Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Screw the cork or Zork the cork?

From the beginning we had planned to use screw caps as the closure for our wines. Corks were a great improvement over sealing wax and cotton plugs a few hundred years ago, but there are more consistent alternatives these days. Small guys like us just can't afford to sacrifice 5-10% of our wine to the spoilage that accompanies corks. But we couldn't swing the cost of the screw cap machine with everything else we need and we already had the gear to stuff corks in a bottle, so for the next year or two we are buying the cleanest corks we can and keeping our fingers crossed. Along comes the Zork closure - a new fangled idea from Australia. Joan told me to check them out a few months ago, but I paid no attention until Will returned from Australia and sent me a photo and testimonial. The technical data confirm it has no risk of cork taint as might be expected from a plastic device, and is more like a screw cap that a cork in terms of oxygen ingress and premature aging of wines. Maybe we'll try a few hundred and see how they fair in the tasting room. Check them out at:

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sangiovese Day

Yesterday we bottled about 80 cases of Sangiovese. This yummy Italian grape is in your favorite Chianti, and it's the first Canelo Hills red to be put in bottles. Tiffany and Tristan came down to help. Since they were such troopers, we filled, corked, and boxed a case of wine every few minutes.

We took a break for lunch and some barrel-tasting of the Syrah and Cabernet which have a little more stewing to do before they're ready for bottles. Already pretty tasty, though!

At the end of the hot day of work, we were ready for long naps, but as you can see, the dogs were still ready to rumble.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Yeah, right. Typical of males,Tim gets to praise the grapes that magically appear and grow on the vines. I, of course, am left with the daily task of tugging, coaxing and demanding they grow up right. Right now our third year Syrah is in its adolescence. It wants to grow up way too fast and thinks the direction it wants to head in is the right one. In this picture I am trying to keep up with the growth, clip its exuberance back and direct it in a way that will sustain it for many years. This is not an easy task as they are already towering over my head.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Early Childhood Development

In about 100 days the vines go from looking totally dead to offering up fully ripe grape clusters. It's a miracle really. I'm mostly down at the vineyard on weekends, so the changes are more dramatic to me then they are to Joan who toils several time a week and experiences more incremental changes. Watching the vine tendrils lasso what ever they feel like (I'd prefer they lasso the trellis wire) is the most amazing, almost sentient activity the vines undertake, but to me the growth and progress of the grape clusters is the most exciting. I suppose that's because I make the wine. These are some fine looking Syrah grape children.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Winters are rough on grape vines and this year was no exception. There was a period of time in the winter that the temperatures dipped down to 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Grape plants don't like that very much and when combined with the challenging growing conditions in our part of the world the added stress was just too much. Grape farming is all about renewal. So I had to rip out the dead old plants to put in the new ones. Actually "rip" is the technical term. I dug the dang things out. Farming provides lots of time for meditation and my mediation as I struggled with stubborn root systems is that a shovel is the tool I have used most in the vineyard. This is what a grape vine cemetery looks like.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Usually I don't help Joan much in the vineyard this time of year. For the past several years it's been building construction and trellis work that has occupied my time. (Oh I shouldn't forget madly putting up a deer fence last year.) But this year I have been helping with the important task of training and shaping the growing vines. One morning, early before the wind stated to pick up, I noticed a sweet perfume in the air. It was like a very faint honey smell. I had never before smelled the scent of grape flowers. The vineyard is full of tens of thousands, probably even millions of grape cluster flowers now and it didn't take long to identify them as source of the aroma. Heavenly.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


It’s taken me a few days to write this entry. First there was Denial – “Tim, when I was down at the winery today it smelled a lot like sparkling wine. Maybe one of the bottles leaked”. Then there was Anger, accompanied by a lot of cuss words. I tried to Bargain – well maybe not all the bottles leaked, maybe if I just do a super tightening redo job on the crown caps it’ll preserve the pressure that is remaining in the bottles, maybe it was just one bottle that was defective and blew up under the pressure. The Depression stage is just lifting as I’ve stopped busying myself with meaningless and repetitive tasks to distract myself from Accepting that almost all 45 cases of sparkling wine were lost because of a defective bottle that didn’t allow a pressure tight seal for the secondary fermentation and essential carbonation that occurs in the bottle. I did learn that the yeast build up was successful and the secondary fermentation was progressing full steam. My dad asked what I learned. “There are a lot of ways to screw up winemaking.” (Apologies to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross)