Really GOOD Blogging
Lately I have run across some really good wine blogs
. The other day I was fact-checking one of my own posts and came across a group of newish blogs well, entirely new to me.
It may be hard to fathom, but honestly I started keeping this blog back in 2005 as a personal journal something to help me record what, when and why I did things in the vineyard and winery, to help me fact-check my own too-fallible memory. And to get the occasional rant off my chest.
After I opened our Tasting Salon in Sonoma, every so often someone would come in and say they found the place after stumbling across and reading my blog. "Wow" I thought.
It wasn't until 18 months after starting the blog that I finally linked to it from the commercial Westwood site. I didn't start the blog as a marketing tool, but duh. Now the site metrics show that the blog gets twice the hits of the main page. Go figure.
This is all by way of saying I'm a bit surprised that this little journal of weather reports, thank yous, and occasional minor triumphs (or setbacks) is interesting to anyone but me especially when I read some wine-topical writing that is actually good, and incidentally entertaining.
I'm talking about discovering blogs by Steve Heimhoff, Tom Wark, Arthur Przebinda, and Josh Hermsmeyer. These guys are taking the time to write really interesting stuff, and to do it well. Chapeau, people!
(Quick disclaimer: There are hundreds of great wine blogs on the internet. I miss Emily Resling's.)
New Banking Relationship
Earlier today I got official word that the new financing arrangement we have been working on for what forever?
funded. Westwood is now one of the brands supported by the wine division at Silicon Valley Bank
This is huge for us our biggest accomplishment of the year as a business and a major milestone on our path to success. The new, expanded credit facility makes it much easier for us to increase our plantings at the Annadel Estate.
Stronger banking support also will help us more aggressively support the brand as we release new wines in the market, and manage the transition from being a winery that relies on all purchased fruit to one that is nearly 100% Estate-grown.
Silicon Valley Bank serves an elite group of wineries. I think its cool that we have been invited to play in the same sandbox.
It has been very smoky here in our Valley for the last week or more. First the Humboldt Fire made everything hazy, and then the much closer Wild Fire over in Wooden Valley (northeast of the town of Napa and northwest of Fairfield) really started to smoke up the place.
Sunrise was blood red this morning. Everything outside is starting to show a light coating of ash. A short time ago, a friend who works with Phil Coturri told me all his guys are up fighting a new fire near Cavedale Road above town.
The area last burned when a power line hit a tree, touching off the 1996 Cavedale Fire which burned over 2,000 acres and seriously damaged homes and vineyards on the western slopes of Mount Veeder.
So far this year's Cavedale burn is small, and let's hope the fuel load has not built up much since the big burn twelve years ago (who could believe it has been that long!).
I talked with Jean-Marie today and we arranged to get the big disc and tractor out to the Estate tomorrow to knock down the dried vegetation surrounding the vineyard with at least a 30'-wide setback. If an ember drifts down and the dried stuff gets torched, we're hoping to keep the blaze from jumping into the trees and climbing the hillside above the property.
Putting It Out There!
I'm spending more time filling wine orders these days. This is a good thing! I just recently started shipping wine to New York. The first order shipped today in fact.
I'm working with Brian DiMarco at Barterhouse, a very specialized distributor with a high quality book. Ours is one of just three California brands represented. I'm really excited for Westwood to be there.
Also this week Westwood started showing up in the State of Pennsylvania's Premium Selection Stores. Buyer Steve Pollack really likes the wines and has a great plan to build our brand.
Over the last couple of months I was happy to get some wines sold in Arizona through Integris Wine Partners, our distributor there, before it got too hot. That is one market that definitely switches to colder beverages in the Summer.
Springboard Wine Company has been doing a fabulous job for us here in Northern California, as well as working hard to hook us up with quality representation in other regions. I'm proud to be one of their select clientele, as well as a supplier.
Now it is time for me to start booking plane tickets. I need to go visit and help our partners in Southern California, Texas and Washington to get things moving again.
(Note: this article is abstracted from a post on my WinePod blog
My friend Greg Snell
recently posted to his blog
about "non-interventionist" winemaking and the WinePod. I will take this opportunity to weigh in on the subject.
What on earth
does "non-interventionist winemaking" mean? Where did this term come from? I'm not the first person to ask these questions. Check out Eric Asimov's piece in the NY times from October 2006
I think it may be that the term was first used in the film "Mondovino
" which, for dramatic effect, built its narrative around facile differences between the "...old world and new, simple peasants and billionaires, and between the local and artisanal styles of wine production and the multinational and mass-produced ones."
Award-winning New Zealand winemaker and writer Drew Tuckwell put it as succinctly as such a vague concept might be clarified: "Non interventionist winemaking is not easy to explain. There are no defined or common rules
. It is essentially a very natural form of winemaking ... where, in general terms, winemakers resist the use of modern technology
and simply allow the wines to express the terroir of the vineyard." (1)
My sainted Dallas-bred grandmother had a term for this kind of marketing-speak: "horse-puckey".
The craft of winemaking is the transformation of grapes with alchemist skill. For centuries the French have applied the terms "elevage
" and "affinage
" to the winemaking process. The winemaker facilitates the birth of the wine, and then raises
it and refines
it into something which, if not always transcendent and sublime, is at least palatable. I believe the most apt analogy for winemaking is child-rearing. I for one don't believe that child rearing can be at all non-interventionist. And neither can winemaking be.
I shall step on a slightly taller soapbox to proclaim: I believe that ALL
wines artisanal and mass-produced alike are valid expressions of the grape, and of the winemaker's craft. There is no way to define a cutoff between these arbitrary classifications; wines are produced along a technological contiuum.
On the other hand, all wines are not created equal
. There are distinctions between the aromas and tastes of wines made by hand and those produced by machine that are no more arbitrary or subtle than the differences between, say, Redwood Hill Farm crottin
and processed American cheese spread, or Boont Amber Ale
and Bud. But there is no doubt that the makers of the crottin
and the ale are interventionist to a fault
in crafting their products.
I believe that there is not a capital-poor winemaker worth the title that has not wished for a centrifuge (for clarification), a spinning cone (for alcohol reduction), or for ion-exchange (to remove volatile acidity) at some point in their career I know I have.
In my opinion, any winemaker that can say they are "non-interventionist" with a straight face, or at least without a little lurch (perhaps of self-loathing?) in the pit of the stomach, is a charlatan or worse delusional.
I don't believe I'm a charlatan, or delusional. My wines are hand-made
, with all the attention and care I can lavish on them.
Many may disagree with my potition and tone here, and call me a a bombast. Just don't call me "non-interventionist".
Pinot Fully In Bloom
Checked out the progress of bloom today This is a cluster in the clone 115 Pinot. You can see every stage of bloom here.
At the right of the photo you can see a few flowers with protective caps (calyptra) still covering them. Wine grapes have "perfect" flowers both male and female parts and can self-fertilize. More often than not this probably occurs when the calyptra is still covering the flower.
Most of the rest of the flowers in the photo appear to be fertilized the ovules appear to be swelling and some stamens have fallen off.
I shot this photo from below the canopy to catch two clusters. The one on the left is at about the same state as the cluster in the photo above. The cluster on the right is a couple of days ahead of the one on the left the ovules are clearly swollen to almost bb-sized. It is also good to see very little "shatter" unfertilized ovules falling off their stems so far.
A Fine Spring Day
I woke up this morning to the perfect Spring day cool, very still, and smelling of the promise of flowers.
Weird thing is, it is nearly Summer. The "promise" of flowers smells to me like grapes in bloom. In a more normal year I would expect that the vineyards would be past bloom by now.
Looking back over my vineyard notes for the last three vintages I can see that only in 2006 did I have bloom in May the Estate bloomed in June in 2005, 2007 and now 2008.
Looks to me like I am going to have to revise my definition of what "normal" is for the Annadel Estate (compared to the vineyards I have worked with in the past) as well as to take into account larger changes in climate.
The forecast is calling for another cold trough to drop through tomorrow, and then for a warming trend to start over the weekend that should bring temperatures into the 90's by mid-week next just what I need to get the Estate through bloom.
Following the driest Spring on record here in California, yesterday the Governator issued an Executive Order proclaiming a drought and directing State agencies to expedite programs to address the problem.
Vintage Races For Charity
For the third year in a row we poured at the Vintage Race Car Festival on the Sonoma Plaza
The reception and mini-concours for these historic racecars is held in conjunction with the annual Wine Country Classic event at Infineon Raceway. I love it that Westwood gets to participate, and not just because I am a car nut.
All the proceeds from the festival on the Plaza benefit Infineon's chapter of Speedway Children's Charities. The owners and staff at Infineon are very generous in their support of our local community, and this year the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation was designated as the lead beneficiary of the Car Festival.
Thanks to Steve Page and staff at Infineon for their continued support, to Sarah Tracy, Wendy Peterson and the volunteers from the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau for making this event happen, and to the car owners and drivers who participated for making such a beautiful bunch of sights, sounds and smells.
(I love the smell of Castrol in the evening...)