Of course we have been busy preparing for the holidays and the barrels have been cooling down to 55 degrees. It is hard to taste hearty red wines at these temps, but someone has to. We did buy the bottling line and we figure that since we don't need a mobile bottling line now which would cost $6000 a year, the additional cost is more like 20 cents a bottle rather than the 40 cents I mentioned earlier.
We are having a New Years eve party that will start after 9pm so if any of my customers in the area would like to come please contact us at for info.
January 1, 1999
We had a rousing party as an introduction to 1999. About 30-40 of our local loyal friends and fans showed up to help us celebrate and brought many great still and sparkling wines. I provided every wine I have made commercially since 1994. Unfortunately, we did not have enough of you here to consume more than a third to half a bottle of any one wine. The party went on until about 3:30 a.m., and amazingly I woke up at 10:30 with a clear head and ready to begin the new year's work.
Brendan had been with us at the party, stayed overnight, and appeared to be clear-headed also, so I put him to work on his last official day here this season topping off barrels of wine we had blended on December 9th. At this time of the year, the winery has cooled down into the high 50's and I feel really uneasy if I do not top off the wines at least every three weeks. In the springtime as the winery warms up into the 60's, I feel I should top off the barrels every two weeks. I know I have talked about topping off before as the wines are still fermenting, but at this stage - after going through malolactic - the wines have become stable. What I like to do is put a bung into the barrel very tightly, which actually creates a vacuum, until topping is desired. Some wineries actually turn their barrels sideways - at say the 2 o'clock position - and they feel that the vacuum created by the tight bung preserves the wine for months. Their theory on positioning the barrels at 2 o'clock is that the bung won't leak and thus the vacuum remains intact. Since wine evaporates as much as one-half bottle per barrel per week, I feel uncomfortable if the barrel is down more than one bottle at any time. Thus, my 2- to 3-week limit. I've heard of some wineries going as long as two months and there are theories that misting within the winery will create less evaporation out of the barrel. But no matter what misting you use, your barrels will be down several bottles in that period of time. Now, one barrel holds 300 bottles, so that is a small percentage, but I am trying to preserve as much fruit as possible, and I think the oxyidation that occurs from the evaporation is detrimental to the fruit level.
Brendan left us for the season to begin hopefully his last semester at Cal Poly. He has promised to come back and help us during the next harvest, as well as coming up from time to time for special events, to help blend and top barrels, etc. That is, if he has enough time left over after going to school and writing his 6-part series on a year in making wine at a small winery (gee, guess which winery is featured?). The first article appeared in the current issue of WineX magazine (the one with Tori Amos - Dec-Jan'99 - on the cover) and it's called "So Ya Wanna Be a Winemaker." Look for it on the newsstands now as I think it's been out for a while.