This is the start of monthly updates of what’s going on in our certified Biodynamic® estate vineyards; the above video shows Pinot Noir Clone 828, one of the eight Pinot Noir clones we have in our vineyards. I’ll be posting updates on them through fall when we have our first harvest since our conversion to organic and Biodynamic® farming. To read more about our decision to replant our vineyards and convert to Biodynamic® farming, visit our website.
I am the first to admit that working in the wine country has a few great perks. World class scenery all around us, great food, fantastic outdoor activities and of course, the vino. Some of my city friends think all we do is eat organic delicacies, hike sweeping vistas and sample the best in California wine. If you spend more than a few hours at De Loach, you realize this is hard work!!
For example, our monthly grower dinner was held yesterday evening. There are no magic elves to set up our guest house great room for events like this.
This is done by everyone in the winery in a flurry of furniture moving, table set up and chair placement. Then after the event, move everything back. A little like roadies for the concert, they are the first to come, and the last to leave.
Or maybe you want to spend 8 hours on a bottling line?
Hoisting cases of wine, packing bottles, and keeping a close eye on all the moving parts is a tough job. The morning and afternoon breaks and lunch time are well deserved.
How about working on the wines? Our crew is skilled and takes pride in the handcrafted wines we produce. Gently topping barrels, blending tanks, and the constant cleaning of every square inch of space are just part of what a typical day in the life of a winery crew is about.
Or you may be part of our sales team. Phone calls, emails, faxes and all of the normal filing you would expect from any business. Except downstairs from this bee hive of activity, happy visitors are enjoying themselves, our wines, our beautiful grounds oblivious to the folks working hard in our offices. We know how good are wines are, but you have to knock on a lot of doors to let everyone else know.
I think you get the idea. My job is somewhere in the middle of all of this. A little bit of hospitality, a little wine making, LOTS of phone calls, and a million details to try to cover from grapes to glass. We like to think of it as controlled chaos. I try to keep the griping to a minimum, because when all is said and done, this is a pretty sweet place to work.
The earth is breathing again after the wet winter we’ve had, and critters around the farm have been basking in the windows of brilliant sun between the storms. Yesterday we welcomed three new babies to the winery when Brian and his dad swept up the tired old ewes and delivered lambs to their new home at De Loach! I wish I’d had the video rolling when Brian wrestled those big mamas onto the truck – their wool was so thick and filthy and I was sure one would take him down or deliver him a smart kick! (Unfortunately, we were horrified when he wore the same sheep-scuffed jeans into our office today…!) The little lambs bleated worriedly as the lady sheep, crammed in the back of the truck, were driven back to the Maloney ranch. They’re still exploring their new terrain in a tight pack, suspiciously eyeing the herd of chickens, but I think they’ll be quite happy here, nestled between the vineyards, the garden and the guesthouse croquet lawn… just as long as a certain company executive doesn’t get any fresh ideas for their little racks or chops…
Until a couple of months ago, I had never heard of decanting and re-packaging wine into a small, sample-sized bottle for tasting. My first thought was – what would that do to the wine? How could you possibly preserve the integrity of a wine, whether newly bottled or with some age on it, in a little sample? TastingRoom Inc has come up with a way to do just that, and has a very high-tech system in place to decant wine into an adorable, 50 ml sample-size bottle. Their easy-to-remember acronym for this process is: T.A.S.T.E ( for Total Anaerobic Sample Transfer Environment, cool, huh?). The fine folks from TastingRoom, Inc. came out to De Loach Vineyards last month and spent several days decanting our Pinot noirs into tasting kits, available for sale in the De Loach Vineyards tasting room.
These kits are a great concept, perfect for anyone who wants to try out different Pinot noirs without spending a lot (and these days, we all are trying to spend money wisely). Now you can swirl, sip and savor 6 different vineyard-designate Pinot noirs, find the one (or 2 or 3 or 4!) you like, and later purchase a full-sized bottle, knowing that you’ll get exactly what you tasted in your kit.
We think it’s a great idea and are proud to be part of something not only innovative but practical and fun, all at the same time.
Julia and I recently had the opportunity to tour Tonnellerie Ô, a new cooperage in Benicia – field trip! It was quite cool to see the high level of automation alongside the craftsmanship and personal attention the coopers give each barrel during assembly. Particularly impressive was the circular brick toasting room anchoring the main production floor where the barrels are rolled in and out under the watchful eyes and noses of the coopers. It’s invaluable to be able to see behind-the-scenes when it comes to some of our most expensive and nuanced winemaking tools!
Hopefully I’ll land that trip to Portugal to see a cork factory next!
We are in midst of a very welcome set of winter storms here in the Russian River Valley. Rain is filling the reservoirs, giving our water table a solid boost. You would think the winery would be quiet and calm during this decidedly un-California like climate. But right now there are dozens of projects going on in the vineyards and our cellar is busy!!! We are starting to get a glimpse of the 2009 wines great potential. By the way, for a great sneak peek at last harvest’s best wines be sure to check out the Russian River Barrel Weekends.
We just finished bottling some fantastic 2008 Pinot Vineyard Designates which will now lay down for a nice bottle aging before release. We are redesigning our production facilities to improve our crush, wine storage and barrel aging facilities. All of this and much more, all designed to get the very best out of our grapes and the harvest.
One of the BIG projects is moving wine tanks.
As you can see some our bigger tanks are twenty feet tall. Moving these tanks with a crane or specialized forklift is really cool to watch. An empty wine tank is fairly light even though it is very bulky but a full tank needs heavy-duty concrete footing to hold up to that crushing weight. Our facilities manager Dan Hoffmann runs the show when it comes to moving, planning, re-plumbing and making sure the tanks can fit through the doors. Dan is the guy who can squeeze a 12,000 gallon wine tank into a tight spot with only inches to spare. When this project is completed, our main cellar will be wall to wall French Oak vats just waiting for the moment when crushed fruit begins the transformation from ripe grapes to delicious wine. We will focus on small lots and most importantly, take in our very first harvest from our estate vineyards.
I have been watching the vineyard grow for nearly 3 years since the first vines were planted. This week, the vines received perhaps the final pruning before bud break.
Our winemaking team is keeping a close eye on the vines, and making the necessary preparations for the sleepy vines to get a great start as soon as we warm up a little. While the 12 hour (or more!) days of harvest are more than six months away, we have lots of work ahead of us.
Spring is the best time to visit the winery. Once we hit April, the weather in Sonoma County might be the best in California. Great for Pinot, even better for stressed out people. It is hard to have a bad day when you work at such a nice place. I am really looking forward to this years harvest, and hope to see you soon at De Loach Vineyards.