I am a winemaker and a chef - not a writer! But here I endeavor to share my thoughts about what is going on in the vineyard, the tank, the bottle and the kitchen. Enjoy, and feedback welcomed!
On the vineyard front, the Naked Vine Vineyard on Apple Hill narrowly (and quite miraculously, I might add), escaped last Friday's intense storm which was replete with a good bit of hail. It looks now as though the young section of the vineyard (ie:, the Grenache blanc) will be catching up with the more establised Grenache noir vines, and that both may yield in the neighborhood of 4 tons of fruit this coming harvest. Good stuff.
Finally for your Spring and early Summer dining options, please give the following a try. Either Ruddy Bloom Rose' or Harvest Blanc would pair swimmingly (pun intended) !
Grilled Shrimp with Citrus Avocado Salsa:
2 each - shallots, minced
1 each - jalapeno, deveined, minced
3 each - Mandarin oranges, segmented and halved
2 each - Haas avocados, medium dice
1 each - lemon, juiced
2 bunches - basil, rough chopped
1 teaspoon - ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon - cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons - honey
Extra-virgin Olive oil/Red Wine Vinegar
Salt/Course ground black pepper
Combine and lighly toss all ingredients. Splash with vinaigrette and season to taste. Serve with grilled shrimp.
3 each - large red onions, sliced thin
1/2 cup - brown sugar
2 tablespoons - mustard seeds
1 cup - red wine
Slowly saute' onions in a little olive oil until fully caramelized. Add brown sugar and mustard seeds, combine. Raise heat briefly and deglaze with red wine. Simmer until red wine becomes a syrup. Season to taste. Layer brioche with your favorite goat cheese and top with brule'.
Straight out of the press - Grenache blanc ready for barrel-down and a little yeast !
Harvest '14 is finally underway for us. While many have been picking for a couple weeks, we have finally pulled the trigger on the El Dorado County, Naked Vine Vineyard Grenache blanc. Overall yields were down due to springtime shatter, and even the grapes themselves were a little stingy, giving up just over 135 gallons to the ton, compared with the "usual" 150 - 160 ... and despite some uneven ripening which seems to be characterizing this vintage, the quality is excellent. We are blessed with this CA sunshine, despite the drought conditions.
Miller Wine Works: This sleek salon opened last summer and brought a contemporary air to the Mother Lode town. Two trim, white wood-paneled bars are topped with tin, track lighting that gleams off a polished wood floor, and an ancient gnarled vine trunk serves as an abstract lucky horseshoe over a doorway. Owner Gary Miller got his start as a chef, training at Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park in New York before moving to Napa and then to Amador County. Sierra Foothills specialties include Zinfandel, Mourvedre and Grenache.
Read the entire article from today's San Francisco Chronicle:
A simple recipe for cranberry relish from our friend, Nancy Larson.
Miller Wine Works Teodoro Port is really what makes it so good. Just empty a bag of fresh cranberries into a small sauce pan. Sprinkle about 1/3 cup of sugar on the top and set on very low heat. It will take some time but eventually the sugar will blend with the cooked cranberries. It has sort of a slow volcanic effect. You will be tempted to stir it but don't do it
When it has all blended and bubble together I squeeze half a fresh orange and turn the heat off. Stir and add a generous shot of Miller Wine Works Teodoro Port and enjoy!
...and then it was over!
Such is the tale of the tape as regards the grape harvest of 2013 here in California. What looked to be an early harvest has followed through on the promise. After an unprecedented season of hot weather, often challenging daily record highs, picking began for us on September 10th with the Southfork Grenache. Last year this fruit was used in tandem with Mourvedre, also grown on Apple Hill, to produce our first rosé. This year it is being fermented as a stand alone Grenache, and is presently undergoing extended maceration, and showing very nicely indeed.
Our second pick was a mere 9 days later and involved some wonderful Petite Sirah from the Fair Play district. It is a lot of fun to again be working with this inky, robust varietal, and this fruit is something special from this high elevation vineyard.
Lastly, (although certainly not least) we procurred some absolutely terrific Zinfandel from Amador County. It is indeed a treat to be working with Zin again - my first time since the Biale days....the source of the fruit is the esteemed Shake Ridge Vineyard of Ann Kramer and family, just up the hill from Sutter Creek, the home of our new tasting room. The pick occurred in the early morning hours of September 25th and this fruit was absolutely pristine. It is just about "to go dry" as of this writing, and we are very excited about the potential of the finished wine to come!
Now it is on to the final pressing, and to manage the barrel aging of the wine - or as the French say, elevage...the educating or upbringing of the wine. We look forward to this journey of discovery and enlightenment. As a winemaker, we are afforded the luxury of tasting new and developing wines (usually monthly). We are constantly plotting their course in our heads as to what we think they will become, how well they might blend or pair with another varietel, and so forth...but it doesn't always follow that course, and it is those times which produce the "ah-hah" moments which keep us all coming back.
Come and see us and let's taste through some wines together.
The very best to you and yours and a sincere thank-you from us for your patronage and enthusiasm of our mission.
Gary & Kim
No, actually it is Sutter Creek, but the sentiment for our new Tasting Room is exactly the same - total euphoria!
After many years of looking for a place to hang our hats, and a venue from which to showcase our wines, we have come upon the beautiful and historic little town of Sutter Creek. Nestled comfortably in the Gold Country of Amador County it is quickly becoming a special wine tasting destination here in the Sierra Foothills of California.
This week finds us finishing up the painting, planting flowers and herbs and finally taking possession of our new tasting bars. As with the launch of any new venture, we have a million and one things to do yet (or so we are convinced!) before we throw open the doors...but nevertheless, once we get our final approval from the powers that be, we will open for business. We have the bar, glasses and wine.....enough said.
Sutter Creek is a colorful, historic gold rush town with beautiful architecture, shops, restaurants and lodging. Nearby you can tour mines, pan for gold, hike, bike, tour caverns, white water raft and hit the slopes for snow skiing.
We hope to see you in the near future at 67 Main Street in Sutter Creek. Hours are Thursday through Monday 11am -5pm and by appointment at (209) 267-5828.
"Spring comes slowly when you are up this high", I am paraphrasing - that's what Bear Claw said to Jeremiah Johnson anyway. Well, we're not up quite that high, but we are significantly above the valley floor these days. We are between two and three thousand feet elevation, depending upon which vineyard you are referencing here in either El Dorado or Amador County. And with that gain in elevation, Mother Nature dances to a bit of a different beat. She is a little slower to get it all going again in the Spring, holding back on those new leaves and blooms, and in our case on bud break.
Starting tomorrow, we will at last begin the final pruning of the Southfork Vineyard on Apple Hill. Think Bobby and poor JR, with not nearly as many cattle or enemies, but with plenty of healthy young Grenache and Grenache blanc vines.
It is one of the sources for our recently bottle Rose'. A beautiful hillside vineyard, poised at almost three thousand feet elevation. I "long pruned" the vineyard in February, and imagined we would be doing the final pruning well before now. I guess I've still got some work to do in getting my internal clock in sync with Mother Nature up here in the hills.
We are definitely looking forward to the fast approaching warmer temperatures and all the vineyard activity just around the corner.
Please keep in mind - this is a great time of year to ship wine. Temperatures are moderate across the country. Please let us know if we can send a package your way.
Also - please like us on Facebook. We post several times a week - photos, news and irrelevant rants.
Talk to you soon ...
The very best,
So here we are finally, in the new year and this one ends in "13" ! Is it to be ominous...akin to Friday the 13th lore? Does anybody feel that? I, for one, do not. On the contrary, I feel a rush of promise, a palpable warm fuzzy, if you will, unlike the last few (too many) years.
January has sprung, and in the cellar it's always a good time to set the tone anew. Days are starting to get longer again (and sometimes even warmer). The wines are settling down after being prodded and poked through harvest. We just finished our monthly chores - topping, checking sulfur levels, sanitizing, stirring barrels, and most fun of all, tasting.
Tasting - that sounds a little early you might say. Well, with bottling not so far around the corner in April, blending trials are not far off. In fact, preliminary trials will begin in February actually, so it is indeed time to start making assessments.
On the whole, I'm very pleased. While not trying to glorify the role of winemaker, as many do, I find that the process (like most of life, hopefully) is one of continual learning. I'm fond of saying that what helps keep me fresh and hungry is that every year is a whole new ballgame of sorts. Sure, you're going to go through basically the same steps, but under a completely new set of circumstances. Weather (i.e. Mother Nature) is the major prognosticator here, but aside from the obvious - hot/cold, dry/wet, she can impact schedules at a moments notion. In short, that round peg of what you thought you learned last year will most likely not fit so easily in to this years square hole.
Anyway, I digress - I have been making (and learning) about red wines from the beginning. So with a white wine and our first, Rose', I find myself looking up at the steep section of the learning curve. That said, it really is a lot of fun - a whole new criteria, if you will for things such as acidity, mouthfeel, finish, texture and so on. Like I said, "fresh and hungry".
More from our blending trials next month.
We've Moved !
In the past couple of years we've had occasion to spend some time in the Sierra Foothills, as well as work firsthand with some grapes grown here. So, when the opportunity arose to move our winemaking to the finest environs we've ever known, and to breathe mountain air full-time, we did not hesitate to re-locate to California's first wine region (gold and grapes!).
After a long search, we chose a beautifully wooded and private setting in rural Placerville, CA. It is a truly beautiful location, and a mere 7 miles and change to the winery. Skinner Vineyards is a brand new facility, virtually designed and run by winemaker, Chris Pittenger, an old friend, whose first job in the wine business was working for me when I directed the cellar at Robert Biale Vineyards. So it was a little like Homecoming to work together again. The facility is spacious and modern and places a premium on functionality, making it a joy to work there.
In addition to sourcing local mountain fruit, we will continue to maintain relationships on the North Coast and elsewhere, in support of our attempts to bring you the finest wines we can produce. You may recall the ( sold out ) Jordan's Journey White Rhone blend from last year was from El Dorado County, and we've already mentioned two new wines for the Spring of 2013, also grown locally.
In the meantime, here's hoping your holidays are the BEST, that your New Year is EVEN BETTER, and that we see you personally in 2013 in our new digs !
Gary & Kim