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What’s Going On - Wed. June 11, 2008

We had a grafter (not a grifter) here for the last four days. This winter I collected Roussanne budwood and ordered Malbec budwood with the idea of t-budding some Merlot (thanks Miles, you *;;-ωλ!). I planned to do four rows of Roussanne and two rows of Malbec, with the idea of expanding the Malbec a couple of rows a year. After bad late April frost damage in part of the Merlot the potential crop was very small, so I decided to do more grafting. We now have six additional rows of Roussanne, four rows of Viognier and nine rows of Malbec. The man who owns the grafting company, Salvador Presciato, told me his business is way up this year due to the frosts. People who were planning to graft next year or the year after decided to do it this year. This type of grafting (changing varieties on mature vines) typically costs you about 1½years of crop, and it makes sense, if you don’t have much crop anyway to have this be the no-crop year.

We finalized the blend of our Meeks Hilltop Ranch Zinfandel today, after eight tasting trials. All four of us had the same favorite, over other blends that only varied slightly in their make-up. The “winner” was 11 barrels “hilltop” block, 2 barrels “front yard”, 2 barrels low alcohol “front yard”, one barrel “over the hill”, and 25 gallons of Durif (the grape variety commonly known by the misnomer “Petite Sirah”). Final alcohol will be around 14.8%. Next up is the Sonoma Valley Zin; anything that doesn’t go into that blend will be used in a non-varietal blend (The Duke).

Another price increase: dusting sulfur went from $0.19 a pound to $0.44. I use roughly 1000 lbs. a year, so it’ll only cost me about $250, but still, a 131% increase? PG&E just asked the PUC for rate increases due to fuel costs, so at least I can be happy that our solar power is “saving” us even more money.
 

If You’re Not Part of the Solution, You’re Part of the Precipitate - Fri. June 13, 2008

I coined the above (I think) when I was an undergrad in the early 70’s (too many chemistry classes warp one’s sense of humor). We just lost one of our best restaurant glass pour placements because of all the sediment in our 2003 Sonoma County Cab. It really presents a quandary. I don’t like to treat wines more than is absolutely necessary. We do filter most of our wines tightly enough to insure against growth of Brettanomyces (“brett”), but we don’t fine or cold stabilize. All red wines will throw sediment with time, but some of ours tend to do so within a year or two after bottling, and a couple of them have formed alarming amounts of “muck” in that time.

And Now For Something Completely Different

I’ve been sharing an article from the June 3 NY Times with lots of people because it gives cause for great optimism. Futurist Ray Kurzweil makes predictions using what he calls the Law of Accelerating Returns. He has predicted when a computer would beat the world chess champion, when a handheld device could read a book out loud, and other technological advances, all with amazing accuracy. The cause for optimism arises from some of his current predictions, including: all our energy will come from renewable sources within twenty years and life expectancy will be increasing one year per calendar year fifteen years from now (making us statistically immortal!). Fun stuff to think about, and a welcome respite from the doom and gloom in most of our news.
 

Three Faces of Eden  Tues. June 17, 2008


When I was growing up we used to visit family friends who had a walnut orchard in Napa. As far as I was concerned it could have been Appalachia (sorry if this offends anyone). I thought the locals were real hicks, goin’ fishin’ barefoot down by the crick, etc. Napa County was populated mainly by farmers and blue-collar workers. There were cattle ranches, dairies, cherry and walnut orchards, and, oh yeah, old vineyards. I can remember feeling sorry for native Napans starting about twenty years ago – they had become second-class citizens because of all the new money moving into their own hometown.

Santa Rosa was even smaller than Napa when I was a kid. It was a two-hour drive from San Francisco (longer on summer weekends) because the freeway only went about 8 miles north of the Golden Gate. Santa Rosa’s population has grown about twenty fold in 45 years while Napa’s has only tripled. Santa Rosa is much more accessible by freeway now, and most of Napa Valley has been protected from development since the late 60’s. Santa Rosa isn’t dominated by wine like Napa is, but I did see a Riedel billboard on the freeway there on Sunday.

When I moved to Sonoma Valley in 1971, it was still a quiet, out-of-the-way small town with little local economy. There were no commuters, and only a few tourists came to look at the Mission and taste wine at Sebastiani Winery. There were a lot of retirees and “hippie refugees” from the Haight Ashbury. It seemed like half the people in the grocery store used food stamps, and it was rare to see anyone of other than white skin color. At one time or another I was told by various people that Boyes Hot Springs (my current home) had the highest per capita rate in California of: a) paroled felons, b) venereal disease, c) heroin addictionJ

Sonoma is so different now. It’s not as gentrified as Napa, but there is a lot more class distinction than there ever was before. House and land prices have been driven sky high by newcomers buying “lifestyle”, and there is a large, predominantly Mexican, immigrant population that fills most of the lower paying jobs: restaurant, retail, factory, house cleaning and childcare, gardening, and vineyard and winery production jobs of course. There are locals who “blame” the grape and wine industry for the influx of Hispanic immigrants, but it really is a national phenomenon, not a local one. Most of the riffraff have moved away because it’s expensive to live here and hard for them to get jobs, so maybe we’re a little better off in terms of STD’s, ex-cons and smack freaks. 


Loweeel


quality posts: 5 Private Messages Loweeel

1) Wow, you weren't kidding when you said that a little Durif goes a long way. I wonder what will happen to the rest of it ;-)

2) What's T-budding? are there other kinds of budding?

3) If you're interested in The Singularity, the IEEE devoted its most recent issue to the subject. It's all online here -- http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/singularity

4) There has to be some sort of physical solution for throwing sediment... some small cap/pourer/filter to slide on the neck?

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"The one difference between me and Petite Sirah is that I don't have a dumb period." - YT

Cesare


quality posts: 2136 Private Messages Cesare

Great post. Really cool that you mentioned the singularity. And I enjoyed reading about Napa/Sonoma and how it has changed over the years. Where are you from originally?
For reference: the NY Times article you mentioned.

-il Cesare
Sole Absolute Triple
Exalted High Tastemaster Supreme
“In the entire world there are only a few sounds that bring joy to all but the most jaded. One is the murmur of a kitten purring. Another is the thwack of a well-pitched baseball hitting a perfectly swung bat. And the third is the pop of a cork being pulled from a bottle of wine.” —George Taber

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 256 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
Loweeel wrote:1) Wow, you weren't kidding when you said that a little Durif goes a long way. I wonder what will happen to the rest of it ;-)

2) What's T-budding? are there other kinds of budding?

3) If you're interested in The Singularity, the IEEE devoted its most recent issue to the subject. It's all online here -- http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/singularity

4) There has to be some sort of physical solution for throwing sediment... some small cap/pourer/filter to slide on the neck?




There are different grafting techniques for changing varieties on mature vines versus grafting onto rootstock. All grafting success depends on getting good cambium (the thin, actively growing layer between the wood and the bark) to cambium contact. T-budding can only be done a few weeks out of the year, when the cambium cells are multiplying rapidly enough that the bark peels away from the wood easily. The top part of the vine is cut off and a T -shaped cut is made in the bark. Then the bark is peeled away from the intersection of the two cuts, a bud which is cut slightly concave across the back is inserted, and the flaps are tied back over the top of the bud to hold it in place. This technique has a very high success rate because the entire surface that is exposed on the trunk is cambium, virtually guaranteeing cambium to cambium contact.

Regarding sediment restaurants want to be able to open a bottle and pour away without fuss.

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 256 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
Cesare wrote:Great post. Really cool that you mentioned the singularity. And I enjoyed reading about Napa/Sonoma and how it has changed over the years. Where are you from originally?
For reference: the NY Times article you mentioned.



I was born in San Francisco like my mother, and grew up in Sausalito (when it was a quaint little artists' village, not a Yuppiefied tourist trap).

bhodilee


quality posts: 34 Private Messages bhodilee
SonomaBouliste wrote:Regarding sediment restaurants want to be able to open a bottle and pour away without fuss.



That's too bad about the restaurant, I don't think I'd mind if it happened to me (sediment in the glass, not losing an account), but then I know what the sediment is. A year ago I'd have probably thrown a fit.

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."

– George Bernard Shaw, author (1856-1950)

joelsisk


quality posts: 11 Private Messages joelsisk
bhodilee wrote:That's too bad about the restaurant, I don't think I'd mind if it happened to me (sediment in the glass, not losing an account), but then I know what the sediment is. A year ago I'd have probably thrown a fit.



Let's hope that means more wine on woot! I hope that WD takes care of you, Peter!

Oh, and thanks as always for the great read.

Corrado


quality posts: 131 Private Messages Corrado

Volunteer Moderator

SonomaBouliste wrote:
Regarding sediment restaurants want to be able to open a bottle and pour away without fuss.



That's tough for a by-the-glass restaurant. If was a bottle-based sale, I would suggest playing up the 'green' frenzy in marketing world, including a blurb in the wine write-up saying that the sedimentation is the natural result of letting the grapes make their wine without extra additives and over-processing (yadda yadda yadda). For a glass, folks just want/expect a clean pour.

You touched on pricing over in the main woot thread this week. I finally finished up the Ferrari-Carano-inspired book "A Very Good Year" and will interject a few questions from time to time if you're looking for fodder for future columns. One of the things that seemed to be a concern was the lack of control of distribution in California. Per the story, FC hoped to get their $14 (Suggested Retail) Fume Blanc placed in high-end restaurants, but having it show up at 'discount retailers' priced at $11.99, thereby doing some damage to their attempt at making an elite brand. I'd be interested to know more about the trial & tribulations of getting a bottled wine out the door & on to shelves and moving all of a year's inventory.

Corrado's Training Blog @ http://DrawnOutsideTheLinesOfReason.blogspot.com/
http://twitter.com/Corrado
**********************


It's not my fault that I love Gatzby! He's such a pretty, pretty "man."

auggie24


quality posts: 23 Private Messages auggie24
joelsisk wrote:Let's hope that means more wine on woot! I hope that WD takes care of you, Peter!

Oh, and thanks as always for the great read.



Ditto on both points. And if the Cab is only half as good as the Syrah you had on woot late last year, that would be my first full case buy...

javadrinker


quality posts: 6 Private Messages javadrinker

So SB, do you go out and taste grapes from vines that you are looking to draw new grafts from? Does it matter what type of vine the bud is grafted to? Will the vine impart any of its "essence" to the grape aside from the nutrients from the soil? And finally, could you regraft again down the line if the new grapes don't work out for you? For some reason I find this part of the business fascinating.

Edit: Oh and I finally found a place that has your 2003 CS near my house for $17. I wasn't actively looking but I was pretty stoked when I saw it.

Double Edit: Might have been the 2002...dang now I need to go back and actually buy it to make sure.

And the path to drunken poverty continues... Java's Stash at CT

  • Wine.woots: um, lost count.
  • Other woots: um, lost count too. I might have a problem.

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 256 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
Corrado wrote:That's tough for a by-the-glass restaurant. If was a bottle-based sale, I would suggest playing up the 'green' frenzy in marketing world, including a blurb in the wine write-up saying that the sedimentation is the natural result of letting the grapes make their wine without extra additives and over-processing (yadda yadda yadda). For a glass, folks just want/expect a clean pour.

You touched on pricing over in the main woot thread this week. I finally finished up the Ferrari-Carano-inspired book "A Very Good Year" and will interject a few questions from time to time if you're looking for fodder for future columns. One of the things that seemed to be a concern was the lack of control of distribution in California. Per the story, FC hoped to get their $14 (Suggested Retail) Fume Blanc placed in high-end restaurants, but having it show up at 'discount retailers' priced at $11.99, thereby doing some damage to their attempt at making an elite brand. I'd be interested to know more about the trial & tribulations of getting a bottled wine out the door & on to shelves and moving all of a year's inventory.



I love questions. A Very Good Year was an interesting read, but unfortunately terribly inaccurate as far as what goes on in the vineyard and winery. The author got so many things mixed up that it really made me wonder if he hadn't also mixed up other "facts" and people , misquoted them, etc. If the part of the story that you know is misreported it makes you wonder about the credibility of the rest of the story.

I wouldn't know where to start re marketing. There's so many facets to it. I'm happy to respond to more specific questions.

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 256 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
javadrinker wrote:So SB, do you go out and taste grapes from vines that you are looking to draw new grafts from? Does it matter what type of vine the bud is grafted to? Will the vine impart any of its "essence" to the grape aside from the nutrients from the soil? And finally, could you regraft again down the line if the new grapes don't work out for you? For some reason I find this part of the business fascinating.

Edit: Oh and I finally found a place that has your 2003 CS near my house for $17. I wasn't actively looking but I was pretty stoked when I saw it.

Double Edit: Might have been the 2002...dang now I need to go back and actually buy it to make sure.



Tasting grapes from the budwood source isn't useful. Every bud of Syrah clone 174 or Cabernet sauvignon clone 7 should be identical. It is the interaction of clone, rootstock, soil, climate and farming techniques that will give different aroma, flavor, color, structure and balance to the grapes from different vineyards.
The rootstock used influences the scion due to it's physical charateristics (vigor, speed of ripening, drought susceptibility/tolerance, etc.), but does not directly contribute flavor charateristics. Changing varieties does result in an "interstock" that probably has no effect on the vine or grapes. Likewise, nutrients from the soil don't impart flavors directly, rather only through their effect on vine growth and metabolism.
Yes, you can change varieties more than once.

'02, '03? Both good years for us. The '03 has got more sediment;)


Corrado


quality posts: 131 Private Messages Corrado

Volunteer Moderator

SonomaBouliste wrote:I love questions. A Very Good Year was an interesting read, but unfortunately terribly inaccurate as far as what goes on in the vineyard and winery. The author got so many things mixed up that it really made me wonder if he hadn't also mixed up other "facts" and people , misquoted them, etc. If the part of the story that you know is misreported it makes you wonder about the credibility of the rest of the story.

I wouldn't know where to start re marketing. There's so many facets to it. I'm happy to respond to more specific questions.



I wondered at the end what Don, Rhonda, George, and Steve thought of the final product. The author seemed to go out of his way to try to show/tell how well the winery did taking care of the illegal immigrant workers to the extent that it seemed like he had a not-so-hidden agenda.

I guess a decent place to start for Marketing would be to ask where you would like to see your wines end up and, assuming the story about winemakers having no concrete say where distributors sell their wine has merit, where it breaks your heart to see your wine show up.

Corrado's Training Blog @ http://DrawnOutsideTheLinesOfReason.blogspot.com/
http://twitter.com/Corrado
**********************


It's not my fault that I love Gatzby! He's such a pretty, pretty "man."

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 256 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
Corrado wrote:I wondered at the end what Don, Rhonda, George, and Steve thought of the final product. The author seemed to go out of his way to try to show/tell how well the winery did taking care of the illegal immigrant workers to the extent that it seemed like he had a not-so-hidden agenda.

I guess a decent place to start for Marketing would be to ask where you would like to see your wines end up and, assuming the story about winemakers having no concrete say where distributors sell their wine has merit, where it breaks your heart to see your wine show up.



I think almost all small wineries would like to see their wines in fine wine shops that don't discount heavily, and in good restaurants. Most of our distributors are small, and don't do business with chain stores or chain restaurants. It works the other way around, too - most independent restaurants and shops don't want to carry the mass marketed brands that dominate the shelves and lists at chains. I'm pretty lucky in terms of the relationship I have with our distributors, but it would be really sad to see my wine in a clearance bin at Long's Drugs

SmilingBoognish


quality posts: 51 Private Messages SmilingBoognish

^^^
I have not seen Wellington Wines in a clearance cart, but I have seen them at pretty decent discounts at my local Lunardi's. You will be happy to know that your wine does not sit on the shelves long after it's been put on sale. ;)

I really appreciate the sentiment with regards to Hispanic immigrants. I have worked with many, and have often been very impressed by their work ethic and devotion to family.

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 256 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
SmilingBoognish wrote:^^^
I have not seen Wellington Wines in a clearance cart, but I have seen them at pretty decent discounts at my local Lunardi's. You will be happy to know that your wine does not sit on the shelves long after it's been put on sale. ;)

I really appreciate the sentiment with regards to Hispanic immigrants. I have worked with many, and have often been very impressed by their work ethic and devotion to family.



Hispanic immigrants do work that very few U.S. born workers (of any background) are willing to do. I used to take pride in not asking anyone to do work that I wasn't willing or able to do, but as I get older there are more things I'm physically unable to do well. I used to say my employees work with me, not for me. I still pick grapes for a while each harvest; it helps me remember to be patient when the crew is slowing down on a hot day.

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 256 Private Messages SonomaBouliste

There was an article about the "Aspen effect", or "Disneyfication" in the Napa Valley Register today: http://www.napavalleyregister.com/articles/2008/06/27/opinion/matt_pope/doc48655d4316b43966493572.txt