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 M├ęthode 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.