Showing posts from 2010

"At Christmas, all roads lead home." ~ Marjorie Holmes

In the end, all turned out well at Thanksgiving. Michelle and Brian contributed another table to the barn, so now, we can seat 25 comfortably. Outstanding in the Field, watch out, here we come! In retrospect, though, we probably tried to accomplish too much, though. We prepared the feast for 25 in some of the coldest weather this area has seen in a long, long time, using both ovens, and making many trips back and forth to the barn. We did have a great time trying new wines, enjoying some new recipes, and meeting new friends and catching up with old friends. Stuart just rocked his portion of the feast, the rotisserie turkey and the smoked turkey. This was a time we wanted leftovers galore and there just weren't many. Michelle's parmesan wheel appetizers were wonderful and the grape jelly meatball appetizers were a hit. The numerous desserts were amazing.

The next morning, was beautiful and sunny, so bright and early, after feeding the little people, Michelle and I wer…

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.” ~ W. T. Purkiser

There are mounds of supplies in our front hallway waiting to be transported up to our ranch for Thanksgiving -- everything from paper lanterns to papertowels to peanut butter cups -- and the real shopping has not yet begun, nor has the real cooking. It is hard to imagine how all of these items combined will turn into a warm, welcoming feast by next Thursday.

Then, of course, there are the wildcards that will be thrown in, which are inherent to living on a remote ranch. Will someone hit a phone pole in Carmel, 150 miles away, and our electricity go out? Will the well go out? Will the store have actually reserved our two turkeys, as promised? Will people be wondering why they have traveled to the middle of nowhere for dinner? It's going to be in the 20s at night; will the people staying in the Wine Barn Bunk House be warm enough?

Added to this are manmade variables, how will the smoked turkey taste? Will the stuffing be more moist this year? Will I have enough drippings fo…

"Except the vine, there is no plant which bears a fruit of as great importance as the olive." Pliny

I've been mulling over what can be said about our first experience picking and pressing our olives. One always reads travelogues in which happy people are picking olives on sunny days in the Italian countryside, followed by a crush, and entire towns celebrating with a feast, in order to dip crusty bread in the olio nuovo, browsing from table to table to share every family's personal oil.

To begin our saga on a positive note, we learned a lot -- always important. In hindsight, we now know our day was too ambitious. There were only two pickers and two trees, which yielded 40 quarts of olives, which took five hours to pick, bringing us to 4:30-ish in the afternoon, and it was getting dark.

The average citizen might have called it a day at that point, gone in, warmed up by the fire with a glass of wine. Of course, we are not your average citizens. We were driven by a belief that we would just crush these olives, and in a few short hours, be sitting at the bar in our processin…

“You might say it is highly unlikely that we would make the same mistake twice.” ~ Robert Lutz

After last year's harvest, we actually sat down and had an organized meeting and devised an organized, printed winemaker's protocol, so we could improve our technique, streamline the process, eliminate unnecessary steps, and ultimately, our wine.

Now in our winemaker's "post-game" review, despite all of our careful planning, in the end, what we were most unhappy with last year turns out to be the precise thing we are most unhappy with this year. Last year, we learned that while many winemakers aim for a brix of approximately 25, the model of wine to which we aspired would demand a brix of 26 to 26.5.

Last year's mistake was that we picked at the numbers many winemakers prefer. This year, we waited two months longer for the numbers we wanted, but what we did not factor in was the lack of cooperation from Mother Nature. We waited two months longer than last year and our post-press numbers are not what we had hoped, so we're left with a new wine we'…

Every End is a New Beginning ~ Proverb

I'm dragging my feet heading over to The Wine Barn. Our specific gravity hit 1.00 and our brix is zero, so it's time to press the wine. After spending so much intimate time with the wine this week, I'm always left feeling like I'm putting a six-year old on a school bus of bullies or sending an ill-prepared teen off to college. It seemed as if it took forever for the grapes to ripen this year, but their fermentation was fast -- much faster than the Zin's, which was 4.5 brix higher. We kept the barn temperature consistent at approximately 70, nevertheless, it's done with fermentation. So after a week of four to five punchdowns a day and night, it's time to end the infancy of this wine and move it on to secondary fermentation, what's known as MLF, malolactic fermentation, in which the malic acid is converted to lactic acid, which will take the edge off the wine and make it softer, more palatable. This phase will be completed in carboys. When this ph…

“The true harvest of my life is intangible - a little star dust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched” Henry David Thoreau

It seems like it was a year spent waiting. Spring and bud break seemed like it would never come. Summer seemed to come in starts and stops. We waited all year for a heat that really only materialized on occasions when we wished not to have to deal with wilting heat; the rest of the summer was 26% below our normal temperatures. We waited for ripening of the grapes. We waited and waited. Finally, with the olive harvest upon us, we could not wait any longer.

The Zinfandel was harvested October 4. The brix sneaked up on us and came in at an astounding 28.5, a whopping 17.8% alcohol. It is destined to accompany chocolate as a late harvest wine. It stormed most of that week of primary fermentation, but it provided a perfect backdrop to decorate for our Harvest Celebration with the family, which we celebrated our traditional third weekend of October and which will be covered in a separate post, but one of the highlights of the weekend was that the barn was officially renamed The Wi…