Today I re-wrote the ORDER FORM to include a Neighbors' Zin and reluctantly had to raise our prices on the ESTATE wines. I still feel the zin fruit bought from Neighbors' is of good quality--especially the Teldeschi, but I do agree the wines taste different. I am confident that the ultimate blend will be a very good wine.
Tuesday and Wednesday, November 24,25 1998
Brendan and I spent most of both days making tests adding So2 and topping barrels. The results from the Lab were very satisfying. Almost all the barrels have gone through Malo-Lactic fermentation and have virtually no sugar left from the primary fermentation. I decided to turn off the heat.--I was keeping the temp at 68 degrees to encourage the completion of fermentation. The alcohols are around 14% and the ph's around 3.6. I am more happy with the
numbers this year than last.
Friday and Saturday, November 27,28 1998
We were open for tasting unofficially for both days. Many customers picked up 1997 futures and we also had about 75 people each day for tasting out of the barrel. I used about 10 barrels for tasting and then topped them off with last years wine. With the cooling down of the winery and the many tasters I used over a case of wine to top off. These tastings do cost money!! The Teldeschi zin was showing very well.
We had a very distressing call on Friday. A customer had received a whole unopened case of 1997 Carignan on Wednesday and opened a bottle on Thanksgiving. He told us the wine tasted like water and was very light in color. Michael Watts my best friend was coming up for a visit the next day so I had him pick up the case in Marin. I called up the bottling company and was told it could not happen. Mike dropped off the wine on Saturday and we noticed that the customer opened two bottles and both were almost all water. We expected to see a gradual increase in color as we looked at the rest of the bottles in the case, but to our outrage ALL the remaining 10 bottles were the same. We must now try to figure out who else may have watered down wine. You cannot imagine how much this bothers me. I am a fanatic about making sure all my wines are consistent. That is why I refuse to bottle in two lots. The bottling truck has a long hose connecting to our tank of wine. The hose is connected on the other end to there many stainless steel lines within the truck.---It is a maze. At the beginning of each day the company uses water to sterilize all the lines. They drain the water and then force the rest out with the first wine of the day. Then they start filling bottles and run three cases through to make sure it is the new wine--we are handed back, in two buckets, this first wine I feel responsible for not tasting the wine at that point, but we are so busy and we are not encouraged to help at the truck. After all we assume they know their equipment.
Back in July before I suspected some irregularities at the end of the second day, I had two small runs of 75 cases each. I wanted to be sure I got as much of the pure wine as possible. So I asked if there was a better way of clearing the lines instead of pushing the last wine with the next wine and I was told we could use air to clear the last wine--the Estate Cuvee. At this point after bottling all our other wines--Zin, Cab, Neighbors', Pet Sirah and Carignane I decided to label the first three cases of the Aca Modot Cab. Also the first three cases of Michael Watts Zinfandel run of 75 cases. At the end we were told all the wine was out of the lines. Mike found at least another two cases in the lines. WE WERE NOT HELPED OUT. As a matter of fact during the whole two days the bottling crew were very apathetic. I let it slide--after all there are so many things to take care of. That evening, Mike and I opened up a bottle from each of our first two marked cases. I was shocked to find out that the bottle from the case marked #1 tasted more like Estate Cuvee than Aca Modot and the second bottle from #2 was not all Aca Modot. Mike found the same results in his--at first more like Aca Modot. I just wonder what the first cases of the other wines taste like, since we did not use air--but the last wine. How many cases does it take to get the pure wine?
There is at least another case of watered down Carignane out there--the first run on the second day. What about the first few cases of Zinfandel?--thefirst run on the first day. We will try to figure out who might of gotten those cases.
This is a nightmare for me. I will never use this company again. I will probably never use another bottling line unless they can prove to me that they have their act together ---I doubt that is possible!!
Does anyone have a suggestion on what my recourse is?