|H a r v e s t ' s P r o g r e s s
January 12 th 2008
I just wanted to let everyone know that the harvest of 2007 was really good.
April 18 th 2007
( see the note below for June 21, 2006 )
ha! Ha! HA ! , and I thought we were going to stop making Sparkling Syrah.
You know, on June 21st 2006, something must have come over me. Yes.
Maybe it was hot and I was tired, yes, let's say that and not go into it.
Please know, our little diversion, Sparkling Syrah, is alive and well,
and we'll be right back on it for the harvest of 2007. Yes.
Ya know, this tastes way better than crow,
but ya know,
after you eat enough crow, you start to like it.
But this still tastes way better than crow !
June 21st 2006
'Tis the Summer Solstice, and we have set ourselves to think on the harvest.
( now remember dear ones )
The allure of winegrowing is that there are so many possibilities.
Ideas and creativity just naturally proliferate.
So it's good to just stop and ask....
Am I getting romanced by all the possibilities?
What are all these little seductions?
They coyly say,
"I'll betcha this will taste good. Why don't you make a little some time."
So not wanting to offend the natural bounty that is being offered to us...
I just say yes!
Then later, during some hot day, just before the longest day and shortest night,
me being a little on the tired side, I just stop and ask,
" W h y i s t h i s s o m u c h w o r k ? "
And it's at that moment that seduction meets the light of day.
A mid-course correction is created.
And here is the progress that we have made as we think about the upcoming harvest.
We are thinking about less work and more focus. Go more to where the heart is.
And have some fun doing it.
So we are going to stop making Sparkling Syrah
and set about drinking up what we
have been given by
October 30th 2005
Today, a harvest of another kind occurred.
Darroll Martin was the vintage, and the receiving winery was heaven.
I tell this story not only because he was a good, good friend, I tell it because
I met Darroll due to winegrowing. Twenty one years ago, he exposed me to, and
initiated me into the evolutionary way that I think about and experience winegrowing.
He helped me see that the world was not about meagerness, but there was an abundancy to
go around. And given my human condition, what was 'it ' that I thought was going to be
in short supply? It was love. And it was Darroll that helped me find and
experience a reservoir of love that doesn't go dry.
We came to meet by a very curious path. One of those circuitous paths of
lasting friendship where just that story of meeting itself is worth telling. It happened in
Texas when I was thirty four years old. I could describe myself at the time as an
accomplished but young winemaker, still a little naive. The path to our meeting started in
1980 when I started the Napa Valley School of Cellaring. One of the students was a fellow
by the name of Tom Greaves. He came from Texas to take some of the classes and examine
a possible career change. This was all happening during the era that the University of Texas
had come to the conclusion they could make a lot more money leasing out their thousands
of acres of arid land for grapes, instead of leasing it for goats and their mohair production.
This was substantiated by a high powered study done by a high powered consulting firm
that said this was all possible. The report opined that due to the loyalty that Texans have to
Texan products (Lone Star beer is a good example) they could out-Gallo-Gallo even if
the quality only approximated Gallo. There was sort of a vineyard gold-rush going on,
let's not fuss over how much gold would or would not be available,
it's just that there was all of the excitement of Eureka!
Then a few months after Tom had come to class, he called me up and recruited me
to come to Texas and make wine in the Red River Valley at Ivanhoe.
This is North of Dallas and a lot and a little West of Paris.
To prove how naive I was, and to observe how different the Republic of Texas is,
let me recount a little side-bar. Tom was on the phone with me during the lengthy
recruiting call and he was thinking-out-loud in the process of trying to figure out where
to put their winery. He reflected: if you put it in a 'wet' area it had this, this, and
this advantage. But if you put it in a 'dry' area, it had this, that, and those advantages.
In my naive-disorientation I listened to his long story. I finally said to him,
"Tom, can I interrupt you? I'm not exactly sure how much you know about winemaking,
but it's basically sanitation, and you are going to need a lot of water, so if I were you...
I'd put it in a wet area." There was a long silence on the other end of the phone.
Now he had the painful task of explaining to this newbie the prohibition laws of Texas
where the 'wet' areas could sell alcohol and the 'dry' areas couldn't.
Somehow I still got the job.
The job entailed mostly sociology. There were couples and individuals across the entire
range of sophistication that had invested literally their life-savings in the winery, and there
were those that had heard about it at a cocktail party in Dallas, and had gone back into the
room where they left their coat, gotten their check book, and written out a check
(equal to other's life-savings) because a winery sounded like a fun thing to do.
Trying to bring everyone together to a rationalized plan, was a trip.
But we did it, and a winery was constructed.
There was a lot of discussion, because this is the land of lively debate
(remember, this not-wealthy region of Texas is exactly where Sam Rayburn came from;
the person that had more power than anyone, before or after him, in the
United States Senate). The discussions would really get good into the evening.
The group would gravitate to Jim Bledsoe's place where we would all have highballs and
then several of us would cook dinner. After meat, potatoes, and a generous sampling of
various wines, we would retire to the screened-in porch. There, the discussion would
really get going. Yours truly from California was the entertainment. And why not?
They had bought me the airplane ticket and they were paying me. Plus, they were
trying to figure out if I really had the right-stuff to be their winemaker.
Everything was fair enough.
As you might guess, the evening discussions treated several philosophical subjects and
eventually rolled around to religion. There it came to light that I did not share the
religious views of the most vocal discussers. This debate went on for two nights.
On the third night it frankly became tedious to me because we were plowing land
that had already been plowed. So, to entertain myself, and unbeknownst to anyone, when
the debaters would use three particular words, in my head I would substitute my meaning
for two of the words, in place of their meaning, and the third word, I substituted a phrase.
The substitutions were the word love in the place of the word Jesus,
truth in the place of the word God,
and the phrase was- I don't know, I haven't read the whole book- for the word Bible.
You can imagine the confusing reversal of my stance, given that I was an agnostic,
although the shift wasn't noticed until about another hour of debate.
During that hour, the line of questioning was not tedious at all to me because I was
examining truth and love, rather than getting the evangelistic-full-court-press put on me.
Finally Darroll's twin brother, Carroll, noticed the shift and called me on it.
I didn't know what to say, other than to tell the truth.
I let the group in on the substitutions I had made. Their reactions were amazing.
Most felt as if they had been betrayed, that I had played a nasty parlor trick on them.
But one of them, Darroll Martin, just looked at me with wise eyes, behind a plume of
smoke from his pipe, and quietly said,
My journey didn't take a sudden turn at the time, but it started.
I have everyone in that room, that night, to thank... thank you.
And particularly I have Darroll to thank.
I wish the harvest had been put off,
but I know he likes the winery
where he is now.
I love you Darroll.
January 8th 2005
Today, after a holiday pause, Krassi, and I went and topped the wines.
We had a chance to take stock and think about what needed to be done in the new year.
To the wine, there is no sense of a new year, that doesn't happen until spring.
Nevertheless, we made our mental to-do list but didn't get started on
any of it because it was just too cold in the cellar, and the wine was
ok just like it was. Instead we went and visited our niece, Elena.
December 30th 2004
Today Krassi, Son Blake and I went and topped the wines.
We had a great team and it went so well that we were able to go out to Bodega Bay
and have a picnic. It further proved, there ain't no such thing as a bad picnic.
However, there was much discussion on the subject of what was
drizzle and what was rain and what was pouring rain
and what was freezing,
as we gathered empirical findings.
One of the best findings was a South African wine purchased at Andy's produce stand
December 22nd 2004
Today Krassi went and topped the wines while Bruce visited with colleagues.
Everything was nice, the surfaces of the wines were clear and mirror-like.
Then she went and visited her Mom.
Krassi thinks I shouldn't write this because this all part of a normal routine.
I think that normal routine is interesting when it's not really routine.
December 18th 2004
Today I went and looked at the barrels and thought about how they should be arranged
so we can encourage the Spring fermentation.
December 16th 2004
Today we topped up the 2003 and 2004 vintage. We stirred the lees on the
2004 lots of BaySee, Brickhill, & Bien Nacido Pinot Noirs, and the Shell Creek Petite Sirah.
I Checked the pH on the 2004 Pablo's Point 1 & 2.
Then something happened that is only funny
if you are working where it is as rural as it is, and it is as cold as it is,
you are as damp as you are, and you are resigned to the way that it is,
such that the job can get done that you really love,
but, it is as cold as it is... etc., etc., etc. So,
I stepped in some chicken shit. And I proceeded to track it in with me.
Once I got to the barrel, back in the corner, that I was sampling, I smelled it.
I more-or-less shrieked at Krassi and said, "Oh my god, this wine is really reduced,
or has some problem and I don't even know what it is."
Now Krassi in her complete composure says,
"Look on your shoes."
December 11th 2004
Today we topped up, and checked to see if the Brickhill - Saddle East lot was fermenting.
It was, which is good, although the residual sugar had not moved down much.
I guess these yeast are members of Slow Food too.
Speaking of cooking, I made a small tartaric addition to the two lots of
Brickhill - Pablo's Point. This is the trade-off of having ripe grapes.
December 3rd 2004
Today we topped up the 2003 and 2004 vintages.
We were delighted to find out that one of the four barrel of
Brickhill Vineyard's Saddle East Block was merrily fermenting away the
last 0.4% of sugar. So we lowered the other three barrels by a gallon and added a
gallon of the fermenting wine. We then tucked them in with an electric blanket.