Since the fires of 2019 there has been a lot of activity in the hills above Alexander Valley. Chainsaws and chippers have droned on endlessly through the winter. Recently, excavators and large trucks have been scooping away the rubble from the neighbor’s destroyed home in preparation to eventually rebuild what the fire had destroyed. In the vineyards, this time is devoted to pruning the ‘dormant’ vines.
Where to start? This has been a challenging year, even before the double whammy of extensive power outages and the Kincade fire (just fully contained as this is being written). With the wholesale wine market jammed with new labels and minions of salespeople all clamoring for attention, I find I am unable to keep our wines focused on in most of these markets. Yet what has always been solid for our winery over these many years is the support we have received from those of you on our mailing list. We thank you for never giving up on us. It is why we were able to start this winery in the first place and why we are still here.
In our Spring 2019 newsletter, I pretty much dared Nature to ‘bring it on’ regarding rainfall in our area. Well, this spring appeared to be the winter-that-didn’t-want-to-let-go. We had rainy conditions including a winter-style system come through in mid-later May just as some vineyards in Sonoma County began flowering. Fortunately, that was pretty much the end of those weather systems and temperatures warmed just enough to allow successful flowering in the majority of the sites I work with. There are still portions of vineyards that have very little crop. But from the way it looks at this point, we are generally looking at moderate crop levels with clusters that are like Goldilocks’ preference: Not too big, not too small…just about right.
Why so happy about rain? I remember the extremely dry start to the 2013-2014 rainy season and by early February of 2014 where I promised myself that I would not ever complain about too much rain, regardless of how inconvenient it may be at the time. It is far better to have more than enough rainfall than not enough.
Instead of following these new and shiny things, over the years I have tried to streamline our winemaking process. Rather than simply introducing more steps, additives, manipulations, etc. to ‘improve’ only one aspect at a time, I have tried to stand back and focus on as much of the whole picture as I am capable of to refine the process.
I talk about balance [in wine] a lot. My favorite definition is that opposing forces are present in equivalent prominence. I consider the fundamental axis of balance in wine as ‘angles and rounds.’ ‘Angles’ are the harsh, pointy things like acidity and tannins. ‘Rounds’ are the softer, plush, sweet and/or textural parts such as Glycerol (a polyol formed in proportion to alcohol) and sugar if present in the wine style [not mine]
The devastating wild fires in the north coast these past two weeks has affected everyone in the area more than any event I have seen. In the early aftermath, we find some things to be grateful for, personally. First off, our family is safe. The long-time family house where my parents and sister live is[…]
Myself, I like puzzles. Spatial puzzles are the easiest. Rubik’s cube, I didn’t dig so much after staying up most of a night thinking I was so close to solving it (I wasn’t). Some puzzles are easily solved and others are long-term projects that require years to see the consequences of choices made. This is why winemaking suits my personality: I like some things to move slowly so I can ponder them.
It is interesting that in the English language our term for producing wine implies a very active role on the part of the people involved. I remember when studying French in college, I was frustrated by the lack of literal translation of the English word ‘winemaker.’ There were French terms that translated to ‘manager’, ‘cellar[…]
Each year when I write this particular newsletter, we are either still buried under a pile of grapes or as in this case, mostly finished with the heavy work load. It is a great time to reflect upon what the vintage has given us and how we responded to it.