Sunday, December 21, 2008

Time to be Merry

This weekend a group of Sonoita Winemakers got together to sample the fruits of our 2008 labors. From time to time we do this - pull off samples from our barrels and gather to taste and critique each other's wines.  It is takes a few months to recover from harvest, so the winter solstice is usually a good mark for our first tasting.  20+ samples in all, so there is a lot of tasting and spitting. Otherwise our wits leave us quickly. I must say the wines I tasted were all very good. Certainly the 5 of us have different wine making styles and philosophies so similar wines using similar grapes often tasted quite differently one from another.  But all good. It is becoming more and more clear that there is a very distinct quality to Sonoita grown grapes.  We all make Estate Wines so we have the luxury of honing in on that unique wine profile.  It is unmistakeable, even when expressed through our various styles.  The 2008 vintage will be a big hit when it is released over the next few  years.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


- as in asleep. So what does wine look like in the winter? I realize it’s not yet winter but close enough. After harvest, crush, ferment, press, settling, and racking – comes the slow quiet action in barrels and tanks. New wine is very fruity but rough with lots of yeast and vegetable smells and tastes. It takes a few months for that to settle out and integrate into the wine. In the case of wine in barrels there is the additional activity of merging the wine with the oak characteristics of the wood and managing the subtle but important chemical reactions that only can occur in a wood. This is what it looks like. Not much I know, but in the absence of vigorous fermentation and bubbling the wine is actually very susceptible to spoilage and other problems. It is a nerve wracking time for me as I’m busy with topping off barrels, testing the wine, tasting the wine and keeping it healthy, but actually it is one of my favorite stages of wine making.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wreath Making Madness

Our wreath-making workshop Saturday was a great success. We had 14 eager participants join us for an afternoon of crafting, conversation, and wine. They impressed us with their enthusiasm and creativity.

Participants cut their own vines from the vineyard, twisted them into beautiful wreaths, and decorated them. Afterwards we sat down to tasty holiday cookies and a sample of Canelo Hills sparkling wines, while Tim spoke about how he made the sparkling wines by the Méthode Champenoise.

I have more good photos than I could fit in one blog posting, so check the rest of the photos on our website. Thanks to all who attended and made the workshop such a success. This will surely become a holiday tradition - look out for two sessions of it next year!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Haiku Winner

Here's the latest winning haiku in our Wine & Western Haiku Contest. This haiku was composed by Jason Smith of Smith Creek Ranch in Sonoita. Thanks, Jason!

Our Sonoita town
where wind blows and the sun shines
gossip when it rains

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Winter Vineyard

This is what the vineyard looks like on a wintry day. Dead. But it isn't. The vines are only dormant. In the spring they will wake up, stretch, and start budding out; at least most of them. See all the branches poking out all over the place? Each and every one will need to be pruned before the vines wake up this coming spring. I have already begun the winter pruning. More on that in future posts.

Monday, December 1, 2008


The release of the sparkling wine was a big hit this past weekend. Many of our customers - new and old, enjoyed tasting this special holiday offering. The Sparkling Chardonnay (known as Blanc de Blanc in Champange, France) is spritzy, lively and very tasty. It'll be great at Christmas or New Year or any festive occasion. The Sparkling Nebbiolo is the only such wine that I know of in the whole wide world.  It has amazingly tiny and long lasting bubbles with a wide range of tart fruit and wine flavors. It'll be great at Christmas or New Year or any festive occasion (didn't I already say that?). One of the very dramatic events of the Champagne method of making sparkling wine in its' own bottle is the step called disgorgement - when the frozen plug of wine and yeast is propelled out of the bottles.  I'm currently working on a video that explains the whole process and when it's done we'll have it playing at the winery and I'll have Kathryn put on our facebook page. It'll prominently feature the moment of disgorgement.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New look

If you come down to Canelo Hills this weekend for our sparkling wine release, you'll see that our winery building has a new look.

Mike and his crew from Stronghold Signs in Sierra Vista did a fantastic job painting our name above the porch, despite the challenging contours of the building's siding.

We were going for a look that echoed the painted signs of older Western towns, to make a link with the ranching heritage of Sonoita and Elgin. We're really happy with the results -- what do you think?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another Winning Haiku

Here's this week's winner of our Wine & Western Haiku Contest:

Sumptuous bouquet
Stay with me forever more
Soon a fleeting taste

Visit our tasting room and compose one of your own!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What's a Farmer To Do?

I have a few more weeks left before I go back into the vineyard to start the winter pruning. Tim does the wine-making, Kathryn does the marketing. So, what am I supposed to write in the blog when I have no farming to report? Nothing. I'll just post pictures from the past couple of months. The first is Tim pitching the grapes into the crusher/destemmer. The second is of the juice collecting in the tray after being squeezed by the press. I love watching the running juice and listening to it splashing into the tray. It seems like magic to me even though I know there was lots of work that went on before this. After all, it is the end result of my grape farming.
Oops! I guess I did find something to write about!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This week's winning haiku

Here it is! Thanks to everyone who's been putting their creativity to good use, composing haikus in the tasting room.

We love wine so much
Southeast Arizona . . . Yeah!!
Think I'll buy a bunch!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Winemakers' Hands

Back in October, during the height of the 2008 crush, some of the Sonoita winemakers got together for a much needed break from the long, tiring days of picking and processing grapes. I couldn't resist taking this picture. It is both a badge of honor for the hard work and maybe a little bit of embarrassment when at their day job or simply out signing receipts at stores. It is also an easy way for tasting room customers to pick which wine pourer is the winemaker!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Haiku Winner

Last week's winning haiku came from a visitor to our tasting room. Here it is:

Dry oak, earthen sweet
Cotton clouds on vine and land
Angels' dew on tongue

You can always compete electronically. Email your haiku submission to to get in the running.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Miracle of Life

I haven't written any blogs this week because we lost our beloved winery dog, Cassie, this past week-end. Tim, Emma and I will continue to grieve the loss of this fine companion but also realize there is much to celebrate in life.

We have finished bottling our 2007 Estate Syrah and Tempranillo. This has brought me such feelings of pride and joy. It is hard to explain but to put plants into the ground, nurture them, turn out fruit and see the finished wine product is simply an awesome feeling. It makes me think of all the farmers who bring us our food and clothes and what a huge debt we own them. They toil day in and day out to bring us the miracle of life. Have you thanked a farmer today?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hacienda Corona Get-Away

Tim and I decided to take a few days off to celebrate the end of our growing and harvest seasons. We decided to stay at Wendy and Phil Stover's lovely B&B which is between Patagonia and Nogales. It was just what we were looking for. The hacienda has been elegantly restored and has a rich history which the Stovers are excited to share with guests. Look it up at I know Tim and I will go back. Maybe we'll see you there!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Week 3 Haiku Winner

Robert and Joanne Moore are this week's winners of our wine haiku contest. They sent their submission -- a haiku trilogy! -- by email after visiting our tasting room. Thanks, Robert and Joanne!

Here's how wine is made.
Pick grapes, crush them, ferment them.
Clarify them and wait.

Store in a barrel.
Pour it, put a cork in it.
Let it sit awhile.

Now enjoy the wine.
Red, white, dry, full-bodied, sweet
So many flavors!

For details on the haiku contest, visit our facebook page.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Even Cuter

Cassy and Emma are pretty cute, but every once in a while they are upstaged. Both of them have a nack for knowing when children have come into the tasting room and both of them love greeting them.  No barks, no growls, just licks and kisses.  Emma catches on first, but eventually even old Cass gets into the action.  This past weekend Jolie met a dog that was her size and Jane, Michael and Christopher enjoyed petting Cassy's soft coat.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Love is Blind

It’s over. Thanks to the assistance of five volunteers and new friends last week we harvested the last of our own fruit – Tempranillo. It is now pressed and resting in a big tank.The crush this year, which began at the end of August, was memorable.

My second trip to Willcox to pick up fruit from Arizona Stronhold Vineyards and Sweet Sunrise Vineyards resulted in a load of two tons of Chardonnay and two tons of Malvasia. Luckily driving out of the vineyard Peter noticed a flat tire on the trailer – fortunate because I was able to repair it in “downtown” Willcox. Unfortunately while tooling along I-10 at about 65 mph, the truck totally blew a rear tire. It took me about 2 hours to change the tire – a rather complex process considering I had a ton of grapes in the bed of the truck and three tons under tow on the trailer and interstate traffic was whizzing along past me at dizzying speeds.

When I finally got back to the winery at 3 pm, crush began – not ending until 3 am the next morning, even with Joan’s help loading the press. To bed at 3am and up at 6 am to get the next load of Syrah. Another flat tire, 4 new truck tires, a new trailer tire, crazy moments under tow battling semi-trucks at 70mph. Repeat for Sangiovese Clone 2, Nebbiolo, Syrah from AZ Stronghold, and the Sangiovese Brunello clone. 
I’m glad it’s over. It was much more logistically easy to harvest our own Syrah, Tempranillo and little bits of Mourvedre, Riesling and Zinfandel.

The fruit looks lovely, the young wine is yummy. Picking, crushing, pressing, racking, cleaning, pumping, tasting, worrying. Repeat as needed. That’s harvest. Romantic – on the big screen maybe. In reality – for about half a day. Do I love it? Yes

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Week 2 Haiku Winner

Congratulations to Janice, who was in our tasting room on Sunday and composed this week's winning wine haiku. Thanks, Janice!

Red bottles of wine.
Juicy, sweet, tasty manna
from heaven above!

For details on the haiku contest, visit our facebook page.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What Can I Say?

Tim challenged me to put this picture of Emma and me getting ready to take a walk over to visit Lisa Callaghan. I could say Emma is just there for the weight bearing part of my exercise routine. But, what the heck. This is what one becomes after the children leave home. Emma and I both enjoy it. And Lisa never laughs at us. At least not to our faces!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Haiku Winner!

The first winner of our Wine & Western Haiku contest is Kim Carlson.

Here's her winning haiku:

sniffed the fragrant wine,
tongue touched the awesome rosé
full glass in nine months.

Congrats, Kim!

The contest is set up in our tasting room. You can also contribute online through our facebook page.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Volunteer Grape Pickers

We had a wonderful volunteer crew Saturday to pick the Tempranillo and Mourvedra consisting of Ann, Reuben, Anna, Tina, and Bruce. The fruit was picked by noon and Tina and Bruce even stuck around to help process the harvest. Thanks to you all.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The 2008 Crush Continues

The crush is going well. Tim is working long days processing all the grapes. When he can come up for air he'll start writing some blogs about it. Tim likes taking breaks from the work to talk with the tasting room visitors who mosey back behind the building to check out how things are going.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Coyote Saga Continued Part 2

Tim cut up some metal posts and pounded them into the ground. He then put the rocks against the posts and filled it all in with dirt. That seems like the end of the coyote problem and so far it is working. The coyote has dug on the other side of the fence but has not been able to tunnel through. I'm just waiting for the coyote to discover she can dig right next to the posts and rocks!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Coyote Saga Continued

So, here's the deal. I patched the hole under the fence at the back of the vineyard while Tim closed the space under the gate. The coyote had been coming in the back, exiting out the front. Simple. So we thought. However, the very next day as I drove up to open the gate I noticed fresh coyote scat and some clawing under the gate. It looked like the coyote was able to get in but did not manage to dig under the gate to get back out. So, I went back to check on my patch job. These pictures show what happened. That darn coyote was able to dig the dirt and somehow move the large rocks I had put in the hole out of the way, clear on the other side of the fence!

I'll put up some pictures tomorrow on how Tim thinks he solved the problem once and for all.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We're on faceboook!

One of my first tasks as Director of Marketing was to create a presence for Canelo Hills on We now have a page, which you can view here. If you're on facebook, visit our page and become a fan!
We'd love for our fans to interact with us and post photos of their visits to Canelo Hills, comments on our wines or the tasting room experience, and start discussions about anything wine-related. I'd also appreciate your feedback on our page.
See you on facebook!


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

We're Bottling!

The last couple of weeks have been busy for us. We are bottling the 2007 wines and crushing this year's harvest. We've had some return volunteers and some new ones helping. A couple of weeks ago Karla, Alicia, Mark and, of course, our daughter, Kathryn, bottled the Syrah. This past Sunday Casey and Amber Polivchak spent one of their rare days off bottling the Sangiovese. We finished that bottling early so they also labeled some Malvasia. Tim and I feel very fortunate to have so many wonderful people involved in the workings of our winery.