Archive for the ‘California’ Category

Photo by Anthony Two Moons.

Photo by Anthony Two Moons.

From Santa Barbara to British Columbia, Native American vineyards are a growing business

When the first wine grapes were planted in California by Spanish missionaries in the late 1700s, the Chumash people’s economic empire extended from the Malibu shores through Santa Barbara to the Paso Robles plains. But by the time the modern wine industry emerged on the Central Coast a couple centuries later, the Chumash were struggling, much like many Native American tribes. The few dozen who managed to achieve federal recognition as the Santa Ynez Band of Mission Indians were left with a little slice of land, where most residents lived below the poverty line.

Fast forward to today, and the Chumash are once again propsering, thanks to a successful casino and resort they built on their Santa Ynez Valley reservation in 2004. Six years later, with hopes of expanding their reservation, the 154-member tribe bought a nearby 1,400-acre property for a reported $40 million from the late actor-turned-vintner Fess Parker. The land came with 256 acres of vines, the Camp Four Vineyard, planted with 19 different grape varieties. While honoring existing contracts for the fruit (one-third of it goes to the Parker family’s brands, while most of the rest is sold to about 70 small producers from all around the state), the Chumash started making their own wine, and released their first vintages of Kitá Wines last month.

While the project is the latest in a small but growing number of Native American tribes entering the wine business—including three in Northern California, one in Arizona, and one in British Columbia—the Chumash are the first to tap one of their own to run the show: Tara Gomez, the 40-year-old daughter of the tribe’s vice chairman, is the first head winemaker of Native American descent on the continent.
Read on …

Advertisements
Jameson Canyon Ranch - Reata Winery

Jameson Canyon Ranch – Reata Winery

 

A winery worker suffered minor injuries Tuesday morning at a warehouse on Kirkland Ranch Road in south Napa County after the bolt of a 7,500-gallon steel tank filled with red wine failed, according to CalFire/Napa County Fire.

An employee was injured at about 1:25 p.m. at Jameson Canyon Ranch/Reata Winery when the lower door of the steel tank burst open after the bolt ruptured, causing the wine to spill, according to CalFire/Napa County Fire.

 

Read on …

 

With the relatively large 2012 crop came the expectation that the 2013 grape market would be less active than last year. That has proven to be somewhat true, but only in the realm of “hyper” activity that leads to rapidly increasing prices.

Grapes are being traded, at least to the extent they are even available, since most of them are tied up under multi-year contracts. However, there is no “reckless competition” for grapes experienced last year. Pricing seems to be at or slightly above last year’s levels.

Depending on the variety, the coastal market is arguably more robust than last year at this point. With much less spot market fruit available, buyer interest is high. Reds in particular have brought great interest in 2013; Cabernet Sauvignon specifically.

Coastal areas outside of the most premium growing regions seem to be bringing the most interest for all varieties. This is due to buyers wanting to purchase great quality coastal fruit that allows them to average down the grape cost of their higher end programs. With that being said, there is much less hyper-activity around Napa Valley Cabernet and Sonoma County Pinot Noir. There is still strong demand, but buyers seem to be more interested in averaging down the cost of their high-end programs rather than fervently competing for additional high-end fruit at historically high prices.

 

Read on …

Breaking old rules, to creative new wines ...

Breaking old rules, to creative new wines …

 

As I mentioned here once before, the fad in California wines for more than a decade now has been the heavy emphasis on what I call MSG wines. 

 

No, that’s not a designation of something to order in your favorite Chinese restaurant; rather, it refers to Rhone-style blends featuring Mourvedre-Syrah-Grenache.   Many of these blends are knockouts, and adjusting the blend allows winemakers to bob and weave depending on the weather and harvest to deliver a very consistent wine. 

 

A number of French winemakers have come to the central coast of California because they can experiment here, whereas in France the wine bureaucracy prevents wine makers from innovating.  While I like many of these efforts, I still prefer old-fashioned straight-up classic varietals, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Syrah.  (I’m having a 100% Syrah tonight with my grilled pork roast.)

 

Read on …

Cheryl Durzy with her wines.

Cheryl Durzy with her wines.

 

Two years ago, Cheryl Durzy, a wine industry veteran and mother of two, branched off of her family-run Clos LaChance Winery to pursue her own business with moms specifically in mind. “In the wine industry, everyone has a glass of wine with dinner every night,” Durzy explained. “[My son, when he was just around 2] would say, ‘That’s mommy’s juice!’ and point to my wine glass. Then my friends and I started using it, saying things like, ‘Oh my gosh, I need a glass of mommy juice.'” Once her daughter picked up the cutesy term too, Durzy brainstormed a label concept and created MommyJuice Wines. Made from grapes grown in California’s northern central coast, it’s dedicated to mothers who enjoy a glass or two at the end of a particularly stressful day. A bottle of MommyJuice costs $10, and the motto reads: “Put your kids to bed and have a glass of MommyJuice.”

The label currently sells two wines called MommyJuice Red, a blend of bright berry fruits (Mr. Durzy’s preferred drink) and MommyJuice White, an unoaked Chardonnay from Monterey. Just after Mother’s Day, the label will release a dry rosé wine called “Pool Party Pink.” The Cut caught up with Durzy to discuss everything from her balancing work and family life, dealing with mothers who are staunchly against drinking, and navigating her way around the wine industry.

What role do you hope MommyJuice has in mothers’ lives?
I was doing research online and there’s a number of different groups on Facebook like, “OMG I Need a Glass of Wine or I’m Going to Kill My Kids,” or “Moms Who Need Wine,” that have over half a million [members]. I was inspired by that. These are women who can say, “You know what, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I need something to help me relax because my kids drove me nuts for the whole day. I’ll have a glass of wine and that’s okay.”

 

Read on …

Raging california wildfire!

Raging California wildfire do not stop agricultural work!

 

A group of farm laborers who chose to seek shelter from the suffocating smoke of a California wildfire last week were terminated for taking a break.

At least 15 workers at Crisalida Farms in Oxnard, California, found themselves struggling to breathe last week as the Camarillo Springs wildfire blackened the sky with smoke and ash. The blaze damaged more than a dozen houses, threatened 4,000 homes, and burned a store of highly toxic pesticides that caught fire at an agricultural property.

Located just 11 miles south of the fire, workers at the Southern California strawberry farm had a difficult time breathing as they laboriously worked in the fields. Their boss had warned them that taking a break would compromise their jobs, and they were faced with a dilemma.

“The ashes were falling on top of us,” one of the workers told NBC LA. “[But] they told us if we leave, there would be no job to return to.”

On the evening of May 2, the Camarillo fire had reached about 10,000 acres and was only 10 percent contained. About 11,500 people had been evacuated at this point as hazmat teams warned locals not to inhale the smoke – especially since it contained toxic chemicals from the pesticides that had caught on fire.

 

Read on …

Clarissa Nagy; winemaker mom

Clarissa Nagy; winemaker mom

 

 

Five Women Simultaneously Raise Babes and Barrels
Making a barrel of fine wine is much like raising good kids. In the beginning, before birth and budbreak, you provide the water and nutrition that the next generation needs. Then you take what nature gives you, be that infants or grapes, and do your best to raise them up right. Plenty can go wrong along the way, but if enough care and time is invested, the end result is usually worth showing off to family and friends.

No surprise, then, that five of the best winemakers on the Central Coast also happen to be mothers. That’s what I learned one day in February, when I joined Clarissa Nagy, Helen Falcone, Tessa Parker, Brooke Carhartt, and Denise Shurtleff for lunch at Riverbench Vineyard & Winery in the Santa Maria Valley. What ensued was a little talk about their kids and a lot of technical talk about whose cooperage they used last year, what types of yeast they’re trying out, and which clones are working best in which vintages. Enjoy these mini-profiles of each woman and some of the wines we tried, just in time for Mother’s Day.

Read on …

A fireman's range...

A fireman’s range…

 

What do winemaking and firefighting have in common?

“Not a darn thing,” admits Dan D’Angelo cheerfully. But that hasn’t stopped this Napa firefighter from starting a second career in the wine industry.

Seven years ago D’Angelo created his own wine brand, Vino D’Angelo Wines, with labels Rescue Red and Chief’s Blend.

“I just kind of jumped into it,” he said. “I enjoy it because I like the challenge of it.”

Today, his wines are found at a number of local restaurants and stores including Grace’s Table, Il Posto Trattoria, Sushi Mambo, Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, Siam Thai House, Vallerga’s, Ranch Market, Lawler’s Liquors and Val’s Liquors.

What fire station do you work at?

I’m at Station 3 by Justin-Siena.

How do you find the time to run your wine business?

We get our days off. I squeeze it in.

 

Read on …

America's new tastemakers...

America’s new tastemakers…

 

Meet the rising young stars who are changing the way the world drinks.
Ian Brand, 32
Winemaker, Coastview Vineyards, Le P’tit Paysan, Monterey, CA
After moving from Utah to California to pursue surfing, Brand found his real calling at Bonny Doon in Santa Cruz, where he was assistant winemaker from 2004– 2007. He has also been winemaker for Nicholson and Pierce Vine- yards and consults for various clients in the region. Innovative, experimental and eager to push the envelope in the Salinas Valley and beyond, Brand is known for his progressive approaches to plantings, commitment to organic farming and tireless promotion of Monterey as the next region to watch in California.
Bibiana González Rave, 35
Winemaker, Rave Vines & Wines, Santa Rosa, CA
Originally from Colombia and trained in France, where she earned dual degrees in viticulture and enology, González Rave spent years doing two harvests a year, from South Africa to France and California, and was until recently the winemaker at Lynmar Estate, where she earned stupendous reviews for her silky Pinot Noirs and complex Chardonnays. Last year she decided to go out on her own, launching Rave Vines & Wines, where she is laser focused on one place only: Pahlmeyer’s Wayfarer Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. The first of her cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay will be from 2012. In addition to making a small amount of her own wines, she’s partnering with husband Jeff Pisoni on a Sauvignon Blanc brand.
Read on …

 

 

Every year members of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux present wines in San Francisco, Chicago and New York. Their visit is one of the high points on calendars in major markets and is jammed with portfolio showings, regional and individual winery tastings.

 

The promotion by the premier growths of Bordeaux comes after months of preparation by staffers at Balzac Communications and Marketing in California. Organizers follow a 10-page battle plan that covers client goals, site selection, budgets, consumer and charity partners, invitations, tasting books, stemware, badges, trade and media lists, staffing and a long roster of peripherals. Many planners work with similar templates, smaller or equally detailed.

The success of a wine event starts with planning and a clear understanding of goals. The failures can often be traced to poor advance work and faulty follow through. The pitfalls are many, and catastrophes can happen. Here, marketing and event planning professionals offer their wisdom on planning the perfect wine event:

Things Do Go Wrong
All too frequently, wines, particularly those that must clear customs, are not available though they are listed on the program. Sometimes exhibitors do not know the wholesale or retail prices, speakers talk too long, or event sites are not ready on time. Melanie Young of The Connected Table in New York offered a litany of things that can make a presentation go sour.

“When you enter a poorly organized event, the room lacks professional ambiance. Registration is in disarray, there is no one to greet and direct guests and no helpful signage. No spit buckets. Cheap glassware that smells like dishwasher fluid. Tasting books that lack critical information or lines for writing notes, seminar handouts with no suggested pricing, poorly prepared literature that will only be tossed out afterwards,” she said.
“I’ve been to tastings with fragrant flowers and pourers wearing perfume. I’ve seen events where no one understands the need to serve product at the right temperature—white wine too cold or too warm and red wine that needed to be decanted—servers not briefed and unable to answer basic questions,” said Young.

Sam Folsom of Folsom Associates in San Francisco recalls arriving at a restaurant where the room was not prepared. “Our guests stood around waiting for staff to arrive and watched while they scrambled to set tables,” he said.

Be especially wary of large amounts of alcohol available at big consumer events, warns Aileen Robbins of the Dunn Robbins Group in New York. “When people pay to attend a tasting they really don’t want to ask questions about the terroir, they want to drink and eat as much as possible in the allotted time,” she observed. “I’ve seen inebriation, people who’ve fallen down stairs, passed out and wine glasses shattering after being dropped from upper floors.

On the other hand, having too few patrons can cause its own problems. “On another occasion, so few people showed up at a tasting that I was tempted to have waiters put on their street clothes and come back as guest,” Robbins said.

“Long ago,” comments Marsha Palanci of Cornerstone Communications in New York, “ I learned not to take anything for granted. We organized a vertical tasting at a Manhattan hotel and were assured that we did not need to rent stemware. When we arrived, we found a mix of six Riedel stems and six margarita glasses. We got rid of the Margaritas, and had guests empty, rinse and reuse their original glasses after the first go-around.”

Robbins added. “Once, a site manager locked us out because the client hadn’t paid the balance of the bill. Management refused to open the doors at starting time until we found a valid credit card to cover the amount.”

 

When Planning Works
Former sommelier Evan Goldstein directs Full Circle Wine Solutions. At a recent Full Circle tasting for Argentine wines at Cork Buzz, a popular venue in New York, guests first attended a seminar led by presenter Keith Goldston, master sommelier. Goldston lectured on Argentine wines, conducted a sampling of selected bottlings and orchestrated a lunch with matching wines, followed by a walk around tasting.

Each guest received a pamphlet detailing the wines and the wineries, harvest report, bottling details, tasting notes and suggested retail prices as well as the menu for the luncheon. The preparation was complete, down to spit cups for each participant, often an overlooked, emergency entry at tastings. Goldston had toured Argentine wine country, knew the wines and the vineyards and was able to answer all questions with ease.

“Planning is a complicated dance—you have to balance what you know will work with what your client wants and can pay for,” says Honora Horan, principal of HH Communications in Manhattan. “You have to get ‘good’ attendees: accredited, knowledgeable writers and appropriate wine buyers, sommeliers and retailers. There has to be something for the journalists to write about and wines that will appeal to the trade.”
Read on …