Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Harvest 2008 Has Begun

Wow-a year has passed and we are harvesting again. Our first grapes (Sauvignon Blanc) arrived Thursday. Hard to believe one year has passed since I dumped the first bin of Sauvignon Blanc grapes last year. To be honest, my headed isn't spinning so fast for this harvest. That doesn't mean that we're not chasing hard-it simply means I have a better understanding that grapes come when they come.

Last year I had a hard time grasping the uncertain time table for harvest. Sure, I knew what was going to happen but the reality was, it was hard for me to learn/accept that we can't have things scheduled as I would like for harvest. We sample and sample until Kerry calls for the pick of a vineyard with 48 hour notice. I had a hard time scheduling other appointments as I was uncertain as to when grapes were to arrive and to be honest, I didn't want to miss seeing each vineyard's grapes arrive-it was my first harvest and I was excited. I'm just as excited but I understand what I need to do now with scheduling. I simply schedule all my other activities and meeting and if I need to cancel so be it. Everyone in the area understands it's harvest and don't take offense to cancellations. If I had known last year that I could have said-Grapes are coming in, I'm going to have to cancel-I would have a few less gray hairs.

This harvest has a different feel for me. I have better relationships with each grower this year. I gotten to know them and appreciate their vineyards and have developed a friendship with several. I was always passionate from the first day I started to pursue the wine industry but that passion continues to multiply everyday. I have a greater sense of pride/responsibility for each vineyard when the fruit comes in. Knowing the growers well, drives me-they have put their trust in DCW to "do right" by the fruit and their name that is associated with it. I don't want to let them down-only exceed their expectations. Secondly, I desire to have great fruit and wine for our DCW family/club members and our future customers. All of that starts in the vineyard and then crush.

We're just getting started for this Harvest. Some of the Maple Zinfandel grapes are due in tomorrow continuing thru Wednesday. Costello and Comstock are arriving this week as well. Will be a busy time on the crush pad this week. Stay tuned for updates and pictures every few days as I'll keep you briefed on our progress.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Having Fun Being Energy Conscience

OK-Who says you can't have fun and be environmentally conscience? Not DCW! We have recently acquired a Segway to travel in our vineyards. It's our way of continuing to take steps forward in becoming an energy efficient/conscience business. As hopefully many of you know, DCW installed solar panels on the winery and at the house. We just decided to take it to the next step and evaluate where we could improve our energy use.

Our mule is used two ways mainly. The most important way is our vineyard tours. Secondly, we spend time traveling in our vines and around our property for various reasons. Now, we will still use the mule for our tours as I assume no one wants in have a piggyback ride while I'm driving the Segway. But we realized that we actually used the mule chasing around the vineyard much more than once thought. We really wanted to reduce our fuel consumption. After an in depth search, we came up with two options-bicycles and a Segway. A bike is always my first choice of transportation (and if you are here at certain times, you'll see Dutchess running beside me while I bike the vineyards) but I can't say my entire staff shares that same view. Especially when it's 106+ degrees out in the vineyard. So, we've added a Segway.

Many people asked "Why and how would it work in the vineyard?". Segway makes a x2 model. Built specifically to be an all terrain product. It's tough and roughed-ready to take us where we need to go. With deep tread tires and a wider base, this allows us to travel in nearly any condition we'll face in the vineyard. Well-maybe not the current condition in our fallow field with the deep trenches. Joe and I are not that skilled yet to tackle those. We can travel 12 miles on a charged battery and zip along at speed of 12.5 mph. We haven't maxed out the speed yet as 7-8 mph feels like you're flying-we can't imagine the 12.5 mph but I'm sure we'll have a go at it sooner than later.

I'm still and always will be a bicycle girl for my preferred choice of transportation but we believe that this Segway will help reduce our fuel use. We use at least 2 tanks of gas per month for the mule and our hope is to reduce our use to max of 1 tank every 2 months. Some people may think it's too little of an amount to make a different but WE DON'T! Every single amount of conservation adds up and if everyone starts to do their part-that's when we'll start to see progress. Now, I'm not suggesting that everyone go purchase a Seway or electric car but think before you travel-car pool, ride your bike or even walk. Everything and everyone can make a difference and we need to start now before it's too late. I only have one piece of advice-DON'T LET KERRY DRIVE A SEGWAY IF YOU GET ONE-HE CRASHED OURS INTO THE WINERY ALREADY!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

July Bottling Complete

It never ceases to bring a smile to my face when I see the bottling process completed. Every bottling seems to bring about different obstacles and hurdles to overcome and my wine making team plows thru them with determination.

What many people outside the industry don't have privy to is what goes on behind the scenes in preparation for bottling. This actually is more stressful for a winemaker than harvest in general (or at least for my team). Sure, there is a lot of work that goes on during harvest and throughout the time a specific varietal and vintage is in barrel. That's part of the winemaker being an artist in my opinion. But, the crucial time is prepping the wine for bottling. For wineries like us, we create some of our blends closer to bottling (Yep, Kerry doesn't co-ferment at DCW) and make the final last minutes adjustments to the wine. I will explain at a later date the steps in detail which they go through the month plus prior to bottling but this is focus time for the guys. Blending, filtration, stabilization etc are all occurring during this time frame. They almost behave like expectant fathers the way they pace and obsess over the wine. I'm not exaggerating this as I was on the crush pad at 615am tasting wine with them. Kerry said he loves to be there as he wants to be able to make the tiniest adjustments right before it goes in to bottle-if he has too. "I want them just right" said Kerry. As the owner, I absolutely love that. I'm involved with the final blending decisions but what I enjoy most is the time I spend with them on the crush pad leading up to and during bottling. I have the opportunity to taste the wine at different stages-even more exciting is seeing them take the time to educate the staff about the wine and bottling process. They are beginning to understand the more knowledge our crew has about each wine-the more the crew become spokespersons and passionate about the products.

10 wines were bottled in July and it was unanimous that these were the best wines to date that have been crafted by DCW. Winemakers are their own worst critics so to have the guys jazzed about all of the wines is quite a feat. Makes the future of DCW only shine brighter. Life isn't always a bed of roses as Proprietor. I make decisions that everyone is not always happy about and I say "no" more than I would like but the right choice isn't always the popular one. But it's times like the July 08 bottling that make me forget the unpleasant moments. I had winemakers that loved the wines being bottled that bottling wasn't overly stressful for them (just a boat load of hard work), wines that just keep getting better and hopefully, club members that will concur with our evaluation of the wines.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Petanque Court Near Completition

Our wait is nearing the final stages. DCW Petanque court in close to competition. For those of you that are wondering-Petanque? It's basically the French version of Bocce Ball. Both the French and Italians would cringe at that comparison but C'est la vie!
One could wonder why on earth I wanted the court built. Good question. I'll give the credit to Kerry but honestly, he could not have foreseen this coming during the dinner conversation when I was first introduced to Petanque. My first month as the new Proprietor, Kerry and his wife, Daisy invited me over for dinner. They wanted to help introduce me to people in my new community and thought the Petanque league would be perfect place to start. OK, I went home thinking I hadn't understood them very well-surely I must have had too much to drink. Petanque? Well, Daisy had actually taken the time to investigate getting me involved in the league and the results were-no spots open but I could come to certain social parties with the group. Well, the year went by and I have to admit that I was chasing hard with the winery so it was a blessing I wasn't in the league. But..... this year rolled around and I spoke consistently about the league to Laura (one of my wine club members AND a Petanque league member). She helped me connect with my fabulous partner, Alain, and we are 2nd alternates in the league with our good buddies as alternates right behind us.
So with the ground work laid, I made the build decision for 2 reasons. First, it's great addition for the winery and our customers. Secondly, I needed a practice court and a place for us rebels to have our own Petanque rebel league. As Truman and I agreed, if we can't get into the Big Bouler league yet-we'll create our own league in the interim. What's not to love about the sport-drinking a glass of wine, hanging with friends and lots of trash talking and friendly competition. Last count, we have 6-7 teams ready to hang out. Come one , come all-we'll welcome you with open arms and a glass of wine.