I haven’t written in over 75 days. In fact, at a point last week I thought about taking a break and shutting my site down until I had more time or felt the inspiration to start writing again. Then, as I was on a walk with my new dog today….
it struck me: I love living in Sonoma. I have felt this way for some time. We moved here (nearly on a whim) a little over six years ago with a 7 month old, 2 dogs, a cat and a gecko. Our family has changed some over the past years. Currently, we have two kids, 3 dogs, 2 cats and a chameleon. It’s a crazy, fun (and busy) life.
But let’s get back to what got me to think about writing again. As I was walking the plaza and “bike” path – mostly used by walkers – with Bodie, I was stopped a few times by people who wanted to say hi to him. I was taken with how nice everyone was.
It wasn’t just folks being nice to my dog, but genuine niceness to me as well. Not that I’m a cranky bugger, though I have my moments like everyone. I had several pleasant conversations with the people I ran into. I even gave some dinner recommendations as well as where to go to see a great view of the valley. I felt like a local. It was a fantastic feeling.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of moments where I’ve played the local over the past number of years. I have, after all, worked in winery tasting rooms for some time where you must know the area.
The part that made me most proud and why I am very happy to call Sonoma my home is that a place like this still exists. A place where you can take a walk and talk with neighbors and visitors, a little piece of Mayberry if you will. With our crazy busy lives and technology distractions it’s nice to know there’s still a place where people take the time to say hi to others they pass on the street.
Though having the dog doesn’t hurt in starting the conversation.
This time of year is always tough for me. I’ve never been a warm weather person and when the Autumn breeze picks up and the vineyards start to turn beautiful colors it makes me happy. But this is nearly always the time of year that is the most difficult for grape growers and winemakers – especially for those grapes that need the extra time on the vines.
Why? Well, for starters the moisture content in the air gets higher and usually we start to have cloudy days and certainly heavy morning fog. This can induce botrytis on the grapes leading to moldy clusters. Not good. In addition, with the shorter days there is limited amounts of sunlight which means it takes even longer to get the grapes ripe.
So as much as I want to light a fire, sit on my couch and get lost in a great wine…I’m torn. I want to enjoy this time of year and all the things that come along with it (like eating more), but I’m always concerned about the grapes. When the vineyards have been picked I feel so much better.
But it is about so much more than just getting grapes ripe. It’s also about developing flavors. Generally speaking the longer the grapes are on the vine, the more depth and character are developed. There is always a give and take when it comes to wine though. During the growing process sugars rise as acid levels fall – at some point the two intersect at the perfect time and that is when the orders are given to pick. There’s a little more to it than that, but those are two very important factors. But wait too long and the wine can be too alcoholic leading to a ‘hot’ character.
All reports I’ve heard is that this year has been a banner year. Quality is really great and quantity has been higher than expected. After two semi-rough years it’s a relief to see one where winemakers are really happy. The last two vintages have certainly had their challenges (cool summers, heat spikes, rain), but the great winemakers have taken the time to provide higher levels of care and sorting to bring out the best qualities.
I live in an amazing place to grow grapes and with very few exceptions the climate is perfect. We aren’t plagued with many of the issues that Europe deals with. It’s not uncommon for France to have rain in the summer and very cold weather early on requiring picking sooner than is desirable. Often I have customers ask me what my favorite California years are and I can truly say nearly all of them. Sure, they each have their nuances (some providing more fruit forward wines or others earthier) but we are lucky that we have these nearly perfect conditions turning out an excellent crop year after year.
Exactly five weeks ago, I wrote this about not knowing what my next adventure in the wine industry would be. Less than a week later I had two job offers and one that I just couldn’t refuse. An opportunity that has consumed my last four weeks so much that I haven’t even had time to share with you where I’m working. I connected with a newer wine company in Sonoma that took over Moon Mountain Vineyard in 2011.
A while back I tasted a 2004 Moon Mountain Cabernet as the previous owners were closing the estate and had this to say about the property:
Even though there won’t be any more Moon Mountain made, the vines are still there and some of these flavors and aromas will likely still be showing up in future offerings from this estate. I’ll have to grab some of their first releases to share here.
Those words couldn’t have been more true! You see, my new home just released the inaugural wines this past week. Yes, I’ve tasted them. Yes, I love them. Much more so than the 2004 I tasted before. Some of that could be my personal attachment to the vineyard and wines now, but I believe what is happening on the mountain now will outshine anything we’ve seen from prior owners. I have every faith that the wines, the vineyard and the experience rivals the best in the world. That’s a big statement, I know. But likely you haven’t experienced what we have to offer and once you do, you’ll understand.
Here is a preview of what the property and wines offer up. Stunning, right? And let me tell you these photos do a great job of showing off the vineyard, caves and harvest, but until you’ve seen it with your own eyes you won’t fully understand.
My career has taken a swing in my day-to-day tasks and I’m happy for that. I have loved working in tasting rooms for the past five years, but really needed and wanted to contribute in a different way. I’m working with the members of Repris, interacting with them via phone and email. It’s amazing how much crossover there is from in-person conversation to the phone. Either way, I’m telling the story of the vines, the wine making process and my favorite part: the finished product. I’m enjoying it immensely.
Let me know if you are in the neighborhood, I’d love to show you around this spectacular estate.
Last year is a wine growing year that likely many vintners and growers want to forget. June was plagued with rain during bloom causing fruit set to be irregular leading to uneven grape clusters. So when the weather reports called for rain on Monday I was thinking it was June 2011 all over again. Turns out the highest rainfall amounts recorded were 4 hundredths of an inch or barely heavier than a thick fog.
I stopped and took a picture during the rain to check on the grape clusters…
These little clusters were in the middle of bloom, but it didn’t matter because the rain wasn’t strong enough to get in the way of the self-pollination. Did you know that wine grapes are self-pollinating? The grapes do not need an outside source (like bees) to pollinate. I’ve always thought that was a cool fact about wine grapes.
All is still going well for the 2012 growing season and the forecast for the next 10 days show sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80’s, just the right temperature to move this vintage along at a steady pace.
One more note about the rain (if you can call it that) from Monday. It was very windy on Tuesday meaning that any ill-effects of the cooler, damp weather were pretty much erased. Wind is exactly what is needed to dry the vines out after the drizzle.
More updates as we move through this season.