Saturday, October 3, 2009

Birds I'm Watching: Bodega Bay (Oct. 3, 2009)

After pressing the Zinfandel this morning, I went out to Bodega Bay to look at birds. The wind was fierce, but saw quite a lot--28 species, including Red-winged Blackbird, Brown Pelican, White Pelican, Turkey Vulture, Scrub-jay, Elegant Tern, Forster's Tern, California Gull, Western Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Semipalmated Plover, Western Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Sanderlings, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Double-crested Cormorant, Ruddy Turnstone, Black Turnstone, Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Surf Scoter, Black Oystercatcher, an unidentified murrelet (looking most like a Xantus's murrelet, but possibly an ancient murrelet--all black back, white up to the chin), and Eurasian Collared Dove. The Forster's Tern was a first sighting for me--as was the Murrelet, although I'm not counting that, as I can't decide what it was.

[Update: I wrote this when I first started birding in Sonoma County. I've learned a lot since then—six years ago now. As evidence, see my website Sonoma County Bird Watching Spots.]

Wines I'm Making: Pressed Zinfandel This Morning

Pressed the Zinfandel this morning. Pressed 14 gallons of must, which yielded nine gallons of wine, although there was so much sediment in it that I passed it once through cheese cloth. The end result was 8 gallons of wine which is now resting, ahead of malolactic bacteria inoculation, which I will do tomorrow. The primary fermentation was a fairly short eight days.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wines I'm Drinking: Tasting at Wine Spectrum (Veraison, Krupp Brothers, Blackbart)

I recently attended an interesting wine tasting at the Wine Spectrum wine shop in Santa Rosa, near Railroad Square. Michael Heliotes, of Krupp Brothers, was showing wines from the Blackbart, Krupp Brothers, and Veraison labels. I tasted a 2006 Blackbart Marsanne/Viognier/Chardonnay blend from fruit from the Stagecoach Vineyard called "Black Bart's Bride;" the 2006 Krupp Brothers "The Doctor," a blend of Tempranillo, Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon, from Krup Vineyard and Stagecoach Vineyard fruit; the 2004 Veraison "Synchrony" (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot), also from Stagecoach Vineyard fruit; a 2005 Veraison Cabernet Sauvignon from Stagecoach Vineyard fruit; and a 2006 Blackbart Syrah, also from Stagecoach Vineyard fruit.

I went into the tasting with a great deal of skepticism. Frankly, I can't remember why I decided to attend this one (usually the word Napa turns me off), but, despite my prejudice against Napa wines--which, in my view, are far too often overpriced--I was impressed by all of these. Michael was hands-off, but available for background information and a lot of fun to talk with. His enthusiasm for the wines shows.

The 2006 "Black Bart's Bride" had a peachy nose with hints of caramel at first, later developing scents of roses and peach cobbler. There was also a sappy sort of scent that reminded me of Roero Arneis--a very pleasant fresh vegetable-like scent that nearly all the wines had in the background. Very concentrated on the palate. Powerful. Tasted of peaches and ginger. Very rich, concentrated wine with a long finish. More finesse than a lot of California Viognier wines have. I suspect the addition of the Chardonnay helped to boost acidity and keep this fresh, despite its oomph. Can't imagine what you'd eat with this--créme brulée comes to mind--but a very interesting, tasty wine.

"The Doctor" was not quite like anything I've tasted before. It is mostly Tempranillo (37%) but is 28% Merlot and 21% Malbec, finished off with 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. A nice medium ruby color. The nose was fairly closed at first, but suggested dark berries and something volatile that I couldn't quite pin down. After a few minutes it began to strongly suggest cinnamon, or, more precisely, cinnamon balls. Rich, sweet, and fruity on the palate. The wine didn't taste like any of the grapes I knew to be in it--I'd call it more than the sum of its parts. Perhaps most striking was its balance. Good fruit, good tannins, and just the right amount of acidity. Poised, I would call it. With a little time, it began to develop some slightly exotic scents. I was reminded of ginger, crabmeat, and toasted coconut (yes, I changed my glass after the Viognier-based wine). Not my favorite of the evening--I found myself wanting a more familiar flavor profile, which is more a fault in me than in the wine--but a very well made, solid offering.

The 2004 "Synchrony" had good color--again a medium ruby red. Pronounced meaty scents and cinnamon again. Later, it suddenly smelled of anise and the meat scents became more specifically suggestive of roasted game. Remarkably well balanced. A bit lighter than the "The Doctor," but with a beautiful, pure, core of fruit. It seemed almost ethereal--floating on the tongue. Light tannins, but just enough bite. Began to suggest blueberries on the palate. Had the fresh, sappy scents I noticed in some of the other wines. Delicious. Of all things, this reminded me of Australia's Grange Hermitage (now just called Grange), from Penfold's. It would have made more sense if the Syrah had done so, but life often makes no sense, I've found. In any case, a very tasty, well made wine. Along with the Syrah, it was my favorite of the evening.

The 2005 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was much deeper in color than the "Synchrony." The nose suggested roses, green peppers, and cinnamon. There was a rather heady, alcoholic tone as well. Rich, sweet on the palate with considerable tannin. Rather closed overall, but later developed chocolate flavors and something spicy. I had trouble with this one. While I enjoyed it, I find it hard to describe. I suspect it will reward patience. I'd like try this again in about five years.

I generally dislike California (and Australian) Syrah. If I want Syrah, I try to drink wines from the Northern Rhone. Too often California Syrah seems sweet (in a cloying way), too fruity, and it has no real character. It tends to be a Kool-Aid wine. I expected to dislike the 2006 Blackbart Syrah.

I didn't. It was delicious. No Kool-Aid here. Clearly an adult wine. Very deep red. Gamey on the nose, in the best sort of way. Hints of citrus--blood oranges, I'd say, because of something bitter in the scent--, and later hints of blueberries. Wonderfully clean on the palate. Again, very nicely balanced between fruit and tannin. If I had to quibble, I'd ask for a touch more acid, a little more brightness, but this wine was notable for the same sort of clarity of fruit that I enjoyed in the "Synchrony." Delicious. I jokingly said to Michael "Your winemaker must be Australian" just from looking at the blends. Turned out I was right. Kudos to winemaker Nigel Kinsman. All five of the wines I tasted were delicious.

I didn't ask the prices. I'm sure I can't afford them. If you can, they're probably worth it. All in all, another fun evening from Pat Moore and the staff at Wine Spectrum (with which, for the record, I have no connections except as an occasional customer).

Images courtesy of the Krupp Brothers Web site.

Wines I'm Making: Rosé fermenting, Cab off to a Slow Start

The rosé fermentation is well under way today. The yeast went in yesterday. I'm keeping the carboy in a big tub with blocks of ice to try to keep the temperature down and achieve a slower fermentation this year. We'll see how it goes. The Cabernet smells wonderful this year--very spicy and Cabernet-like. I inoculated the must yesterday, but the fermentation has been very slow to get started. Usually there are a lot of bubbles within hours, but there has been very little activity so far, probably because it was so cool in the garage last night. Brought it in the house this morning and I plan to leave it out in the sun for a bit today to get it going.

Birds I'm Watching: First Flicker of the Year

Saw the first flicker of the year in the yard this morning, atop one of the evergreen trees behind the grape vines. Also saw a ruby-crowned kinglet--the first time I've seen one in the yard. A Bewick's wren was warbling loudly earlier this morning from the locust tree in the front of the yard.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wines I'm Making: 2009 Harvest

Harvested the grapes today. The yield was very low. We got only 86 pounds of Cabernet and 64 pounds of Sangiovese. The Cabernet yielded nine gallons of must, which means we'll get about six gallons of wine at best, which would be 30 bottles. The Sangiovese yielded 6.6 gallons of must, which will mean about 4 gallons of wine, or about 20 bottles. That's about half what we usually make. The cold weather at flowering this year caused shatter, and we lost a fair amount to the raccoons again.

The Cabernet must tested at 24.8 Brix with a pH of 3.91--on the high side--and total acidity of .051, which is on the low side. I may have to do some adjustments later. The sugar spiked over the weekend. Sulfited the must to 72ppm, which is rather more than usual because of the high pH.

The Sangiovese must tested at 21.0 Brix (1.086 by the hydrometer) with a pH of 3.70. Total acidity was again somewhat low, at 0.50. Sulfited to about 50ppm. I've decided to make all the Sangiovese into rosé again this year, as it's so nice to have new wine at Thanksgiving. I will try to keep the temperature down more, to extend the fermentation a bit, as the winemaker at Wellington suggested that would improve the freshness. I'll be pressing the Sangiovese first thing in the morning tomorrow, after taking my son to school. The upper photo shows Sangiovese grapes, just picked. The lower shows the crushed Cabernet grapes, ready to be inoculated with yeast.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tidbits: Alicia de Larrocha--RIP

Alicia de Larrocha died today. Heard her play a stirring recital in Milan around 1994. I have several brilliant recordings by her. Sad, but inevitable.
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