are restoring an 1880’s vineyard estate in the region. Expect to hear more about their wines soon.
There were many more varietals and examples of great winemaking available for taste. I can’t cover them all here. See what you missed and check back soon for upcoming events at the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance website.
On my Christmas wishlist: http://www.platsdujour.net/
This Weekend – Don't Miss The 16th Annual Russian River Valley – Grape to Glass: Tastings, BBQ, & Seminars
This is no small amount of praise from someone who has trekked to many wine regions, domestic and abroad. This weekend is the 16th Annual celebration of this world renowned wine region. The format, improved in my opinion, is more focused and manageable.
I am a proud member of the Russian River Valley Winegrowers, with my new Grenache vineyard, and my new (<300 cases) Rhone wine label, Two Shepherds, sourced mostly from - yes Russian River Valley. I am also moderating one of the weekend's panels.
Saturday August 20th – Enjoy Seminars, Tours, Tasting, BBQ and More!
Seminars & Tours
Spend your Saturday in an enjoyable choice of seminars or tours. Pick from these Seminars, only $50 for one, or $80 for two.
Got Other White Wines? - 10 a.m to 12:00 pm
Saralee’s Vineyard, 3575 Slusser Road, Windsor
What about those other white wines from the Russian River Valley? Come meet this collection of who’s who that source fruit from Saralee’s Vineyard for white wine other than Chardonnay.
William Allen of Simple Hedonisms (hey thats me!) will both present his wine (be the very first to try the Viognier of my new Two Shepherds label!) and moderate a panel discussion that includes Argot, Arrowood Winery, Clos du Bois, Coterie, Eric Ross Winery, Halleck Winery, Joseph Swan Vineyards, Montemaggiore and Thumbprint Cellars. Meet Saralee of Saralee’s Vineyard and enjoy some lively discussion as you sample small bites from Park Avenue Catering paired with these fabulous “other whites” including Gewurztraminer, Malvasia Bianca, Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier and White Riesling. Purchase Tickets
Wines and Wagons – 11 am to 1 pm
Leras Vineyard, 3210 Woolsey Road, Windsor
Enjoy an inside glimpse into the life of a winegrower as you taste wines from the Russian River Valley. Hosted by Leras Vineyard owner, Nick Leras, you’ll enjoy a covered wagon tour around the Leras Vineyard and discuss the trials, tribulations, joys and excitement of winegrowing in the Russian River Valley. You’ll see the actual vineyard that produces the grapes in some of the wine you’ll be tasting – from Papapietro Perry, George Wine Estates, Neothomas Wines, Chloe Creek and Russian Hill Estate. In addition, we are happy to announce that our friends from Ancient Oak Cellars and Sandole Wines will also be on sit
e pouring some of their fabulous Russian River Valley wines. This vineyard tour also includes a BBQ lunch you won’t soon forget! Purchase Tickets
One Vineyard, Two Grapes, Many Winemakers – 1 pm to 3 pm
Dutton Ranch, 10717 Graton Road, Sebastopol
Love Pinot? Enjoy a great Chardonnay? Here is your opportunity to try wines made from grapes grown in the Russian River Valley by Dutton Ranch but made by different winemakers!
Meet the winemakers as you taste through the wines learning about the differences. Question some of the best palates about the hows and whys of winemaking – what makes each of the wines so unique knowing that all of the grapes are all sourced from Dutton Ranch. Wineries include Dutton-Goldfield, Dutton Estate, DuMol, Patz & Hall and Coppola will be paired with nibbles prepared by Park Avenue Catering. Purchase Tickets
Hog in The Fog - Tasting, BBQ, Silent Auction & Live Music: A Pre-Harvest Celebration
There might be some fog and quite definitely there will be hog at the Hog in the Fog Pre-Harvest Party this Saturda.
The Russian River Valley Winegrowers and I invite you to join our winemakers and growers as we celebrate the fruits of our labor …drinking great wine, feasting off the land and dancing the night away at this unique Pre-Harvest Party.
The party starts with a wine tasting reception and Farmer’s Market at 4 pm showcasing more than 70 wineries, growers and producers of the Russian River Valley Winegrowers.
Taste Russian River Valley wines, sample fresh and local delicacies from local restaurants and caterers and shop for fresh produce and products from local artisan food producers. Wine, dine and shop while you stroll through the park-like setting at Richard’s
Grove & Saralee’s Vineyard viewing the work of local artists; and bidding on the silent auction of oversized and special bottlings, restaurant dinners and gift baskets.
Here comes the hog…following the reception will be a feast like no other…a savory barbecue dinner of pulled pork, steak, chicken and all the fixins. And, of course we will have homemade Gravenstein apple pie fresh warmed in the wood brick oven for dessert and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Don't miss the spectacular live auction filled with excursions and overnight stays to land you back in the Russian River Valley for more wine and excitement. The night wraps up with music by Urban Oasis playing an upbeat and entertaining mixture of rock, blues, latin and jazz.
Check here for ticket availability (some are as of now.)
Hope to see many of you in my seminar and the BBQ – cheers!
Finally, a quiet afternoon emerges (Thanks to a cancelled Viticulture class) to continue the 2010 Garagiste Saga. Picking up where we left off was my flurry of a weekend, getting my beloved Grenache Blanc up from Santa Ynez, neutral white barrels strapped in tow. (As told in Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 5 – Grenache Blanc Road Trip, and a new Test of Endurance.)
The weekend went mostly as planned, albeit with less sleep planned Friday and Saturday night. The Bonny Doon Cigare Volante Retrospective dinner was incredible, and a thrill. Beside’s getting some chat time with icon Randall Grahm, I managed to sneak in some tastings, served personally by GM, Heather who was a friendly wealth of knowledge. The Bonny Doon team is genuinely enthusiastic about what they do – and who could blame them.The dinner meant to end at 9ish went nearly til Midnight.
Saturday cellar work and tasting with Anthony Yount of Denner, and his own label Kinero, as well as Amy of Ranchero Cellars, (former winemaker at Edward Sellers) who makes an amazing Carignan, was a blast, and I stayed up too late having dinner with friends, cutting short the sleep for Sunday’s long day….but sleep is replaceable; time shared with special people isn’t.
Sunday went mostly to plan, with a minor trailer mishap. It was a 16 hour day; exhausting, but incredibly gratifying.
The Next Marathon Begins
The following week brought a new set of challenges. I still had Syrah, Grenache, Marsanne, and Roussanne to pick at Saralee’s Vineyard. Two were about ready, two needed a tad more hang time. Murphy’s Law rose its head; Mother Nature flexed her biceps, we had rain, coming, lots of it. Then that thing called work (my real job) reared it’s head with an emergency trip 3 timezones away AND With more behind it. ALL of the fruit would have to come in and I was gone part of the week. After suppressing some panic, I mapped out the plan.
It worked out, despite almost no margin for error. Up early Monday morning (right after the Grenache Blanc journey), blaze to SFO, travel East, full day of meetings, race back.
Russian River Madness
Thursday morning at Saralee’s it was a like a battlefield; every Vintner wanted their fruit off, many thousands of tons. Unruffled, Saralee sat amidst it all, phone in hand, never terse, always calm and friendly, marshalling troops like a General, as trucks rolled in and out. “This one to Napa” “That one to
Crushpad” “The next to San Fran”. I sat in awe and renewed admiration that my 4 half ton lots even registered, but she treated me as if I was some major label driving off with a semi truck load, not a trailer behind my Toyota FJ.
Technically, most of my harvest this year isn’t really “garagiste” depending on your definition. I have a crusher/destemmer and a basket press at home; but it simply wasn’t practical for this scale, nor do I (yet) have a forklift, and I needed a better press to whole cluster press the whites. I have small lots of each fermenting in the garage, and I did 1/4 ton of Sangiovese again this year by hand; but I decided at the beginning of Harvest, given I was paying 2k/ton for high quality fruit, a better facility was needed.
I lucked out in that I had friended Steven Washuta, a bright young gentleman, and recent graduate of Oenology from Walla Walla, who relocated here this summer to start as an Assistant Winemaker at a nearby, small winery, below radar to many, called Old World Winery. Darek Trowbridge is the winemaker and proprietor. Darek is an affable, hard working, passionate wine maker; we hit it off right away, and he agreed to let me to the bulk of my project at his facility.
Darek is a huge proponent of Natural Wine Making, long before it became the cool thing to do. This meant I had to jump more quickly dainto things I had planned, like native yeast fermentation, but I am glad I did. Darek has been supportive, patient, and he (and Steve) have been a Godsend. As blessed as I am to live in this wonderful region surrounded by wines; its in many ways the people here that enrich and fulfill my life, and I have been blessed, via the wine industry, to make the friendships of many great people, such as these too. (I have more to thank as well…next post.)
More on Old World Winery in a future post; now that Darek is focused on making them no longer a secret, the word is already spreading quickly, as popular wine writer and reviewer Steve Heimoff wrote about Darek and Old World this week.
Back To Harvest
Thursday was a busy day, but went quite well. My biggest disappoint of the day was I got a good bit less grenache than hoped, the one I actually wanted more of. Nothing could be done, and I was damn lucky I got what I got. (I am looking for more still, realizing at this point its going to be already fermenting or done. Will gladly pay for 200-500 pounds of crushed or pressed if know if any excess.)
We whole cluster pressed the Marsanne and Roussanne. For experimentation I kept a small portion of each aside and did some skin contact for 24 hours. The Grenache and Syrah were destemmed (a small amount of whole cluster with stems went into the bottom of each bin) lightly crushed to break the skins, and briefly cold soaked. I took a small amount of Syrah and Grenache must (grapes and juice) home and pressed it for a 5 cases of a blended Rose.
The next day the rain began, and didn’t end for days. The cold temps and native yeast took a while for fermentation to kick off, but all are happily fizzing and bubbling away, and I beam over them like a proud expecting father.
The Quest for M – Mourvedre
One dilemma loomed…as I have shared, one of the main reasons I did so many varietals was for blending…and I really wanted to make a GSM. (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre.) I thought I had lots of time…Mother Nature was throwing me curve balls. I had banked on Paso, as they usually harvest right before Thanksgiving. Rarely seen frost, and rain blew this. I knew I had to drive elsewhere, little exists (for sale) in Sonoma County…but more widely grown in Paso Robles, Santa Ynez, Lake County and Livermore. Calls everywhere were coming up empty. The GSM was going to be a bit lopsided without any ‘M’ and I was already short on Grenache which I had hoped to be a dominate varietal. What would this hopeful Rhone Ranger wannabe do? Stay tuned!
The Garagiste Series (click to read):
(Republished, as a accident of late night writing while traveling, I accidentally over wrote Article 3)
Thanks for following! Welcome to Part Four of the Series: My 2010 Rhone Harvest – Garagista or Passion Gone Runaway? (Part 3, Where to Crush, Part Two: It’s All About the Vineyard.
The First Crush aka D-Day
The first of my grapes ready was the Saralee Viognier. Taking vineyard samples, I was actually concerned the fruit was a little riper than I wanted; I seek to make wines that are lower alcohol, less extracted, expressions of the vineyard, vintage, and fruit….essentially I am making to my own personal palate, not what the average consumer buying at Safeway grabs.
The Viognier field samples tested at 24+ brix, time to crush right away, as I wanted under 14% alcohol. I made arrangements with Saralee, the winery, and was ready. I had my new wine trailer, barrel, and all details worked out.
Roll With Small Punches, and Leave More Room for Error
I re-learned a lesson I already knew well from my time in the Infantry; no plan survives battle. I got to Saralee’s Vineyard right on time at 7 a.m. (Grapes are best picked early, and cool.) She was warm and gracious despite it the place being abuzz….the last heat spike had things in overdrive, and crews were working fast for many varietals, for some big comtracts, thus we were a bit delayed.
Not a major issue, but I had shoehorned myself into a meeting with a major brand 45 mins away for 1030 a.m meeting….Saralee did awesome and we got the fruit picked swiftly.
As we went to load the ½ ton bin onto my new trailer, we discovered the tailgate ramp was too long, the forklift couldn’t get it on the trailer….my plan was to just let the forklift mash it to bits, but Saralee was gracious enough have the bin driven over (this woman is amazing…it’s a busy day, I am mosquito client, yet she doesn’t miss a beat.) Luckily it wasn’t far away.
The fruit is delivered, (after traffic delays) and stored in a cool place. It’s dangerously close to departure time for my meeting. I race to Safeway to get dry ice to keep the grapes cool until we press that afternoon….they have none. Luckily the one 2 miles away does…race there, get it on the grapes, cover them, race home to shower, eat in car, and make my meeting on time.
I get back to the winery an hour late, and its smooth sailing. They are finishing up their own press. It’s the first time to whole cluster pressing on this new Puleo bladder press, so we do some setting tweaks, and off we go.
Wine making decisions:
As I wrote yesterday, there is an ever unfolding series of decisions, each impacting the next, in wine making.
Viognier is a fragrant, floral grape. Excess skin contact can overpower the wine, which is not the style I seek, especially since much of this will be blended, thus the decision to whole cluster press. Whole cluster pressing minimizes the time the pressed grape juice will be in contact with the skins.
Whole cluster press was also beneficial in this case, as we had some sunburn from the upper part of the block, and only modest field sorting; whole cluster press does the best job here, instead of grinding the raisins up.
I like the mouthfeel and texture that fermenting in a neutral oak barrel gives (note barrel fermentation is different than barrel aging.) so 60% of the juice (pressed 70 gallons total) went into barrel, the rest into stainless. This mix gives me options as we proceed, when making blending decisions.
Future Decisions (and places for help, input)
I have some future decisions to discuss, analyze , and make.
- Whether I barrel age most of the wine. (Must find another neutral 30 or 60 oak gallon barrel to do this, not easy. ) or leave it to age on stainless after fermentation. Ideally I’d find a 30 gallon neutral barrel used for whites and do both…but this is a very hard item to find.
- Whether to allow the wine to go through Malo-lactic fermentation. ML converts malic acid to lactic, softening the wine. Viognier is generally lower in acidity, so many do not do ML. However I am told, if I don’t, I’ll need to do sterile filtration…for a small amount of wine like this, this adds cost, and wine loss…more investigation needed, but have a (bit) of time.
- Once the Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne are all complete next Spring, blending trials and experimentation will shape the combinations: how much is individual bottled? What combination or combinations of blends do I make? What percentages?
I loathe chemistry, and the inexpensive tools home wine makers use (litmus paper ugh.) The nice thing about the larger scale production this year is running tests from Vinquiry, only a few miles away are now affordable on a volume basis, as well as fast and most accurate.
The Juice Panel test shows 22.3 brix, always more accurate than a field sample; I am pleased. Acids are good, Nitrogen levels to feed the yeasts are quite high, so no yeast food is needed.
The native yeast begin doing their job, and we are underway. Looks like the syrah and Grenache will be next, likely next week.
Coming up Soon: A More in Depth Look at Saralee’s Vineyard
Feedback Time: Enjoying the series? Interesting? Boring? What would you like more or less of?
The Garagiste Series (click to read):
Third in the Series of My 2010 Rhone Harvest – Garagista or Passion Gone Runaway? Summary: In Part One, I laid out my intent of making 5-7 barrels of Rhone wines (~150 cases). In Part Two I shared my good fortune of sourcing most of my fruit from the famous Russian River Saralee Vineyards.
Yesterday I said I would write about the first crush, but as the article evolved, it was too lengthy, so it has been split it into two parts . Tomorrow I will publish the first grape crush. Today’s article is focused on where to process the grapes, and make the wine.
You quickly learn that winemaking involves an ongoing set of decision trees that has many sub branches, and in some cases are dependant on the equipment you have. E.g. If I wanted to whole cluster press (no destem/crush first) a white varietal to minimize skin contact for various reasons, a basket press isn’t very effective, a bladder press works much better, and gentler.
The first decision I had to make was where and how was I going to process this much fruit. (5+ 1/2 ton lots. Small by commercial standards but a lot for home winemaking.) I have a small crusher/destemmer and press, and plenty of stainless, glass carboys, and other containers. I even have two ½ ton open top containers bought used.
Processing time is also a factor, especially for whites. Using a human powered machine to destem, crush ½ ton of wine grapes is a pretty large task, and best done by multiple sets of biceps taking turns.
It should be noted, there are custom crush facilities (like Crushpad) that do 100% turn key with your ‘guidance’, but that’s not the type of winemaking I want. If I didn’t travel, had more equipment, and the proper storage until the heat abates, I’d be doing as much as home as a could, as a true garagista.
Luckily we have 100+ wineries in a small radius of where I live, and I am blessed with many good industry friends. I found a solution via a small winery nearby who could assist with equipment and storage, as well as keep an eye on things when I wasn’t around. The winery has good equipment, but takes a very traditionalist philosophy to winemaking, which appealed to me greatly.
This did mean I had to embrace a native yeast fermentation, as this winery does not inoculate with commercial yeast strains, and you need to keep those strains off premise, as yeast are promiscuous little buggers. I had planned at least one more year of commercial, then experimenting, but figured why not.
Does using a small winery’s equipment make me less of a garagista?
Perhaps, but this is too much money, time, volume and quality fruit to risk a bad production. I will be doing several small lots at home, including a Syrah rose (if can get some free/discounted fruit) and another batch of Sangiovese as I did last year.
Come back tomorrow to learn about the first crush and how it went, cheers!
The Garagiste Series (click to read):
The Russian River Valley (RRV) has emerged over the last decade as a world renowned region of wine growing. It’s especially recognized for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but many great varietals from Rhones like roussanne and cool climate syrah, to cool climate zinfandel are produced here.
This weekend, August 20-22 is the showcase event for RRV, the 15th Annual Grape to Glass.
Friday August 20th
There are several great events to choose from Friday:
Your very own VIP CellarPass to tour our many participating wineries and discover what makes each sensational. Hosted by CellarPass, an online reservation tool for planning and booking wine country events, wineries will open exclusive bottles and surprise you with their own special attraction. Visit at least four participating wineries and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a return trip back to the Russian River Valley in 2011. 11 a.m. – 430 p.m. $45
Taste an amazing array of the best of Russian River food and wine, hosted at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa.
The Evening’s Schedule:
6:00pm – 8:00pm Russian River Valley Varietal Hosted Garden Tasting
8:15pm – 9:45pm Concert with Nick Palance – No Host Bar, No Host Small Plates
10:00pm – 10:45pm Nick Palance Reception & Signing, No Host Bar
Saturday August 21st
Saturday features a wide array of activities and seminars: everything from Kayaking the Russian River, to Seminars on Green Farming, or touring Pinot Noir Neighborhoods. No matter what your interest in food and wine, there is something for everyone; for the complete list click here. Events have limited space so don’t wait too long!
The amazing day wraps up with the spectacular HOG IN THE FOG ~ Festival of Plenty, hosted at the fabulous Richards Grove in Saralee’s Vineyard, in Windsor, a venue open only a few times a year for events.
The Russian River Valley Winegrowers annual Hog in the Fog ~ Festival of Plenty BBQ is a perennial favorite with its TasteFest and auction. This year add’s live music, art by our vintner artists, and a surprise guest chef known for firing up great BBQ recipes.
The event features more than fifty Russian River Valley wineries, small-bites produced from our region’s fabulous food products, silent auction items, and arts created by our versatile and talented vintners. Grape growers will be prepare the evening’s plentiful BBQ feast.
Dinner will be paired (of course) with Russian River Valley wines. Vintners and growers will roll up their sleeves and make the rounds with great bottles. The evening commences with a live auction featuring rare library wines and lifestyle packages. $115/person.
What better way to spend a Sunday, with Bubbles and gorgeous views at the BUBBLES & PIXELS ~ A Sparkling Pink Finish at Iron Horse Vineyards, a personal favorite.
Set on the Sterling family’s stunning 350-acre estate, Bubbles & Pixels will feature the Sparkling & Pink wines of the Russian River Valley. Wines are served with a family-style brunch, created by a top wine country chef and featuring local produce and artisan food products.
A panel of judges will announce the winners of the TasteLive Photo Contest. 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. $80
Have a GREAT Weekend, the Weather looks to