most of the time, though, the box DOES say ‘alcohol, the person signing has to be over 21’ or something ont the label on the outside, so there’s no way to really be stealth about it if you’re trying to ship it to work but think it won’t be cool.
“Much of it still sits in barrel as we wait for another earthquake to destroy the lots.”
As a Bay Area resident myself, I appreciate the practical attitude toward our friendly neighborhood temblors. However, I have to question if there’s not any potential for this stash at all? If you weren’t going to use the wines, surely you’d pitch the juice and at least put the barrels to some use. So do you hold onto them in the hopes of maybe pulling off a NV table wine if the stars align and you find some cheap grapes after a good harvest? Are you crossing your fingers that you manage to grow something yourselves that could make a good blend? And how long can you hold wines in a barrel before you blend them anyway? After a while, isn’t the oak just going to become obnoxious?
I talked with Adam about 11am this morning and he said he’ll be ready to roll when he gets back from the fields this evening. He said he was going to try and take some pictures of what’s he’s up to today and we’ll see about posting them and linking to them a little later. I think we can expect paragraphs more of education and “humor” as he gets back
Joshua - you mentioned that with these wines, you try to offer the best value for the price point. I’ll bite and ask how you target a wine for a give pricepoint. Does it start out as early as leaving more buds for more fruit, doing more pressings, buying from ernest and julio, or is it a more subtle thing?
Glad to see so much participation from the entire winery crew
Fair question, let me see what I can do to answer it. Let me start off by saying I don’t know a damn thing about what Adam and Andy do in the vineyards to prepare the different blocks of wine for processing (well, I’ve been through enough vineyard tours to know a bit, but not to give an authoritative answer). As with (hopefully) all vineyards Adam and Andy have been trying to get the best quality possible out of the vines we own. Getting the quality requires a certain amount of TLC in people and materials. Paying for that TLC means each ton ends up costing a certain amount that translates into a probable price point. Sorry I’m being vague, but I don’t have any real numbers to work with. You take the cost of goods for each ton of grapes and add in sales and marketing costs, likely margins for the distributor and the retailer and you can figure pretty close to what the wine will cost the consumer.
Assuming Adam and Andy are happy with the quality (see Adams comment about the 04 Smith & Hook) they look at the quantity we can pull from our own vineyards against the amount we are trying to make to satisfy our 3-tier and direct sales (that’s me!) across the country. If the COGs are too high or we don’t have enough juice to make the amount of wine we want, it’s time to source wine from either other vineyards we own or from juice wholesalers. To make what is becoming a long story short, you go out looking for the region you want, the quality you want, and the price you want. If the crop has been good, you will find good juice on the cheap (like Australia has had in the previous years in their wine glut, before the current drought hit). If you can’t find the quality you want at the price you are shooting for you either need to sacrifice quality or quantity (hint: we don’t sacrifice quality).
Lastly, you do blind tastings against differently priced wines to see how your quality fares against wines in the same or higher price points. As we tend to do pretty well against wines that are priced higher than we are, we end up with a wine that give more quality than a consumer might expect when they pick a wine that fits their budget.
And there you have the 5 cent tour of creating wine pricing, a process that takes years from bud break to bottle.
NOT a dumb question at all. In fact, I bet very few people know that animal proteins have been in use in winemaking for well over 100 years. Isinglass, which is Sturgeon collagen (sp?), is used for removing bitterness from white wines. Casein, or milk protein, is used for removing darker oxidized “browning” components from white wine as well as removing some bitter tannins from reds. Egg whites have a traditional use in removing rough astringency from reds and helps in highlighting the oak. Ox blood, which has been banned virtually everwhere in the world for many years, was used for…God knows what…I’m assuming some kind of bitterness removal. And of course, ripping the head off a chicken and dancing around a tank naked in the moonlight to appease Jobu, the God of Stuck Fermentations, is still in use…at least at our winery.
Thanks to modern technology, most of these additives used for “Fining” (or removing unwanted characteristics) have been replaced by both modern synthetic polymers - polyvinylpolypyrrolidone for example - and modern grape growing and winemaking techniques so that much of these are no longer required. I, for one, am of the opinion that most fining agents are too non-specific and a bit too destructive to some of the more delicate aromatic and flavor characteristics of a wine. The term we use is “strip” - as in “the casein stripped the hell out of that Chardonnay. It tastes like watered-down panther piss to me…”.
I last time we used any proteinaceous fining agents on any wines was the 02 Vent de Lucia Rose, which needed Isinglass at a rate of 1/64th of a pound per 1000 gallons to take out a funky little bitterness at the back end.
I can say with 100% certainty that all of our current wines are vegan.
Ahhhh. A question I get more often than what you might expect. The answer is actually very simple. Thanks to a flood of excellent wines at affordable prices from the Australians, the Chileans, the Argentines, the South Africans, and the New Zealanders, the bar has been raised across the rest of the wine world. Most of us no longer stand for substandard wines as was the case a decade and a half ago. Bad wines from poor wineries are harder to find. Capitalism at it’s finest is alive and well within our industry. The bad guys just go out of business. And consequently, the people who buy wines for the bigger chains aka Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Costco, are experts and are well trained to spot bad swill. They each have thousands of solid wines to choose from at great prices, so the chance of finding something “bad” from any of these outlets is slim to none.
So, the question remains, what should YOU buy. If you are new to wine, I would try a few inexpensive bottles of Chardonnay from one of these places. Many are produced in a “non-offensive” style with a little sweetness and pretty oak flavors. Invite a friend or two over. My suggestion would be Lindeman’s Bin 65 Chardonnay from Australia or Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay from California. Both are considered excellent entry level wines that appeal to a very broad audience. If those don’t work, go for a Sutter Home White Zinfandel…one of the wines that many people started with. As long as it comes from the grape, we in the industry are happy.
I was wondering if one of my fellow mid-Cal compatriots would comment on the “earthquake” reference. Sorry, I too am a bit sensitive about those nasty little “plate adjustments” (as I look out at the cracks in my stucco from the last 6.8 we had…). The short answer is YES, we can use that wine. The law as it now stands gives us the ability to blend upwards of 5% off vintage wine into an appellated vintage designated wine. That is, if my wine says 2005 and says Monterey or Central Coast, I can pitch 5% from 2004 into it. If the wine has a County on the label (Monterey County, Sonoma County, Napa County for example), I can blend upwards of 15% off vintage into it.
Now lest you think that this is a way to lose crappy plonk into a current release, you are only partially correct. Some wines that don’t make the initial cut aren’t necessarily bad. Some are too tannic, maybe too green (as was the case in the 2004 Smith & Hook) to use. They just didn’t fit. Barrels and time are the great equalizers. After 3 or 4 years in a barrel, all wine tastes pretty great and innocuous. The green characters go away as the rough tannins soften and “melt”. Pitching a little “aged claret” character into the blends has always been a secret recipe for my wines. Takes the hard edge off. The wines don’t get oakier as you might expect. A balance is reached. Something of a sine wave takes place where the wines get too oaky, then the oak drops out, then gets oaky, then drops out, etc, etc. If you catch the wine on the downward wave, you can get some pretty amazing blending components to use.
I expect that the 04 Smith & Hook wines will make really nice blending components over the next few years. If an earthquake topples the barrels, then we can write them off. Either way, we win…
OK, I think I can be confidant when I say that we have yet to have an offer that actually provides us with a daily pictoral process showing the developement of wine in general. I’m moderately intoxicated, but none the less, I’m CERTAIN that I would LOVE pictures that show the entire fall process. This is a fabulous idea, and as somebody that hasn’t bought yet, and is already impressed, I’m sure you could get many triple orders if you actually provided on this point.
You get the good, the bad, and the ugly when you signed us up to come on board. Now for the fun. Spent all day in the vineyards. Made picking decisions on Syrah, Pinot Naaaarrrrrgh (my own pirate contribution), Malbec, and Merlot. I chose not to forward any skimple leather thong photos to Josh. I suspect you would each have to reprogram your BIOS if those pics ever made it to your computers… I can say with about 80% certainty that this may be the best quality since 97. Yeah. Everyone says that every year. OK. So what makes this different? The berry size. Damn! I have NEVER seen such small berries in my life. Think of .22 caliber BBs. Cab, Merlot, Petite Verdot. Across the board…tiny friggin berries. This is good for a few reasons. Smaller skin to juice ratios. More skin (where the color and flavors come from in reds) to the amount of juice. Higher concentration of extract. Also, each berry gets exposed to the elements. So every berry has a chance to ripen consistently as opposed to tight clusters where the inner berries don’t get the sun. Also, this allows for air cuurent so less rot and mildew. The flavors are outstanding. No bitter green bell pepper flavors at the lower sugars. Good God!. This may be like 03 where we were able to yank the grapes off the vines at reasonable sugars since full flavor maturity is occuring at traditional sugar levels. I have called in Merlot and will call in Cab at 23.5 - 24 % sugar this year meaning that our best wines may end up at 13.5-14% alcohols. By California standards, these may seem ridiculously low, but I still believe that high alchols mask the real fruit flavors of a wine. Stay tuned. This is gonna be a wild week. Everything is ripening at the same time. My poor cellar guys are about to get religion…
OK. Josh and I need to figure this out. I expect most protocols would preclude photo attachments on a site like. We talked earlier and I think the prudent thing to do is forward my Treo photos to him where he can post them somewhere. He has the degree and know how. I barely scratched thru an Enology degree in a moderately innebriated state at CSU Fresno. I am still trying to find that pesky O N-O F F switch on this thing…
ok I still concider myself a relative noob, BUT here’s where I stand. I have decided, through personal tasting as well as wine.woot offers that I don’t like chard because of the way to over butter flavor. btw I have no official training in vocabulary so I don’t know if that’s what I should say or not, but it was buttery. in general I don’t think I’ve found a white zin that I liked because they are all way to sweet to me. I have learned that fruity doesn’t equal sweet, because I had a rather nice fruit forward wine that wasn’t sweet at all. I used to think that I liked cabs, but I’m not certain. I have truely found I like French blends a lot, but I’m not sure why. I do remember having merlot in the past and I did like it a good deal. In general I find I like blends, but I really dont’ know, nor have I taken notes, on which those are.
I know this is a tall order, but what do you think I would like???
I would love imput from all 4 of the reps present as I am also learning that every suggestion is well worth paying attention too, and feel free to be blatantly suggestive to your own products. I would love to hear suggestions for French wines, but I’d love to hear your own as well. I live in NYC and went to my 2 favorite/closest wine stores and could not find any hahn, but I"ll continue to search based off of your imput.
As someone who has experienced several EQ’s such as the San Simeon and the Northridge, I have often been tempted to ask about wine storage in EQ country. Have there been any advancements in wine storage for earthquakes? I know typically barrels are stacked on racks with no bracing or anchoring to walls…With so many wineries stretched along california’s coastal regions it would seem that there is so much to lose in a major event.
do the smaller berries mean higher tannis, due to the skin to pulp ratio? Does that mean that you have a wine this year that will be much more tuned too aging and longevity? If so can I buy a case based off of your word and hope I"ll be a long term costumer if you’re found to be honest? I do give you my patronage if that is the case.
This is a point I’ve never thought about. Does this explain why so many Cali wineries want to sell their wines as quickly as possible and possibly explain why US wines in general are meant to be consumed NOW as quickly as possible, don’t age us, we don’t want to break?