April 2009 Archives

There are a lot of happy sighs of relief going on in the valley today. Passport Weekend, the mega fun, mega crowded, mega lots of work annual event put on by all the wineries in the Dry Creek Valley is finally over. More personalized than March's Barrel Tasting weekend (with Passport, each winery selects a different theme and guests get their passport stamped as they go from winery to winery), Passport Weekend has evolved into one of the most successful regional wine events around. It has become so popular that attendees receive their $120 tickets from a random lottery drawing by the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley every year.
Click to enlarge photo!

Since most wineries incorporate food into their overall event scheme, food and food service have become the latest things to be highly monitored in the wine industry.  Don't get me wrong. We've always been required to have the proper permits to legally prepare and serve food. You know, proper equipment, sanitary food handling requirements, properly trained staff…that sort of thing. But now, the Health Department is cracking down big time to make sure that everybody is working within the exact boundaries of their permits.  And this is adding a whole new layer of anxiety and complexity to the business of running a winery.

There was a lot of last minute scrambling Friday as wineries hustled to get the right paperwork submitted. Health Department officials were quite helpful, pointing out areas of improvement and concern. Happily, all went well and as far as I know, Passport Weekend was a healthy and safe success for everyone. But going forward, I suspect many wineries may have trouble interpreting the increasingly stringent regulations of this aspect of our industry.

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Spring is in the air, and it has never felt better. Having just returned from Southern California where the air is generally a dull beige color no matter what time of day, I am especially grateful to see bright blue skies and feel our warm sunny sunshine.

Springtime also means it's planting season. This is particulClick to enlarge photo!arly exciting as we've finally begun the replanting process of the vineyard directly in front of the winery. Years ago, (I'm talking 1974) this small parcel at the corner of Dry Creek Rd. and Lambert Bridge Rd., was planted to Cabernet Sauvignon using homemade bench grafts that my father and his buddy Tom Dehlinger (of Dehlinger Winery) made. It was later T-budded to Chardonnay during the planting boom of the 1980s. When we finally realized that our Chardonnay grapes would be better suited to the cooler Russian River Valley area, we tore out those Chardonnay vines and let the earth remain fallow to naturally regenerate the soil for future planting- an important step in the practice of sustainable farming. Five years have passed and we are now in the early stages of developing one of our most exciting vineyards yet!

As avid Zinfandel lovers, we're creating an experimental Zinfandel block using 4 different clonal selections. This vineyard will be head pruned with no trellis system, much like the historic Zinfandel vines planted in the days of horse and plow.  Just recently, we completed the important first step of planting the rootstock, which in this case is St. George-a phylloxera resistant rootstock that has been used since the late 1800s. It doesn't look like much, just small lumps rising up from the ground. As soon as the roots take hold, (probably late summer or early fall) we'll then go through the arduous process of grafting in budwood from the four different clonal selections. This will essentially complete the planting process. Then it's a matter of patiently waiting the 3-4 years for our first crop.

Eventually our hope is to be able to make several different wines from this experimental vineyard. We have no idea what to expect, but who knows, one of them could be the next great cult wine of Dry Creek Valley!

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I'm still chuckling. Apparently that last post had quite a few of you fooled! I've never been all that good at telling jokes, so I must admit I'm feeling pretty smug right now.

I'm also still licking my wounds. This is not due to overindulgence or a lack of sleep but rather, the generally depressing sentiment that envelops me after I've been making endless sales presentations and account calls on a business trip. If you work in the industry, you know what I mean.

Because, there is just SO much wine out there, it's mind numbing. Even the tiny 500 case, uber-boutique-y, ultra expensive brands are coming out of the woodwork to sell their products. Brands from all over the world vying for the same few spots on a wine list menu or retail store shelf. Wine salesmen lined up to see the same wine buyer. And that nagging sense of what can I possibly say that will make a difference???  Because, these days, it's not about the product itself. Or about wine quality. Or about how something tastes or matches up with food. It's about who has the most compelling story and the best deal.

This last trip, I tried a new angle. Inspired by my 11 year old's propensity to invent words, I expanded my lexicon to include spiffy new adjectives like "Fumelicious" and "Zintastic." I proudly touted our wine's food friendliness with such delicacies as "slow roasted grasshoppers and wild braised pig's ears."  I even tried embellishing on the terroir angle to drive home my point. "The alluvial soils in the Dry Creek Valley were hand deposited by God himself…"  

This new sales approach served two purposes: 1. To keep a smile on my face 2. To see if what I said made much of a difference. In other words, does anyone really care??? The results were conclusive. No matter how authentic our story or how good our wines, selling wine today has very little to do with quality, consistency or even scores. It's become a minefield of brands all doing battle for the same elusive sale. A war of wines, if you will.  Personally, I'm bracing myself for a long tough road ahead.

Footnote: Brands keep popping up daily. In Dry Creek Valley, there are 4 new wineries alone in the pre-building planning stages.

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OH MY GOD.  It finally happened.  After years upon years of hoping, wishing and praying, we have finally made the cover of the glossy mega powerful wine magazine, Wine Spectator. This is just too good to be true. It's beyond cool. Past incredible. Close to nirvana. And frankly, it could be life changing.  

Here is an excerpt from their April 1 issue:

“After years of reporting on what's new in the world of wine, we've amassed a comprehensive list of tried and true wineries that are a “must have” for today's troubled times. These are brands with familiar names and iconic reputations that have consistently produced wines that surpass the customer's expectations. In some cases they are privately owned, and in some cases they are corporate entities.  For this first ever search, our editors limited their criteria to three primary objectives: overall quality, value and consistency or longevity in the marketplace. Knowing that just about anyone can make a stellar wine once or twice, we looked for companies who have been making remarkable wines for at least ten years. We then staged a massive tasting to rank over 500 different wines. One brand has emerged as this year's Must Have Brand for 2009. Read on for a complete list of contenders in this first ever report.”

April Fools!!!

Hey, it doesn't hurt to dream, does it?

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2009 is the previous archive.

May 2009 is the next archive.

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