Hi in the new year.
Well, ain’t it swell to move into another year? Not necessarily easily, I mean, the holidays are definitely a big bump in the road.
But I can say with some relief that the holiday season was much better, business-wise, than the previous two years which were rife with weather-related problems. At least this year I could deliver wines to retailers and restaurants. The Great Recession didn’t help, but at least I had a fighting chance.
I can say that this holiday season was better than the last two, but really that is not saying much.
I just finished racking the 2009 vintage, last year’s harvest. Racking is a wine person’s term for transferring the wine from one barrel to another, leaving behind (hopefully) much of the sediment in the racker barrel.
This is important to do, soon after harvest, and especially this year, as most of my wines went into barrel dirty, meaning that they went directly to barrel without being settled first, which is what I usually like to do. But this year, I didn’t have any spare containers, tanks, bins or otherwise…..so I just pressed and pumped the young wine right into barrel.
Racking isn’t fun but it isn’t hard either. It is always a challenge to find room to work. I did about fifteen barrels of wine, 900 gallons of wine, or 385 cases of wine; about what I sell in a year. But one of the great perks of the job (of racking) is that you taste the wine as you rack. I can tell you that the wines show a lot of promise and there are lots of different types of wine this year: besides my usual Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, I also did Syrah (from Walla Walla, no doubt) and Grenache and a bit of Grenache Rosé. And, and, Pinot Noir from Monument Farm Vineyard grown right here on Vashon Island. We got three barrels of Pinot Noir, which is absolutely beyond my comprehension and expectations.
So, here is my assessment. The Cabernet Sauvignon is very good, the Merlot is particularly good, the Cabernet Franc is particularly good, and the Syrah is of interest because it never fermented to complete dryness and has a sweet, port-like flavor to it. The Grenache is going to be very special, and the rosé should be very good. It reminds me of the old eye of the partridge that Sebastiani Winery use to make, and may still, with a color between copper and pink.
The rosé was kind of an experiment. The Grenache grapes came in at an unbelievably high sugar content in the grape, about 29 Brix, which is off the charts. So I started fermentation and then after two days I removed about twenty-five gallons of fermenting juice, and replaced the juice with water to dilute the sugar in the wine. It will be interesting to see if by doing that I also concentrated the color and flavors of the Grenache.
Joe and Tony’s (island grown) Pinot Noir grapes are also special. They were picked on October 20, late but not as late as last year, and again we were very lucky with the late weather. The problem for the last two years is that spring has been so cool and wet that bud-break is late and that pushes everything back. We are looking at ways to help the vine push bud-break up a bit earlier….maybe by covering the pruned vines with plastic, intensifying the sunlight without the cold and wind.
So, now I am confronted by February through about April when business is always slow, and I suspect this year it might be a bit slower.
I’ll be helping my growers prune their vines, and I’ll be pruning and guarding (from deer) my newly planted cider apple trees.
Something else: I will continue doing my wine tastings on the First Friday and the Second Friday of the month. First Friday is at Sound Food and features four wines for $10.00, a terrific deal. Second Friday is at Café Luna; five wines for $8.00, an equally good deal. Both Fridays during February will feature wines for Valentine’s Day: sparkling, lovers’ red and white wines, and a dessert wine.
And finally, I am working on a new Vashon Wine Club, not Vashon Winery Club, but more general. Right now I am thinking of doing some fun events like a tasting entitled, The Art of Blending. Or a tasting of wines using grapes grown in Puget Sound. Club members will also receive discounts at designated retailers and restaurants, and at Vashon Winery. And you’ll be able to follow all of this at vashonwineclub.org.
Owner, winemaker, bookkeeper and janitor