Posts Tagged ‘wine making’

Part Two of My 2010 Rhone Garagiste Project: It’s All about the Vineyard (my source revealed)

Second in the Series of  My 2010 Rhone Harvest – Garagista or Passion Gone Runaway? aka: Continuing on my dilemma on how much fruit to source and where. (Sorry it wasn’t next day, my now ‘3’ jobs are keeping me very busy.)

As I discussed last article, small lots of grapes from established growers can be hard to source, it’s not worth their effort and paperwork. Scouting around websites and asking friends,  there were people offering Rhone fruit in smaller quantities, but often unknown, ranging from Marin to Lake County.

If I am going to put my ‘name’ on these wines, (even if not selling) and make the time investment; I want high quality fruit from a reliable source.  I believe wine making is done on the vineyard, with minimal manipulation, and I want to let it express itself. (Funny how every Vintner says this, only to bury a wine in oak, extraction or high alcohol.)

So where would I find fruit? While a half  ton per varietal is a small amount for a grower, it’s a lot for a garage project; 6 different varietals would mean 6 barrels, or 150 cases.

I kept asking friends and winemakers, and focused in on one of my favorite Kenwood/Glen Ellen Vintners, Eric Luse of Eric Ross; whose’ Marsanne/Rousanne captured me when I first met him several years ago.  It’s sourced from Saralee’s Vineyards, operated by Richard and Saralee Kunde, the Russian River Valley’s well known Grower, for over 20 years. (Eric’s Saralee Pinot is also amazing.)  Assuming someone of this size and reputation wouldn’t touch me, so I asked Eric if I could piggy back onto his order, get it from him when delivered.

Eric, being the straight up guy he is, wanted to ask Saralee for permission. To my surprise she said ok, and that she would sell to me direct, as an exception. Looking over her varietal list, I decided why not focus on one Vineyard and source everything I could from here, especially since I favor cool climate conditions for many varietals.  How awesome would it be to showcase most of the fruit sourced from this world recognized wine grower?  Would good fortune play my way?

Saralee and I spoke live, and she agreed to sell me Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier, which I plan to bottle separately as well as make 1-2 small lots of  white Rhone blends.  While the size of my order was atypical, Saralee was enthusiastic  to support the project, both for the rare Rhone focus (a large vintner who had acquired a small one with a cool Rhone white blend, just ceased making it and cancelled their fruit); as well as she quipped “Everyone has to start somewhere.”

My luck expanded –  for reds she had Grenache (my favorite) and Syrah she would also sell.  I agreed to a ½ ton (60-70 gallons, 1 barrel, 25 cases, 300 bottles) of each.  I need only now source Mourvedre so I can make the classic Rhone GSM red blend, and I intend to bottle separately as well.  Mourvedre is one of the last varietals to come in; and worst case I’ll source and drive some back from Paso Robles around Thanksgiving if need be. No luck on my white rhone Grenache Blanc yet, but will engage resources to look shortly.

It’s a big investment of time and money; grapes alone I will be spending 7-8k, and have been outlaying for barrels, gear, and all the misc. items that add up.

People are already chuckling in conversations; 150 cases; that’s 1800 bottles; from the guy who already complains about his 650 bottle collection he can’t drink. No, I don’t intend to sell it. I don’t plan to become a winemaker or start a winery; I want to become  be a Rhone grower who makes small lots to showcase his fruit. I know what I want to achieve stylistically with these wines, and to share with the world, but lack the experience (my 3rd go at winemaking), the OCD nature, and completely abhor chemistry, so its hard to imagine this path unfolding, at least without a partner.

So then, why so much wine? Well those that know me here, understand well I have two speeds; Go big or Go home. And I need the volume – these 6 varietals are a canvas for a myriad of blends, and experiments. And wine is ‘lost’ along the way in some processes, from sterilizing, to bottling.

I have some ideas and possibilities what to do with the wines, assuming they come out well. I won’t do anything that’s not legal, risk anyone’s bond, and I have some more investigations to do.  Plenty of time right now, bottling is a ways off, even for the whites.  At the very worst case, we’ll have some great Rhone parties, and Rhone consumer education events.

Next in the series; The first of the 6 crushes; or “No Plan Survives Combat”, as well as an article spotlight on Saralee Vineyards and Saralee Kunde. Hope you will follow along – cheers!

The Garagiste Series (click to read):

My 2010 Rhone Harvest – Garagiste or Passion Gone Runaway?
Part Two of My 2010 Rhone Garagiste Project: It’s All about the Vineyard (my source revealed)
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 3: Where to Crush?
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 4: First Crush aka No Plan Survives Battle
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 5 – Grenache Blanc Road Trip, and a new Test of Endurance
Chapter Six: Garagiste Rhone Adventure Continues: 4 in One Day; & The Crush Facility Revealed

My 2010 Rhone Harvest – Garagiste or Passion Gone Runaway?

2009 was my first year living immersed in the middle of Sonoma Harvest. I had taken severance from my employer in July and had planned to take 4 months of work to complete a semester of wine and wine business classes, as well as spend time as a harvest volunteer and cellar rat. After years of home brewing I also decided to jump in both feet into home wine making, or being a garagiste.

For someone on ‘sabbatical’ I was buried – Simple Hedonisms was in the middle of being birthed, was carrying an overload of classes, creating the blog from scratch learning new frontiers, diving headlong into establishing my Social Media presence; so unfortunately I didn’t capitalize and capture my harvest or home wine making experiences in blog posts.

My harvest volunteer experience was shortened on both ends by two phenomenon; I broke an outer bone in my foot and was in a boot cast early harvest, and then received an offer to return to my previous role in the technology space (VP Sales/Marketing) that couldn’t be passed up.  In between that though I was fortunate to be able to spend time with great people and  wineries like Mounts Family Winery, Hobo, and C. Donatiello; doing everything from picking,  sorting, pressing, and of course the habitual cleaning rituals. I loved it immensely.

I also made two small batches of wine; an unoaked “naked” Russian River Valley chardonnay, and a Sangiovese (Barolo clone not yet bottled) from Alpicella Vineyard; which I picked, and crushed at home.  It was a special thrill, hand cranking to de-stem, crush, and press on my improvised crushpad at home.

I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. I still aspire to focus on being a grower over a winemaker in future years, but the small hand production is thrilling. This year I strongly desired to marry my love of Rhone varietals with my garagista hobby.

This presented several challenges:  (a) Rhone varietals, especially some of my favorites, are not widely grown in Sonoma County, especially available in small ¼-1/2 ton lots that a home winemaker would want; it’s too much of a hassle for the grower. (b) Rhone wines often shine best when blended (white combos of Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc (the latter my fave, and near impossible to source here) and my beloved red GSM combo – Grenache (noir), Syrah, and Mourvedre. (Again the latter hard to obtain, especially in small amounts.) And I also wanted the option to bottle some as single varietals, depending how they came out.

The amount of work to process a ¼ ton, versus 1 ton, is quite similar. Indeed, fermentation, and aging vessels, like barrels (especially neutral, since not a new oak fan) for ultra small lots are hard to obtain as well. So why not just make less varietals, or more amounts of each. Would any grower of reputation even deal with a guy that wanted so many small lots? What the heck would I do with 100-150 cases of wine? (1/2 ton = barrel= 25 cases.)

I cast the Net and got lucky. Very lucky. (Although I am still looking for Mourvedre and Grenache Blanc. )

Tomorrow (which is the first varietal crush as well) I will reveal just how lucky I got, and my decisions.

Stay Tuned – Cheers!

The Garagiste Series (click to read):

My 2010 Rhone Harvest – Garagiste or Passion Gone Runaway?
Part Two of My 2010 Rhone Garagiste Project: It’s All about the Vineyard (my source revealed)
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 3: Where to Crush?
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 4: First Crush aka No Plan Survives Battle
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 5 – Grenache Blanc Road Trip, and a new Test of Endurance
Chapter Six: Garagiste Rhone Adventure Continues: 4 in One Day; & The Crush Facility Revealed
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